Questions and Answers on Salvation and Sanctification

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These questions and answers are from the Student Catechism.

134.  What are the aspects of repentance?

Repentance includes conviction – realizing that you are a sinner deserving punishment and unable to save yourself, contrition – being truly sorry that you have sinned against God, and resolution – a full resolving to turn from sin and to obey God.  Thus, true repentance involves the mind, the emotions, and the will.  (Mark 1:15Luke 13:35Acts 3:19Acts 17:30.)

135.  What are the three aspects of saving faith?

The three aspects of saving faith are the assent of the mind, the consent of the will, and a full resting in the person and work of Christ. With the mind, one accepts the truth of Christ, and with the will, one accepts the demands of Christ. It is then that one’s whole inner being can rest in God’s promises and truly accept the abiding Presence of Christ.  Believing in Christ for salvation is more that believing that Christ is Lord; it is believing in Christ as Lord, committing oneself to Him. (Ephesians 2:8-10Hebrews 10:38Romans 3:25Romans 5:1Galatians 2:16James 2:20Mark 1:15Luke 8:12John 1:12John 3:16John 3:36Romans 10:9-101 Timothy 1:161 John 5:10.)

136.  Does one have to repent before he can exercise saving faith?

Faith presupposes repentance. One cannot fully trust the Savior unless he fully realizes that he needs a Savior and he is willing to yield to the Savior.

137.  Does this mean that we are saved by works?

We are not saved by works. In fact, one who truly repents realizes that he cannot save himself.

The only direct condition for salvation is faith; when one truly believes, he is saved.  However, a believing heart is a heart willing to yield to Christ. This is why faith presupposes repentance. (Ephesians 2:8-10.)

138.  What is justification?

Justification means to be acquitted, to be declared righteous. By justification we are saved from the guilt and penalty of sin and restored to the favor of God.  (Romans 3:21-26Romans 4:5-8Romans 5:12.)

139.  What are the concomitants of justification?

The concomitants of justification are regeneration, initial sanctification, and adoption.

140.  What is regeneration?

Regeneration is the new birth. It is to be born again. If anyone is in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away. (2 Corinthians 5:17). When one is regenerated, there is a real change in the nature of his soul.

141.  What is the difference between regeneration and justification?

In justification one is counted righteous; in regeneration one is made righteous.  Justification is done for a person. Regeneration is done in a person.

142.  Can justification occur apart from regeneration?

When one is saved, he is both justified and regenerated. To whomever God imputes righteousness, He also imparts righteousness. One is not counted righteous without also being made righteous.

143.  What is the relationship between regeneration and sanctification?

Regeneration is the gate into sanctification. When one is regenerated, he is initially sanctified because through the new birth there is a change of character in the soul.

144.  How is one assured of his salvation?

One is assured of his salvation through the witness of the Spirit. According to John Wesley, the witness of the Spirit is the inward impression of the soul, in which the Spirit of God immediately and directly witnesses to my spirit that I am a child of God (Romans 8:15-16). This inward impression is not necessarily a feeling, but is a conscious awareness of the new relationship. This witness comes through believing God’s promises found in His Word (1 John 5:10).

145.  According to Wesley, what confirms the witness of the Spirit?

The fruit of the Spirit confirms the witness of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit includes both inward and outward fruit. Outward fruit includes doing good to all men, not doing evil, and walking in all the light.

146.  What were Wesley’s two warnings regarding the witness of the Spirit?

Two warnings regarding the witness of the Spirit are: 1) Do not presume to rest in any supposed testimony of the Spirit separate from the fruit. 2) Do not rest in any supposed fruit without the witness.

147.  What is entire sanctification?

Entire sanctification is an instantaneous work of grace experienced subsequent to regeneration, in which inbred sin is cleansed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and one is enabled to love God with a single mind, being empowered for more effective service to God. This divine work is appropriated through full consecration and an act of faith.  By the “Holy Spirit,” our “hearts” are “purified” through “faith” (Acts 15:8-9).

148.  What are the conditions for experiencing entire sanctification?

To experience entire sanctification, one must recognize his need for purity, repudiate his sinfulness, yield completely to God, and trust Him to do the work. (Romans 6:11Romans 6:13Romans 12:11 Thessalonians 5:23-24Acts 15:8-9.)

149.  How do God’s commands for us to be holy support the teaching that we can be entirely sanctified in this life?

All commands are actually promises in another form. If God commands something (like “Be ye holy” and “Thou shalt love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself,”) He has the grace available to enable us to obey the commands. He expects us to appropriate that grace.

150.  How does 1 Thessalonians show that a born again Christian needs to be and can be entirely sanctified in this life?

1 Thessalonians indicates that Paul was writing to true believers ( 1:3, 9) who had something lacking in their spiritual lives (3:10). Paul called them to holiness (3:12, 13; 4:3, 7) and prayed that they would be entirely sanctified (made holy through-and-through) and be preserved in that state (blameless) until the coming of Christ (5:23). Paul said that God would be faithful to do this for them (5:24). We have no reason to believe that that promise was limited to the Thessalonians or that God cannot keep His promises. We therefore conclude that a Christian can be born again without being completely sanctified, but if he claims God’s promise for a full cleansing of his heart, he can be entirely sanctified in this life.

Mark Bird
Mark Bird is Professor of Theology and Apologetics at God's Bible School and College.