Justification and Sanctification Revisited – A Little Help from Ryle

One of the big blog tussles over the last year concerns the relationship of justification to sanctification.  Some assert the priority of justification in our sanctification.  Others say union with Christ must be prioritized.  The first camp is sometimes accused of being more Lutheran than Reformed.   Of course, I love me my Lutherans, but I think that’s an inaccurate charge.  Some in the first camp give credence to that accusation by quoting primarily from Lutheran sources to justify the priority of justification in sanctification.  But there’s already plenty of help out there in the Reformed world. 

19th century Anglican Calvinist JC Ryle wrote the book on Holiness.  Literally.  Most Reformed would admit that Ryle fairly represents classic Reformed orthodoxy on sanctification – if more at a popular than academic level.  Nonetheless, few would accuse Ryle of painting outside the lines of standard Reformed theology. 

As I’ve been preaching through the Gospel of Luke, I came across this choice passage from Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on Luke.  His comments pertain to Luke 7:35-50, and Jesus’ forgiveness of the sinful woman. 

“We see …in this passage, that a sense of having our sins forgiven is the mainspring and life-blood of love to Christ. … Forever let the mighty principle laid down by our Lord in this passage, abide in our memories, and sink down into our hearts. It is one of the great corner-stones of the whole Gospel. It is one of the master-keys to unlock the secrets of the kingdom of God. The only way to make men holy, is to teach and preach free and full forgiveness through Jesus Christ. The secret of being holy ourselves, [that is to walk in holy love toward Jesus and our neighbor] is to know and feel that Christ has pardoned our sins. Peace with God is the only root that will bear the fruit of holiness. Forgiveness must go before sanctification. … We must work from life, and not for life. … The heart which has experienced the pardoning love of Christ, is the heart which loves Christ, and strives to glorify Him.”

I guess Ryle was reading too much Luther?   Or maybe his iPod was full of “Issues, Etc.” podcasts.  Before long, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him blogging over at Liberate.      

About pastor tony phelps

Pastor of Christ Our Hope PCA in Wakefield, RI
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