This is the sec­ond part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Empty tombIn the first arti­cle in this series, we looked at five propo­si­tions that Paul intro­duces in his epis­tles about our rela­tion­ship to the law and its rela­tion­ship to our sanctification:

First, law can­not cope with sin.

Sec­ond, it’s the love brought to the saint through the indwelling Holy Spirit that is ful­fills the law.

Third, it is the Spirit that pro­duces fruit in the believer, while the law in our remain­ing sin­ful flesh can only pro­duce sin.

Fourth, sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion – a growth in holi­ness — results from our union with Christ and Scripture’s exhor­ta­tions about what it means to be Christ-like.

Fifth, that the imper­a­tives Paul gives to us are not them­selves laws and are not given as laws or in the cat­e­gory of law, because they flow from the indica­tive of our reliance upon Christ and our posi­tion in Christ.

Before we address those five propo­si­tions indi­vid­u­ally in future arti­cles, we need to con­sider the escha­tol­ogy of our sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion. We will indeed be glo­ri­fied, Paul promises (). What is impor­tant now about that final and com­plete sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion is what that state reveals about us – what that “not yet” tells us about our “already.”

Cer­tainly the apos­tle John gives us the most poignant view of what we will be: “We know that when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is” (). But Paul also com­pre­hends and explains to us that we indeed shall be like our Sav­ior. In his bene­dic­tion at the end of 1 Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans, Paul writes, “[23] Now may the God of peace him­self sanc­tify you com­pletely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blame­less at the com­ing of our Lord Jesus Christ. [24] He who calls you is faith­ful; he will surely do it” ().

We will be sanc­ti­fied completely.

Will we be sanc­ti­fied through our own effort or through performance-driven navel-gazing?

Will a reliance on the law do it?

No, Paul tells us, “the God of peace him­self” will do it.

Paul tells the Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans that the one who is sanc­ti­fy­ing them will com­plete that sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion when Christ returns: “Now may our God and Father him­self, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, [12] and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, [13] so that he may estab­lish your hearts blame­less in holi­ness before our God and Father, at the com­ing of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” ().

And Paul even exhorts him­self to remain faith­ful and focused on the goal he knows he will reach, when he writes to the Philippians:

[12] Not that I have already obtained this or am already per­fect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. [13] Broth­ers, I do not con­sider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: for­get­ting what lies behind and strain­ing for­ward to what lies ahead, [14] I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [15] Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in any­thing you think oth­er­wise, God will reveal that also to you. [16] Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

[17] Broth­ers, join in imi­tat­ing me, and keep your eyes on those who walk accord­ing to the exam­ple you have in us. [18] For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as ene­mies of the cross of Christ. [19] Their end is destruc­tion, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. [20] But our cit­i­zen­ship is in heaven, and from it we await a Sav­ior, the Lord Jesus Christ, [21] who will trans­form our lowly body to be like his glo­ri­ous body, by the power that enables him even to sub­ject all things to him­self. ()

Paul has his eyes fixed on what lies ahead, a time when he will be rid of what remains of his “body of death.”

He strives to live accord­ing to the Spirit as one whose mind is set on the things of the Spirit.

He knows he will be like Christ — not as some­one who fol­lows the let­ter of the law, but one whose trans­formed spirit gives him the per­fect, self­less love of Christ that intrin­si­cally and onto­log­i­cally ful­fills the law.

With this escha­to­log­i­cal real­ity in mind — a sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion begun at regen­er­a­tion, a sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion increased in the “now” and con­sum­mated in the “not yet” — we’ll con­tinue this series by look­ing at each of these five propo­si­tions. In each, we’ll con­sider how Paul uses the antithe­sis of law and Spirit to exhort believ­ers to be more and more in the here and now what they will one day become in full.

Next: Com­pleted by the Spirit Part 3: The Law Can­not Cope With Sin


30 And those whom he pre­des­tined he also called, and those whom he called he also jus­ti­fied, and those whom he jus­ti­fied he also glo­ri­fied. (ESV)


Beloved, we are God’s chil­dren now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (ESV)


23 Now may the God of peace him­self sanc­tify you com­pletely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blame­less at the com­ing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faith­ful; he will surely do it. (ESV)


11 Now may our God and Father him­self, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may estab­lish your hearts blame­less in holi­ness before our God and Father, at the com­ing of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (ESV)


12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already per­fect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Broth­ers, I do not con­sider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: for­get­ting what lies behind and strain­ing for­ward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in any­thing you think oth­er­wise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

17 Broth­ers, join in imi­tat­ing me, and keep your eyes on those who walk accord­ing to the exam­ple you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as ene­mies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruc­tion, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our cit­i­zen­ship is in heaven, and from it we await a Sav­ior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will trans­form our lowly body to be like his glo­ri­ous body, by the power that enables him even to sub­ject all things to him­self. (ESV)