The Puritan theologian John Owen spent a short chapter exploring the nature of purchased grace (the grace “purchased” for us by Christ’s redemptive work on the cross) in his book Communion with the Triune God. Owen opened up three aspects of purchased grace: (1) grace of acceptance with God, (2) grace of sanctification from God, and (3) grace of privileges with and before God (p. 289). A previous post covered the grace of acceptance. This post will take a glimpse into the vast world of God’s grace of sanctification.
Sanctification, the process of making holy, is massive, complex, and wonderful. On the one hand, we are made perfectly holy upon our salvation; on the other hand, we are in the process of being made holy. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). In essence, in time we are being changed from the inside out to match what we already are in Christ through the eternal and perfect work of Christ.
John Owen touches upon sanctification within the paradigm of purchased grace – the grace “purchased” for us by Jesus Christ on the cross:
Grace of Sanctification from God
The second is grace of sanctification. He makes us not only accepted, but also acceptable. He does not only purchase love for his saints, but also makes them lovely… He does not only justify his saints from the guilt of sin, but also sanctify and wash them from the filth of sin. The first is from his life and death as a sacrifice of propitiation; this from his death as a purchase, and his life ans an example. (So the apostle, Heb. 9:14; as also Eph. 5:26-27.) Two things are eminent in this issue of purchased grace: (1) the removal of defilement; (2) the bestowing of cleanness in actual grace.
For the first, it is also threefold: First the habitual cleansing of our nature. We are naturally unclean, defiled – habitually so… The grace of sanctification, purchased by the blood of Christ, removes this defilement of our nature (1 Cor. 6:11)… Though the sin that does defile remains, yet its habitual defilement is taken away…Second, taking away the pollutions of all our actual transgressions. There is a defilement attending every actual sin… Besides the defilement of our natures which he purges (Titus 3:5), he takes away the defilement of our persons by actual follies… Third, in our best duties we have defilement (Isa. 64:6). Self, unbelief, form drop themselves into all what we do… He is as a refiner’s fire… Whatever is of the Spirit, of himself, of grace – that remains; whatever is of self, flesh, unbelief (that is, hay and stubble [1 Cor. 3:12]) -that he consumes, wates, takes away…
By bestowing cleanness as to actual grace. The blood of Christ in this purchased grace does not only take away defilement, but also it gives purity; and that also in a threefold gradation: First, it gives the Spirit of holiness to dwell in us… Second, he gives us habitual grace – a principle of grace, opposed to the principle of lust that is in us by nature. This is the grace that dwells in us, makes its abode with us… Third, [there is an] actual influence of the performance of every spiritual duty whatever… He must “work in us to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). And in these three, thus briefly named, consists that purchased grace in the point of sanctification, as to the collating of purity and cleanness, wherein we have communion with Christ (pp. 291-293).