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1689 Confession Study: Motives for Holiness (Progressive Sanctification)

December 7, 2015

Continuing in the 1689 Confession series, the messages on chapter 13 (Sanctification) include a look at the source of sanctification (this message).  Yes, in an objective and general sense, we can all say that our sanctification comes from the Lord, it is He who works in us and continues the work of grace in our hearts and lives, and preserves and keeps us. The subjective side, though, includes our own personal experience and specific biblical motives for our continuing to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, in the synergistic aspect of sanctification.

Here are ten motives for holiness – as noted in the lecture, this list is not exhaustive (not in this list, for example: desire to keep one’s good name, seen in Joseph’s experience with Potiphar’s wife, one of several motives that Joseph had) , but ten major motives for the subjective aspect of sanctification.

The desire …

  1. To express love and thanksgiving to God. (1 John 5:3)
  2. To proclaim the excellencies of God. (1 Peter 2:9; our holy lives)
  3. To maintain a clear conscience before God and man. (Reference Acts 24:16, Romans 13, 1 Peter 3:16)
  4. To be more useful to God. (2 Tim. 2:20-21)
  5. To see unbelievers come to faith in Christ. (1 Peter 3:1-2, 3:15)
  6. To avoid God’s displeasure and discipline in our lives. We’re not always “up there” and so in love with God. (1 Cor. 11:29-32; the case of Ananias and Saphira, struck down for their lie)
  7. To seek greater, heavenly reward. (1 Cor. 3, 2 Cor. 5:9-10)
  8. To have a closer walk with God.
  9. To do what God commands simply because His commands are right, we delight in doing what’s right (as the psalmist delighted in God’s laws).
  10. To have peace and joy in our lives.

Some of these motives may be “higher” and more “spiritual” than others, but we should never discard the “lower” motives. In answer to those who would disdain the motive of being “more useful to God” by saying that we should always be thinking great thoughts and always be “up there” just wanting God’s glory—the reality of our Christian experience (reference Romans 7) is that we’re not always feeling such high thoughts of just wanting to praise and proclaim the greatness of God. The one who says that “I just want to glory in Christ and God can use me or not use me, it’s all about Him,” is really not being more spiritual—but rather being a hyper-Calvinist. Sometimes in our lives, only the “lower” motives will work, those times when God puts us in such conditions. As the apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged”; so motive #6 above certainly is biblical and has its place, that we strive for holiness so as to avoid God’s chastening, such as some of the Corinthians had experienced.

A similar point is made regarding motive #7, to seek greater reward. Our salvation is not by works, yet God’s word plainly teaches that believers will have rewards for their level of faithfulness and their works done as believers. In Matthew 5:19 Jesus contrasts those who will be called “least in the kingdom of heaven” versus those who will be called “great in the kingdom of heaven.” Christ also told us to lay up treasure in heaven, not on earth, and Paul contrasts those who build on the foundation with gold, silver or precious stones, versus those who build with straw. Some will enter into glory “as by fire,” with their lives–yet all their works burned up.  We don’t know what those rewards will be in the specifics, but again, this is a motive for holiness.  Our understanding here is a “both/and” regarding salvation and rewards.

[As a sidenote here, I note an inconsistency regarding understanding and applying the ‘both/and’ concept to various doctrines. The amillennialist rejects the teaching of premillennialism on the basis that “spiritual is more important than literal, therefore only the spiritual part is true,” not seeing the “both/and” aspect of premillennialism. Yet the same person who rejects this doctrine at least understands and gets some teaching right (better than those who are more consistent yet consistently come to the wrong conclusion on most doctrines), though not seeing their inconsistent handling of various biblical doctrines.]

In our continued walk with God, we should certainly aim for greater holiness and sanctification, including through the greater motives. Yet any motive to refrain from sin and to improve in our walk with God, anything that keeps us from sin, is something good.

  1. Neil Schoch
    December 8, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Thanks Lynda. The whole subject of holiness and sanctification seems to not be given the same importance in many churches teachings as the Word of God would require.
    I have been studying Colossians 1:10 “That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him —.”
    It is a very soul searching exercise on a personal level, and yet it comes with great rewards in Heaven, if adopted as a daily lifestyle. The Bible is full of similar references. While “holiness” is not directly mentioned, it is very similar. I increasingly find that we, as Christians, seem to be adopting and accepting the language of the world, with many words now in common usage that previously would have been labelled as swear words.
    Ephesians 4:29 and James 3:8-10 speak about the importance of this. Of course it is not just our speech but a complete surrender of our lives to the Lord that is needed to be “fully pleasing to Him.”. The world around watches us in all that we as Christians do and say, and our lives may be the only “bible” they ever read.
    Thanks for a great post and a timely reminder.

    • December 8, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Neil, and good observations and scripture references.

  2. December 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

    In regards to degrees of reward, I definitely see how faithful we are towards God now results in how we serve God later.

    1.The example of the parable of the minas and talents demonstrates the degree of service given to saints at the Lord’s return. In these 2 parables, it shows Christ giving his saints cities to rule and reign in in the future.

    2. In the book of Revelation, we see different groups before God’s throne. The great multitude which serve in a way like the Levites taking care of God’s house, (Revelation 7) those victorious over the beast and the number of his name which are like the priests (Revelation 15), and the 144,000 in chapter 14/man child in Rev 12 which are like the high priest which are the very close to the Lord “they follow the lamb wherever He goes”.

    3.Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 6 and also in Ephesians 3 our judgement and interaction with angels

    So the comparison of service is

    1. ruling the nations
    2. service to God in his heavenly temple
    3. interaction with angels

    Though like you mentioned not too specifically clear but hopefully clearer. Like Paul mentioned him self from Isaiah

    1 Corinthians 2: 9″What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

    • December 13, 2015 at 6:47 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Daniel, and good scripture references, including the different groups in Revelation. And that indeed at least some of the reward will be in reference to our activities during the millennial kingdom.

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