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Walther on Trinity 12 – Mark 7:31-37

by pastorjuhl ~ August 16th, 2010

If the heavenly Father through justification calls a person his child for the sake of the reconciliation of Christ, the Holy Ghost begins the work of sanctification in his heart. This sanctification does not consist in this, that a person no longer curses, commits adultery or lives in the gross works of uncleanness, gets drunk, or openly deceives and lies; even the heathen can abstain from such out and out vice; but sanctification consists in this, that the justified person becomes an entirely different person. He begins to live no longer to himself but to the Lord Jesus. He does not go to church only now and then, hearing God’s Word out of custom or curiosity, but to one who is sanctified God’s Word is more important than the whole world; God’s Word lies day and night on his mind; he arises with it and goes to bed with it; the concern for his soul’s salvation unceasingly occupies his heart; he therefore would rather speak only of heavenly and divine things, of the one thing needful; even if he is busy at his earthly calling, he does it with a mind directed to God. He also begins to watch over his thoughts and desires; no longer can he so indifferently let evil thoughts go through his mind, and if they do arise, he prays against them. He hates sin; he no longer fosters sin with great care; he does not let them rule over his heedlessly falls into sin, he does not continue in it, but is ashamed of himself, confesses it to God with heartfelt humility, and prays for forgiveness; he lets his fall serve as a warning, becoming only the more humble and watchful over himself.
You see, the question is not whether we are already perfect, for that is impossible in this life; the question is only whether we are among those who actually pursue the goal of sanctification, or whether we still are secure and dead in sins. If we are among those running the spiritual race, if we pursue the treasure, happy are we! That is a sign that we are made alive through grace.

Sad to say, many enthusiasts allege that a person can be perfect in his sanctification; but let it be said that in this life the Christian life will always be perfect. Only a hypocrite or a self-blinded person, only one who is not ashamed to exalt himself over all the apostles and prophets, can say that his Christian life is perfect. Anyone who thinks he is perfect can no longer pray the Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer; consequently, he no longer needs a Savior and the Gospel. Oh, what great blindness! Oh, what frightful abuse of the merit of Jesus Christ and his dearly won grace! Of course, the Apostle Paul speak of perfection, but read the passage which follows. There the apostle says: “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect be thus minded” (Philippians 3:5). Minded how? As the apostle had said: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect.” Christian perfection consists chiefly in honestly recognizing his imperfection and viewing himself as perfect in Christ Jesus.
If a person is justified, God in the beginning usually lets him taste many sweet impulses of his grace, in order to draw the sinner away from the world and to himself. A beginner then often supposes, that he has progressed far beyond the world, sin, and Satan in his Christianity. If he would keep this idea, he would soon become secure and proud. God therefore, as a faithful Shepherd, withdraws from most the sweet feeling of grace and power. He gives it to him sparingly and exercises him more in humility. Now first a person truly becomes poor, must obtain everything daily from God by begging for it, and must ever more cling to Christ’s Word of grace in order that he might not be lost. If God’s gracious work in a person is the work of sanctification, he recognizes this above all from the fact that his spirit struggles against his flesh. If he experiences that sin rages in him, but that there is another something in him which restrains him from the control of sin, driving him again and again to prayer and God’s Word, compelling him to go to Christ and beg for forgiveness, when sin takes him by surprise, then he can be completely certain that he is not dead, for a dead heart does not fight sin.

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