Be Encouraged: Your Sanctification is the Purpose of God the Trinity

I recently preached on the doctrine of sanctification and listened to a few lectures by Sinclair Ferguson on this topic. In his first lecture he expounds upon the opening of Peter’s first letter, which he says has six massive foundation stones for our sanctification. Each of his six points from this passage were very good but I found his first point particularly encouraging. So I thought I would share it with you here. He is commenting on the first two verses of 1 Peter: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” Here are his comments on these verses:

“He begins his letter by stressing to us that our sanctification is the purpose of God the Trinity. And this is how he opens his letter in the first two verses when he addresses these strangers in the world who have been chosen by God. He repeats the principle, you have been chosen, v. 2, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling with his blood. And those last phrases are simply alternative ways of Peter saying, God has chosen you because he means to sanctify you. And of course in keeping with the rest of the New Testament teaching he emphasizes here by the repetition of the language he uses in v. 2, chosen, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, as God’s elect, he emphasizes that God’s choice of us is the foundation of our sanctification. It’s not our sanctification that is the reason for God’s choice of us. Everything he says for sinful men and women like himself depends upon God taking the initiative. But the point that’s worth noting and the way in which he expounds this, is that what he says in emphasizing that it’s God who takes the initiative is that it’s God as Trinity who takes the initiative.

And when you grasp that point and then weave your way through the whole of the NT teaching with one eye open for looking for the Trinity, you will, I think, be astonished how constant a feature that is especially in the New Testament letters that the work of God in changing the lives of Christian believers and making them like Christ is always a work in which the God, who has chosen us in his infinite mercy, operates always in harmony as the divine Trinity, the Father working, the Son working, the Spirit working. And there are almost countless passages of the New Testament. Indeed, every passage in the New Testament, virtually, which describes the way in which God changes our lives to make us like Christ, is a passage in which is enshrined, the working of God, the Triune Lord.

And the principle that the New Testament writers are constantly seeking to underline by that is that the entire being of God in the fellowship, in what we might call the planning meetings of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in the unity of God’s being, have, as it were, cast all of their votes with this great purpose in mind, that God’s people saved by God’s Son will be sanctified by God’s Spirit. This is what God has set his heart on from before the foundation of the world. This is why he created the world. This is why he chose a people for himself. This is why there is such a thing as the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus. This is what the Holy Spirit has been sent into the world to do, says Peter. The whole Triune Godhead devotes himself to sanctifying Christian people. It is priority #2 on the divine agenda, underneath the great priority of bringing glory to himself and his own name. And the obvious implication of that is, that if it is not #1 on my priority under the great priority of my life, in bringing glory to God, then it is hardly surprising that I find something chafing in my life about the way in which God is dealing with me. And there are few things more important therefore for us to settle right at the beginning of our study of this theme than the principle that if God has committed himself to this sanctifying of my life, then I had also better commit myself to the sanctifying of my life, otherwise God’s will and my will are on collision course. And similarly, if by God’s grace, I find myself more and more seeking to commit myself to the work of God in transforming my life, I have this glorious encouragement that the whole of the Godhead cooperates not only with one another but cooperates with his purpose in my heart to change me and make me like Jesus Christ. We may therefore be encouraged as we give ourselves to grow in Christian holiness, that God is behind us. God is, as it were, on our side. Whatever opposition there may be from the world, and the flesh and the devil, God the Trinity has determined to put all his energies into making little poor me like Jesus Christ. And so we may be encouraged to understand that our sanctification is the purpose of God the Trinity.”

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