Sanctification and glorification

Warren Wilson sent the Surprising God Blog the following questions:
I've recently read some articles on the Internet that said that since Jesus had a fallen human nature but was able to completely avoid sin through the power of the Holy Spirit, that we who also have the Spirit should be able to become completely sin free in this life. That seems to overstate things to me and ignores that Jesus' situation and ours is not exactly the same. Am I correct in that?
Also, I've never seen anything written about the question of whether Jesus continues to have a fallen human nature in heaven? In other words, what effect does glorification have on fallen human nature? Are we doomed to continue to have fallen human nature for eternity, even after we're glorified?
Thanks Warren for your questions. I agree that the human nature assumed by the Son of God through his incarnation in the person of Jesus is the *fallen* nature we all have. By taking on our nature, Jesus redeemed us as the fallen sinners that we actually are. And thus our redemption in Jesus is complete - body, mind and spirit.

Some object to the idea that Jesus had a fallen human nature - they think that this means that Jesus sinned. Yet scripture testifies (2Cor. 5:21) that "God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." By taking upon himself our sin nature, and beating it back moment by moment ("tempted in every way, just like we are" - Heb 4:15), he brought, within himself, sanctification to our fallen nature, never once succumbing to the temptation to personally commit sin. In Jesus, our human nature, has been redeemed; re-created; made pure and holy.

Does it follow that we, with a fallen nature like Jesus had, and led by the same Spirit that led Jesus, should experience his perfection of behavior (his sinless life)? Christians have long asked this question and some have answered "yes." They have thought that there could (or at least should) come a time in this life when followers of Jesus would achieve what some call "entire sanctification" - coming to the place where a person would no longer ever commit an act of sin.

The problem with this view is that it does not line up with our experience (what Christian has ever experienced a life free from all acts of sin and from all sinful thoughts?), nor does this view line up with Scripture (where do you read, for example, of Paul or Peter proclaiming that they no longer commit any sin?). The confidence of Christians is that in Christ, they are forgiven of all sin, and their hope is full deliverance from the stain of sin in glory (even as they progress in that direction now). Indeed, we understand that it is in our *glorification* with Jesus that our *sanctification* through Jesus will be made complete. In the future resurrection of our body at Jesus' return, we will experience for the first time the full, unstained perfection of our life in Christ in body, mind and spirit.

And that brings me to your last question Warren. Indeed, in our bodiliy resurrection (our glorification), we will be freed entirely from sin. We will experience then the fulness of Jesus own perfected (non-fallen) humanity - the humanity of his glorification. That perfection, which is ours in Jesus is now "hidden in Christ" (Col. 3:3), to be revealed in all its fullness when we stand glorified with our Lord at the eschaton. So Jesus, the glorified human now in heaven, has a human nature that is not fallen, and in that day, so shall we.
Come Lord Jesus!


Anonymous said…
Hi Warren and Ted!

Thank you both so much for your intriguing question and answer. Both strike at the basis of the challenge we have in our “fallen” flesh.

Of course, many in modern Christianity admonish their audiences to rid themselves of sin. To that end, a whole host of hoops are set up to get that job done. But to me, these hoops and their accompanying reasoning usually miss the point of the New Covenant. You see, under the New Covenant, our sins are taken care of past, present, and future by Jesus Christ.

Oh, we know that we do and will continue to “sin” as per the Old Covenant view. But from the New Covenant view, this is not the reality for us, and this new view claims that we have abandoned sin in our lives.

What? How can that be? Well, it is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. In fact, the only sin left under the New Covenant is failure to believe in the name of Jesus Christ. As John explains this hard for our works inoculated minds to understand tenet of the faith:

I Jn 3:1-6--How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

The point is that sin (and the resulting quest for transformation) takes on a different form for those who believe. It is no longer the challenge of what we do, but it is Jesus Christ in us our hope of glory who transforms us over time more and more into His likeness. Thus, sin becomes a matter of not seeing or knowing this Jesus within.

The best to you both always!

J. Richard Parker
scoop88 said…
Greetings My Family in Christ:
What an amazing blog. Richard is truly on the track in his answer. The reality of who we are NOW in Christ is the transformation. It is somewhat a matter of revelation, but it is not a matter of progressive character development. If it is dependent upon that, then it follows that the transformation and everything else is of our own works.
God gets all of the glory in our being and in our transformation. That is why we sin no more, because He has made us that way; His righteousness. The ministry of reconciliation in the New Covenant expresses this very well.
What seems to be the question that we are struggling to understand is the "human" nature of Jesus while in the flesh and His Divine work while here and how that relates to us.
It seems to me that Jesus Christ came and He is wholly (Holy) incorruptible. In other words, He did not take-on the corruptible fallen nature at all. He became a man born in the flesh. He took upon Himself the nature of the man. But being the new Adam, He was not born of the fallen nature. He is incorruptible God. He was the Lamb without blemish. He was not hurt by sin, but He was in the world of sin. But be of Good Cheer, He overcame the world in its entirety.
Consider this, if we think He must have been born of the fallen nature, then how was He saved from it? Was Jesus Born-Again? Did He call on His own name? Did He need to be Born-Again, or was He the epitome of the Born-Again (Hint: Born From Above)? Following that He was born with the fallen nature will lead us to consider many illogical and un-Biblical conclusions and some unsettling results. See Warren’s original question.
It is true, Jesus was “made to be sin” for our sakes. He did not commit sin, nor was He born with the sin of Adam or his nature. He was born human, the second Adam, born from above.
I know this is a radical perspective, but it is time we get a little radical.
Jesus became sin for us, so that sin could be and would be destroyed. It was. Now we wait until the Father puts all things under His feet, including death and the grave. And we wait for His glorious appearing.
Ivan J. Perrino
Ted Johnston said…
Hi Ivan,

Thanks for joining the conversation! What a joy it is to consider the excellencies of Jesus our Savior!

The issue of what sort of human nature Jesus assumed in the incarnation is an old one. The early church Fathers's (particularly in the East) understood that Jesus took on the same human nature that we all have - which is to say, fallen human nature.

You object to this idea, saying that Jesus could only have taken on a pre-fall human nature because to take on our fallen nature would be tantamount to being corrupt (or "unholy," to pick up on your point).

However, there is not a necessary connection between assuming in the incarnation our corrupted human nature and yet being personally corrupt. To the contrary, Scripture tells us that Jesus resisted the (corrupt) flesh at every point in his life from conception to death. If the flesh he assumed was pre-fall and thus needed no resisting, then his fight on our behalf was not the fight we face.

Gregory of Nazianzus wrote, "that which is not assumed is not healed; but that which is united to God is saved." He understood that Jesus took upon himself our corrupt nature and through his atoning life, death, resurrection and ascension, healed it - creating in and through himself, on our behalf, the new Adam out of the old.

It was a later development that came to view Jesus' human nature as pre-fallen. I think the goal was to try to "protect" Jesus against any possible taint of sin. A laudable goal, to be sure, but a mistake. To this mistake was added another - the idea that Jesus' mother Mary also had a pre-fall nature that came to her because of her "immaculate conception." Again, the goal was apparently to distance Jesus from the taint of sin.

But the truth of Scripture is that Mary was a fallen human, and the human nature Jesus, in his humanity, inherited, was a human nature just like ours. Thus, not only did Jesus not distance himself from sin, he took it fully upon (up into) himself and there beat it back at every point, transforming our very nature. Thank you Jesus!

Hope this helps as you consider this important issue.

Blessings brother,