Sanctified through the vicarious humanity of Christ

This post continues a series re-capping insights from Alexandra Radcliff's book, The Claim of Humanity in Christ, Salvation and Sanctification in the Theology of T. F. and J. B. Torrance. For previous posts in the series, click a number: 12, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

We come now to the section of Radcliff's book where she drills down on the subjective (personal) outworking of the objective sanctification that is ours in and through Jesus. But before focusing on the subjective aspect of sanctification, Randliff returns to the objective, lest we we lose sight of an important gospel truth:
Humanity is not only set free from the burden of attempting to achieve salvation, but also from the burden of attempting to achieve sanctification.... This is a significant contribution [by the Torrances] for, having been justified by faith, it is often supposed that it is the Christian's task to work out his own sanctification. (p. 123)
Sadly, Christians often operate under the burdensome weight of the false premise that, having been saved by grace, they must be sanctified by their own works. As Radcliff notes...
...this burden is created when sanctification is separated from its ground with justification in Christ and made a subsequent stage in the ordo salutis [order of salvation]. Humanity is then turned back upon its own resources to attempt to achieve sanctification. The Torrances affirm the liberating reality that sanctification is rooted definitively with justification in the vicarious humanity of Christ. It is the vicarious humanity of Christ... that is the key to releasing humanity from a contractual conception of sanctification. (p. 124, emphasis added)
It's vital to understand here that Jesus, in his vicarious humanity, was sanctified on our behalf and that what he accomplished is not something that is external to us, which we must then work to apply (as though Jesus merely created a potential that we must make real through our own effort). Instead, we are called to participate in the sanctification of our humanity that is accomplished already in and by Jesus. Radcliff puts it this way:
According to the Torrances' soteriology, the outworking of sanctification can be conceived in radically liberating terms of a free and joyful participation by the Spirit in what God has already accomplished in Christ. (p. 125)
Unfortunately, there is little in Christian literature that speaks of sanctification in these liberating terms. Instead, we are told that, in order to be sanctified, we must emulate Jesus, follow his example, do what he did. Concerning this error, Radcliff notes that "T.F. [Torrance] feels strongly that a merely exemplar Christ leaves humanity 'in utter darkness and despair'" (p. 127, quoting from Incarnation).

Because of their emphasis on the objective aspect of our sanctification, the Torrances often are accused of losing sight of the subjective (personal) aspect of sanctification. Aware of that accusation, T.F. was quick to note that the "logic of grace" (in all its aspects, sanctification included) does not mean "nothing of man" but "all of man." In like manner, J.B. often noted that although it is God who makes the covenant with us, the covenant demands a response from us. J.B. also said that "the indicatives of grace call forth the imperatives of grace." Said another way, "the indicatives of grace are prior to the imperatives of grace." Picking up on this statement, Andrew Purves (J.B.'s student) notes that the imperatives of grace are rooted in the indicatives of grace, including the imperative of godly living that is part and parcel of our sanctification. Concerning these points, Radcliff offers this summation of the Torrances' thought:
Christ's vicarious humanity rightly diminishes any human response that is merit-based and therefore burdensome, and affirms human action in its proper place, that is, as a free and joyful response to what God has already accomplished in Christ.... The imperative to be holy is preceded by God's indicative act of grace in Christ's vicarious humanity whereby we have been made holy. Therefore we are liberated to follow the imperative, not by relying upon our own resources, but by relying on the vicarious humanity of Christ, in whom we may participate by the Spirit. (pp. 129, 130)
Said another way:
The imperative call to be holy does not turn us back upon our own efforts because it is rooted in the indicative realty that we are sanctified in Christ... As Paul wrote, we have been set free from sin (Rom. 6:7); therefore we must not let sin reign (Rom. 6:12) (p. 130)
Jesus' High Priestly Ministry (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Our sharing in the sanctification that Christ already has accomplished for us in and through his vicarious humanity, involves Christ's ministry as our High Priest. In his high priestly ministry, Jesus, who remains fully human (now glorified) intercedes for us, not merely praying for us (which he does) but also, through the Spirit, living in us to carry out in and through us his perfect, sanctified, human life. As noted by Andrew Murray (a primary influence on Torrance theology),
Just as much as Christ was my substitute who died for me, just so much he is my head, in whom, and with whom, I die; and just as he lives for me to intercede, he lives in me to carry out and to perfect his life. (p. 131, quoting Murray in "The Master's Indwelling")
As Radcliff notes, one of the reasons theologies often miss the objective nature of our sanctification in Christ is that they view sanctification as coming after justification (and thus completing it) in the ordo salutis. Following that sequential thinking, it's a logical-causal step to view sanctification as largely pertaining to our own efforts (albeit ones empowered by the Spirit). The Torrances, however, view justification and sanctification as being parallel, not sequential, with both having their ground not in our own works, but in the grace of God through the Person and work of Christ in his vicarious humanity. The Torrances teach that it is vital that we view sanctification as not our work, but as "Christ for us," that we view sanctification from the perspective of who Jesus is (as fully God and fully human) and what he has done as our substitute on our behalf, and how he now works to share his sanctified humanity with us (more about that sharing next time).

In closing this post, let us hear the words of T.F. Torrance:
God has joined himself to us in our estranged human life in order to sanctify it, to gather it into union with his own holy life and so lift it up above and beyond all the downward drag of sin and decay, and that he already does simply by being one with man in all things. Thus the act of becoming incarnate is itself the sanctification of our human life in Jesus Christ. (p. 135, quoting "Incarnation," p. 66). 
And now the words of Jesus:

"For their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth" (John 17:19, NRSV) 

 Amen.

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