How to grow in grace: David Powlison’s insight into sanctification
The latest issue of Credo Magazine focuses on The Impassibility of God. The following is an excerpt from Michael Nelson’s book review, which records David Powlison’s insight into sanctification. Michael Nelson (ThM, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Grandview, MO, as well as a PhD candidate at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
David Powlison’s volume, How Does Sanctification Work? (Crossway), is meant to function as a basic, user-friendly primer on sanctification. Sanctification is a deep topic typically discussed in systematic ways with theological terms. Powlison gives a bit of that in his book, but even more than that, he breaks the topic of sanctification down practically. As Powlison says, “most of this book will come down to street-level living” (15). This book explains how growth in grace actually works through Powlison writing both biographically and theologically.
When talking about sanctification, to be accurate, Powlison is discussing what is called progressive sanctification. To best understand what that means, Powlison describes sanctification in its past, present and future tenses. In the past tense, sanctification has already happened. A sinner is made a saint through Jesus Christ. In the present tense, sanctification is being worked out. The believer is being remade to look like Jesus. In the future, the believer will be perfected. In short, through Christ, a person is saved, is being saved and will be saved (13).
Though sanctification can be broken down into nice and neat explainable terms, it is not experienced as such. Quite often, many long for a foolproof technique, containing one “key” truth that will help them grow as a Christian (23). The problem is, there is no such thing. As sojourners with fellow believers in this Christian walk, it is helpful to remember that simply giving spiritual platitudes does not always unlock a channel of grace needed in a struggling Christian’s life. Theological truths and statements are necessary and vital, but they provide the framework used to speak to others in direct and specific ways. There is a balancing act at play in regards to sanctification. A clear, wide-ranging knowledge of the Bible and its systematic contents go hand in hand with situational application.