Sanctified by Grace Alone
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13
Sola Gratia—by grace alone. We are saved by nothing of our own merit, but exclusively by the grace of God. Because he showed us grace, not based on our good efforts, we can be saved from death and hell.
But what about the rest of our walk of faith? What about our obedience to Christ and our spiritual growth? Are we saved by grace, and then continue on in our own strength? Does God melt our hearts of stone and leave the rest to us? Having begun by the Spirit, are we now being perfected by the flesh? Friend, we are foolish to believe so (Galatians 3:3-5).
Matthew Henry explains Philippians 2:12-13 well: “It is the grace of God which inclines the will to that which is good: and then enables us to perform it, and to act according to our principles […] As there is no strength in us, so there is no merit in us. As we cannot act without God’s grace, so we cannot claim it, nor pretend to deserve it. God’s good will to us is the cause of his good work in us; and he is under no engagements to his creatures, but those of his gracious promise.”
We are weak and sinful. If we couldn’t save ourselves, why do we believe we can sanctify ourselves? We need Christ through and through—from beginning to end. It is pride that says we can live this Christian life in our strength, that by our pitiful obedience we could change our own hearts. When we obey, it is because God has already worked a miracle in our hearts.
God, I could never change my sinful heart. It is only by your grace that I can be obedient, that I can love you and love your laws. Help me to rely on you to keep me and to sanctify me. Help me to trust in your saving and sanctifying grace.
Still find this idea of being sanctified by grace confusing? Theology Gals has an excellent podcast episode on sanctification here.