In these next two blog posts under this rubric, I plan to provide samples from two different conferences that the seminary students attended recently. These conferences provided us with a chance to interact with and learn from other Reformed believers. While there are many things from these conferences that I would love to pass along, I will limit myself to one tidbit from each conference.
Before the start of this semester, the entire student body at seminary was given the opportunity to attend a conference at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, CA. The conference focused on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit under the theme: “The Lord and Giver of Life.” At the conference, Dr. Michael Horton, a professor at the seminary, gave a speech on the Holy Spirit and sanctification. Within his speech, he referred to sanctification as a “team sport,” while drawing from Ephesians 4:11-12. In this passage, the Apostle Paul is speaking about the various gifts worked by the Holy Spirit in the members of the church. Some were given gifts to be apostles or prophets; others had the gifts to be evangelists, pastors, or teachers. The apostle then explains the purpose of these gifts in 4:12, which reads, “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” On the basis of this verse, Dr. Horton taught that sanctification is a team sport. More specifically, sanctification is for others and with others.
Sanctification is for others in that we grow in our life of holiness in order to love and serve others. In other words, the Spirit gives us gifts and works sanctification in us for the good of others. Or, as the Belgic Confession puts it in Article 28: all men must join themselves to the church, “as mutual members of the same body, serving to the edification of the brethren, according to the talents God has given them.”
Sanctification is also with others because it happens in the context of the church. As we interact with other Christians they have a sanctifying influence on us. As Dr. Horton pointed out, this makes church attendance an absolute must.
That sanctification is a team sport (for others and with others) influences our perspective on things. Too often, I view sanctification as occurring within a vacuum occupied by only the Holy Spirit and myself. Thus, at times I wrongly make personal victory over sin and temptation the goal of sanctification. In addition, I am tempted to view sanctification as an isolated battle. However, the purpose of sanctification is for others and the context of sanctification is with others. For me, this is an encouragement to be an active member in the church.
If you would like to listen to the speech for yourself, visit the following link. The part that I summarized starts at roughly the 44-minute mark.