Pastor Kevin DeYoung has a great piece on his blog today, dealing with whether sanctification is monergistic (an act of God alone) or synergistic (the result of God and man working together). If you're not familiar with the term sanctification, it refers to the process by which my day-to-day life becomes more holy as I am made more and more like Jesus in thought, word, deed, and heart. Justification refers to the initial declaration by God that I am legally righteous in his sight (which is decidedly a monergistic work of God alone). Glorification refers to the process (after death) by which God finally perfects us and renders us worthy to cohabit with him forever. This is also monergistic.
I, for one, have no problem calling sanctification synergistic. When we think of justification, sanctification, and glorification, it is clear that the beginning of the work of salvation and the end are works of God alone and the part in the middle—which is never quite “complete” as such (since it is finished in glorification)—is where he lets us be a co-worker. It’s like when my son was just learning to walk, and I would pick him up from the ground and place him on the little “bridge” at the playground, then hold his hands as he “walked along,” then put him on the slide at the edge of the bridge, and help him down. No one watching that process would ever think that he had gone down that slide by himself, or that we were equal partners in the slide venture. I picked him up and set his feet on the playground at slide level, I put him down the slide. What little co-working I let him do was not because I needed his help (it would have been easier for me to just carry him myself) but for his benefit and as a privilege to him, so that he could learn a little bit more how to walk. The slide thing was essentially Dad’s doing (and the first and third portion were ALL Dad’s doing), but that little piece in the middle was a co-labor. For a reason.
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