Being better

Being better September 1, 2023

What should the Christian life look like? How should it change over time? This is the topic of “sanctification,” and is explored in Marny Kostenberger’s new book Sanctification: As Set Apart and Growing in Christ. Like the other books in the excellent “short studies in Biblical theology“, Sanctification covers begins with Genesis and walks through the Bible as it unfolds the doctrine through the pages of Scripture.

But what is “sanctification”? It is, in short, our growth in holiness as we grow in union with Christ over time. It is accomplished by the Holy Spirit, works through the various institutions of life (the church, family, etc), and involves suffering and discipline (117-125).

It is of course, more nuanced than that (there’s a lot in the Bible). For example, the Holy Spirit works different kinds of sanctification in us:

“In definitive, positional sanctification, the Spirit sets the believer apart from sin and the world for God and his service. Then, in progressive sanctification, the Spirit is continually at work in believers, both individually and corporately, to cleanse them from sin and make them more like Christ.” (120)

If there’s a drawback to this book, it’s that more attention could have been paid to the Old Testament. It only gets the first chapter, while the rest of the book focuses on the New Testament. I get that as believers we live in the New Covenant and so we need the New Testament to understand holiness on the other side of the cross. But we also need to account for the first 2/3 of Scripture. The chapter in Sanctification covering the Old Testament is excellent, and more working out of the subject matter there would have been nice.

Still, this book is an excellent introduction to a Biblical theology of sanctification and should go on your shelf with the other books in the series.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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