September 21, 2020

The Jesus Disconnect (4): Paul and J.C. Ryle On Justification, Christian Growth And Christlikeness

NOTE: Many of today’s commenters should go to New Reformation Press and buy that “Weak On Sanctification” shirt. You’d look good in it.

Some texts related to being “connected” to Jesus in salvation by faith and in growing as disciples into Christlikeness.

Justification by grace, Kingdom discipleship and growth following. No “”Jesus disconnect here”:

Colossians 1:9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

A Detailed description of a Christlike character. No “Jesus disconnect” here:

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:….. seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. …..

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. ….17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Coming to know Christ is followed by imitating Jesus Christ. No “disconnect” here:

I Thessalonians 1: 2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord

The purpose of the ministers who serve the Christian community is to grow believers into Christlikeness. No “Jesus disconnect here”…VERY connected to Christ.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

Paul said this was the goal of his ministry with the already-converted Galatians:

4:19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

To be right with God by the righteousness of Christ is in no way incompatible with a passionate pursuit of knowing Christ AND of becoming like Christ.

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 2 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. 17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

It is difficult to read these passages and see how anyone can separate justification and sanctification so far that Christlikeness is disconnected from the gift of righteousness by grace through faith.

Bishop J.C. Ryle did an exceptional job teaching how justification and sanctification are related. I wish Bishop Ryle would have used the concept of discipleship in his description, but it won’t be hard to make the application to those parts of the Gospels where Jesus teaches us how to live in the Kingdom we’ve been given as a free gift and how to live out the call to discipleship that is the Christian’s journey to Christlikeness.

Here is Ryle on the difference in justification and sanctification, followed by some other comments by Ryle on the subject.

(a) Justification is the reckoning and counting a man to be righteous for the sake of another, even Jesus Christ the Lord. Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous, though it may be in a very feeble degree.

(b) The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own, but the everlasting perfect righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith. The righteousness we have by sanctification is our own righteousness, imparted, inherent, and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, but mingled with much infirmity and imperfection.

(c) In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful.

(d) In sanctification our own works are of vast importance and God bids us fight, and watch, and pray, and strive, and take pains, and labour Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes. Sanctification is an imperfect work, comparatively, and will never be perfected until we reach heaven.

(e) Justification admits of no growth or increase: a man is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith as he will be to all eternity. Sanctification is eminently a progressive work, and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives.

(f) Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God’s sight, and our deliverance from guilt. Sanctification has special reference to our natures, and the moral renewal of our hearts.

(g) Justification gives us our title to heaven, and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our meetness for heaven, and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.

(h) Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.

Later in the same article, he makes several applications, including these:

(3) For another thing, if we would be sanctified, our course is clear and plain— we must begin with Christ. We must go to Him as sinners, with no plea but that of utter need, and cast our souls on Him by faith, for peace and reconciliation with God. We must place ourselves in His hands, as in the hands of a good physician, and cry to Him for mercy and grace. We must wait for nothing to bring with us as a recommendation. The very first step towards sanctification, no less than justification, is to come with faith to Christ. We must first live and then work.

(4) For another thing, if we would grow in holiness and become more sanctified, we must continually go on as we began,, and be ever making fresh applications to Christ. He is the Head from which every member must be supplied. (Ephes. iv. 16.) To live the life of daily faith in the Son of God, and to be daily drawing out of His fulness the promised grace and strength which He has laid up for His people—this is the grand secret of progressive sanctification. Believers who seem at a standstill are generally neglecting close communion with Jesus, and so grieving the Spirit. He that prayed,”Sanctify them,” the last night before His crucifixion, is infinitely willing to help everyone who by faith applies to Him for help, and desires to be made more holy.


  1. I will follow Christ, no matter what the consequences.

    Obviously varies in cultural context, but that we count ourselves as united with a death that has already happened and live in the hope of his resurrection, we choose Christ over anything else, including execution, etc.

  2. sue kephart says


    I’d saying dying to myself and my will. Following Christ no matter what the circumstances. A life long process.

  3. Well put. “…no matter what the consequences.” Thank you.

  4. Dave 138 just peaked into my soul. Most days I don’t feel very sanctified. I feel like a terrible advertisement for Christianity. Afraid to have a public funeral for fear my last embarrassment will be the lack of attendees. Once in Sunday School I asked about repetitive sin and was told that, if I were saved, I would be changed. Since I’m not changed (sanctified), does that mean I’m not justified?? How to avoid despair when the sanctification seems like a pipe dream, or a sick joke?

  5. Discipleship is a process – I’ve found that one on one works the best. Some of what is done is an unlearning process – you have to get them back to the 5 year old’s understanding of God.

    The other things are disciplines – we teach them and use them with an end in mind – the development of the mind of Christ in each disciple.

    Php 2:5-11 KJV Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (6) Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: (7) But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (8) And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (9) Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: (10) That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; (11) And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    I generally teach bible study and prayer as a group – good bible study should lead to prayer, and good prayer should lead to bible study.

  6. sue kephart says


    You are justified by what Christ did on the cross. Just start by receiving that gift. Then say Thank you. Say thank you , Thank you ,Thank you. You are on your way.

  7. J, one understanding of what is meant by “Take up his cross and follow Me” is this from the “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis:

    “Arrange and order everything to suit your will and judgment, and still you will find that some suffering must always be borne, willingly or unwillingly, and thus you will always find the cross.

    Either you will experience bodily pain or you will undergo tribulation of spirit in your soul. At times you will be forsaken by God, at times troubled by those about you and, what is worse, you will often grow weary of yourself. You cannot escape, you cannot be relieved by any remedy or comfort but must bear with it as long as God wills. For He wishes you to learn to bear trial without consolation, to submit yourself wholly to Him that you may become more humble through suffering. No one understands the passion of Christ so thoroughly or heartily as the man whose lot it is to suffer the like himself.

    The cross, therefore, is always ready; it awaits you everywhere. No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it, for wherever you go you take yourself with you and shall always find yourself. Turn where you will — above, below, without, or within — you will find a cross in everything, and everywhere you must have patience if you would have peace within and merit an eternal crown.”

    There will be earthly trials and sorrows in every life; we can either complain and grumble, or set our minds to bearing them with patience and humility, uniting our sufferings with the suffering of Christ’s Passion, and dying to our selfish desires. Easier said than done, of course.

  8. J, et al:
    When considering what it means to “follow Christ,” remember that Jesus came to “be” someone and to “do” something….to be the representation of the Father to us (i.e., perfect self-giving love), and to proclaim the Truth that frees us.

  9. Kevin Bushnell says

    LOL & ROFL!!!! Weak on Sanctification T-Shirts!! LOL!! ROFL!!!

  10. I think what saves the McKnight statement is the word, “before”—church formation BEFORE individual formation.

    The bigger picture (that we so often forget) is that we are part of a larger story—that of God creating a people. My personal formation must be seen and pursued in terms of fitting in to what God is doing on that broader level. This totally changes the way I view my own formation.

    As you have affirmed so many times, iMonk, it’s about letting the Spirit shape my life so that it conforms to the Jesus-shaped, kingdom-oriented, missional, church-planting, world-Christian movement that God introduced in the Book of Acts and is still working out today. That comes first, and my formation enables me to participate in it.

    This keeps me from viewing the church as a “spiritual fitness center” where I go primarily for my own well-being.

  11. Martha said, “you will often grow weary of yourself.” Boy, isn’t that the truth! Some days I can barely stand to be me. But like Therese said above, “When considering what it means to ‘follow Christ,’ remember that Jesus came to ‘be’ someone and to ‘do’ something….to be the representation of the Father to us (i.e., perfect self-giving love), and to proclaim the Truth that frees us.” And that is true too. So the closer we follow Jesus, the clearer we are proclaiming the Truth which is that God loves us and wants us to be citizens of his Kingdom. We need to keep reminding the world of that. Lots of people THINK they have heard the Gospel (good news) but they have not and so they lead lives of quiet and not-so-quiet desperation.

  12. Our pastor rightly emphasizes that we cannot become more righteous/sanctified out of our own willpower. However, he then camps out on the idea that if I’m not getting any better its because I’m not choosing to “yield” or “abide” to the degree I should be. He also says that the main reason Christ came is so we can be Spirit-empowered and get ready for the life to come. I suppose since Jesus did his part of the job that’s why we don’t talk about him very much…

    My confusion comes in here – if I cannot of my own will become a better Christian(hate less, love more, etc) then how can I of my own will yield to the power of the Spirit? And then how can I actually tell if I’m doing this “good” thing or if the Spirit is doing it through me.

    I’ve heard it said that(by this pastor) that you should almost be having an out of body experience watching yourself do something and wondering how in the world that happened.

    Any thoughts or comments this? Thanks.

  13. ASF-Brian – that is why I made the connection to Buddhism. The mystification of Christianity is unfortunate – and I say that, still being appreciative of (some aspects of) the monastic tradition. Simply put, you have to do what your hand finds to do, even if it is wiping snot off dirty little faces.

    At the same time, the expression “I’m not getting any better” is worrisome – it reminds me of the years I spent in the pelagian cult I grew up in. Stop worrying about getting better, about whether you’ve yielded enough and all that (crassly put) mystified hubub: Christ made the sacrifice. Now do what He said in the Gospels. And rejoice in doing that. And don’t agonise over your failure to reach perfection – it ain’t gonna happen. Follow your vocation. Love your neighbour. Love Christ. Stop obsessing. This “out of body” stuff is missing the point.

  14. sue kephart says

    Don’t wait for the life to come. Start living it now. Meditation on the Gospels ( Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) as well as Acts are often helpful to people. By meditation I don’t mean just reading it, although a good Bible study on these books is a good idea if you haven’t much study already.

    By meditation I mean a slow (even slower) and conscience reading. Pay attention to the words. This is the inspired Word of God. The inspiration (breath) is still in it. If something seems to catch your attention, pause and reflect on it. If you seemed moved to pray about it do so. This takes some practice sense we are used to speed reading and reading for tech directions.

  15. The Scylding – I like how you keep pointing out, basically, stop over-thinking about yourself and instead think about God and loving your neighbor. Can you text me, like, hourly reminders of this?? 🙂

  16. Scylding – Pelagian cult, eh? Sounds like the CofC I grew up in. I do appreciate the response. Week after week of “are you yielding” can tend to shape the way you think about the Christian life. I do desire to “set my Gaze” towards Christ and not myself. But, uh, maybe you could send me a reminder text along with Jenny. 🙂

  17. Is no one going to accuse iMonk of advocating “works righteousness”? That’s got to be a first.

    I always thought the “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” command was more proactive than passive. Am I wrong?

    I’m disabled, but I don’t consider that my cross to bear, since I didn’t take it up (it kind of took me). But I often hear people say that something they’re going through is their cross to bear.

    I’ve always thought taking up one’s cross referred to living a life of sacrificial obedience, doing without things we might want (or think we need), or risking our freedom (or life) serving in a hostile environment. In other words, following where Jesus led, and being willing to take the heat (sometimes even unto death).

    I don’t mean that everyone who follows Christ will be physically persecuted — but perhaps we will be culturally or politically persecuted. Jesus always seemed to eventually get under people’s skin, if they followed him around long enough. Why would we expect the world to find us any more acceptable, if we’re truly following him??

  18. MAJ Tony says


    I have a part time retail job that makes me into someone I hate. Almost as much as I “hate” the customers. I’ve mentioned here before that hate takes lots of energy, yet on the weekends, at that job,in no time at all I’m ready to rip someone’s head off.

    This unhappiness is made far worse by the fact that I’m almost continually convicted that this anger is sin. What I hear is, “Jesus died for you, forgave you and you have no patience whatsoever for these people.” And these people don’t care that they are behaving in this way, so the only one suffering here is me. Then there are those colleagues who don’t want to pull their weight.

    It seems clear to me that God is trying to teach me how he wants me to be more like Christ. This whole deal seems like the essence of the Christian life. But what I really want to do is tell the customers, over the loudspeaker, what I really think.

    What it’s going to take to break me I don’t know. I hate to think I won’t be able to escape the job until I just hand it over. And learn to let everything just wash over me.

    And by the way, I am very grateful for the job. I’m fully aware of the current unemployment situation.

    Patrick Kyle:

    Don’t be afraid to search for a new job. If you are an alcoholic, bars are places to be avoided. If you have issues with anger, sounds like you need to avoid a place that constantly provokes and enrages you.

    I’ll come clean; most of what passes for sanctification in my life is really what I call temptation management. I know in certain situations I will end up doing X or Y, so I avoid places and situatiuons that lead to those behaviors. The longer I don’t engage in those sins the easier it is to keep avoiding them and eventually overcome them.

    Patrick, much of what you say is very valid, ESPECIALLY in cases where it may lead to sin as a matter of course. After all, you don’t run down the middle of a busy street and not expect you could get run over.

    I think all of us need to remember a few things. First, and perhaps most important, nothing is impossible with God. God will not give us more than we can handle. We just have to trust Him. I struggle with that every day.

    To Carol: this sounds to me like you have your cross, as well as your opportunity to “become Christ” to others, as well as to see Christ IN others.

    This reminds me of an EWTN Classic where Mother Angelica tells the story about her trip to a diner with an uncooperative waitress. She asked for her coffee with 3 creams, like she always has. The lady came back with 2, and disappeared. She said rather than bite her head off, which her Italian temper would have her do (born Rita Rizzo) she gave her a decent tip, and blessed her (an informal “God Bless You” as I recall). A repeat trip to the diner showed the fruit of the Golden Rule. Apparently the waitress was having a really down day, and appreciated the kind gesture from the nun. Mother got her three creams without asking. I recall Mother’s moral for this story is to consider that we don’t know WHY people act as they do, not to make it worse, and often we can make it better by “seeing Christ” in the other person despite what may appear very ugly.

  19. Michael,

    I so love and appreciate that we have this place where we can encourage each other.

    It must give you the most amazing feeling to know that God is using you in this way.