I recently read an article about sanctification by someone who identifies as holding to the Free Grace position. He suggested that both justification and sanctification are by faith, apart from works.
Is that true? While justification is definitely by faith, apart from works, is sanctification also by faith, apart from works?
To suggest that sanctification and justification are both the same in terms of how they occur is puzzling to me. James made it clear that one can believe God’s Word and yet fail to obey (Jas 2:14-26). Faith alone is the means of justification (Rom 3:20-31). However, faith alone is not the means of sanctification. One must apply what he believes in order for good works to follow. Faith plus obedience is necessary. James says that faith without works is dead, in the sense of being unprofitable (compare “what does it profit” in 2:14a and 2:16b).
If sanctification were by faith alone, apart from works, then the moment one believed in Christ for everlasting life, he would be sanctified once and for all. He would never sin again.
But sanctification, unlike justification, is a process. And sanctification requires good works. Without good works, one’s faith is dead.
I would suggest that when we teach on sanctification, we need to stress the transforming power of the Word of God as it gives us a new worldview. Paul said that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God which we have heard, and He uses it to transform us (2 Cor 3:18). But how does the Word of God get to us? It is through the ministry of gifted teachers in the local church (Heb 10:23-25). And that does not happen automatically. We must choose to get up and attend a solid Bible-teaching church in order to be transformed. Church attendance is a work. Paying attention in church is a work. Application of what we have heard is a work.
It is true that both justification and sanctification are only possible because of God’s grace (His favor). If He did not give us the Word of God, gifted teachers to teach us, and the Holy Spirit to transform us, then we could not be sanctified. But the fact that we rely on His grace for sanctification in no way means that sanctification is apart from works.