Tag Archives: sanctification

Helmut Thielicke on the Hallowing of God’s Name

[48] My friends, doesn’t it strike you as it does me, that in the Lord’s Prayer there is not a single petition that asks God to make me a sanctified, devout, and stoutly believing man, not a single petition that asks him to help me make progress in ‘sanctification’?

In making this observation I am not venturing to say that we may not pray for these things. Nevertheless it is striking that a petition that relates to the growth of the inner man and spiritual progress is simply missing.

Expressed in other words, whereas we would think that the Prayer could say, and quite rightly say: “Lord, lead me to further sanctification of my life,” Jesus turns our attention away from ourselves, even from our pious selves, and concentrates it upon the Father. The prayer is not “May I be hallowed” but “thy name be hallowed.” What does he mean by this?

[49] Quite simply, he means to say that if I want to become a new man, I should not begin with myself, with my good intentions and my moral endeavors. This can only come to nothing, even though it is recommended by the philosophers, the moralists, and other honest people. …

[51] If Jesus does not teach us to pray, “Make me a consecrated, holy person,” but rather teaches us to say, “Hallowed be thy name,” what he is saying is this: “It doesn’t depend at all on your own exertions and your own inner progress; you can never set yourself up as your own goal. Everything depends on your being willing to honor God and let [52] him work in your life, simply to stand still and let him be the ‘holy one’ who will actually have first place in your life, above all men and all things. Then the other will come of itself. …

Again we say, the solution to the problem of our life (the problem of how we can become new men) lies not in ourselves but outside of ourselves, in the fellowship which we have or do not have with God.

from The Prayer that Spans the World

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Gerhard Forde on the Christian life

A locus on the Christian life is potentially the most dangerous in dogmatics. It is concerned with giving an account of how the act of God in Christ impinges on, effects, and affects the lives we live. Such an account is potentially dangerous because, as the tradition shows all too patently, the rhetoric has a way of running away with itself and becoming inflated and oppressive. In the anxiety to demonstrate that the Christian life is different, vital, relevant, abundant, and obviously superior to every other kind of life, the encomiums pile up, often fired by enthusiasm and hubris rather than by reality.

from Christian Dogmatics, Vol II, (Fortress, 1984), 395.

(P.S. something of a counterpoint from Adolf Koberle)

there is no place in it [the new life of faith] for self-admiration, nor does it cherish delusions of perfection, but yet, in spite of all its weakness and failures, it is a real deliverance from the bondage and dominion of sin.

from The Quest for Holiness, (1936), vii.

On the progress to be made in the Christian life

A. Robert Jenson

After baptism, what do we go on to next? Answers are generally advanced with a bad conscience, since the eschatological nature of the gifts biblically ascribed to baptism, if they are taken seriously, plainly leaves no space for progress or development in faith or holiness themselves. Luther finally said what has to be said: We do not go on to anything at all; rather, Christian life has as its one essential content that we “daily” “return” to baptism.

From Christian Dogmatics, Vol. II, (Fortress, 1984), 331.

B. Gerhard Forde

Sanctification is simply the art of getting used to justification.

From The Preached God, Eds. Mark Mattes & Steven Paulson, (Eerdmans, 2007), 226.

C. Austin Farrer

Progress in the Christian way should mean this, that we learn more and more to experience our life as the saving work of God.

From The Essential Sermons, Ed. Lesslie Houlden, (SPCK, 1991), 152.

D. John Webster

Growth in the Christian life is simply growth in seeing that the gospel is true.

From The Grace of Truth, (Oil Lamp Books, 2011), 33-34.

Kosuke Koyama on the speed of God

We live today an efficient and speedy life. We are surrounded by electric switches, some of which cost us 10 dollars and others may even cost 2,000 dollars. We want more switches. Who among us dislikes efficiency and a smooth-going comfortable life? University students use the Xerox machine in their studies. Housewives use ‘instant pizza’ for supper. Men’s legs are fast deteriorating from the lack of the most basic human exercise, walking. Automobiles speeding fifty miles an hour have replaced their legs. We believe in efficiency. Let’s not just look at this negatively. There is a great value in efficiency and speed.

But let me make one observation. I find that God goes ‘slowly’ in his educational process of man. ‘Forty years in the wilderness’ points to his basic educational philosophy. Forty years of natural migration through the wilderness, three generations of the united monarchy (Saul, David, Solomon), nineteen kings of Israel (up to 722 BC) and twenty kings of Judah (up to 587 BC), the hosts of the prophets and priests, the experience of exile and restoration – isn’t this rather a slow and costly way for God to let his people know the covenant relationship between God and man?

[…] God walks ‘slowly’ because he is love. If he is not love he would have gone much faster. Love has its speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It is ‘slow’ yet it is lord over all other speeds since it is the speed of love. It goes on in the depth of our life, whether we notice or not, whether we are currently hit by storm or not, at three miles an hour. It is the speed we walk and therefore it is the speed the love of God walks.

The people of God were taught the truth of bread and the word of God in the wilderness as they walked three miles an hour by the three mile an hour God. The Canaanite woman believed in Jesus Christ against all her own speeds by trusting the speed of the promise of God.

Kosuke Koyama, “Three Mile an Hour God,” in Three Mile an Hour God: Biblical Reflections, (Orbis, 1979), 6-7.