The debate about sanctification continues

A recent post on the Gospel Coalition website by Trevin Wax gave a helpful review of my book Possessed by God  and evaluated the pastoral implications of seeing sanctification primarily as a position, rather than as a process.  ( Although the book has been published for almost 20 years, it has surprised me that little public discussion on the topic has taken place (with some notable exceptions). Apart from the pastoral implications, the thesis raises important questions about the relationship between Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology. I am regularly challenged about these issues by students in my classes!


9 thoughts on “The debate about sanctification continues

  1. Adam Anderson

    Greetings Dr. Peterson!

    I recently discovered the link to Moore’s audio sermons, chapel messages, etc.

    I just downloaded the messages you gave on sanctification from 1994–can’t wait to dig in! 🙂


  2. Billy Marsh

    Dr. Peterson,

    I have recently read Possessed by God and my only regret was that I had not encountered sooner. Thank you for making an important contribution to this doctrine through careful biblical exegesis and theology underneath the authority of Scripture. Now, I have Transformed by God coming in the mail, and I’m excited to see how your thought continues into the moment-by-moment of Christian life in this book.

    If you are willing, I would be interested to hear any recommendations you’d offer concerning popular Christian living works that represent more of a “definitive” stance on sanctification and holiness. So much of the accessible, popular literature often labeled as “Christian Living,” I would say, works primarily within the domain of “progressive” sanctification.

    As I seek to direct others to Christian literature that leans more closely to what you presented in Possessed by God, but who are not at the reading level of the audience assumed in the NSBT series, who would you say is writing at a popular level for the everyday Christian that is exhorting Christians to practice holiness similar to your own exposition of sanctification?



    1. Billy, I am sorry it has taken so long to respond to your request. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any popular books that develop the idea of definitive sanctification in a simple fashion. I hope someone picks up the challenge soon! Maybe this is something you should attempt yourself and put it out on the web for others to use.


  3. Allan

    I too came across Trevin Wax’s piece, and thus to your book. As a simple home-based Bible student I had found the NT presentation of sanctification was being confused by mainstream thought, and the wonderful work of God in accomplished sanctification, that is, a setting apart for divine use, was being sadly obscured by progressive growing into His image, and surely the former is the basis of the latter.

    So relieved to find I was not the lone heretic I thought I might be, with all the august commentators having a different view!!




  4. Justin

    Because of an ongoing discussion within the PCA (the denomination I happen to be in) about indicatives and imperatives, sanctification, and the law, I stumbled upon “Possessed by God” . I’m currently in the process of reading it, but so far it has been extremely refreshing to read how scripture speaks of it, especially when the polemics over it have been spiritually exhausting. I cannot wait to read more, thank you for exercising the gifts that the Lord has given you!


  5. M. T. Wilson

    Greetings Dr. Peterson,

    I too have recently read “Possessed by God” and found it to be quite stimulating and honestly refreshing. I particularly appreciated your comment that “inadequate attention has been paid to the use of holiness terminology in the New Testament and to passages which deal specifically with the subject of sanctification”[15].

    The reason I am writing to you is that a friend of mine challenged me a couple years ago to re-consider the biblical meaning of holiness. Since then, I have been “possessed” by that challenge, and to my surprise, came to discover some fascinating and very challenging things about the meaning of “kadosh” and its derivatives and cognates in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.

    I have recently completed a monograph on the subject and was wondering if I might be able to pass along a copy of it to you, as I would greatly appreciate any input or critique you would be willing to offer.

    In brief, the thesis of the work is that contextual analysis of the use of “kadosh” and its derivatives demonstrates that it bears one simple meaning throughout the Scriptures regardless of the subject to which it is applied. The simple definition is best represented in English as “devote, devoted, devotion” etc. While devotion is commonly thought of as one aspect of holiness, this work demonstrates that such a definition is equally and at all times valid, even in reference to God’s holiness. In fact, the only thing that distinguishes God’s holiness from ours is certainty, and thus God’s holiness is, in effect, His means to solve the epistemological problem of theology. Furthermore, such a uniform definition applies equally to the concept of sanctification and holiness within the New Testament as well. The practical result is that, when understood this way, sanctification (holiness) becomes simple, credible, attainable and sustainable for the follower of Messiah.

    The work is called the “Simplicity of Holiness” and I have it available in both paper and e-book form if this sounds of interest to you.

    M. T. Wilson


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s