For a few years I have heard the name John Murray and seen his book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied. John Murray was a Scottish professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia who died in 1975. It wasn’t until this year’s Together for the Gospel conference that I decided to pick up a copy and become more familiar with this great resource and its author. I am glad I did.
There are books that you read fast and others you read slowly. This book is worth reading slowly. I marveled at Murray’s ability to outline redemption accomplished and applied, making up the two parts of the book. In redemption accomplished, he addresses the necessity of the atonement, the nature of the atonement, the perfection of the atonement, and the extent of the atonement. In redemption applied his outline is the order of application; effectual calling, regeneration, faith and repentance, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, union with Christ, and glorification.
If I have not already lost you, I want to give you a glimpse of Murray addressing sanctification. Stay with me for a moment and I’ll show you how Murray makes you think. He begins with sanctification by saying,
“Sanctification is an aspect of the application of redemption. In the application of redemption there is order, and the order is one of progression until it reaches its consummation in the liberty of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21, 30). Sanctification is not the first step in the application of redemption; it presupposes other steps such as effectual calling, regeneration, justification, and adoption.” (149)
The order in which Murray presents each element of redemption displays the beauty of God’s design of salvation and how it is traversed by the redeemed step by step, while at the same time it saturates their lives. God’s orchestrating the work of sanctification is evidenced as both accomplished and applied in the lives of those who are redeemed.
Sanctification is accomplished because, “sin is dethroned in every person who is effectually called and regenerated.” (150) Because sin is dethroned, sanctification is possible and as a result, applicable. Sin no longer reigns over us, or as Paul proclaims, we are no longer slaves to sin because Christ has died to set us free. (Romans 6:6-7)
This freedom allows sanctification to occur. It allows sanctification to be applied to our lives by the God who gave us the freedom. At the same time, all sin is not yet eliminated from the heart and life of the believer. As Murray notes, “the believer is not yet so conformed to the image of Christ that he is holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners.” (152) In fact, sanctification will not see its completion until believers are transformed by our Savior, “into conformity with the body of His glory”. (Philippians 3:21) Again you see the work of our God, and it is because of His work in the believer that the believer can tremble at the gravity of sin that remains. Here Murray writes,
“The more closely he comes to the holiest of all, the more he apprehends the sinfulness that is his and he must cry out, “O wretched man that I am” (Romans 7:24). Was this not the effect in all the people of God as they came into closer proximity to the revelation of God’s holiness?…(Isaiah 6:5)” (153)
The incredible reality of God working sanctification in the believer is that the believer can now identify sin and unrighteous in their life and know that sin no longer is master. Because of sanctification the regenerate person can be in conflict with sin, instead of complacent harmony. This can happen only because it is the God of peace who sanctifies entirely. (I Thessalonians 5:23) In sanctification we are dependent on God working in the believer. Any other prerogative promotes pride. As Murray notes, “Self-confident moralism promotes pride, and sanctification promotes humility and contrition.” (156)
Finally, Murray declares that God is the great worker of sanctification in the believer. Addressing Philippians 2:12-13 where Paul writes, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure”, Murray notes:
“What the apostle (Paul) is urging is the necessity of working out our own salvation, and the encouragement he supplies is the assurance that it is God himself who works in us.” (158)
What you find in Murray’s work is a biblical treatment of redemption that carefully attributes to God more of each element of redemption than you might have ever previously considered. As a result our love for the one who saves us continues to grow deep in the rich soil of truth as we both work out our salvation and rejoice that God is at work in us.