God sanctifies his people in various ways. As he makes his people more like Christ, he does so using different methods and means. Of course, God is the one who sanctifies his people, and the ways he does so are his ways. Primarily, he sanctifies his people through his Word, the Holy Spirit, and the sacraments. But he sanctifies his people in various ways.
David Powlison argues as much in his new short book How Does Sanctification Work? Rather than thinking there is one “key” to sanctification, Powlison says that “the Lord makes different truths meaningful at different times to different people” (p. 25). The gospel of grace is the foundation of sanctification, of course, but sometimes God uses other things connected to the gospel to change people. Sanctification isn’t a “one size fits all” process!
For example, sometimes we grow when the Lord uses a certain Bible truth or verse in our lives. It could be conviction of sin from the law, it could be moral guidance from Proverbs, it could be a reminder of God’s love, or it could be a verse about God’s sovereignty (for just a few examples). In this book, Powlison notes these kinds of various ways God uses to grow his people.
Powlison’s “five factors of sanctification” are these: 1) God himself changes you (Phil. 2:3), 2) the Word of truth changes you (Ps. 19:7), 3) wise people change you (Prov. 13:20), 4) suffering, struggle, and troubles change you (Heb. 5:8), and 5) you change (1 Thes. 1:9). These “five factors” are explained in more detail in chapter six. I appreciated this chapter.
This is a good book that will get you thinking more about sanctification. I do agree with Powlison; I’ve seen in my own life the various ways God has sanctified me. Sometimes the law caused me to avoid sin, sometimes another Christian’s good example caused me to do what was right, sometimes a hard trial strengthened my faith, and often a promise of God has given me fresh courage for the day. This growth is based on God’s word, his gospel, and the power of his Spirit. Get this book to learn more!