This is the second part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.
In the first article in this series, we looked at five propositions that Paul introduces in his epistles about our relationship to the law and its relationship to our sanctification:
First, law cannot cope with sin.
Second, it’s the love brought to the saint through the indwelling Holy Spirit that is fulfills the law.
Third, it is the Spirit that produces fruit in the believer, while the law in our remaining sinful flesh can only produce sin.
Fourth, sanctification – a growth in holiness — results from our union with Christ and Scripture’s exhortations about what it means to be Christ-like.
Fifth, that the imperatives Paul gives to us are not themselves laws and are not given as laws or in the category of law, because they flow from the indicative of our reliance upon Christ and our position in Christ.
Before we address those five propositions individually in future articles, we need to consider the eschatology of our sanctification. We will indeed be glorified, Paul promises (Romans 8:30). What is important now about that final and complete sanctification is what that state reveals about us – what that “not yet” tells us about our “already.”
Certainly the apostle John gives us the most poignant view of what we will be: “We know that when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). But Paul also comprehends and explains to us that we indeed shall be like our Savior. In his benediction at the end of 1 Thessalonians, Paul writes, “ Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess 5:23–24).
We will be sanctified completely.
Will we be sanctified through our own effort or through performance-driven navel-gazing?
Will a reliance on the law do it?
No, Paul tells us, “the God of peace himself” will do it.
Paul tells the Thessalonians that the one who is sanctifying them will complete that sanctification when Christ returns: “Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you,  and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,  so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:11–13).
And Paul even exhorts himself to remain faithful and focused on the goal he knows he will reach, when he writes to the Philippians: Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained.  Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.  For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:12–21)
Paul has his eyes fixed on what lies ahead, a time when he will be rid of what remains of his “body of death.”
He strives to live according to the Spirit as one whose mind is set on the things of the Spirit.
He knows he will be like Christ — not as someone who follows the letter of the law, but one whose transformed spirit gives him the perfect, selfless love of Christ that intrinsically and ontologically fulfills the law.
With this eschatological reality in mind — a sanctification begun at regeneration, a sanctification increased in the “now” and consummated in the “not yet” — we’ll continue this series by looking at each of these five propositions. In each, we’ll consider how Paul uses the antithesis of law and Spirit to exhort believers to be more and more in the here and now what they will one day become in full.
Next: Completed by the Spirit Part 3: The Law Cannot Cope With Sin