Plantinga writes of a “double grace” in chapter four entitled “Redemption” from his book Engaging God’s World. There are two components, sanctification and justification. Sanctification is the progression towards holiness. It is becoming like Christ, becoming holy. This is a lifelong process, not simply achieved by confession and an intense moment of spiritual revival. Instead, God works this part of the double grace throughout the entire length of our lives. We find his touch in refining and redeeming our lives every day. The second component of the double grace is justification. This at first seems like a one-time ordeal, the initial moment of confession at which we admit our sins and allow God to work in us. However, justification really is when we are made right with God by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of our sins. This like sanctification is not over and done with. It happens nearly every day as we confess our sins and ask continually for forgiveness. Our initial salvation and conversion perhaps is only the highlight of this justification, the beginning of a “double graced” transformational process.
As a response to our freedom in Christ, it seems odd that we then become subjected to a new law, God’s law. Normally, as humans we perceive rules and laws as limitations that impede our desires or prevent what we think could be innocent fun. Often times we forget that these established laws were created for a purpose, many times that purpose is for our safety. Now, I am not saying that all laws are justifiable and necessarily work towards the betterment of man, but many of them have good intentions in mind. Our human laws need to reflect God’s law. We have freedom within God’s law. The rules and guidelines that God lays out are there to protect us from all this hurt and pain we could experience. Often it protects us from our own silly mistakes. God displays true love towards us. He does not simply act like a misguided parent who gives their child whatever they want. Instead, God acts as the responsible parent who feeds his child broccoli and carrots, even when it is cake the child screams for. God does not give us simply what we want; he does what’s best for us.
Because of our redemption and atonement in Christ, we are inspired and prompted to do good works. “Love vivifies us” as Plantinga puts it. We love because He first loved us. In response to our salvation, we should gladly offer ourselves for the construction of God’s kingdom. We need to willingly mirror Christ on earth. Martin Luther wrote: “Good works are not the cause, but the fruit of righteousness. When we have become righteous, then we are able and willing to do good. The tree makes the apple; the apple does not make the tree.” We need to clothe ourselves with the attitude and actions of Christ. And, perhaps the clothes do not fit at first, they may be baggy or loose, but at least we are catching a glimpse of what we are intended to become and beginning to work towards growing into those clothes. In fact, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who are intended to spur us on towards good works. We are part of “God’s team,” encouraging one another and reflecting Christ. Our actions are a result of our faith and evidence of its existence. And thus, we begin the process of sanctification and justification, clothing ourselves with the virtues of Christ.