Colossians 1:22-23

Progressive sanctification. Remain in the faith, established and firm.

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Though we have already discussed verse 22 of Chapter 1, I believe there is one more important aspect of this verse that we should discuss this Sunday. Let's go over this verse again: "... but now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death to present you holy, without blemish, and blameless before him."

There is a concept called “progressive sanctification” that is almost universally accepted by Christians. Let’s survey a few of their definitions:

Progressive sanctification is what gradually separates the people of God from the world and makes them more and more like Jesus Christ. (
Progressive sanctification is a process by which the Spirit produces in believers a gradual increase likeness to Christ. It is a life long process. (

I could quote more, but the main points are the same: “lifelong” and “more and more.” I have no problem with the “lifelong” concept because we all have to wait for the Lord’s return before we are transformed from glory to glory, but the “more and more” concept bothers me.

How do I gauge my progress toward becoming more like Christ? Are you the one who will certify my progress? Do you know what Christ is like so you can point me in the right direction? Yes, I’ve become more patient, thoughtful, and slower to anger, and there is undeniably more peace in my soul, but isn’t it a little arrogant to say I’m becoming more like Christ? You can form your own opinion about what Christ is like; I have none.

My only knowledge of Christ is what I’ve learned from the Bible. God gave birth to him through a virgin. He was born sinless. He is God and man at the same time. Whatever he said brought comfort to my heart because I sensed his power, which was unlike anything I had ever heard. He resurrected the dead. He was able to heal the blind and the lame. He died on the cross to atone for my sins. He was the only one who could forgive my sins. His love is unfailing. Man considers their own merit and performance, whereas God considers his free gift of salvation to those who are humble in heart. So, how do you think I, or anyone else, will ever become like him?

We have quickly forgotten the lesson learned in the Garden of Eden when man desired to become like God. They gave their lives for such a desire.

Our key verse, Colossians 1:22, demonstrates God’s method of restoring our lost glory: Jesus’ “physical body through death.”   Your progressive sanctification is a long way from being presented to God as “holy, without blemish, and blameless.” Your way of becoming like Christ is through your own efforts, whereas God’s way is through the death of His Son.

As a result, I conclude that progressive sanctification theology is a man-made doctrine with no place in the gospel.


23… if indeed you remain in the faith, established and firm, without shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has also been preached in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become its servant. (Colossians 1:23)

What believers most fear is that when Christ returns to receive his bride, God will find them wanting. To avoid hearing God say to them, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity,”  (Matthew 7:23) they invented progressive sanctification. But, thanks to Christ’s blood, we will be presented “holy, without blemish, and blameless,” according to verse 22. It is a free gift from God to those who believe.

There is, however, a catch. You must keep the “hope of the gospel that you heard” alive. The question is, how will you keep your position? Many people believe that by continuing to participate in faith-related activities such as attending church, tithing, evangelism, prayer, fasting, and so on. Don’t get me wrong. These are fine, but you must be careful not to take them as gospel. They do not represent the gospel you were taught. Because if you adhere to this false gospel of works, you will eventually lose faith in God as a result of repeated and unavoidable failures. Your faith in yourself will demonstrate that you will never be “holy, without blemish, and blameless” before God through progressive sanctification.

The true gospel you heard is straightforward, as stated in verse 22: “he has reconciled you through his physical body through death to present you holy, without blemish, and blameless before him.”  It is Jesus’ physical body, not yours, or any works that can come from your flesh, no matter how noble they appear to be.

Sure, keep doing good works for God, but don’t let them become your gospel, because if you do, you’ll have demonstrated that you don’t believe the gospel you heard. My advice is to grow in your understanding of the gospel you heard, which is “Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2), and the works will come as a result of your genuine faith. Dead fruits are works produced as a result of legal coercion (Romans 7:5). Be content to wait for the Holy Spirit to bear fruit that will last forever.

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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