I want to take a few moments to compare justifying grace and sanctifying grace; in other words, initial grace and ongoing grace. This is always an edifying and valuable exercise. As Christians, we tend to forget that we are sanctified through the same means that we are justified. The initial grace that forever changed us was the justifying and forgiving grace of God. The prophets of the Old Testament tell of the good news that God forgives our iniquities and remembers our sin no more. (See Jeremiah 31:34) Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (NIV) When we repented of our sins and called upon Christ as Lord and Savior, we were forgiven and justified, declared not guilty. We were made righteous in His sight.
Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. (See Hebrews 12:2). He manifests Himself to us through the Gospel as the One who is able to save us. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our need for salvation. We trust in the saving work of Jesus rather in our own works. Revelation 5:12 says, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” The grace of God, by which we are justified in our rebirth, is the same grace that must continually be at work in us for growth and sanctification. Remember that the core meaning of sanctification is to be set apart for God.
The biblical concept of ongoing grace is wrapped up tightly with the idea that we trust in the saving work of Jesus, and we see Him as the finisher or, even more succinctly, the perfecter, of our faith. No Christian has mastered spiritual discipline. In fact, the more we grow in grace, the more we realize how little we know apart from God. Spiritual perfection is more accurately spiritual maturity. As we grow in Christ we come to understand our inadequacy to go it alone. Never should we say to ourselves, “I got this!”
The so-called five-fold ministry refers to God giving some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and some as teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service in order to build up the body of Christ. The goal is that we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (See Ephesians 4:11-13)
According to word studies in the original Greek, “for the equipping of the saints” literally indicates an ultimate goal of perfecting or maturing the Body of Christ. Ministering and building are means to this end. The concept is growth through adjustment, and is further explained in Colossians 1:10, wherein the Body is to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. This is further described in Hebrews 13:21 where God wants us to become perfect (equipped, mature) in every good work to do His will. Clearly, it is only through ongoing grace that we are able to grow and mature in Christ.