I just finished reading The Quest for Holiness for the fourth time. I probably wouldn’t have ever read it once except that Doctor David Scaer wrote the foreword to the 1995 edition. Each time I read it I like it; I hate it. I am helped; I am bothered.
I use to be bothered, in fact I was bothered right up till the finishing of the book this time, that the book is titled in English The Quest for Holiness rather than what it is in the original German Justification and Sanctification. It bothered me because obviously those two words translate directly from German to English. Then it dawned on me; the English title captures the German author’s point.
By subsuming justification and sanctification in one quest for holiness, the two are joined. It’s true that in one sense the two ought to be separated as far as Law and Gospel, as far as heaven and earth, even though the battlefield of the two is in one person. However, in another sense we ought to think of them together but without mingling them. Thinking of justification and sanctification as a quest does that for me.
The quest for holiness is completed, ended, over in the article of justification. The quest goes on till the grave in the article of sanctification, but it’s the same quest: to get back to the garden, to regain the image of God that we lost. When speaking of justification we are back in the garden, reborn in the image of Jesus completely righteous and holy for His sake. When speaking of sanctification, we’re still on the journey to the garden struggling to subdue the old man which is never in the image of God.
Despair will set in if we don’t live in justification during the quest. Debauchery will set in if we forget about sanctification while on it. The Quest for Holiness always reminds me pointedly of the latter pitfall, but it does it in such a way that I come close to despairing. And no one continues a quest once they despair of ever finishing it and such despair leads to even greater debaucheries. Therefore, if you’re going to read The Quest for Holiness read Luther’s 1535 lectures on Galatians immediately afterward. That will get you armored up and ready to saddle up once more.