Possessed by God by David Peterson

Possessed by God is one of the monographs contributing to the “New Studies in Biblical Theology” series. Peterson’s concern is the issue of sanctification as defined by Scripture and lived out in the life of the believer. Peterson works from the backdrop of numerous unbiblical understandings of sanctification: Wesleyism, Keswick Higher-Life, Roman Catholic, and other misreading of the text; and seeks to hammer out a definition derived solely from Scripture. While I believe he ultimately comes out on top, at times he seems to lose his way and was unclear as to what he was trying to prove. What he wants to stress, when all is said and done, is that “sanctification is primarily God’s way of taking possession of us in Christ, setting us apart to belong to Him and to fulfill His purpose for us” (p. 27). Peterson does not deny that it is also a process (pp. 14, 27) in which the believer lives out their position of holiness. But his emphasis is on understanding our position.

No study on sanctification would be complete without a detailed examination of Romans 6-8. Peterson supplies his exposition of these chapters on pages 96-114, and I believe he does an excellent job. One of the most important questions in the passage is what role the Law plays in the life of the Christian? Here and in Appendix B, Peterson breaks from Calvin and the standard Reformed view of the believer still under the Law. He rightly sees the Law as a temporary provision (p. 145). “Christians are not ‘under the Law’ because they live under the Lordship of Christ” (p. 147). This is an excellent and refreshing handling of the Law.

The bottom line for Peterson is that he believes sanctification is “primarily another way of describing what it means to be converted” (p. 136). Renewal and change comes “from the regeneration and sanctification that God has already accomplished in our lives” (p. 136). If we are not careful to guard this distinction, history has shown that the New Testament emphasis will be obscured (p. 137).

Possessed by God is well worth the effort for serious students of the Word.

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