In spite of the fact that a Christian may backslide for a time and that remaining corruption may prevail, yet every true Christian will, ultimately, over the course his life, make progress in sanctification by means of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in His heart. Holiness will continue to be perfected in a climate of godly fear. He will continue to press after a heavenly life. And over time, he will grow in evangelical obedience to all the commands of Christ as he becomes aware of them.
Having been definitively sanctified, the Christian is being progressively sanctified, although not perfectly sanctified in this life. He or she will always battle with remaining sin. But, at the same time, the true Christian will not ultimately be destroyed. In the conflict he will never apostatize, and he will grow and increase in Christian virtue. This is the emphasis of the third and final paragraph of this chapter of the Confession:
In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may much prevail, yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part does overcome; and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, pressing after an heavenly life, in evangelical obedience to all the commands which Christ as Head and King, in his Word has prescribed to them.
A Progress That May Sometimes Experience Setbacks
“In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may much prevail…”
Consider the experiences of Noah falling prey to drunkenness, Abraham lying about his wife Sarah and putting her in danger, Moses striking the rock, David falling into adultery, as well as covering his sin and delaying repentance for a time, and Peter denying the Lord and giving way to the cowardly fear of man. These are all examples of true believers in whom, for a time, remaining corruption prevailed.
A Progress That Will Ultimately Not Be Thwarted
In all of those examples just given, none of these saints remained in such a sad spiritual condition indefinitely. Each one of them eventually repented and renewed their faith and devotion to God. It is possible to lose a battle without losing the war. When walking up a long stairway, one may fall or even slide back a few steps, but still persevere and advance toward the top. Sometimes sanctification can give the same appearance of halting progress. But as the Confession goes on to say, “In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may much prevail, yet through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome.”
The Agent and Essence of this Progress
It is through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ who indwells every believer that the believer is enabled to overcome.
The Confession says, “and so the saints grow in grace.” This is a concise way of describing progressive sanctification.