(30) But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—
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Protestants hang on this verse because on its face it seems to say that Christ did all the work for us—that we are made righteous, sanctified, and redeemed by accepting His sacrifice for us, and we need do no more.
Upon closer study, though, this verse says that Jesus is our example in these matters; He embodies these virtues. Just as He is "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), He is wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. If we walk as He walked, we will be wise, righteous, holy, and saved! As the whole context shows, God will amaze and shame the world by taking the foolish, weak, and base, and creating them into children like His Son (cf. Luke 10:21). Even as nothing just appears as a finished product, so His children will go through a process of development, and this process follows the same one that Jesus Christ experienced in His life (John 8:12; I Corinthians 11:1; I John 2:6; etc.).
This is where the Protestant gospel fails. It proclaims "by grace you have been saved through faith" alone (a word not found in Ephesians 2:8, yet added by Martin Luther), and discounts works entirely as a vehicle for building character because, in their view, we are already righteous and holy through Christ. True, we are not saved by works (verse 9), but Paul emphatically asserts that God is creating us in Christ for good works (verse 10). James adds that works exhibit and stimulate faith (James 2:18, 22, 24, 26). Works, then, are a tool to build as well as a product of godly character.
The gospel, then, is more than an announcement of salvation to mankind. It is a roadmap that teaches us what we must do to be saved—not just justified by Christ's sacrifice, but also born into the Kingdom of God! Between justification and glorification is sanctification, the process of becoming holy and righteous as He is, and the gospel explains how that is accomplished. Though that process does not save us, we will not be saved without it!
— Richard T. Ritenbaugh