Great Words: Sanctification

“But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, both righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption”. 1 Corinthians1:30

A Definition of Sanctification

What is sanctification? Mr. W. E. Vine’s says, “Sanctification is that relationship with God into which men enter by faith in Christ. Sanctification is also used in the New Testament of the separation of believers from evil things and ways.” The cognate words, those with the same root word in the original, are, “saint, sanctuary, holy, and holiness.” The word means to be separated or set apart for a purpose as in Psalm 4:3:”But know that the Lord has set apart him that is godly for Himself.”

There are two main words translated by the word “holy” in the New Testament, with a slight distinction in their meaning. The first one, “hagios” means to be set apart by God and for God, to be exclusively His, or to be consecrated totally to Him. The word is used for example in John 10:36, John 17:19, 2 Corinthians 7:1, and in 1Peter 3:15. The second word, “hosios,” means to be undefiled, pious, and to be religiously observing every moral obligation to God. This word is used in 1Timothy 2:8, Titus 1:8, 1Thessalonians 2:10, and in Hebrews 7:26.

The Different Aspects of Sanctification

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he said, “God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thess 2:13). He was speaking of that work of the Holy Spirit in the soul which leads to belief of the truth and conversion. Similarly, Peter addressed his readers as “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:2). The sanctification of the Spirit led to their obeying the message of the gospel. This first aspect of salvation we want to call pre-conversion sanctification.

A second aspect of sanctification is what we will call positional sanctification. This is what happens at conversion and is part of our standing in Christ. On the Damascus road, Paul was given a commission from the ascended Christ concerning his carrying of the message of the gospel to the Gentiles: ” … to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me” (Acts 26:18). This sanctification was a new relationship-set apart for God and by God. Paul spoke of this when he addressed the Corinthians as being “sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling” (1 Cor 1:2). We read also of this aspect of salvation in Romans 15:16.

A third aspect of sanctification is progressive sanctification. Distinguishing between what is positional and what is practical is often unwise, for we are to be what we are. Our practice is to be consistent with our position. Our practical sanctification is according to the character of our positional sanctification. When the Lord Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth,” He was referring to the growth of the believer in personal holiness. The Word of God would have a separating effect and would bring the believer into a closer conformity with Christ. Paul said, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification (holiness): that ye should abstain from fornication” (1Thess 4:3). It is unthinkable that saints should not be holy! (1Peter 1:15-16; 1Peter 2:5, and 2:9).

There is a final aspect of salvation. “When He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:1-3). What a great moral and physical change! This is a permanent sanctification.

The Demonstrations of Sanctification

Notice first that there were holy places in the Bible. For example, Peter said, “This voice which came from Heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount” (2 Peter 1:18, Matthew 17:1-5). The Person sanctified the place. What an impact being with Him had upon Peter! Secondly, there were holy people in the Bible. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved (borne along) by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). There are holy practices in the Bible. For example, Paul said, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). Consecration is a holy act and attitude. Peter spoke of the attitude and the attire of the holy women, who set their hope on God, and were in subjection to their own husbands (1Peter 3:1-6). Later Peter wrote of the impact the Day of the Lord should have on our lives. “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11).

The Demand for Sanctification

God demands holiness of His people, personally and corporately. For example, the psalmist wrote, “Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, for ever” (Ps 93:5). Paul told Timothy that there are behaviors consistent with the House of God, “That thou mayest know how it is necessary to behave in the house of God, which is the church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1Tim 3:15). There are many instances in the Bible of the call to personal holiness. Peter said, “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance; but as He which has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of behavior; because it is written, Be ye holy, for I AM holy” (1Peter 1:14-16). We have quoted earlier Paul’s words, “This is the will of God, even your holiness” (1Thess 4:7). The writer of Hebrews showed as a reason for the chastening (child-training) of the Father, ” … that we might be partakers of His holiness” (Heb 12:10).

Perhaps we should close with Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and your entire spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Thess 5:23).