Text: Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18 See also 1 Thess. 4:3-8
In Christian theology there are those subjects which, on the one hand, are quite important for us to understand, but on the other hand, are difficult to understand or grasp. Sanctification is one of those subjects.
Simply defined, sanctification is the means by which unholy, or sinful, creatures are made holy. Confusion arises, however, when we try to interpret that means. This results in sanctification being understood differently by different people.
Some see sanctification as a completed act; some see sanctification as a process. Some see sanctification occurring in part; some see sanctification occurring completely or entirely. Some see sanctification as a work entirely of the Holy Spirit; some see sanctification as accomplished by the efforts of man. Some see sanctification as something that is presently realized; some see sanctification as something that is yet to be realized.
The reality is that all of these positions or definitions are correct. The problem arises when we tend to exclude one position or the other. Herein lies what is called a paradox:
Sanctification is both a completed act and a process.
Sanctification occurs both in part and entirely.
Sanctification is entirely a work of the Holy Spirit and yet at the
same time is accomplished by the efforts of man.
Sanctification is both presently realized and yet to be realized.
The tragedy is that some see sanctification as unattainable and legalistic and therefore unnecessary of any thought or attention, and even burdensome.
But as Corrie ten Boom once said, “Sanctification is not a heavy yoke, but a joyful liberation.”
Sanctification is to be understood from several different perspectives, as we shall see from scripture. And if we are to completely grasp, or even partially grasp, this important Biblical concept we must examine each of these different perspectives.
• Sanctification is to be understood as an essential part of salvation:
It is no stretch of the truth to say that the central theme of Scripture is the salvation of man through the atoning work of Christ. That is the sum crux of the Bible.
When the angel of the Lord announced to Joseph that he should not be afraid to take unto himself Mary as his wife, the angel said, “...that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:20,21).
Jesus, speaking of Himself, says in Matt 18:11, “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.”
The salvation of man then is both the supreme purpose of human history and the entire focus of scripture.
Salvation is a four-fold process. In other words, there are 4 steps involved in our being saved.
1) Regeneration - deliverance from the POSSESSION of sin
2) Justification - deliverance from the PENALTY of sin
3) Sanctification - deliverance from the POWER of sin
4) Glorification- deliverance from the PRESENCE of sin
• Sanctification is to be understood as the work of God:
When I speak of God in this instance, I am speaking of the Godhead which encompasses Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus...
The Father wills our sanctification - 1 Thess. 4:3
The Father purposes our sanctification - 2 Thess 2:13
Jesus died for our sanctification - Eph 5:25,26
Jesus prayed for our sanctification - John 17:17
The Spirit produces our sanctification - 1 Cor. 6:11; 1 Pet 1:1,2
The Spirit enables our sanctification - Heb 10:29
• Sanctification is to be understood as a two-fold experience:
1) Positional Sanctification
2) Progressive Sanctification
Positional sanctification has to do with the Righteousness of Christ
Progressive sanctification has to do with Personal Righteousness
The Righteousness of Christ is given to us on the basis of Faith
Personal Righteousness is attained by the keeping of the Law
The Righteousness of Christ is what gets us to Heaven
Personal Righteousness is what determines our Rewards
The Righteousness of Christ always leads to Personal Righteousness so that the latter is both the result and the evidence of the former.
The Righteousness of Christ is absolute perfect righteousness and is given to us instantaneously at the moment of our conversion.
Personal Righteousness will never be perfect righteousness, certainly not before we come to Christ, but neither after we are in Christ; not in this life. We are ever in the process of becoming like Christ
Now we all keep the Law to a degree - even those who are not in Christ keep the law to some degree. But, again, we do not keep it perfectly.
We may not commit adultery, but do we lust?
We may not lie, but do we always speak the whole truth?
We may not steal, but do we covet?
We may not commit murder, but do we hate our brother without a cause?
We may not bear false witness, but do we gossip?
Ill. Specks of dust in the sunlight.
The impurities are there, but they are not made visible until the light shines upon them. So it is with our souls. We do not see our impurities, but they are there. And when the light of Christ shines upon our hearts they are made quite evident.
Jesus said that it is not necessarily what a man does that makes him a sinner, but what's in his heart.
We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners.
Jesus said it this way, A good tree bears good fruit.
We should always glory in the Righteousness of Christ but never in our own personal righteousness. Consider what Paul says in Philippians 3:7-9:
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
• Sanctification is to be understood as both a putting off and a putting on
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. 5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. 8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
What we put off What we put on
Malice Humbleness of Mind
Filthy Communication Longsuffering
Lying Forbearance & Forgiveness
• Sanctification is to be understood as a change of heart
As the physical heart is to the body, so is the spiritual heart to the soul of man. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Pr. 23:7)
In Christ, we have been given a new heart - Ez. 26:36; Jer. 31:33; Heb 10:15,16
The question now is, “What is your attitude toward sin?”
1) Are you aware of your sin? Or do you deny your sin?
2) Are you ashamed of your sin? Or do you take pleasure in sin?
3) Are you abandoning your sin? Or do you accommodate your sin?
• Sanctification is to be understood as a process of becoming like Christ
The whole purpose of our salvation is to 'recreate' us, to make us once again in the likeness or image of God through the person and work of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
However we may set out on the path of pilgrimage, we spend a lifetime walking it. There are no rest stops, no plateaus at which we can flop down and say that we've gone far enough. At the beginning, God accepts us in all of our sinfulness and selfishness. But this does not mean that he is content to have us remain in that state. We are all, in the New Testament's terrifying phrase, "called to be saints." Our Father knows our weaknesses even better than we do, and he does not expect us to become saints overnight. But he does demand that we keep moving in that direction, or as the good old Methodist phrase puts it, that we continue "groaning toward perfection." At each step of the journey, the question that really matters is not whether we are a little farther along than some of our friends and neighbors, but how far we have progressed since yesterday.
Louis Cassels (1922-1974)