is the will of God, even your sanctification.”
In the King
James translation there are 32 New Testament entries for
various forms of the word sanctification. It is a
doctrine of primary importance in the Christian’s life.
Very few items are so explicit as to say, “THIS is God’s
will for you.” But sanctification, as quoted above, is
one of those few.
The word and
the doctrine are about purification, holiness,
consecration. To a human being, the words can be
frightening. But they are not meant to be. The concept
of sanctification is the concept of learning to think
anew—anew by human standards, but by
Scripturally-directed spiritual standards. As Paul
writes (Romans 12:2), “Be ye TRANSFORMED by the renewing
of your mind.” This is what keeps a Christian
separate from the world, pure from its
influences, holy (in the sense of complete
because of spiritual understanding) as opposed to carnal
or worldly thinking, and consecrated in the sense
of devotion to God’s will only. It has been expressed
that sanctification is being SET ASIDE to the service of
something higher. But paramount in the doctrine is the
idea of GROWTH. A Christian does not simply accept the
JUSTIFICATION provided by belief in Christ’s
righteousness; he must add to that justification a
transformation of character to be made like Christ.
Sanctification is a PROCESS; it IS GROWTH; it is
MATURING in spiritual understanding and application. As
Paul said, it is a total RENEWING of the mind.
Scriptures frequently provide lists to show how we grow
through this sanctification process. Three examples will
suffice to make the point.
Galatians 5:22-25, Paul shows that the Holy Spirit in
our lives will develop fruitage. As with fruit on a
tree, character ripening takes time.
James 3:17, 18, the Apostle shows those character traits
that constitute spiritual wisdom. As with human wisdom,
these traits are developed through instruction and
Both of the
above lists are preceded by lists of contrasting human
traits—things we possess before the process of
sanctification works to eliminate them.
Peter speaks of sanctification (II Peter 1:4-8) by
speaking of our work of ADDING spiritual strengths one
at a time based on THE PROMISES OF GOD.
God has no
desire to deal with our fallen, imperfect humanness.
When He accepts us in Christ, he considers our wills
to serve him (instead of our humanity) as the beginning
of something new—something to which (if we are faithful)
he will give ultimately a new spiritual body. Paul (II
Corinthians 5:17) says it this way:
“If any man
be in Christ, he is a new creature:
are passed away; behold, all things
There may be
times or circumstances when we can feel inadequate or
overwhelmed by the concept of sanctification in our
lives—of being “saints.” But as time progresses and we
see the hand of God in our experiences and in our
instruction, we can learn to rejoice in and to
anticipate anything and everything in our lives that
eventuates in making us more Christ-like.
If we love
God and Christ, we can only rejoice in every effort
toward sanctification. Since it is God’s will for us,
how can we do otherwise?
There is a
secret ingredient to sanctification. It is TRUTH. Only
truth sanctifies. Error does not sanctify; it
corrupts. Therefore, every disciple must constantly be
searching and appropriating the Word of God, the Bible,
to be able to discern what makes Christ-likeness.
Before he died, Jesus offered a prayer on our behalf.
In it are the beautiful words: “Sanctify them through
thy truth; Thy word is truth.” The whole context (John
17:14-26) stresses that this sanctification will set us
apart from the world to the extent that the world hath
hated them because they are not of the world.”
If we are
faithfully submitting to the sanctification process, the
truths which we know and practice will be such a threat
to the world’s ways and standards that we will be
outcasts—even if we personally are liked by those who
know us. TRUTH is such a threat to error that the
bearers of truth are scorned. TRUTH is such a threat to
our own human natures, that it will fight actively
against the sanctification process of our “new mind(s).”
That is why the Apostle Paul admits his struggle to keep
his flesh, his body, his old humanity, under the control
of his “new creature.” (I Corinthians 9:26, 27)
sanctification process is seen mostly by ourselves
because it is an inner work. However, those who walk
the “narrow way” with us, who also are growing through
sanctification, will see and appreciate signs of the
work going on in other saints. The world in general, it
if sees anything, will tend to misinterpret, be suspect
of, and scorn what it does see in us. Peter suggests
that we can rejoice in this witness of the spirit that
we are, indeed, being sanctified. (I Peter 3:14-18;
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