The doctrine of sanctification is often misunderstood and neglected in our day. If we want to be called children of God, we must be sanctified and have the process of sanctification continuing in our lives. Without sanctification, no one will see God and live with Him in glory.
What does it mean to be sanctified? 2Tim 2:21 says, “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” The Greek word here translated as sanctified is the word hagiazo. it means, “to make holy, purify, or consecrate.” This same Greek word is translated hallowed in Matt 6:9, “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed [hagiazo] be thy name.” in Rev 22:11 the same word is translated be holy, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy [hagios], let him be holy [hagiazo] still.”
The word sanctification comes from the Greek word hagiasmos. 1Thess 4:3,4 “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification [hagiasmos], that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification [hagiasmos] and honour.” in Heb 12:14 we read, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness [hagiasmos], without which no man shall see the Lord:”
Sanctification then means we are set apart for God and made holy. The word hallowed is especially interesting, meaning God’s name is special, to be held in high regard, and revered. A sanctified life is one that is honorable, set apart from sinners, and to be respected.
What then does sanctification do for the sinner who has become a saint of God? How much sin can a sanctified person have in his life and still be sanctified? Does this person ever fail, and if so, what does he do about it?
Some teach that Jesus’ righteousness clothes the sinner. in this condition, God only sees the righteousness of Jesus even while this person lives in sin. Is this what it means to be sanctified? No, because in this situation there is no setting apart from sin and very little holiness in the life.
The proper view of sin and sanctification places one separate from sin with personal choice standing between them and sin. We are saved by grace, and washed in the blood of Jesus. The Holy Spirit fills the heart and mind. But neither the Holy Spirit, nor our conversion stands between sin and us. When temptation comes, our choice decides whether we yield or not. If we believe our conversion experience keeps us from sin, then if we fail we begin to question whether we truly were saved. But if we understand our choice keeps us from sin then we are moved to greater effort to keep ourselves from evil and temptation.
2Cor 6:17-7:1 says, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
These verses lay the responsibility on us to separate ourselves from the works of the flesh. As we do this, a “perfecting holiness” process takes place in our hearts. This is sanctification. This clearly pictures a separation between sin and us. We cannot just continue on sinning and claim God as our Father. Sanctification happens instantly at conversion, and then must continue as we go from that experience and move on in obedience to God. In 1Cor 3:3 Paul tells the Corinthians they are carnal but in chapter 6 verse 11 he tells them they are sanctified. This shows two aspects of sanctification. First, they were sanctified upon conversion, but then their carnal nature began to show itself in schisms and strife in the church. Paul did not excuse this carnality but rather called them to put off carnal works and experience greater sanctification.
It is the same for us. We experience the initial sanctification at conversion but then as we move on in life we realize how much carnality is still in our heart. It is at this point we must yield to God and confess our needs and turn from our ways to continue this process of sanctification. Since our carnal nature is never totally eradicated, we will always have need for more sanctification.
One of the agents God uses to cleanse us in this sanctification process is His Word. John 15:3, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” in John 17:17 Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”
James 1:21-25 teaches us, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”
Mirrors are generally stationed in private places to check how we look and make corrections before going into the public. In the same way, we should daily behold ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word so God can show us what we look like to Him. Then we must choose to obey and correct our foolish and carnal ways. In this way, we become more and more sanctified each day. Too many times, we go out among the public with our carnality sticking out all over. Someone sees this and confronts us, and then we are offended and struggle accepting this correction. God help us to be more alert to the mirror of the Word in our private study and devotions so we can be more sanctified in all areas of our lives.
2 Peter 1:4 tells us that through faith in the promises of God we can actually be one who shares in the divine nature within our hearts. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” This happens when we simply believe the promises and cling to God for Him to fulfill them. In this state of heart, we respond in Godliness to the pressures of life. We don’t need to get upset or angry. We don’t worry and fret over the future. We can leave it in God’s hands. people looking on may wonder, “How can this person act this way in these circumstances?” Well, it is because of the Divine nature within our hearts and the effects it produces.
In the journey of life, we also have an advocate with God when we fail. “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1John 2:1). Even sanctified people at times fall back into sin and need Jesus’ cleansing blood. We should be so thankful to God for His merciful provision for our shortcomings. But this is not a license to continue sinning. In fact, the process of sanctification moves us farther from sin and its allurements. While we still face temptations, the pull of the old nature should become less as we say “no” to its bidding and “yes” to God.
Sometimes we say things like, “That’s just the way I am.” In this way, we excuse a need or shortcoming. We shrug off responsibility and say its because of who I am, what others have done to me, or the home in which I grew up. This attitude destroys God’s sanctifying work in our hearts. It leaves room for the flesh and its carnality.
Instead, we must learn to take full responsibility and actually look for those areas where God wants us to grow. “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Prov 4:18). This is a beautiful picture of growth and increasing illumination. We should actively pursue sanctification by exposure to the Word of God and by participation in the Church. We should welcome help from Christian brothers and sisters to teach us Truth and show us where we need growth.
One of the great blessings the sanctified persons enjoy is found in Heb 2:11, “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Identifying with God is a wonderful relationship. It is precious to know He considers us brethren. He is not ashamed to own us as His sons and daughters. God help us to understand and experience sanctification through Jesus Christ.