The words sanctification, holiness, and saint, come from the same Greek root. W. E. Vine defines ‘hagiasmos,’ translated holiness and sanctification in our A. V., as separation to God, and the resultant state and conduct befitting those so separated. Sanctification, therefore, is the state, predetermined by God for believers, into which He calls them in grace, and in which they begin and pursue their Christian course. Hence they are called saints. Dr. Vincent says that the word sanctify is constantly used in the Septuagint to express the entire dedication and consecration of both persons and things to God.
There are seven references to sanctification in the New Testament, which suggest its meaning. Our food is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer (1 Tim. 4:4, 5); it is set apart for our use and is not to be refused by ceremonial restrictions.
The unbeliever is sanctified by a Christian partner; consequently, their children are holy (1 Cor. 7:14). This does not mean the imparting of any spiritual virtue to the unbeliever, but, rather is an evidence of the contrast between law and grace. Under law the Israelite, if married to a heathen, had to put away the stranger if such a one was not truly proselytized to the Jewish religion. The children in such wedlock were considered unclean (Ezra 10:1-4; Neh. 13). Under grace the saint is to remain with the unsaved partner, for he or she is sanctified or set apart by the marriage vow as a spouse for life.
The Holy Spirit is the One Who sanctifies (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 15:16). This act is connected with God’s choice of us, and with our choice of Christ; it is the preparation of the soul by the Spirit of God for the reception of life.
God the Father also sanctifies the believing soul on the ground of the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:10; Jude 1:1; Heb. 13:12), completing his standing in Christ. He stands before God in all the value of the atonement, and from this position no enemy can move him.
We also know that the Word of God sanctifies in a progressive manner resulting in the growth of the believer into likeness of Christ (1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Tim. 2:21).
Another remarkable act by which the Father sanctifies the Son is recorded in John 10:36. The Son of God, coming forth from the Godhead is sanctified to the purpose of bringing additional glory to God by displaying the attributes of God at the cross for the punishment of sin and the blessing of the sinner.
A final reference to the use of this word is seen in the act by which the Son sanctifies Himself. Here (John 17:19), the Son is going back to the Father by virtue of an accomplished redemption in order to minister to the need of His pilgrim people.
Let us now look at the subject in a little more detail under four headings.
PREPARATORY SANCTIFICATION. This is called the sanctification of the Spirit (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 15:16). It is the work of the Spirit as He prepares the soul for salvation. This work is described in John 16:8-11, and is made effectual in us in three ways: through conviction of the conscience, through belief of the heart in a risen Christ, and through the illumination of the mind. When the soul is willing to be saved, the Spirit leads him to the initial step of believing in Christ (2 Thess. 2:13), and in acceptance of the atonement (1 Pet. 1:2).
POSITIONAL SANCTIFICATION. (Heb. 10:10; 13:12; Jude 1). This is called the sanctification of the Father. Christ is made unto us sanctification (1 Cor. 1:13). God has set us apart in Christ for ever. The degree of our acceptance is measured by the blood of Christ; it is therefore, perfect and complete. By that blood our sins are gone for ever, we are clothed in the righteousness of God, and are accepted in Him Who has brought us nigh to God.
PROGRESSIVE SANCTIFICATION. (John 17:17; Eph. 5:26; 2 Cor. 3:18). This is the sanctification of Christ by the Word in the power of the Spirit. It is a gradual process resulting in conformity to the image of Christ. Positional sanctification describes the work of Christ for us; practical sanctification the work of the Spirit in us. As we by the Spirit apply the Word of God daily to our hearts, its keen edge will produce self-judgment.
Illustrations of sanctification are provided in the history of Israel redeemed from Egypt.
Separate in their dress. (Lev. 19:19). Their clothing is typical of the spiritual attire of the saints. They are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, the seven lovely garments described in Col. 3:12-14. We can only serve God aright when we are clothed with Christ-like humility.
Separate in their food. (Lev. 11). Of animals they were to eat only those which parted the hoof and chewed the cud. These animals typify Christ, the food of His people, who are to be separate in their walk, and sweet in their thoughts and meditations, even as He was. In Psalm 1, the godly man is seen as with the parted hoof in verse one, and as if chewing the cud in verse two. These make him the beautiful man of verse three. The picture is one of life, health, and beauty.
They were to eat only fish that had fins and scales. Fins enable the fish to go against the current, to make movement in spite of resistance. Scales protect the fish against the force of the water. The propelling force of the Christian life is the love of Christ (2 Cor. 5:14).
The fowl that fed on flesh or crawled on the earth were unclean, and not to be eaten. We are to make no provision for the flesh. We are to starve the old nature and mortify its deeds. Certain flying creeping things that went upon all fours, which had legs above their feet, were allowed as food (Lev. 11:21).
Separate in their work. Israel was not to sow fields with divers seed (Deut. 22:9). The fruit of character is not to be a mixture of carnality and spirituality. Our joy is to be the pure joy of heaven and not that of the fool which is like the crackling of thorns under a pot. The nation was not to plow with an ox and an ass yoked together. All work for Christ is sacrificial and only what will ascend to Him as a sweet savour must be offered. The ass was unfit for sacrifice.
Separate in their company. (Num. 23:9). Separation from the world and devotion to God are the requirements of the sanctuary. These two aspects of practical sanctification develop a well-balanced Christian. Destroy this balance and what have you? That separation which is not controlled by devotion to Christ, produces the hard, self-inflated Pharisee, devoid of all mercy, judgment, and faith. That emotionalism which is not controlled by the Word of God, produces the sentimentalist, who, unlike the tree of Psalm 1, lacks stability because his roots do not run deep into the soil of the Word of God.
PERFECTED SANCTIFICATION. (Rom. 8:29). Christ as the Firstborn is the image to which all the redeemed will be conformed. This is the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, and the glory that shall be revealed in us. That Blessed One, exalted upon the throne looks like a jasper stone, says John (Rev. 4:3). Clothed in the beauty of the Bridegroom, the bride displays the glory of God in the day of her glorification. Her light is like the jasper stone, clear as crystal, a vessel of glory to reflect the beauties of Christ for ever (Rev. 21:11). Thus, in nature, in conduct, and in body, the saints of all ages will be conformed to the image of the Son, and be forever sanctified.
Those who set themselves up to be too knowing to believe in the Bible are shallow fellows. They generally use big words, and bluster a great deal; but if they fancy they can overturn the faith of thinking people, who have tried and proved the power of the Grace of God, they must be very ignorant.
A wrong path and a strong will, worketh great ill. A weak will is a strong will if working in God’s will.