The Doctrine of the Cross
Sanctification Through the Cross
The Lord Jesus Christ prayed to His Father concerning ‘those whom Thou hast given Me out of the world.’ In the course of His prayer He said: ‘Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth . .. and for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth’ (John 17:17, 19).
They were to be sanctified through the truth; but His sanctification -- the object of which was the Cross —must precede theirs; for the truth concerning Christ crucified was to be the ground of their sanctification. It remained to the Holy Spirit to reveal how this prayer of the Lord would be answered. He caused it to be written: ‘…Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish’ (Eph. 5:25-27).
The Ministry of the Spirit
The Hebrew term for ‘holy’ is generally supposed to mean ‘separated, set apart.’ But this is only its secondary signification, derived from the purpose of that which is holy. Its primary meaning is to be splendid, beautiful, pure, and uncontaminated. God is holy — as the Absolutely Pure, Resplendent, and Glorious One. Hence this is symbolised by the light. God dwelleth in light that is unapproachable … and Israel was to be a holy people as dwelling in the light, through its covenant-relationship with God. It was not the selection of Israel from all other nations that made them holy, but the relationship to God into which it brought the people.’ (Dr. A. Edersheim, ‘Bible History,’ III, p. 110).
The children of God are described as ‘saints’ or holy ones, for a holy life is their normal experience. Before the foundation of the world they were chosen in Christ that they might be holy and they were predestinated to be conformed to His image; and that purpose will be fulfilled, for ‘when He shall appear, we shall be like Him.’ That we might be holy, God has imparted to us His holy nature; and in addition to this He Himself has taken up His dwelling within each of His own; so that ‘The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.’ Our sanctification is the peculiar ministry of the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:16, 29; 1 Cor. 15:49; Eph. 1:4; 1 John 3:1-2).
But although we enjoy such great privileges as our standing in Christ, the possession of His holy nature, the continual presence of the Holy Spirit and the prospect of being fully conformed to His image, it is unfortunately true that we often fail to manifest His holiness, and our lives are sometimes more conformed to the world than to the likeness of His Son; for we still have within us our old Adam nature: whose purpose is to hinder every activity of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Therefore the word of God abounds with exhortations to holiness, for example: ‘As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, “Be ye holy: for I am holy”’ (1 Peter 1:1416).
God has endowed His children with the power to yield their wills to either the flesh or the Spirit; so that we are exhorted to ‘Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.’ To accomplish this end the teaching of the Spirit might be summarized in the two words: ‘Believe’ and ‘Obey’: firstly, to believe the Word of God concerning our having died to sin with Christ and risen with Him to share His life; and secondly, to manifest that faith by a two-fold obedience: to ‘put off the old man’ and to ‘put on the new man’ (Gal. 5:16).
Sanctification Through the Truth
In the New Testament the so-called ‘old man’ is contrasted with the ‘new man’; he is old, not because of any distinction due to age or time, but because of his relationship to the original creation: of which the first man Adam was the federal head and from whom his fallen nature is derived. The character of the old man is so corrupt as to merit nothing but death; and as all mankind share his nature all are under condemnation. This ‘old man’ has been declared by the Spirit of God to have been crucified with Christ, in order that the ‘body of sin’ might be destroyed, that henceforth His people need not serve sin.
In the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, God has created a ‘new man’: consisting of Christ the Head and including all of His redeemed ones: who constitute the members of His body and who partake of His life and nature. ‘Just as the (human) body is one (being) and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with (the) Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit’ (1 Cor. 12:12-13, RSV).
We were united to Him in His death, wherein we died to sin; we were united to Him in His resurrection, wherein we received His life by the Spirit; and, since our Lord ascended to the right hand of the Father, so we were made to sit together with Him there; and as God glorified His Son so we share His glory. He is our Head and we have no life but His. The fact that the Spirit dwells within us is the assurance that we shall one day be with Him in body as we are now in spirit. ‘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. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified’ (Rom. 8:29-30).
This truth is the doctrinal basis for the practice of holiness; and on the ground of which the Spirit of God exhorts believers to reckon themselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. This is the truth which is symbolized in believers’ baptism: wherein the believer identifies himself with Christ Jesus in His death and resurrection. Paul uses the symbol to teach the doctrine of sanctification. ‘Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God …’ (Rom. 6:3-10).
Be Ye Holy!
Although judicially the old man was crucified with Christ and with Him we died to sin and in Christ we partake of His life, it rests with the individual believer as to whether or not he makes use of the power of God which is available to him to live a holy life. It is only as he obeys the exhortation of the Spirit to walk in Him that he can prove the blessedness of practical sanctification. Therefore the Spirit continues: ‘Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof; neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace’ (Rom. 6:11-14).
‘He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again… Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God…
The believer is to see to it that those ‘old things’ actually do pass away from his life. The exercise of his own will is necessary to bring this about; therefore the Spirit specifically mentions not only those old things but also the new things that are of God: that his walk might be according to the rule of the new creation (2 Cor. 5:15-17; Gal. 6:15-16).
Things Old and New
‘…if so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness… Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children: and walk in love, as Christ also loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour…’ (Eph. 4:21-24; 5:1-2).
Here we are exhorted to ‘put off’ and to ‘put on’; to discard the grave-clothes of the old man who was put to death, and to don the robe of righteousness of God’s providing, even the Lord Jesus Christ, and to make no provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof (Rom. 13:14).
‘If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? … If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
‘Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you once walked, when you lived in them. But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all.’
‘Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony…’ (Col. 2:20: 3:17, RSV).
By obedience to these exhortations we shall ‘walk as He walked.’