Sanctification means the
process or the state of being set apart. Incidentally,
it is the same root word for the word "Holy". That's
what holy means, it means to be set apart. We often
associate it with perfection. We think about holiness
as meaning someone is absolutely perfect. Over the
years some individuals who have understood that
sanctification is tied to holiness have thought, "Oh, I
can't be that way." Don't misdefine the word.
Generically it means to be set apart.
Now scripturally, it means to be set apart from the
secular and the sinful for a sacred purpose. If you go
through the Bible and look for that word, sanctify,
you'll find in the Old Testament that it was used often
for days and places and things. For example, in Genesis
2:3, after God created the heavens and the earth, it
says that he "sanctified" the seventh day. He made it
holy, he set it apart as the day of rest. I think about
Exodus 29:43, referring to the tabernacle or the tent
of meeting, God said "And there I will meet with the
children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be
sanctified by My glory". But, in time the old law had
fulfilled its purpose and Jesus' blood on the cross had
purchased for mankind a new covenant. The use of the
word "sanctify" or "sanctification" stopped being
associated for the most part with days and things and
began to be tied to people.
For example. Paul said in talking about drunkards and
idolaters and murderers and homosexuals and all kinds
of people involved in sinful behavior, "And such were
some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified,
but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus
and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:11) You
see it was the people that were sanctified. Or "Now may
the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and
may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved
blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1
Thessalonians 5:23) Now those are just two examples.
There are many, many more. God is saying, Christian, I
want you to be sanctified, set apart. It's my will that
you be holy, that you be set apart, not just a day, not
just a tent, I want people to be sanctified. If
sanctification means being set apart, set apart from
what? Why? For what purpose?
During his ministry and before he left the earth, Jesus
prayed for his disciples and all who would come after
them. "I do not pray that You should take them out of
the world, but that You should keep them from the evil
one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the
world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is
truth." (John 17:15-17) Now what does that mean? Set
them apart. They're in the world. He was not asking God
to take them out of the world, but set them apart by
the truth. Then Jesus said "As You sent Me into the
world, I also have sent them into the world. And for
their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be
sanctified by the truth" (vs. 18, 19). He's saying for
their benefit, I've set myself apart so that they'll be
set apart as well. We're not supposed to be of the
world; that is, desire worldly things, such as the lust
of the flesh, lust of the eye or pride in our
Colossians 3:1-3 captures the message of being set
apart from the value system of the world. Look at it.
"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things
which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right
hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on
things on the earth. For you died, and your life is
hidden with Christ in God."
When the Bible talks about not being of the world, the
Greek word for world is kosmos. That doesn't mean our
planet. That doesn't mean this big old ball of land and
water that you and I inhabit. It doesn't even mean the
people of the planet. The word kosmos means the values,
the desires, the aims, the aspirations, the feelings of
all of the people who inhabit this planet. It is the
value atmosphere that surrounds and that bombards us
right and left and that we breathe in everyday with our
eyes and ears. That's the world. Don't ever forget that
since man sinned and was driven from the Garden of Eden
his value system has been dominated by the Prince of
Darkness, by old Satan himself.
According to 1 John 2:16, there are three things that
dominate the kosmos, the world system. They are a.)
lust of the flesh, b.) lust of the eyes and c.) pride
of life. That's the message of the world and it's
trying to lure you away from God. Sanctification is
being set apart from these three things, not being
lured into their momentary pleasures. Oh, we are going
to have to live in the midst of them and be bombarded
by their appeal (seeing them, hearing them, reading
about them, but not being fooled by their appeal).
Their value system is not going to be our value system
which leaves us set apart from the world as our
lifestyle is in accordance with God's will and our
affections are on the things of God.
How does sanctification occur? A common belief is that
we sanctify ourselves by our own grit, our own
determination, our own perseverance and our own
observance of the law. We make ourselves holy. We make
ourselves set apart. Well, the Bible doesn't teach
that. The Bible teaches that no man has kept the law
perfectly and set himself apart from sin. Scripture
teaches that we are sanctified, set apart or holy, by
God through the power of the blood of Christ and the
Holy Spirit. "He [Jesus] might sanctify the people with
His own blood, suffered outside the gate" (Hebrews
13:12). "For both He who sanctifies and those who are
being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is
not ashamed to call them brethren." (Hebrews 2:11) The
element of holiness is the same thing that has atoned
for us, the same thing that has propitiated for us, the
same thing that has justified us, and the same thing
that reconciles us and it also sanctifies us. It is the
blood of Jesus.
The power of sanctification is blood. Equally apparent
in scripture is the agent of sanctification, the Holy
Spirit. "But we are bound to give thanks to God always
for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from
the beginning chose you for salvation through
sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth"
(2 Thessalonians 2:13). That verse says that the Holy
Spirit is the agent, the sanctifying work of the
Spirit. People don't set themselves apart when they
come to Christ, it is through the power of the blood
and the power of the Holy Spirit. So when does that
occur, it occurs when one becomes a Christian.
In 1 Peter 1:2, Peter is talking about God's elect who
have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God
the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit,
for obedience to Jesus Christ.
Paul said he was chosen "that I might be a minister of
Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of
God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be
acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit" (Romans
15:16). He did not set himself apart when he came to
Christ, he was set apart through the power of the blood
and the power of the Holy Spirit. It occurs whenever
anyone obeys the gospel and becomes a Christian. "But
you were washed, you were sanctified, you were
justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by
the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:11) All of
those happened when you obeyed the gospel. You're
washed, you're set apart, you are justified and the
Spirit of God who set you apart will empower you to
stay apart if you let him. But you retain the right to
forfeit your sanctification.
Yes we can choose to forfeit that right. "Therefore let
him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1
Corinthians 10:12). "For if we sin willfully after we
have received the knowledge of the truth, there no
longer remains a sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:26).
When you become a Christian, God will set you apart
from the world and you will stay set apart unless you
choose to go back into the world. These scriptures do
not support the doctrine that "once saved always saved"
or there is nothing you can do to forfeit your
salvation. Don't give up what God has given you that's
worth more than the whole world.
But why must I be sanctified? If God's blood cleanses
me from sin, what difference does it make whether I
just go ahead and keep on sinning or not? That same
question was asked in Romans 6, where some Christians
in Rome, two thousand years ago were saying, you know
if the blood of Jesus keeps cleansing why not just
enjoy sin, let it cleanse all of it. In Romans 6:1,
Paul says, "God forbid".
The reason for not following the kosmos, the world
value system, is because we are to bring honor to God.
"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that
you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of
you should know how to possess his own vessel in
sanctification and honor" (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4). You
see it brings honor to God when we live the way God has
called you to live. "For you were bought at a price;
therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit,
which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:20).
A second reason is we are God's ambassadors. (2
Corinthians 5:20) How are we going to show Christ to a
world that's living in an empty and hollow way of life,
seeking after the kosmos, the world? How are we going
to point them to something that will pull them out of
that if we're following the beat of the same drummer?
We can't. You can't. I can't. You are set apart by the
blood of Christ and the power of the Spirit. If you are
set apart, the world sees that. That's something that a
purposeless world really doesn't want. As an ambassador
of Christ, I dare not forfeit the sanctification that
he's given me. It's really not a terrible, old, dry,
dusty preacher word after all, is it? Let's be set
apart. God will give you a rich and full spiritual life
if you will yield to that calling.
By not conforming to this world's values we show a
world that's living in an empty and hollow way of life,
a better, fuller and richer way of life having a hope
for eternal life in Christ Jesus. Don't dare forfeit
the sanctification God has given us.
Adapted from Amazing
Grace # 1070 Steve Flatt