Wonderful Words of Eternal Life

Sanctification

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 lives.

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