Sanctification isn’t what most of us think + this week’s news


Photo by Craig Murdoch

To effectively carry out our mission in these last days, we must have a proper understanding of what sanctification is all about. Simply speaking, sanctification is a basic work of grace in our lives that overcomes the sin that still dwells in our flesh so that we can have sweet communion with Christ, our Master. God has to perform this work for us because sin still indwells us, and this side of heaven, will continue to be drawn to the flesh which rebels against Christ. Consequently, we cannot obey our Master, Jesus, with pure motives. This is why 1 Peter 1:2 says that we are sanctified for obedience. God does the work so that we are made capable of obeying. We tend to think that we are sanctified by our obedience, as if we can bring about our own holiness by our behavior. This only proves that God has to perform this work for us.

Devoted to Jesus

Sanctification comes from the same Greek word hagios meaning holy and saint. Its basic idea is separation. Therefore, our sanctification (or consecration) is being set apart for the exclusive use of our Master. This is what being devoted to Jesus is all about. When we put the focus on ourselves and our holiness (as holiness churches teach), we make it all about us and what wonderful specimens we have become. This misses the whole point which is complete devotion to and oneness with Christ.

Sometimes hagios is used as a noun when it refers to “saints,” the biblical term for all believers. But how can we be saints while sin still indwells us? The church at Corinth had all sorts of nasty stuff going on, yet Paul still referred to them as saints. It only makes sense when we understand that sanctification exists in two different arenas. One is positional. This is how God has made us to be, and He sees the finished product as if we were already there. This is our “true” identity. This is how God sees us. The other arena is our actual everyday lives which never match our positional status.

We Become Saints

We miss the point when we equate a saint with performance. Remember that a saint is a separated one. The point is that all believers are set apart by the Holy Spirit the moment they are born again. This is how we become saints. This is positional sanctification. It is a finished work. We have been set apart (sanctified) for Christ’s exclusive use. This is why Paul considered himself a bondservant of Jesus and so should we. At the same time, we are to be constantly becoming more holy and set apart in everyday life. This is why we are told to be holy because God is holy. God has already given us everything we will ever need to walk in holiness (2 Peter 1:3).

We are Christ’s Body

I find it interesting that in the New Testament, “saint” is always plural. God doesn’t see anyone as an individual saint. We have been sanctified and set apart as a corporate body—the body of Christ. Once again, our being set apart isn’t to make us wonderful individual specimens for the world to admire. We are set apart as the body of Christ so we can become a bride worthy of the bridegroom—pure and undefiled. Referring to individual people in the Bible as saints like Saint John or Saint Mary is man’s idea, not God’s, and it gives the wrong idea.

No More Sin

There’s actually a third arena in which sanctification applies, and it’s in the future. One day we will be delivered from the actual presence of sin. This too is a work of grace by God. Imagine a world in which sin doesn’t exist. Such a world awaits us, and this is where we are to set our hope. That day will come, making all our trials, pain, and disappointments seem like nothing. In the meantime, we have been set apart to fulfill our commission, and we have been fully equipped.

Here are some related articles on Sanctification:

Jesus our Sanctification

Sanctified then Sent

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