121 sanctification

Sanctification is a act of grace by which God attributes to the believer the justice and holiness of Jesus Christ and involves him in it. Sanctification is experienced through faith in Jesus Christ and is effected by the presence of the Holy Spirit in man. (Romans 6,11, 1, John 1,8-9, Romans 6,22, 2, Thessalonian 2,13, Galatians 5, 22-23)


According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, holy means "to sort out or keep something holy", or "to purify or free from sin". 1 These definitions reflect the fact that the Bible uses the word "holy" in two ways: 1) a special status, that is, being singled out for God's use, and 2) moral behavior - thoughts and actions commensurate with a holy status, Thoughts and actions that are in harmony with God's way. 2

It is God who sanctifies his people. He is the one who singles it for his purpose, and it is he who is capable of holy conduct. There is little controversy about the first point that God separates people for His purpose. But there is controversy regarding the interplay between God and man in the sanctification of behavior.

The questions include: What active role should Christians play in sanctification? To what extent should Christians expect to be successful in aligning their thoughts and actions with the divine standard? How should the church admonish its members?

We will present the following points:

  • Sanctification is made possible by the grace of God.
  • Christians should try to reconcile their thoughts and actions with the will of God as revealed in the Bible.
  • Sanctification is a progressive growth, in response to God's will. Let's discuss how sanctification begins.

Initial sanctification

People are morally corrupt and cannot choose God on their own initiative. Reconciliation must be initiated by God. God's gracious intervention is required before a person can have faith and turn to God. Whether this grace is irresistible is controversial, but Orthodoxy agrees that it is God who makes the choice. He selects people for his purpose and thereby sanctifies them or singles them out for others. In ancient times, God sanctified the people of Israel, and within that people he continued to sanctify the Levites (e.g. Leviticus 3:20,26; 21,6; Deuteronomy 5). He sorted them out for his purpose. 3

However, Christians are singled out in a different way: "The sanctified in Christ Jesus" (1 Corinthians 1,2). "We have been sanctified once and for all by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ" (Hebrews 10,10). 4 Christians are made holy by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10,29; 12,12). They have been declared sacred (1 Peter 2,5: 9,) and they are called "saints" throughout the New Testament. That is their status. This initial sanctification is justification (1 Corinthians 6,11). «God Chose You First to Bliss in Spiritual Sanctification» (2 Thessalonians 2,13).

But God's purpose for his people goes beyond a simple declaration of a new status - it is singular for its use, and its use involves a moral change in its people. People are "chosen ... to obey Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1,2). They are to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3,18). Not only should they be declared holy and just, they will also be born again. A new life begins to develop, a life that should behave in a sacred and just manner. Thus, the initial sanctification leads to the sanctification of behavior.

Sanctification of behavior

Even in the Old Testament, God told his people that their sacred status included a change in behavior. The Israelites should avoid ceremonial impurity because God chose them (Deut 5). Their holy status depended on their obedience (Deut 5). Priests should forgive certain sins because they were holy (Genesis 3: 21,6-7). Devotees had to change their behavior while being singled out (Genesis 4:6,5).

Our election in Christ has ethical implications. Since the Saint has called us, Christians are exhorted "to be holy in all your change" (1 Peter 1,15:16). As God's chosen and holy people, we should show warm mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3,12).

Sin and impurity do not belong to God's people (Ephesians 5,3; 2. Thessalonians 4,3). When people clean themselves of shameful projects, they are "sanctified" (2 Timothy 2,21). We should control our bodies in a way that is sacred (2 Thessalonians 4,4). "Holy" is often associated with "blameless" (Ephesians 1,4; 5,27; 2 Thessalonians 2,10; 3,13; 5,23; Titus 1,8). Christians are “called to be holy” (1 Corinthians 1,2) "to make a holy change" (2 Thessalonians 4,7: 2; 1,9 Timothy 2: 3,11; Peter). We are instructed to "chase sanctification" (Hebrews 12,14). We are told to be holy (Romans 12,1), we are told that we are "made holy" (Hebrews 2,11:10,14;), and we are encouraged to continue to be holy (Revelation 22,11). We are made holy by the work of Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. It changes us from the inside.

This short study of the word shows that holiness and sanctification have something to do with behavior. God singles out people as "holy" for a purpose to lead a holy life following Christ. We are saved so that we can produce good works and good fruits (Ephesians 2,8-10; Galatians 5,22-23). The good works are not the cause of salvation, but a consequence of it.

Good works are proof that a person's belief is real (James 2,18). Paul speaks of "obedience to faith" and says that faith is expressed through love (Romans 1,5:5,6; Galatians).

Lifelong growth

When people come to believe in Christ, they are not perfect in faith, in love, in works, or in behavior. Paul calls the Corinthians saints and brothers, but they have many sins in their lives. The numerous admonitions in the New Testament indicate that readers need not only doctrinal instruction, but also admonition regarding behavior. The Holy Spirit changes us, but he does not oppress the human will; a holy life does not automatically flow from faith. Every Christ has to make decisions, whether he wants to do right or wrong, even as Christ works in us to change our desires.

The "old self" may be dead, but Christians must also put it down (Romans 6,6-7; Ephesians 4,22). We must continue to kill the works of the flesh, the remains of the old self (Romans 8,13; Colossians 3,5). Even though we have died of sin, sin is still within us and we should not let it rule (Romans 6,11-13). Thoughts, emotions and decisions have to be consciously shaped according to the divine pattern. Holiness is something to chase (Hebrews 12,14).

We are told to be perfect and to love God with all our hearts (Matthew 5,48;
Due to the limitations of the flesh and the remains of the old self, we are unable to do this perfectly. Even Wesley, who spoke boldly of "perfection," said that he did not mean the complete absence of imperfection. 5 Growth is always possible and ordered. If a person has Christian love, he or she will strive to learn how to express it in a better way, with fewer mistakes.

The apostle Paul was brave enough to say that his conduct was "holy, just, and blameless" (2 Thessalonians 2,10). But he did not claim to be perfect. Rather, he reached for that goal and exhorted others not to think that they had achieved their goal (Philippians 3,12-15). All Christians need forgiveness (Matthew 6,12:1; 1,8 John 9) and must grow in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3,18). Sanctification should increase throughout life.

But our sanctification will not be accomplished in this life. Grudem explains: “If we appreciate that sanctification includes the whole person, including our bodies (2 Corinthians 7,1: 2; 5,23 Thessalonians), then we see that sanctification will not be complete until the Lord returns and we receive new resurrection bodies. » 6 Only then will we be freed from all sin and receive a glorified body like Christ has (Philippians 3,21; 1 John 3,2). Because of this hope, we grow in sanctification by cleaning ourselves (1 John 3,3).

Biblical admonition to sanctification

Wesely saw a pastoral need to exhort the faithful to the practical obedience that results from love. The New Testament contains many such admonitions, and it is right to preach them. It is right to anchor the behavior in the motive of love and finally in
our unity with Christ through the Holy Spirit, who is the source of love.

Although we give glory to God and realize that grace must initiate all our behavior, we also conclude that such grace is present in the hearts of all believers and we exhort them to respond to that grace.

McQuilken offers a practical rather than a dogmatic approach. 7 He does not insist that all believers in sanctification must have similar experiences. He advocates high ideals, but without presupposing perfection. His exhortation to serve as the end result of sanctification is good. He emphasizes the written warnings about apostasy, rather than being limited to theological conclusions about the perseverance of the saints.

His emphasis on faith is helpful because faith is the foundation of every Christianity, and faith has practical consequences in our lives. The means of growth are practical: prayer, the Scriptures, fellowship, and a confident approach to trials. Robertson exhorts Christians to greater growth and testimony without exaggerating the demands and expectations.

Christians are exhorted to become what they already are, according to God's declaration; the imperative follows the indicative. Christians are supposed to live a holy life because God has declared them to be sacred, destined for their use.

Michael Morrison

1 RE Allen, ed. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English, 8th edition, (Oxford, 1990), p. 1067.

2 In the Old Testament (AT) is holy to God, his name is holy and he is the holy (occurs more than 100 times in total). In the New Testament (NT) is applied "holy" more often to Jesus than to the Father (14 times versus three times), but much more often on the mind (ninety times). The OT refers to the holy people about 36 times (Devotees, priests and the people), usually in relation to their status; the NT refers to the holy people about 50 times. The AT refers to holy places about 110 times; the NT only 17 times. The AT refers to sacred things about 70 times; the NT only three times as an image for a holy people. The AT refers to holy times in 19 verses; the NT never calls time sacred. In terms of places, things, and times, holiness refers to a designated status, not a moral behavior. In both wills, God is holy and holiness comes from him, but the way holiness affects people is different. The New Testament emphasis on holiness refers to people and their behavior, not to a specific status for things, places and times.

3 In the OT especially, sanctification does not mean salvation. This is evident because things, places and times have also been sanctified, and these relate to the people of Israel. A use of the word "sanctification", which does not refer to salvation, can also be found in 1 Corinthians 7,4: 9,13 - an unbeliever had been placed in a certain way in a special category for God's use. Hebrews uses the term "holy" to refer to a ceremonial status under the Old Covenant.

4 Grudem notes that in several passages in the letter to the Hebrews, the word "hallowed" is approximately equivalent to the word "justified" in Paul's vocabulary (W. Grudem, Systematic Theology, Zondervan 1994, p. 748, note 3.)

5 John Wesley, "A Plain Account of Christian Perfection," in Millard J. Erickson, ed. Readings in Christian Theology, Volume 3, The New Life (Baker, 1979), p. 159.

6 Grudem, p. 749.

7 J. Robertson McQuilken, "The Keswick Perspective," Five Views of Sanctification (Zondervan, 1987), pp. 149-183.