•••by Russell Young
A person’s understanding of sanctification and its application is significant when it comes to his or her knowing the truths of the Word of God and in understanding the doctrine of salvation. Sanctification is revealed as coming by the Spirit, by the blood of the covenant, by the truth, and by the Word.
The Greek word hagiazo which has been translated as sanctification means “to sanctify, to consecrate, or devote a person or thing to a particular, especially to a sacred, use in service to God.” The Greek hagiasmos, also translated as sanctification, is “intended to express a state or attitude of voluntary consecration to God, a continued act of consecration; or a state of choice as distinct from a mere act of choice, an abiding act or state of choice, a standing and controlling preference of mind, a continuous committal of the will to the highest well-being of God and of the universe.” (Charles Finney, Lecture LVIII) Accordingly, a person is sanctified or consecrated to God by the blood of Christ when he makes a confession of faith and proclaims the Lordship of Christ. However, continued consecration must be realized through a person’s abiding attitude to God as revealed through his or her practices.
The believer cannot be sanctified or consecrated to God and seek his or her own interests. Sanctification following confession of faith necessitates death to self, a voluntary state of devotion to the Lord’s purposes. “Sanctification is nothing more nor less than entire obedience, for the time being, to the moral law.” (Finney) It is the attitude or abiding in a sanctified state of consecration to God that requires the Spirit and his ministry. Although a person might be set aside in part for building the kingdom, he may yet not be cleansed (transformed) in heart and mind for that purpose or to dwell in the kingdom.
Paul taught that he had been chosen “to be a minister of Christ Jesus so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:16, NIV) He was not addressing sanctification by the blood of Christ, although that is essential. Accordingly, his teaching addressed the need for a person to have the attitude or the will to walk righteously so that he or she would become an offering acceptable to God “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” To Titus and to the Thessalonians Paul revealed that salvation came through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. “From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thess 2:13, NIV) To Titus he wrote: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5) The Holy Spirit provides renewal (transformation) through the indwelling presence (Col 1:27) of the Spirit of Christ as he washes away the darkness that pervades the believer’s heart and mind.
Vessels that are unclean, including people, cannot be used for noble kingdom purposes. It is necessary for the believer to live righteously and to be transformed through the sanctifying work of the Spirit if he or she is to be used for noble purposes by God. Paul wrote to Timothy: “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (2 Tim 2:20-21, NIV)
Neither is sanctification a singular event as by the blood of Christ as some accept. Its state must be maintained or kept. (1 Thess 5:23) The writer of Hebrews recorded that those who deliberately keep on sinning are treating “as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them.” (Heb 10:29, NIV) The “blood of the covenant” is the shed blood of Christ that brought the Old Covenant to a close and allowed the believer right to the New Covenant. It purified him or her and set them aside for use in God’s service. (Eph 2:10) The blood of the covenant sanctified the believer concerning the sins committed under the first covenant. (Heb 9:15; 2 Pet 1:9) The sinner had been dead in his trespasses and sins and has been given new life for service to God. This is sanctification through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, through his willingness to take on himself all of the sins of the world. The believer’s sins were washed away and he was left pure. Sanctification by the Spirit is to follow.
The Lord spoke to His disciples concerning the need for continued cleaning. Before His crucifixion, He washed His disciples’ feet. Peter had objected to act of what he perceived as being humiliating to his Lord and told Him, “You shall never wash my feet.” The Lord responded, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Peter then wanted to be washed all over. The Lord again addressed him: “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.” (Jn 13:10, NIV) Although many take this as representing a person’s need to be humble in service, the issue is really one of spiritual cleansing or of sanctification. The disciples had been sanctified or as He has stated, have had a “bath.” However, throughout the day their feet had become dirty. In a spiritual sense, throughout the day they had been dirtied by sin. He needed to cleanse them of this if they were to have any part of Him. The “bath” is “the sanctification of the blood” while the washing of the feet (one’s daily sins- sanctification by the Spirit) still needed to be done.
When the writer of Hebrews related, “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?”, he is stating those who deliberately continue to sin are showing disregard for Christ and His sanctifying ministry for the believer, both on the cross and following. The Spirit of grace is insulted when a person has failed to honor the Lord’s ministry in his or her life.
Sanctification by the Word and by the truth refer to the same issue. (Jn 17:17) God has revealed his gospel and the truths that he expects to be honored concerning his law and through his covenants.
The Spirit, if followed (“obeyed”-Heb 5:9) will accomplish the righteous requirements of God’s moral law (Rom 8:4) and leave the one who is believing sanctified, holy in his sight, and suitable for his Kingdom.