Part 18 of 22 –

The Twofold Nature of Sanctification


Salvation does not first require one to “surrender to,” “submit to,” “yield to,” “dedicate (oneself) to,” or “make Jesus Lord of one’s life.” We are only “saved by grace through faith…apart from works.” The aforementioned terminologies do not apply to our initial salvation; but they are representative of the “sanctified life” that the believer should eventually come to some time after salvation.

To attempt such a commitment before salvation would only be by a fruitless work of self-effort. Paul calls such effort “dead works” (Heb 6:1), which are useless acts of “the flesh.” Circumcision of the physical flesh never changed any Jew inwardly; these willful works of commitment also offer no profit (Gal 5:2) for an unsaved person. Romans 3:20 by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight

All these terms are better applied to the stage of Christian life called “sanctification,” which comes to a believer some time subsequent to their first expression of “saving faith.” Therefore, these terms would better be seen as evidence of salvation.

Such phrases as “make a commitment to” and “becomes a disciple of” are ambiguous terms because they may or may not refer to ones proper reliance upon Christ, depending on how they are defined. E.g., some may erroneously make their commitment to “be good” or be a “disciple of Jesus” or some religious leader. Some may erroneously make a commitment to try to “imitate” or “follow Jesus of Nazareth ”; what Jesus did and what Jesus said. This of course is exactly contrary to what Paul wrote; “…henceforth know we Him (Jesus of Nazareth ) no longer” according to Jesus’ earthly ministry (2Cor 5:16). You see, real sanctification does not hinge upon Jesus’ earthly ministry to Israel ; it does depend upon the work of the crucified Christ, now resurrected as the “Spirit of life in Christ” and within the believer. If one is saved and then tries to work out their sanctification by their own self-effort, by trying to “imitate Jesus of Nazareth” – they obviously don’t yet understand the work of the Christ’s cross, Christ’s resurrection life, or the work of the Father in overseeing their sanctification.

We need to properly understand sanctification in the believer’s daily living. I believe many would be thrilled if they properly understood the genuine Bible doctrine of “sanctification.” Sanctification is not a negative matter such as “Don’t do this” and “Don’t do that.” Rather, it is the positive truth that …God desires union with us, and He desires our affection for Him. He desires “us” as a sacred and separated possession, much as a bridegroom considers his bride his very own in a special and sacred way.

Believers are counted righteous by God immediately upon trusting Christ as savior because of their faith in Christ alone (Rom 4:5). But the Lord then desires that we actually become the righteousness of God” in our daily living. This righteousness can only be established as we, as a self-soul, learn to abide in union with Christ in our spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made (Greek, ginomai, progressively become) the righteousness of God in him.

The word “made” here is the Greek “ginomai,” which is the prolongation and middle voice form of a primary verb.” This simply means, actually becoming the righteousness of God…through Christ is a prolonged process. Since none of us is righteous in our living when we are first saved, this requires the Father’s further continuing work to transform our soul and thereby our living. This is God’s work of sanctification in the life of the believer.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words define “sanctification” as follows.

 “Sanctification” refers to;

a) Separation unto God (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2).

b) The course of life befitting those so separated (1 Thess. 4:3, 4, 7; Rom. 6:19, 22; 1 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 12:14).

      Sanctification is that relationship with God into which men enter by faith in Christ, (Acts 26:18; 1 Cor. 6:11), and to which their sole claim is the death of Christ, (Eph. 5:25, 26: Col. 1:22; Heb. 10:10, 29; Heb. 13:12)

      Sanctification is also used in New Testament of the separation of the believer from evil things and ways. This sanctification is God’s will for the believer, 1 Thess. 4:3, and His purpose in calling him by the gospel, 1 Thess. 4:7; it must be learned from God, 1 Thess. 4:4, as He teaches it by His Word, John 17:17, 19; cp. Psa. 17:4; Psa. 119:9, and it must be pursued by the believer, earnestly and undeviatingly, 1 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 12:14.

      Sanctification is also used of the holy character, hagiōsynē, 1 Thess. 3:13. This is not vicarious, i.e., it cannot be transferred or imputed, it is an individual possession, built up, little by little, as the result of obedience to the Word of God, and of following the example of Christ (Matt. 11:29; John 13:15; Eph. 4:20; Phil. 2:5-8), in the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:13; Eph. 3:16).

Actually, Biblical “sanctification” is a dual truth because ALL BELIEVERS are ALREADY SANCTIFIED and yet ALL BELIEVERS are BEING SANCTIFIED.

1)      All believers are ALREADY SANCTIFIED by God who separated us unto Him and established our immutable righteous standing before God, “in Christ.” This sanctification and right standing was counted to us and appropriated by us the moment we believed unto salvation. We thus stand, having been placed or immersed into Christ’s “body” (1Cor 12:13a).

Actually, every true believer in Christ was already sanctified or separated unto God by the prevalent operation of the Holy Spirit working in their lives even before salvation. Thus Paul wrote: “...God hath FROM THE BEGINNING chosen you to salvation through SANCTIFICATION OF (BY) THE SPIRIT...” (2 Thes. 2: 13). Sanctification is initiated and accomplished by the work of the Lord’s Spirit. “Elect according to the FOREKNOWLEDGE of God the Father, through SANCTIFICATION OF (BY) THE SPIRIT...” (1Pet. 1:2). By His foreknowledge, God knew who would say yes to receive His love and grace; He sanctified these ones by the work of the Spirit even before they were saved.

This initial sanctification is a work of God that has nothing to do with our conduct or any work of ours. God has done it all. Upon simply believing to be saved, this endowed sanctification is ours once and for all. Thus Paul could write to even the immature and carnal Corinthian believers to say: “Ye are (already) sanctified” (1 Cor. 6:11; cf. Acts 20:32; 26:18), i.e., “God has set you apart for Himself.” This first phase of sanctification is based solely upon God’s prevalent grace and the redemptive cross-work of Christ in our behalf. WE ARE (already) SANCTIFIED through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ ONCE FOR ALL.” (Heb. 10:10). All a person needs to do is to trust in Christ to receive God’s freely given love and grace, and salvation; responding to God’s endowed sanctification.

2)      Yet, All believers are BEING SANCTIFIED in their practical daily living as they progress and grow in their union with Christ, as they come to express Christ’s indwelling life and will.

1 Corinthians 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made (ginomai, is progressively being made) unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 

The Lord would have us to grow and respond in appreciation of the realized fact of His love, grace, and cross, and begin to conduct ourselves accordingly; consecrating ourselves ever more completely to Him. This change in conduct is the practical and progressive outworking of the imbued or instilled sanctification we received at the moment of salvation. “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification(I Thes. 4:3). Hence we read Paul’s benediction: “The very God of peace sanctify you WHOLLY (COMPLETELY) …your whole spirit, soul, and body …” (I Thes. 5:23). Paul’s exhortation to Timothy was to be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet (fit) for the Master’s use” (2 Tim. 2:21).

As we’ve seen, beyond God’s unconditional acceptance and justification of believers “in Christ” and “the free gift” of salvation from judgment, there is the matter of “sanctification.” Sanctification is both by God’s initial sanctification and His continuing work in the renewal of the believer’s soul; working to separate the believer entirely unto Himself.