As we have seen, “sanctify,” “holy,” “hallow,” “sacred,” and “saint” are translated from the same Greek root word, hagias.
Basically these terms mean to be set apart for service.
In the Bible many things other than people are said to be sanctified. The Tabernacle furniture was sanctified, meaning it was set apart for God’s service (Ex. 40:10, 11, 13). Mt. Sinai was sanctified by God’s presence and set off from the surrounding territory (Ex. 19:23). The believer’s meals are sanctified unto God and set apart as holy and acceptable by prayer (1 Ti. 4:5). The believer is to sanctify God in his heart in the sense of setting God apart as first in his thoughts and affections (1 Pe. 3:15).
Thus, to sanctify, or to make holy, does not mean to purify or to make morally sinless; it means to set apart something for God and for His pure service. The essence of holiness is separation. In relation to the Christian, sanctification or holiness refers to being set apart to God from sin.
There are two aspects of the believer’s sanctification or holiness, and it is essential that the child of God understand this foundational truth. There is position and there is practice. There is sanctification as an unchanging position in Christ, and there is sanctification in a practical sense of growing in in Christ in this present world. The believer can say, “I am sanctified in Christ, and I am being sanctified in Christ.” Ultimately, the child of God will be completely sanctified at the resurrection.
By position, the believer is already perfect before God in Christ. This is the theme of Ephesians 1-3. The believer is blessed with all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3), accepted in the beloved (Eph. 1:6), redeemed (Eph. 1:7), in possession of an eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:11), sealed and indwelt by God’s Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14), and seated in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6-7). The believer is predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29). Complete sanctification is God’s plan for every believer, and it is sure! Nothing can stop it. God’s Word guarantees that we will bear the image of the heavenly, who is Christ (1 Cor. 15:49).
God’s eternal plan is to make a new creation centered in the Son, Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:9-11). The old creation sinned and fell with the first Adam (Rom. 5:12). It is under God’s just condemnation. The last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) came at Christ’s virgin-born Incarnation, lived the sinless life that God’s holy law requires of man, pleased the Father in every detail (Mat. 3:17; 17:5), was victorious over every temptation at the hands of the devil (Mat. 4), then went to the cross and made the perfect once-for-all atonement to redeem man and the creation. He was in the grave on Saturday, the last day of the old creation, and He rose from the dead on Sunday, the first day of the new creation.
In His marvelous grace, God is giving the entire world of men an opportunity to repent and trust Christ and be born into the new creation. When an individual does that, he is born again. He is dead to the old creation and alive in Christ. This is what is pictured in baptism.
The believer’s positional sanctification is seen in passages such as Acts 20:32; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 6:11 and Hebrews 10:10, 14.
It is by position that the believer is called a “saint.” This term is used 62 times in the New Testament, and it is always used for believers in general. It is never used for some special category of believers. The believer is called to be a saint (Rom. 1:7), because God has forgiven his sin and adopted him as a son and given him eternal life. So sainthood is every believer’s eternal calling in Christ. Even the carnal believers at Corinth were called saints (1 Cor. 1:2). “Saint” is rightly translated “holy people” in the Nepali Bible. God’s saints are not holy people because of anything in them or because of anything they do, but because they are in the holy Christ. Saints must be perfected (Eph. 4:12). This is in the sense of practical sanctification in this present world. All of those who are surrendered to Christ as King are saints (Rev. 16:6).
In practice, though, the old man is still present in the believer’s life and he must grow and gain victory day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year. This is practical sanctification. It is never complete. In this present life, the believer can never say, “I have arrived; I am completely sanctified.”
Practical sanctification is mentioned in passages such as Romans 6:19; 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Th. 3:12-13; 4:7; 2 Tim. 2:21; Heb. 12:14.
Relationship and Fellowship
The believer has been adopted into God’s family as a son because of Christ’s blood (Galatians 3:26), and this new relationship will never change. It is a gift that was purchased at great price. God will never “kick” the believer out of His family. At the same time, in this present world fellowship with God depends on whether or not I walk in the light. Walking in fellowship with God is the subject of 1 John 1:5-7. If I walk in darkness I am out of fellowship, but this does not change my relationship. God does not throw away His children; He chastens them to bring them back into fellowship (Hebrews 12:6-10).
Relationship and fellowship can be illustrated by human relationships. I was born into my father’s family and I am his son. Nothing has ever changed that. There were times when I was disobedient and foolish and I displeased my father, and we did not have good fellowship during those times. My father still loved me and yearned for my fellowship, but I had to repent and honor him before that could happen. The same is true in God’s family.
Position and Practice, Standing and Walk
Another way to describe this is position and practice or standing and walk. Consider the book of Ephesians. The first three chapters describe the believer’s new position or standing in Christ, whereas the last three chapters describe his practice or walk in this world.
The key phrase in chapters 1-3 is “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:1, 3, 10, 12, 20; 2:6, 10, 13; 3:6, 11). In God’s eyes, the believer is in Christ. He is forgiven, justified (declared righteous), redeemed, adopted, and given eternal life. The believer is “blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). This new position is not based on the believer’s works. It is God’s free gift in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). The full price was Christ’s own blood (Eph. 1:7). Therefore, the new position is sure and unchanging.
In Ephesians 4-6, the subject changes to the believer’s practice in this present world. The key word here is “walk” (Ephesians 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15). This word describes Christian living. If the believer doesn’t “walk” in obedience, he does not have right fellowship with the Lord. If he walks in sin, he displeases the Lord and grieves the indwelling Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). But he does not lose his position in Christ. That is settled and sure and eternal.
The two aspects of the Christian life are seen together in Ephesians 5:8. The believer is a child of light “now.” It is a present possession and position that was purchased by Christ and received as a free gift through faith. Since we are children of light, we should walk as children of light. In other words, since we are saved and have eternal life and are children of God, we should live like it.
The two aspects of sanctification can be seen in the New Testament reference to the “old man.” Colossians 3:9-10 says we have put off the old man and put on the new man. This refers to our position in Christ. But if this were true practically, we wouldn’t have any sin and we wouldn’t need any commandments about sin. Ephesians 4:22-24 instructs us to put off the old man and put on the new man. That is the practical side of sanctification in this present world. It is a process. It cannot be done once for all.
It is essential that the believer understand both aspects of this fundamental truth.
First, the believer must know that he is completely and perfectly and eternally accepted in Christ. He is an adopted child of God. He is seated in the heavens. He must not doubt his acceptance and God’s unconditional, unchanging love for him in Christ. God has promised ultimate victory (Phil. 1:6). He has promised to accomplish His good pleasure in me (Phil. 2:13). He has promised never to leave or forsake me (Heb. 12:5). This is why Paul begins the Epistle to Ephesus with three chapters dwelling on the believer’s eternal position in Christ.
The labor and service described in Ephesians 4-6 cannot be accomplished unless the individual understands and is confident of his position as described in Ephesians 1-3. The better the believer understands these truths, the more confident and victorious he can be in his Christian life. If the believer does not understand these things and if he doubts these things, he doesn’t have a helmet to protect his mind against the devil’s fiery darts (Eph. 6:16-17). His fiery darts are lies, because he is the father of lies (John 8:44). This is his main program of attack. It is the plan he used so successfully with Eve. The devil is the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10). There is always something the devil can find in our lives about which he can accuse us before God. But Christ the High Priest is there at the Father’s right hand interceding for us (1 John 2:1-2)!
“The blessed God never alters nor diverges from the acceptance in which He has received us because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. ... Many suppose that because they are conscious of sins, hence they must renew their acceptance with God. The truth is that God has not altered. His eye rests on the work accomplished by Christ for the believer. When you are not walking in the Spirit you are in the flesh: you have turned to the old man which was crucified on the cross (Rom. 6:6). You have to be restored to fellowship, and when you are, you find your acceptance with God unchanged and unchangeable. When sins are introduced there is a fear that God has changed. He has not changed, but you have. You are not walking in the Spirit but in the flesh. You have to judge yourself in order to be restored. ‘For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’ (Matt. 26:28). ... God has effected the reconciliation; He always remains true to it. Alas! We diverge from it; and the tendency is to suppose that the blessed God has altered toward us. He certainly will judge the flesh if we do not, but He never departs from the love which He has expressed to the prodigal, and we find that when the cloud, which walking in the flesh produced, has passed away, His love, blessed be His Name, had never changed” (J.B. Stoney).
Second, the believer must know that his spiritual growth in this world does not happen overnight. He must not become confused and discouraged and offended because the enemies are strong and God doesn’t answer his prayers immediately and God doesn’t remove the enemies and obstacles. He must learn from the Psalmist’s experience in Psalm 73. He became discouraged because he was plagued and chastened every day (Psa. 73:12-17). The believer must not allow the problems of this world and the reality of the present condition (Romans 8:18-23) to cause him to doubt God’s love for him and God’s good plan for him and God’s working in his behalf and his unchanging and unchangeable position in Christ.
Third, the believer must build his Christian life on Christ and on his acceptance in Christ and by faith in Christ and in the power of Christ. There is zero basis for living the Christian life in one’s own self. There is nothing good in me that God can accept and bless. I am sinful and condemned. I must die in Christ and be raised to newness of life in Christ (Rom. 6). That is what baptism pictures. I must walk in Christ (Gal. 2:20). If I try to live the Christian life and please God in my self in any sense, I will fail and I will fail miserably.
The above is excerpted from HOLINESS: PITFALLS, STRUGGLES, AND VICTORY. ISBN 978-1-58318-215-4. This book deals with every aspect of Christian holiness or sanctification, both doctrinal and practical. It begins with the author’s experiences as a young Christian looking into Pentecostal, “entire sanctification,” and “deeper life” teachings (e.g., The Calvary Road and The Green Letters). The other major sections are “Principles of Holiness” and “The Path of Holiness.” The author emphasizes that there is no one “key” to holiness. The biblical way of holiness involves a multiplicity of things. Other lessons that are emphasized in the book include the importance of understanding position and practice, standing and walk, relationship and fellowship; the progressive character of holiness; an intimate walk with Christ; dying to self and living to Christ; abiding in Christ; patient continuance; the power of God’s Word and how to protect the seed of the Word in one’s life; knowing God’s will; confession of sin; separation from sin; living by faith; the armor of God; God’s chastisement; humility and servitude; and separation from false teaching. There is also a chapter “On Doubting Salvation.” The book can be used as a course for Sunday Schools, Bible Institutes, Home Schooling, and private study. Most major New Testament passages dealing with holiness are exegeted, including Matthew 11:28-30; John 15:1-17; Romans 4:17-21; 6:1-13; 8:9-23; 12:1-21; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 4:22-4; 5:18; 6:10-20; 2 Timothy 2:15-18; Hebrews 12:1-13; 2 Peter 1:3-11; 1 John 1:5 - 2:2. 175 pages.
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