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Understanding Biblical Sanctification
Before we take a look at sanctification in the Bible, lets get a false way of belief settled. Some people look at salvation as "get of jail free card" Now that I am saved and on my way to heaven, there is nothing to worry about. This is the wrong philosophy, and actually completely non- Biblical. Salvation is just the beginning of a life-long process. This process can be divided into three categories, justification, sanctification, and glorification. Salvation begins with justification, which is shared in a previous hub of mine. Today we will be zeroing in on sanctification, the process which will eventually lead to the glorification of our bodies in heaven!
Before we look at our passage, lets get a working definition of this idea of sanctification so we can better grasp on what we are talking about. The free online dictionary says, To set apart for sacred use; consecrate; to make holy. So in terms of our walk with Christ, sanctification is the process by which we are set apart from the world and constantly pursuing holiness.
We will be focusing in on I Thessalonians 5:23-24 which states,
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ESV)
How We Are Sanctified: Pursuit of Holiness
We have looked at the process and how sanctification and justification are inseparable and act as a guiding point to the final stage of glorification. We have noticed that salvation is not a one time thing, but a lifelong process of the constant pursuit of holiness. So now must focus in on this idea of sanctification so we can gain a better understanding of how we are to pursue this holiness.
I Thessalonians 5:23: The Commandment
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
First lets look at the word may, a small seemingly unimportant word. But, in the greek language, this word is an optative verb , meaning a wish or desire. So,we can learn from this that it was Paul's wish or desire for all believers to become sanctified! No just the Thessalonian church, but all believers to come. Sanctify, in the greek,is haziago, to set apart and make pure.
This verse also tell us that God is the source of sanctification. He is how we become sanctified, by yielding our lives to Him, the only way one can pursue holiness!
This idea of sanctification is found all throughout the Bible. We do not have time to look at every passage, so lets just look at a few.
1. I Thessalonians 4:3 ESV
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;
Sanctification is God's will for our lives; that alone should give us enough incentive to yearn for this pursuit of holiness.
2. Ezekiel 37:28
Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.
God had chosen to set apart His people from the world. From the beginning of time this idea of sanctification was embedded and continued to woven throughout time, up until this very day.
We can see from these verses that God commands sanctification. So, what is it? Sanctification is the conscious effort of being set apart in whatever we do. Whether it be work or play, our mission or purpose is to be different than the world, set apart(how we think, act, talk, etc.)
Matthew 5:48 states
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Obviously we can not be perfect, because we are human. But this is rather our goal, to become more like Christ. This is sanctification, the pursuit of holiness we have been talking about. It is a lifelong process of setting ourselves apart from the world by how we live our daily lives.
I Thessalonians 5:24: The Promise
We have looked at how sanctification is commanded by God and is actually His will for our lives. Now, lets look at the promise God provides us.
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
God promises to help us along the way. This should be a tremendous hope for all of us. He just doesn't command us to live holy lives, but aids us in the process. He promises to be faithful to us. The question is are we allowing Him to work in and through us? God will only help us if we are willing to put in the hard work; if we are in for the long haul!
In the Eyes of John MacArthur
I know we are not to rely fully on man because of his infallibility. But, I would to close with a quote from John MacArthur, not because he knows it all, or has reached the point of perfection in this process of sanctification. But, because he makes this idea very clear.
So, we already have the past-positional sanctification. We are guaranteed the future-ultimate sanctification. That leaves us with the second one, the middle one, experiential sanctification. And that's where we live, folks, right now. We are in between the two. The first is fixed, inviolable, permanent, and eternal. We will always bear the righteousness of Christ, that is an eternal gift. You cannot lose that. The third is fixed and inviolable, we will be glorified, we will enter in to ultimate sanctification...the one in the middle fluctuates......So this is the goal of Christian living. This is the very core of our life. We are in this process period between past sanctification and future sanctification, being sanctified which is the decreasing frequency and incidents of sin and increasing holiness.
He mentions a very important point, how we are in this stage of experimental sanctification, a stage that fluctuates. It is our choice, will we make the conscious effort to become more like Christ?
Salvation is not a get out of jail free card; it is lifelong process of becoming more like Christ, pursuing holiness, until we reach glorification!