by William M. Banks, Scotland.
PERFECT AND PROSPECTIVE SANCTIFICATION
The Greek word for sanctification, hagiasmos, is used ten times in the New Testament. Interestingly it is translated by "sanctification" five times, 1 Cor.1.30; 1 Thess.4.3,4; 2 Thess.2.13 and 1 Pet.1.2, and by "holiness" five times, Rom.6.19,22; 1 Thess.4.7; 1 Tim.2.15 and Heb.12.14. There are cognate nouns used as well. The footnote in J.N.D’s translation at Romans 1.4 against the word "holiness" in the term "[the] spirit of holiness" is worth quoting: "hagiosunee, the nature and quality itself, as 2 Cor.7.1 and 1 Thess.3.13 – Distinct from hagiasmos the practical effect produced, the character in activity, translated holiness … and sanctification [for references see above]. Another word, hagiotes, is used in Heb.12.10, the only time in Scripture, but see Vine1 (and R.V.) who suggests it is also used in 2 Cor.1.12."
The word in the verb form hagiazo is found no less than 26 times. It has a series of interesting connections as pointed out by Hogg and Vine2.
"The corresponding verb hagiazo, is rendered ‘hallowed’ in Matt.6.9; Lk.11.2 and ‘made holy’ in Rev.22.11, elsewhere always ‘sanctify.’ It is used of:
- The gold adorning the temple and of the gift laid on the altar, Matt.23.17,19
- Food, 1 Tim.4.5
- The unbelieving spouse of a believer, 1 Cor.7.14
- The ceremonial cleansing of the Israelites, Heb.9.13
- The Father’s Name, Lk.11.2
- The consecration of the Son by the Father, Jn.10.36
- The Lord Jesus devoting Himself to the redemption of His people, Jn.17.9
- The setting apart of the believer for God, Acts 20.32, cp. Rom.15.16
- The effect on the believer of the death of Christ, Heb.10.10, said of God, and 2.11; 13.12 said of the Lord Jesus
- The separation of the believer from the world in his behaviour – by the Father through the Word, Jn.17.17,19
- The believer who turns away from such things as dishonour God and His gospel, 2 Tim.2.21
- The acknowledgement of the Lordship of Christ, 1 Pet.3.15."
It is clear from the above that the subject of sanctification is by no means exclusive to persons. This was also true in the Old Testament where, for example, Aaron’s garments were sanctified, Ex.28.41 and Lev.8.30, also the anointing oil, Ex.30.25 and the seventh day, Gen.2.3. It is also clear that the word itself does not necessarily imply a state of impurity before sanctification is effected. This is seen particularly in the case of the Lord Jesus where in Jn.17.19 He says, "I sanctify Myself".
WHAT DOES THE WORD MEAN?
All of the above permit us to come to a definition of sanctification – what does it mean? There can be no doubt that fundamentally the idea in sanctification is to "set apart for God." But there is more to it than that. Clearly there is a purpose in it, an end in view. Hence the definition can be extended to include this idea – "setting apart for God (of a person or thing) with the implementation of a Divine purpose in view." In the case of those who require cleansing for sanctification there is obviously a need for sanctification to have both a negative (a turning from) as well as a positive (a turning to) aspect. This has led to Gooding and Lennox3 defining it as, "Sanctification has two sides to it, one negative, the other positive:
Negatively, it involves separation from uncleanness and impurity, in other words purification.
Positively, it means separation to God and to his service, in other words, consecration.
Both are well brought out in Heb.9.13,14. Here the writer is contrasting the ancient Jewish means of sanctification with those of Christianity. He associates sanctification both with purification from defilement and with consecration to the service of God."
Hogg and Vine4 also have an interesting comment; "Since every believer is sanctified in Christ Jesus, 1 Cor.1.2, cf Heb.10.10, a common NT designation of all believers is ‘saints,’ hagioi, ie ‘sanctified’ or ‘holy ones,’. Thus sainthood, or sanctification, is not an attainment; it is the state into which God, in grace, calls sinful men, and in which they begin their course as Christians."
Further Hogg5 observes, "Sanctification signifies not a change in nature but a change in relationship."
This is clearly exemplified in the important passage of 1 Cor.7.12-14. Hogg6 continues; "The case of an unbelieving husband and his wife, considered by the apostle in 1 Cor.7.12-14, further illustrates the meaning of the words ‘sanctify’ and ‘holy.’ The believing spouse is to continue to dwell with the unbelieving partner and to commend the Gospel by the faithful discharge of the responsibilities of the marital relation. But, the question is asked; will not continuance in that relationship defile the believing partner? There are things, however, that "nature itself teaches", 1 Cor.11.14, and this is one of them, that nothing whatever justifies a mother forsaking her children. Does the care of children defile a mother? The answer is, obviously, no! The nature of the children remains what it was before their mother’s obedience to the gospel, association with them does not defile her; she does not desert them. Neither does their relation with her secure their salvation, though it gives them the advantage of her prayers and her example. So it is with the husband (or wife) who is not a Christian; association with him no more defiles the mother than do his children by her. And by her example he may be won for Christ, "without a word," as surely 1 Pet.3.1 should be read."
The five references to sanctification in the A.V. give a helpful outline of the subject. They show sanctification as a pre-conversion work of the Holy Spirit in 1 Pet.1.2, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:" and 2 Thess.2.13, "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." In addition the idea of sanctification as a positional work of the Son is referred to in 1 Cor.1.30, "But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption." However there is a practical and progressive aspect as well and this is seen in 1 Thess.4.3, 4, "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour."
The subject will be considered in this order and follow the suggested outline given by Lovering7.
The pre-conversion work of the Holy Spirit is clearly indicated in the verses quoted above. In 2 Thess.2.13 God had chosen them "from the beginning", to salvation. Their salvation therefore "did not originate with themselves but with God who had chosen them to be the subjects of His grace."8 In order to make this effective in time and so accomplish the Divine purpose for them the "sanctification of the Spirit" was necessary – they were set apart for God by Him. It did require on their part the "belief of the truth". Since "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God" Rom.10.17, it was necessary in the providential over-ruling of God for Paul to go to Thessalonica to preach the Word.
Hogg and Vine9 have an interesting comment on "belief of the truth". They indicate that it is literally, "‘of truth’ where the article is present the particular fact or facts presented to the mind are in view; where it is absent the moral quality of these facts is the point. The will to believe truth is the necessary condition precedent before any work of God can begin in the soul; cp. the words of the Lord Jesus, "if any man willeth to do His will He shall know of the teaching," Jn.7.17, (R.V.).
The faculty whereby truth is recognised grows with its exercise; on the other hand the ministry of the Holy Spirit, which begins with revealing the truth of the gospel to the individual, continues to guide the believer into all truth, Jn.16.13, "renewing him unto knowledge" Col.3.10; hence the apostle’s prayers for the converts in Phil.1.9, 10 and Col.1.9. When they were called through the gospel, it was that they "might know the truth and that the truth might make them free" Jn.8.32. Only love of truth can save a man from the working of error."
There is an appealing outcome of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in this case. The salvation to which the Thessalonian believers were called by Paul’s gospel, v14, was "to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ". They would share in the revelation of the Lord’s glory from Heaven! See 2 Thess.1.7-10.
Hence there is an intriguing development. It may be summarised thus:
- God chose – from the beginning;
- The Spirit sanctified;
- The gospel was preached (note its nature – "our gospel");
- The effective call was made;
- The Thessalonians believed;
- The glory is to follow.
Both the choosing and the calling are in the aorist tense – in the first case at a point outside of time in the other at a point in time. Smith10 has interesting observations in relation to the Divine choice and indeed the whole passage.
""Chose", here is heilato (from haireomai, ‘to choose’) and in the only three instances this word is used in the N.T. the thought is of personal choice (see Phil.1.22 and Heb.11.25). It is the aorist, but though the choosing was at a point it was outside of time, for it was "from the beginning", and in the widest sense of that past of eternity. It is also in the middle indicative, God making the choice for Himself, indicating the purpose of the choice and not the realm of selection. The usual words for election are: exaireomai (of the choice of Israel in the O.T.), proörizo (predestinated, marked out beforehand), and eklegomai (to choose, as in 1 Thess.1.4, Eph.1.4; Lk.10.42; Acts 6.5).
It is not the intention to launch out on an excursion into the blessed subject of election, for it is not an area for our poor minds to tangle in, rather is it a truth to be believed. However, the apostle gives the true balance of the subject in these two epistles for whilst in 1 Thess.2.13 he thanks God unceasingly that they received the word (man’s responsibility), here he gives thanks to God for His sovereign choice.
The choice was "from the beginning" (ap’arches), a term which Paul does not use elsewhere but which like Jn.1.1 (en arche), and 2 Tim.1.9 takes us back into the era "from everlasting"; see also Matt.19.4 and 1 Jn.2.13. It is obviously wrong to limit God’s sovereign choice to any point in time, or to attribute it to any merit in the object of His love; cf Eph.1.4; Rev.13.8; 17.8. Furthermore, the verse is expressive of a general principle of God’s operation … This is emphasised in the purpose of the choice, for it was "unto (eis) salvation", see 1 Thess.1.4,5; this is God’s goal for those He chose in His sovereignty.
There is a difference to be noted between the first and second epistles as to the purpose of salvation; in the former it is ‘from’ (wrath), and in the latter ‘unto’ (glory). Nevertheless there are some who would still regard salvation here as limited to salvation from wrath in the day of the Lord, as in 1 Thess.1.10; 5.9, and such assurance would have been enough for the troubled Thessalonians. However, the immediate context goes further, setting salvation against "perishing", v.10, and "judgment", v.12, the awful state of men in their ultimate classification as lost. Here we have salvation purposed from the beginning (ie from everlasting) and in v.14 Paul will speak first of it being effected in time by the call, then of its future consummation in "obtainment of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." Thus we have salvation in its full scope, past, present and future; conceived in the heart of God before time, the call in time, and its future unspeakable glory.
The operation of God’s choice being effected in time is "in (or, by) sanctification of (the) Spirit (subjective genitive, and therefore, wrought by the Spirit) and belief of (the) truth". The absence of the article suggests the moral force of truth and not truth as such, and being an objective genitive indicates "belief, or faith, in truth." In no sense can ‘en’ here, in respect of sanctification, be translated by ‘through’ (as the AV) nor by ‘unto’ or ‘to’ as some suggest. Despite the absence of the article before ‘Spirit’, as in Rom.8.9; 1 Cor.2.4 and 1 Pet.1.2 (where in each case it is evident that the Holy Spirit is intended), the words here speak clearly of the present work of the Holy Spirit in setting apart for God the objects of His love, bringing to them the word of truth for their belief and continuance in the faith. This is the Divine side of the work of salvation just as the belief of truth, its reception by faith, looks in the ultimate, to the human side. It is positional not practical sanctification, although the practical results must always be envisaged, 1 Thess.4.3,7. It is the energy of the Holy Spirit in bringing the grace of God to men, dead in trespasses and sins, see 1 Thess.1.5, and is the essential preliminary to faith in the truth.
The relative verse in 1 Pet.1.2 (see also 1 Cor.6.11) helps in the understanding of this, and particularly shows that the operation of the Holy Spirit is the Divine initiative in setting the individual apart for God, by which that person receives the gospel. Well did Luther say, "I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, or come to Him", the Spirit must first set apart for God, awaken those initial faint desires after God, convict of sin, lead to Christ, bring faith to the heart. Being under the influences of the world, the flesh and the devil, the natural man needs as an essential pre-requisite in new birth, this action of the Holy Spirit; without it there would be no salvation. Although the ‘belief’ (or faith) in (or of) ‘truth’ (no article) is, in the ultimate, man’s side of salvation, the Holy Spirit must first introduce to the heart the moral attitude to will it so, that they may be made free by truth, Jn.8.32. Note the contrast in v.12."
Smith goes on in relation to v.14; "The continuation of the process of the Holy Spirit in salvation is now explained. With a view to the initial work being effectuated, God calls by the gospel: "unto which (salvation) He (God) called." In the same way as ‘chose’, this is the aorist tense but here indicating a point in time. It is interesting to notice that this reference is to a single action in contrast with the present tense of ‘calling’ in 1 Thess.2.12; 5.24, indicating, as indeed the word implies, a call to which there has been a response. This is the effective call, not as we have in Matt. 20.16; 22.14, the general call of the gospel.
Paul writes, "by our gospel," for whilst it is essentially "the gospel of God … concerning His Son, Jesus Christ", Rom.1.1-3, God in His grace uses men and not angels to proclaim it. It was deposited with Paul as a sacred trust, and he, and indeed his fellow-workers, was identified with it not only as to its proclamation, but also as evidence of its effect. It was theirs as the message they preached and which the Thessalonians had heard from them and received, but moreover they shared in its power. The gospel is not merely a theme, but God’s power to save. Paul proclaimed that in which he stood as the chief beneficiary, 1 Tim.1.11-16; 2 Tim.1.6-14, and he preached Christ as he had experienced Him, a Man in resurrection glory.
Compare "unto the obtainment of (the) glory of our Lord Christ" with 1 Thess. 2.12. There is no article before ‘glory’ in the Greek text, and this points to the gospel call being with a view to the obtaining of such glory as is essentially the possession of Christ. The glory referred to is obviously the glory of Christ as the last Adam, the One God has glorified, Acts 3.13, in view of what He achieved at the cross to the glory of God."
The passage in 1 Pet.1.2 follows closely that indicated above in 2 Thess.2.13,14. "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through [in] sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ".
This has been paraphrased by Hogg and Vine11 as, "to those who were elected according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, and set apart by the Holy Spirit that they might obey the truth, see v.22, and so come under the shelter of the sprinkled blood of Jesus Christ."
Thus Hogg12 can expand as, "The purpose is the Father’s. His is the electing grace; in order to carry that purpose into effect, in the first place men are set apart for God by the Holy Spirit. In due time there follows the hearing of the Gospel and its call to repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. To this the elect render "the obedience of faith" (Rom.1.5; 16.26 cp. Acts 5.32; 6.7; 2 Thess.1.8; Heb.5.9) which brings those who render it under the shelter of the blood of Christ. Here the reference is to the Passover in Egypt where the blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled on the door posts and lintels of the houses of the Israelites, Ex.12.7,13."
The reference to Exodus chapter 12 is interesting. More usually the reference is made to Exodus chapter 24. The comment by Nicholson13 is apt, "To the elect, sanctified to obedience, are applied all the value and power of "the blood of Jesus Christ". This is not the shedding of the blood, but the sprinkling of it. Of course the blood must be shed before it can be sprinkled, but it may be shed and its efficacy never applied to an individual. The shedding of the blood is the giving up of the life as a sacrifice for sin. It is the provision made. The sprinkling of blood is the applying of the value and efficacy of sacrifice. This is the power imparted.
In the O.T., the sprinkling of the blood was seen in connection with its power to protect the firstborn in Egypt, its power to purify the priest for service, its power to prepare the way into the holiest, and its power to purge the leper of his ceremonial uncleanness. However it would appear that the reference is to Exodus chapter 24 when Moses took the blood of the sacrifice and with half he sprinkled the altar, then the book of the covenant was read in the presence of the people and they responded by a promise of obedience. Moses then took the other half and sprinkled the people and said: "Behold the blood of the covenant …" "That blood linked the people to the altar of oft-repeated sacrifice. It bound them to the word of their own brittle promise. Its application was limited to the nation. How gloriously different is the portion of the believers to whom Peter was writing. This blood sprinkling associates the N.T. believer with a finished work a sacrifice never to be repeated, Heb.10.11,12. It binds him to the invincible promise of God, Heb.6.17, 18. Its efficacy is unlimited for "whosoever will" Jew or Gentile."
In both the above passages the activity of the Trinity should be observed. The Triune God is active in the salvation of mankind!
There are two other passages where the work of the Holy Spirit is linked to sanctification though not necessarily in the primary sense of pre-conversion activity. The first of these is Rom.15.16. In this passage,14 "Paul speaks of the grace of God that made him a "minister (leitourgos, used of one who discharges public responsibilities) of Jesus Christ unto the Gentiles, ministering (hierourgeo, ministering in sacrificing, R.V. margin) the Gospel of God, that the offering up (as a sacrifice is offered) of the Gentiles might be made acceptable, being (having been, perfect participle) sanctified by the Holy Spirit." Here the Apostle represents himself as a priest offering to God the Gentiles, who had already been sanctified, or set apart for God by the Holy Spirit. Cp. Jn.10.3, 4, 16 and Acts 18.10."
The second is to be found in 1 Cor.6.11. The apostle has been reminding his readers of the characteristic vices that marked the heathen world. To continue in them was an evidence that they had no future in the Kingdom of God. He then says "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, [washed yourselves R.V. margin] but ye are [were R.V.] sanctified, but ye are [were R.V.] justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by [in R.V.] the Spirit of our God." The only other place in the New Testament where reference is made to washing as associated with sin is in Acts 22.16, where also the verb is in the middle voice "denoting something procured for oneself."
The Spirit of God had been operative in their pre-conversion sanctification leading them to call on the Name of the Lord and experience justification.
It is thus seen that "the sanctification of the Spirit is His sovereign act by which the believer, the object of God’s electing grace, is set apart for God, an act which preceded even his hearing of the gospel; undated indeed in as much as it precedes ‘the foundation of the world’ Eph.1.4."
The moment we put our faith in Christ, from that very moment God bestows on us the blessing of sanctification. It is not something we have to strive for nor attain to – it is something we have. In addition this initial sanctification constitutes every believer a saint. It is of course effected as with justification on the basis of the death of Christ. Hogg and Vine15 write, "The effect of the death of Christ on the relation of the believer to a Righteous God is to justify him, Rom.5.9; the guilt of sin having been put away, the justified sinner stands before the judgment-seat uncondemned, 5.2. The effect of the death of Christ on the relation of the believer to a Holy God is to sanctify him, Heb.10.10; 13.12; the defilement of sin having been put away, the sanctified sinner enters into the Holiest, 10.19.
Therefore God is said to have made Christ unto us both "righteousness and sanctification" 1 Cor.1.30. And as it is evident that there are no degrees of justification, so there are no degrees of sanctification; a thing is set apart for God, or it is not, there is no middle course; a person is either in Christ Jesus, justified and sanctified, or he is out of Christ, in his sins and alienated from God. But while there are no degrees of sanctification, it is evident there can and should be progress therein: hence the believer is urged to "follow after … sanctification" and is warned that without it "no man shall see the Lord" Heb.12.14.
The subject of justification is thus seen to be primarily the theme of the Epistle to the Romans while that of sanctification in this context is that of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The cross is of course central to both. "we are [have been] sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" Heb.10.10, and "… by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" Heb.10.14. Thus the Lord Jesus is the Sanctifier and we are the sanctified Heb.2.11. The idea reappears later in the Epistle as well. "Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered without the gate" 13.12.
Thus the title of the believer for heaven depends neither on attainment nor exertion but on what the Lord has effected "by one offering" – "perfecting for ever".
It is not surprising that what God has brought us into positionally should be expressed by us practically. This brings us to the final two references in our A.V. to the word "sanctification." These are found in 1 Thess.4.3,4 although of course the same word is rendered "holiness" in v.7 and translated "sanctification" in the R.V.
"This is the will of God," says the Apostle "even your sanctification." Wilson16 has given an excellent outline of these verses which is worth quoting in full. "The apostle’s commandment had been delivered to the Thessalonians when Paul was among them, v.2. It was not mere advice that he offered but a command delivered by the authority of the Lord Jesus. He expected it to be passed along the line from saint to saint. They should have known that the Lord would establish them "unblameable in holiness before God at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints." 3.13. Who then could be surprised that the will of God for them was their present sanctification, v.3? That sanctification the apostle sets out in three explanatory clauses:
- "… That ye should abstain from fornication:" v.3;
- "… That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; v.4;
- "… That no man should go beyond and defraud his brother in the matter:" v.6.
The first clause echoes the terms of the Council of Jerusalem, Acts 15.20,29. The prohibition against fornication would cover a wide variety of illicit sexual relationships. In the context it does not stand in contradistinction to adultery but is inclusive of adultery and homosexual activity. The second and third clauses define respectively the boundaries of behaviour in respect of each individual saint and his body; and in respect of that saint and his brother.
A believer is expected to bring his body under control not just in the general sense of 1 Cor.9.27, bringing it "into subjection, less that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." He is to control it in the specific matter of sexual desire for both positive and negative reasons. Positively, his body should be linked with "sanctification and honour;" v.4. These two nouns, being qualified by the single Greek preposition, reinforce Paul’s lesson that the pleasure of God is found in holiness of life. Negatively, to live a dissolute life "in the lust of concupiscence" is to live as the Gentiles, v.5. Just how shameful that state is, we note from the apostle’s qualifying phrase "that know not God." The idolatrous Gentiles served gods who were "the personification of their own ambitions and lusts." As a result the lusts of the Gentiles were ‘ungovernable’, betimes leading a whole society to the judgments of Sodom and Gomorrah, Gen.19, and of Pompeii and Herculaneum on the slopes of Vesuvius. Gentile ignorance fostered immoral living; Divine revelation demands holy living!
The God Who finds not pleasure in the death of the wicked finds pleasure in His people when they control their bodies "in sanctification and honour."
But another matter of serious concern is now raised at v.6. The A.V. reads: "that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter." But the original text does not read "any matter"; Paul is dealing with one specific matter. J.N.D. renders: "… not overstepping the rights and wronging his brother in the matter." The context is rightly expressed in Darby’s phrase ‘the matter’, ie. the matter under discussion. Paul’s euphemism points clearly to sexual relations, his warning to breaching the boundaries of acceptable behaviour resulting in a sin that violated the rights of a brother. Adultery, for example, could involve a brother’s wife and so violate a brother’s rights. Any kind of illicit sexual behaviour, heterosexual or homosexual, may be covered by the phrase ‘the matter’. Paul is clearly warning that the loving relationships among the Christians could open the way for sin where the body is not under control, sin that the Lord Himself would avenge, v.6. The Hebrew writer warned Jewish readers: "Marriage is honourable in all and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge" Heb.13.4. Paul issues a similar warning to Gentile readers. The will of God for saints, whether Jew or Gentile, was their sanctification."
He continues, "Whether Jew or Gentile, the God who had called them had called them to holiness, literally "in sanctification." None could doubt His purpose. Perhaps because he writes to Gentiles, Paul does not quote "… be ye holy; for I am holy." as Peter does writing to dispersed Jews, Lev.11.44; 1 Pet.1.16. God’s intention was not that they "continue in sin that grace may abound," Rom.6.1. He had called them ‘in sanctification’." They had once been "fornicators … idolaters … adulterers … effeminate … abusers of themselves with mankind … thieves … covetous … drunkards … revilers … extortioners"; but now they were "washed … sanctified …justified"; but now "the body is not for fornication, but the body for the Lord and the Lord for the body" 1 Cor.6.9-11, 13. God had called them from the dark night of "chambering and wantonness" into the light where holy living is practised, Rom.13.12-14."
The means whereby this becomes effective in the life of the believer is clearly indicated by the Lord Jesus in His prayer in Jn.17.17: "sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth." The Psalmist echoes the same thought "wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word" Ps.119.9. Acquaintance with and adherence to the Word of God will keep from the morasses of iniquity all around today. The apostle echoes the same thought; "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom …" Col.3.16.
A mind saturated with the Word – and there is no alternative – is the basis whereby we can "… cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" 2 Cor.7.1. In Romans chapter 6 the apostle pursues the theme of the believer’s relation to sin in the context of our baptism. In vv.1-14 he addresses the question, "… shall we continue in sin?" raised in v.1. In the balance of the chapter, vv.15-23, the question answered is "… shall we sin?" v.15. The answer to both is clear – "God forbid". How is this to be effected? In the first part of the chapter he indicates that our baptism is an outward expression of our death to sin – so we cannot continue in it; in the balance of the chapter he is addressing the question of servanthood – note the recurring references to servants, vv.16-20 each verse and v.22. The conclusion is clear here as well: "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness [sanctification R.V.] and the end everlasting life" Rom.6.22. Servants need to be obedient – "… his servants ye are to whom ye obey" v.16.
The balance of this section of Romans chapters 6-8, shows the practical means by which sanctification can be effected. This is done in a two fold way – negatively in chapter 7 and positively in chapter 8. The burden of chapter 7 is to show the impossibility of sanctification based on law keeping. There is nothing wrong with the law of course: "… it is holy, and just, and good" v.12, – the problem is with us – we cannot keep it! How then can sanctification be implemented "… what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not often the flesh, but after the Spirit" Rom.8.3, 4. It is the Spirit of God who gives the power to live the sanctified life.
Thus practical sanctification is known by an acquaintance with the Word a willingness to obey it an awareness of our own weakness and dependence on the Spirit of God. It is something we are to "follow after" Heb.12.14, (R.V.), knowing that without it "no man shall see the Lord".
PERFECT AND PROSPECTIVE SANCTIFICATION
The believer’s sanctification will not be complete until the second coming of Christ. It will be then that the prayer of the apostle will be answered: "… the very God of peace sanctify you wholly" 2 Thess.5.23. At that time the believer will be physically, morally and spiritually conformed to Christ. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" 1 Jn.3.2. The context tells us: "He is righteous" 2.29; "He is pure" 3.3; He is sinless – "… in Him is no sin" 3.5. One day all this will be true of the believer! Righteous, pure and sinless – the practical implications in anticipation of that day are clear.
- 1. Vine WE. Amplified expository dictionary of New Testament words. World ISBN O-529-06947-4.
- 2. Hogg CF and Vine WE. The epistles to the Thessalonians. Pickering and Inglis. 2nd Edition. No date.
- 3. Gooding D and Lennox J. Key Bible concepts. Gospel Folio Press 1997. ISBN 1-882701–41-0.
- 4. Hogg and Vine. Ibid.
- 5. Hogg CF. Gospel facts and doctrines. Pickering and Inglis. 1951.
- 6. Hogg CF. Ibid.
- 7. Levering EL. Spiritual blessings – sanctification. Precious Seed. Date not known.
- 8. Hogg CF. Ibid.
- 9. Hogg CF and Vine WE. Ibid
- 10. Smith TW. 2 Thessalonians in What the Bible teaches. John Ritchie Ltd. 1983.
- 11. Hogg CF and Vine WE. Ibid.
- 12. Hoff CF. Ibid.
- 13. Nicholson JB. 1 Peter in What the Bible teaches. John Ritchie Ltd. 1987.
- 14. Hogg CF. Ibid.
- 15. Hogg CF and Vine WE. Ibid.
- 16. Wilson T. In What God hath joined. Gospel Tract Publications. 2005. ISBN 0 948417 85 4.