What we believe about Sanctification: A Life Set Apart (July 2013)

We believe sanctification is the shared work of God and the believer, bringing the whole of one’s life in line with the will of God.

    To sanctify anything is to declare that it is holy and belongs completely to God. The God-given ability to make one’s lifestyle more Christ-like occurs through the relationship between the believer and the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:26; Galatians 5:22-23) and not through human effort (Galatians 3:3). Sanctification is a lifelong process, daily appropriated[i] through surrender of life to God. While sanctification is not complete in any given act, there may be experiences in the heart of the believer by the Holy Spirit that lead to greater yielding to God and holiness. Sanctification is not complete short of the life to come (1 John 3:2). Glorification[ii] is the end of the process of sanctification (1 Corinthians 15:42-57, Ephesians 4:1, Colossians 3:1-17).

In the Old Testament, sanctification was primarily used to set apart places, days, seasons and objects of worship (Genesis 2:3; Leviticus 27:14; Exodus 19:23; 39:32-34). However, New Testament usage portrays a Savior who was so completely set apart to God that those who believe in him can also be sanctified (John 17:17-22). Sanctification then refers to the process of consecrating the regenerate persons that are called to be set apart (Romans 1:7).

Sanctification happens instantaneously[iii] and simultaneously with regeneration (1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 John 4:17). Sanctification is also progressive[iv] as it is a continuing growth in grace, truth, and relationship with God (Titus 2:11-14; 2 Peter 1:5-7). Sanctification is also complete in that all who have the indwelling Holy Spirit will be delivered completely from sin at glorification (see Last Things) as sons and daughters of God (Galatians 3:26-4:6).

Justification is God’s imputed[v] work on us; sanctification is God’s imparted[vi] work in us. While justification refers to a change in status before God, sanctification refers to a change within one’s being because of the relationship believers enjoy with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). This change in being begins at the time of regeneration when believers receive the Holy Spirit and is realized in a continual growth toward Christ-likeness (Romans 8:29-30). It could be said that sanctification is to regeneration what growth is to birth.

We believe it is the privilege and responsibility of believers to live holy lives.

Holiness is a characteristic of God and should mark the Christian walk (1 Peter 1:15-16). This is a command, but also implies that believers are to choose to be holy. We continue to be free moral agents throughout the process of sanctification. Holiness does not mean sinless perfection, or that at some point our fallen nature is eradicated.[vii] Sin and our fallen nature continue to be present with us throughout this life (Romans 7:17; Galatians 5:17). Yet God wants holy people and believers must deliberately decide to yield their lives to the Holy Spirit to be holy. Therefore, sanctification in the life of the believer is a life-long process of choosing to be controlled by the new nature through the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Holy living is possible only as the believer experiences a moment-by-moment yielding to the Holy Spirit. It is not that the believer gets more of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is always completely available to all believers. It is just that yielding allows the believer to experience more of the Holy Spirit already living in relationship with him (Ephesians 5:18).

Followers of Christ depend on the power and help of the Holy Spirit to produce Christ’s life in us (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 5:22-26). Holy living is the believer’s privilege and responsibility because it will bring honor and glory to God.

[i] Appropriated – taken for one’s own.

[ii] Glorification – the final stage in salvation when believers attain complete conformity to the image and likeness of the glorified Christ and are freed from both physical and spiritual defect.

[iii] Instantaneously – happening all at once, in a single moment.

[iv] Progressive – moving forward, ongoing.

[v] Imputed – credited or assigned a quality to someone; a change in status before God because of what He has done for us.

[vi] Imparted – given a share or portion of; an internal change in being which comes through receiving a portion of God’s righteousness.

[vii] Eradicated – uprooted, wiped out, or destroyed.