“Sanctify them in the truth” (John 17:17).


“For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).


What is God’s will for you life?  It is a question often asked.  And the answer is given plainly in the Scriptures.  The will of God is the same for every believer.  It is that you be SANCTIFIED.  What does this mean?  What does it mean to be sanctified?


The word “sanctification” simply means “to make holy.”  The words “sanctify” and “holy” and “saint” all describe the same thing.  While we have these as separate words in our English language, both the Greek and Hebrew all translate this with a single root word.


The greatest picture of holiness is that which is presented by the prophet Isaiah.  At the beginning of his ministry, this prophet came face to face with the holiness of God.


            In the year of King Uzziah's death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:1-3).


Isaiah was given a rare vision.  It was a vision of heaven itself and of the Lord and His glory and His angels.  There was a great deal of things that could have been said to describe the character of God.  The angels could have pointed to His great power.  Or they could have focused upon His wisdom and His knowledge.  They could have praised His grace and His lovingkindness.  But instead, they focus upon His holiness.


“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts!


The royal announcement of the holiness of God is too much for Isaiah.  He cannot help but to contrast the holiness of God with His own lack of holiness.  Rather than singing with the angels, he finds himself woefully inadequate to speak of the holiness of God.


            Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5).


Coming face to face with the holiness of God will always have this effect.  Peter did exactly the same thing when he was first confronted with the reality of the power of Jesus.


You remember the story.  Jesus told Peter to let out the fishing nets.  Peter had already spent the entire night fishing and had nothing to show for it, but he nevertheless followed the instructions of Jesus.  The result was a huge catch of fish.  But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8).





1.         Sanctification in the Old Testament.


The Old Testament Hebrew uses the word kadash to refer to the idea of sanctification.


            Then God blessed the seventh day and SANCTIFIED it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:3).


            “And I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be CONSECRATED by My glory.  44  And I will CONSECRATE the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also CONSECRATE Aaron and his sons to minister as priests to Me.” (Exodus 29:43-44).


            Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I CONSECRATED you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nation.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5).


In each of these cases, the principle of sanctification is seen to refer to something that has been set apart from its normal usage for a special purpose.


2.         Sanctification in the New Testament.


There are several terms which are taken from the same Greek root word found in the New Testament:  Holy, saint and sanctify.

            AgioV - “Holy; a sanctified one (saint).”

            Agiazw - “To Sanctify or make holy.”


The root word agioV literally describes, “that which has been set apart for a special purpose.”  Sanctification is the work of God in which He sets a believer apart, washing him from his sin and making him into the character of Christ.


When we speak of the holiness of God, we are looking at His transcendence and the fact that He is other than the rest of His creation.  This sense of “otherness” is His holiness.  But there is also a sense in which we are set apart from creation.  We are a called-out people who have been separated out in order to be a people of God’s own possession.





There is both a positive as well as a negative side to sanctification.


1.         Negative.


We have been set apart from the world and from sin and from the dominion of Satan.  We are now strangers living in a strange land.  When we engage in sinful thoughts or activities, we are now engaging in that which is contrary to our new identity.


2.         Positive.


We have been set apart to God and to His good works and to righteousness and purity.  We are dedicated instruments and dwelling places of His Holy Spirit.





The Scriptures speak of sanctification on three levels.


1.         First there is POSITIONAL Sanctification by which a Christian is set apart in Christ when he believes.  By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10).


And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11).


Used in this sense, we therefore conclude that all who are justified are also sanctified (1 Corinthians 1:30; 6:11).


2.         Secondly there is PROGRESSIVE Sanctification in which a Christian is experientially set apart more and more to walk in holiness.


I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. (Romans 6:19).


3.         Finally, we shall ultimately and completely be sanctified and set apart unto holiness in that day when we stand before the Lord.


All three of these aspects are pictured together for us in 1 John 3:2-3.  Beloved, now we are children of God (Positional sanctification), and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him (Future sanctification), because we shall see Him just as He is.  And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself (Present sanctification), just as He is pure (1 John 3:2-3).  Notice that Christians are both pure and are also becoming pure.





Before we look at the differences between sanctification versus justification, we ought first to see the similarities between these two.


            Both come from the grace of God.

            Both are a part of the work of salvation that God provides.

            Both are to be found in all the converted.  There is no such thing as a person who has been justified who has not also been sanctified.

            Both begin at the same time.

            Both are necessary to salvation.




Justification is the reckoning and counting of a man to be righteous on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Sanctification is the making of a man to be inwardly righteous.

The righteousness of justification is an imputed righteousness received by faith and is not our own.

The righteousness of sanctification is an imparted righteousness brought about in us by the Holy Spirit.

Justification is an absolute

Sanctification in the progressive sense is relative and in part.





1.         Sanctification Results from Union with Christ:   I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:5).


Sanctification is an organic process.  Jesus likens the Christian life to a vine and its branches.  It is through our faith connection to Him that we are sustained and nourished so that fruit is produced in our lives.  The life principle comes out of that connection to Christ.


2.         Sanctification will always be Seen:  For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush (Luke 6:44).


There is a correlation between life and the signs of life.  It is not the signs of life that produce fruit; the life does that.  But if there is life, then there will also be signs of life.  Those signs of life are fruit.  They are produced by the life principle at work in us.


3.         Sanctification is commanded by God:  But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).


We have already distinguished between positional sanctification versus progressive sanctification.  On the one hand, we are said to be made holy by God when we come to faith in Jesus Christ.  On the other hand, we are now called to be holy.  This is an on-going process and it is one in which I participate.  Paul explains how this is the case in Philippians 2:12‑13 when he says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling;  13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  We are to involve ourselves in the sanctification process, knowing that God is involved in that same process as He works in us.


4.         Sanctification does not prevent a spiritual conflict:   For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please (Galatians 5:17).


We have been made new creatures in Christ, but we still live in an old shell known as “the flesh.”  This does not refer to the physical body, but rather to the element of sinful desires that still resides within us.  The result is an inner struggle and the Christian finds himself being prevented from doing those very things that, as a Christian, he has set out to do in his life.








Delivers us from the guilt of sin

Delivers us from the power of sin

Delivers us from the presence of sin

It is done FOR us

It is done IN us

It is done FOR us and IN us

It is a legal declaration

It is a creative act

It is a growing process

It brings about a changed standing

It brings about a change in your very nature

It brings about a change in your life

Happens at the point of salvation

Begins with salvation and progresses

To be declared righteous

To be born again

To be set apart to God


Regeneration is sanctification begun.

Sanctification is regeneration unfolding.


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