Sanctification is God’s will for His elect, regenerate people (1 Thess 4:3). It is the work of God’s indwelling Spirit, in the born again believer, in Christ (Rom 8:9, 11). It is a work of divine grace.

The objective of sanctification is the setting apart of the Christian for holiness, that is, conformity to Christ (Rom 8:29). Holiness is the opposite of sin. It is the attribute of God that is glorious (1 Chron 16:10; Is 6:3). The Christian is instructed to be holy as God is holy (1 Pet 1:16), and this is because without holiness one cannot see the Lord (Heb 12:14). This is something man cannot do on His own.

In God’s salvation, His redeemed people are delivered from sin, Satan, darkness, and the world. This deliverance from evil is complemented by a deliverance to a position right with God (Justification). The unjust soul is imputed with Christ’s righteousness, so that her legal standing is assured. Justification is intimately related to sanctification. One is an external work of Christ, and the other is an internal work of the Holy Spirit.

Whereas justification clears one’s criminal record before God, sanctification is the cleaning process from the filth of sin. The washing of regeneration by the Spirit (Titus 3:5), at conversion, begins this process of pollution removal and purity maintenance. It is the washing of the water, by the Word, that facilitates this ongoing work of God (Eph 5:26).

The Father’s setting apart of the elect in eternity anticipates Christ’s redeeming blood, which is shed for the church, His chosen bride (Eph 5:25). It is the Spirit that manifests this separation, by His work in the regenerated believer. The point: sanctification is a Triune work in eternity, in the past, and in the present.

One’s state must change before his life is made new. God is the agent of transfer (Col 1:13). The new life in Christ transforms one’s character, as her affections, mind, and will are brought under subjection to Christ’s. Again, it is the agency of the Spirit and the Word that accomplishes these changes (Jn 17:17; Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2).

This new life for the Christian is one of faith in the Son of God (Gal 2:20). Trusting God to conform us to His own standard of holiness is our new interest (Rom 12:1–2). Christ is our sanctification, but He is also working our sanctification, practically. He does this by willing and doing His good pleasure in and through the believer (Phil 2:12–13).

Allegiance to God means compliance to God’s Law. Christ Jesus did this perfectly. Although compliance, for the believer, is not possible for justification, it is by the standard of the Law that the Christian knows the holiness of God. The bad news is that we transgress the Law almost incessantly, but the good news is that Christ met God’s standard, and His righteousness is imputed to the believer to rectify her legal standing. Sanctification is an internal work, a moral clean-up process, as noted.

Men pervert this process with false doctrine. The antinomian takes his justification and lives carelessly in his sanctification. The legalist mistakes his sanctification for justification. He believes his good works gain some merit before God. Others believe their sin nature can be remedied so that they contribute to their sanctification, helping the Holy Spirit with His work. Still others suggest they have reached sinless perfection (perfectionism). As with other doctrines, false ideas abound regarding sanctification.

The end of sanctification is glorification. This is accomplished by God in the resurrection of the body of the believer in Jesus, whose soul is kept in Christ, until the glorious day of final consummation. On that day, the dead in Christ will be raised in glory. The believer’s body and soul will have immortality and will remain imperishable for all eternity. Thus, there is an end to the work of God in sanctification, but until that day, sanctification remains the primary work of the indwelling Spirit to cause us to walk in God’s statutes and to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, which is…holiness.

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

October 30, 2021

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher