The Sure Sanctification of the Saint
Salvation belongs to God, not man (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Rev 19:1). People are chosen to be saved by God, not by their own choice (Rom 11:5; Eph 1:4–5; 1 Pet 2:9). Thus, it is by God’s free will that one is saved from eternal damnation, not man’s so-called free will (Jn 1:12–13; Rom 9:15–16).
God’s grace is His work to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21). Jesus Christ bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet 2:24). He laid down His life for His sheep (Jn 10:11, 15), the people of God’s pasture (Ps 79:13; 95:7; 100:3). He who knew no sin became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15), and God poured out His wrath on our sin bearer, the Lamb of God slain on the cursed tree (Jn 1:29; Rev 5:6, 12).
Christ died for our sins (1 Cor 15:3), in our place of punishment, as our propitiation (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). The wrath of God, revealed against all our ungodliness and unrighteousness, was inflicted upon our substitute (Lev 16; Rom 1:18), the just for the unjust (1 Pet 3:18). Jesus’ motive, in taking our place in the just judgment of the holy God, was love. God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8; Eph 5:25).
The blood of Christ was precious (1 Pet 1:19). Being the blood of the new covenant (Mt 26:28), the forgiveness of sins is realized for those who are brought into Christ (Col 1:13), the faithful covenant keeper (Eph 1:7). Without the shedding of Christ’s blood, there is no forgiveness (Heb 9:22), but for those transferred into His kingdom (Col 1:13), justification is realized (Rom 5:9), for He has cancelled our debt of sin (Col 2:14).
Justified and forgiven, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus (Heb 10:19) because we have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ (Eph 2:13) that cleanses us from all sin (1 Jn 1:7).
God has mercy upon those for whom Christ is the sin offering (Ex 24:8; Lev 16:14–15; Heb 9:19) and who receive the sprinkled blood of Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant (Heb 12:24; 1 Pet 1:2). As the only Mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5), Jesus Christ is the guarantee of the better covenant of grace (Heb 7:22).
Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice was better because He entered heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Heb 9:23–24). God, through Christ, reconciled all things to Himself on earth and in heaven. The blood of the Cross brought peace and we have this peace with God because Christ our Passover has been sacrificed (Rom 5:1; 1 Cor 5:7; Col 1:20).
It is the Holy Spirit who applies the merits of Christ, to those the Spirit baptizes with His permanent indwelling presence (Mt 3:11; Jn 14:17; Acts 2:38; 10:45; Rom 8:9, 11; Jas 4:5). The sign of this reality is water baptism, which symbolizes washing and purification. Water is essential for life, and Christ in us is like a fountain of living water. Blessed are the Spirit-baptized for they enjoy the life of God in their souls (Gal 2:20). This is new and abundant life that has transformed affections for holiness.
There is the command for the Christian to be holy (1 Pet 1:15–16), but there is also the heart’s desire to be godly in Christ Jesus. Turning from the world and unto Christ, the new believer bears witness that he or she is being changed from within. The futility of the sinner’s mind is being renewed with the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). This has a transforming effect.
Transformation has a biblical name: “sanctification.” It also has an agent — the Holy Spirit who is making a saint out of a sinner, conforming the Christian into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). Although the Christian’s mind is agreeable to transformation into holiness and godliness, that is, Christian maturity…the flesh is hostile to this change (Rom 7).
The flesh wars against the Spirit (Gal 5:17), so that there is a willingness to comply in obedience to Christ. The Christian still sins against God, however. Sin is lawlessness (1 Jn 3:4), and for God’s people to walk in His statutes requires the work of the Holy Spirit (Ezek 36:27). Holiness, therefore, is a grace of God, without which no one can see the Lord.
The Spirit of grace works all things together for the good of the adopted child of God (Rom 8:15, 23, 28). The child marvels at the goodness and kindness of God the Father in not giving upon him or her. The Spirit has begun the work of sanctification and will not leave nor forsake the child being brought to maturity (Heb 13:5). He has promised to finish the work started in every believer (Phil 1:6).
The work of making a saint to be holy in practice and position is accomplished by the Spirit’s use of God’s Word (Jn 17:17; Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12). Like a parent reasoning with a disobedient child, to the required level of discipline, so the Father chastens His beloved children with the Bible (Heb 12:4–11).
The Word of the Father has an effect because it does not return void (Is 55:11). Jesus prayed for us toward this end that by sanctification by the truth of God’s Word (Jn 17:17), we may be presented holy and blameless by Him to the Father on the day of reckoning (Eph 1:4; 5:27; Col 1:22; 1 Thess 3:13).
The adopted child of God has been brought into the house of God, Christ's church (Mt 16:18; 1 Cor 12:13; Eph 2:20–22). As a living stone being fitted for its proper place in the temple of God, the Christian is like silver or gold being refined. The dross, the rough edges, the sinful ways are being removed by God. God’s work is grace to the saint (Jer 18; Eph 2:8–9; Rom 9:18–21).
The cleaning process itself can be a bit messy. It requires suction, illustrated by the attending surgical nurse or dental hygienist. Work is followed by suction over and over until the job is completed. These are the seasons in the Christian’s life. God works and then some rest. There is more work and some more rest.
God’s work of salvation is finished before Creation (Heb 4:3). The reason is that God is eternal. He works from outside of time. We experience His work in time (providence), but we must remember it is a finished work from His perspective. This makes every work of God…a sure work. Sanctification comes with a surety, a guarantee from God’s Word of promise (Heb 7:22). His oath and covenant enliven our confidence that His wisdom and power will get the job done. Let us therefore stand by as witnesses of Him (Acts 1:8), who accomplishes everything that concerns us (Ps 57:2; 138:8), including a sure sanctification that follows a sure redemption flowing from a sure election.
Spokane Valley, Washington
September 11, 2022