I have been thinking a lot about sanctification lately, especially my own. Sanctification is that process by which Christians are made holy- that is, made more like the person of Jesus. There is a bewildering sense in which Christians are already sanctified. “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).” “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession (1Peter 2:9).” “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10).” We have been made holy by “Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood (Revelation 1:6).” Jesus bore the penalty for our sins and thereby broke the power of our sin. His righteousness was imputed to us when we first believed. It is these two truths that make it possible for God to look at us, reborn sinners who still sin, and to call us Holy and beloved.
This fact of sanctification, along with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the reality of a new nature in us, gives us great assurance of our salvation and our position before God. These realities give joy, peace and hope, and I would not shy away from rejoicing in them. I thank God that He has set me apart and declared me righteous, totally and completely apart from anything I have done. I know that kind of talk can make people nervous, but for the Christian it is truth, and for the Christian- it is truth that produces fruit.
But there is a second reality. It’s the reality that as “God’s people… (who) have received mercy” as “sojourners and exiles”, we must “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against (our) soul (1 Peter 2:11).”
What an accurate assessment. Which Christian can deny the reality of fleshly passions waging war against them? So we have this excellent reality that we have been made new and made right with God, and yet this dreadful reality that we still wage war with fleshly passions. It is this battle that at times finds us like Paul, doing the very thing we hate (Romans 7:15).
So our position before God is that we have been made holy by the blood of Christ. But God’s word calls us to live out that holy calling- or, live like those who have been called. Sanctification is an event, a process, and a reality awaiting final consummation. It is error, and the epitome of un-Christian, to see the death of Christ and all that He has purchased for you and then say “Great! Now I can live however I want to!” God’s word teaches that these truths should have the absolute opposite affect:
1Peter 1:14-19 “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
Do you see what this is saying? The fact that you were ransomed with something precious, the blood of the perfect lamb Jesus Christ, gives you great cause to fear conducting yourself in an unholy manner. Toning down the realities granted believers through the gospel for fear of licentiousness is ludicrous, as is claiming the blood of Jesus as an invitation to live unholy lives.
The gospel is the resting place of sanctification and it is the starting place of a necessary process that will continue until we finally see Him face to face and are made like Him. I think of 1Corinthians 6:19-20 “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God with your body.”
Did you know that the Spirit of grace can be outraged? Do you know what might outrage the Spirit of grace?
Hebrews 10 talks about people who “go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth (26)” and says “How much worse punishment (than that which came under the law of Moses), do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29)?”
I bring these points up so that no one would recoil when I celebrate redeeming grace, and also so that no one would think it sane to look at that grace, and that blood which sanctifies, and then trample the Son of God underfoot by deliberate sin.
I think if we get our thinking straight on this, we’re better prepared to move on to talking about progressive sanctification in the life of a believer, something I will continue to study, and hopefully write more about soon! Well, I think it fitting to finish with this verse:
2Corinthians 5:14-15″For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”