Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sanctification - Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts concerning the doctrine of sanctification.

According to Millard Erickson sanctification is "the continuing work of God in the life of the believer, making him or her actually holy" (Christian Theology, 967). This is a good working understanding of the doctrine and process of sanctification. Traditionally, theologians speak of sanctification in three parts; (1) Initial - at salvation, (2) Progressive -during the one's life, and (3) Final -at death or glorification in heaven. Over the next few days, I want to examine all three in a little more detail.

But first, a few more thoughts on what sanctification is (I have highlighted what I believe are some of the key thoughts to help us discern a solid understanding of sanctification):

The basic meaning of the word sanctification, or sanctify, in the Bible is to be set apart, in particular, for the Christian, it implies to be set apart to holiness (1 Pt. 1:13-16); that is, to be spiritually “sanctified.”

Ryle, in his classic Holiness, defines sanctification as:
[Sanctification] . . . is that inward spiritual work that the Lord Jesus Christ works in a man by the Holy Ghost, when He calls him to be a true believer. He not only washed him from his sins in His own blood, but He also separates him from his natural love of sin and the world, puts a new principle in his heart, and makes him practically godly in life. The instrument by which the Spirit effects this work is generally the Word of God. . . . The subject of this work of Christ by His Spirit is called in Scripture a “sanctified” man.

As this definition implies, sanctification, when applied to the believer, is the setting apart of that person by God’s Spirit for a sacred purpose. Thus, the believer is set apart by God to holiness.

J.I. Packer adds:

Sanctification, says the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q.35), is "the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness." The concept is not of sin being totally eradicated (that is to claim too much) or merely counteracted (that is to say too little), but of a divinely wrought character change freeing us from sinful habits and forming in us Christlike affections, dispositions, and virtues.

Sanctification is an ongoing transformation within a maintained consecration, and it engenders real righteousness within the frame of relational holiness. Relational sanctification, the state of being permanently set apart for God, flows from the cross, where God through Christ purchased and claimed us for himself (Acts 20:28; 26:18; Heb. 10:10). Moral renovation, whereby we are increasingly changed from what we once were, flows from the agency of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:13; 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 6:11, 19-20; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:22-24; 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 13:20-21). God calls his children to sanctity and graciously gives what he commands (1 Thess. 4:4; 5:23).

Regeneration is birth; sanctification is growth. In regeneration, God implants desires that were not there before: desire for God, for holiness, and for the hallowing and glorifying of God's name in this world; desire to pray, worship, love, serve, honor, and please God; desire to show love and bring benefit to others. In sanctification, the Holy Spirit "works in you to will and to act" according to God's purpose; what he does is prompt you to "work out your salvation" (i.e., express it in action) by fulfilling these new desires (Phil. 2:12-13). Christians become increasingly Christlike as the moral profile of Jesus (the "fruit of the Spirit") is progressively formed in them (2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19; 5:22-25). Paul's use of glory in 2 Corinthians 3:18 shows that for him sanctification of character is glorification begun. Then the physical transformation that gives us a body like Christ's, one that will match our totally transformed character and be a perfect means of expressing it, will be glorification completed (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Cor. 15:49-53).

3 John 8
Bill H.

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