Today I examine the first aspect of sanctification, what theologians call positional or initial, among other titles, sanctification. Paul reminds the Corinthian believers, and us, of our positional sanctification:
1 Corinthian 6:9-11 . . . 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. 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.
I return to Ryle’s explanation of sanctification as a reference point; he writes:
[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. (Holiness, p. 47)
Furthermore, Grudem states:
Sanctification has a definite beginning at regeneration. A definite moral change occurs in our lives at the point of regeneration, for Paul talks about the ‘washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit’ (Titus 3:5). . . . This initial moral change is the first step in sanctification. (Bible Doctrine, pp. 326-27)
As both Ryle and Grudem show, the first step in the process of sanctification occurs at regeneration. This is an actual and permanent setting apart by God because of what Christ has done for the saved sinner. Paul writes: "Christ Jesus became to us righteousness and sanctification" (1 Cor. 1:30), and "you were washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 6:11). Furthermore, Paul connects this beginning and positional sanctification is a ministry of the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 2:13; see also Eph. 1:11-14).
In sum, the positional aspect of sanctification speaks to one’s spiritual condition and relationship to God. All believers are set apart as “saints,” by God, and for God, at their conversion. This setting apart is positional from spiritual death to spiritual life. Positional sanctification, then, is the first step in the sanctification process and experience of the believer.
Tomorrow, practical or increasing sanctification.
3 John 8