- Written by J.D. Link
- Published Dec. 10, 2015
1Th 4:3-4 "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor." Sanctification - GK def. "Purification; the state of purity; consecration; holiness". This Greek word is found ten times in New Testament, and is translated "holiness" five times, and "sanctification" five times. In English, the suffix "-fication" means "to make" (i.e. Clarification means "to make clear"). "Sanct" from where we get "Saint" means sacred, pure, holy. So, Sanctification means to make holy.
Of the ten times this word is used, seven of those times it is spoken as a present, ongoing action (Rom 6:19, 22; 1Thess 4:3, 4, 7; 1Tim 2:15, Heb 12:14) - something we are to continue in, follow after and yield to. The other three verses speak of a finished work (1Cor 1:30, 2Thess 2:13, 1Pt 1:2). What does this mean? It means: We are sanctified; we are being sanctified; we will be sanctified, aka "glorified". Christ in us (spiritual sanctification) is the hope of glory (Col 1:27, Rom 5:1-2). Hope is future. It is an expectation of something good. We are sanctified in spirit upon conversion (the new birth); we are being sanctified in soul - daily being shaped and molded into the image of Jesus in our mind, will, emotions, attitude, reason, speech, etc.; and we will be completely sanctified in body at the resurrection, when we receive an eternal, incorruptible body like that of Jesus (Philp 3:20-21). This is glorification.
Why does Paul speak of glorification in the past tense in Rom 8:29-30? Because if one is predestined; and called; and justified in spirit; and (by implication - vs. 14) being sanctified in soul - then glorification must be the result. In other words, this final step is certain to come to pass in the true Believer. It is our blessed assurance.
Here are some other verses that speak of sanctification as a finished, past tense work (1Cor 1:2, 6:11, Heb 2:11, 10:10, 10:14, Jude 1:1). Here are some verses that speak of sanctification as a continual process (1Thess 5:23, 1Pt 3:15, Eph 5:26). You will notice that in Eph 5:26, it is the washing of the Word that sanctifies and cleanses continually. Water immersion (baptism) symbolizes the spiritual reality of our being immersed into the Church of Jesus - His body. Like the High Priest of the Old Testament, this initial washing wasn't repeated. It was one time. However, the washing of the feet was often, for he would pick up the dirt of the world as he went about his daily business. As Believers, we are spiritually cleansed by the Blood of Jesus; but we must continually wash our minds with the Word of God. This is the ongoing sanctification process. As a baby is prepared nine months for the world it will come into, so we are being prepared in this life for the world to come.
So, in this study, we will be focusing on the continual aspect or the ongoing process of sanctification taking place in our soul and body. When we speak of the positive and negative, we do not use the word "negative" as something bad or wrong, but only as a "shalt not" or "don't do". And we use the word "positive" in the sense of "do this - what you should do". For instance, in Eph 4:28, it says, "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs." So, the negative is "don't steal", but the positive is, "Work, that you may have to give".
While the negative is necessary, it does not necessarily promote transformation. The positive is what transforms. You see, I can stop stealing, without working and giving. It's good I no longer steal, but if I'm not a giver, I'm not maturing in Christ. Mature Christians are givers, because Jesus is a giver. It's being like Him. Not only does Jesus not steal, but He also gives. This is what we mean by "positive sanctification". It's a matter of focus. It is focusing on what I ought to be doing, versus only focusing on what I shouldn't do.
Another example is Eph 5:18, which tells us to not be drunk, but to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Drunkenness is a sin. We ought not get drunk. However, I can stop getting drunk, and still not be filled with the Spirit. You see, to grow and mature in the faith, I must be filled with Spirit. This is the positive command. If we grab hold of this truth, it will turn the Christian walk into a joy instead of a drudgery. It will become everything we get to do, instead of everything we can't do. There is much more to say on this. Next week, Lord willing, we will continue. Selah.