Chapter 13: Of Sanctification
Now that we were elected, called and justified we enter into the Christian life, which is one of growth in holiness with ups and downs. In this chapter, we will deal with the question concerning what sanctification is and how it works.
§1 Through The Virtue Of Christ's Death And Resurrection, Are Also Farther Sanctified, Really And Personally
- They who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, 1 are also farther sanctified, really and personally, 2 through the same virtue, 3 by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them; 4 the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of all true holiness, 5 without which no man shall see the Lord. 6
- 1 John 3:3-8; 1 John 2:29; 3:9-10; Rom. 1:7; 6:1-11; 15:16; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 3:12; Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Cor. 1:2, 6:11
- 1 Thess. 5:23; Rom. 6:19, 22
- 1 Cor. 6:11; Acts 20:32; Phil. 3:10; Rom. 6:5-6
- John 17:17, Eph. 5:26; 3:16-19; Rom. 8:13
- Rom. 6:13-14; Gal. 5:17, 24; Rom. 8:13; Col. 1:11; Eph. 3:16-19; 4:22-25; 2 Cor. 7:1
- Heb. 12:14
United, Called and Regenerated
I refer the interested reader to the previous chapters where we dealt with these things. I lightly touched upon our union with Christ in chapter 8 paragraph 5. We dealt with the effectual call or Irresistible Grace in chapter 10 and Regeneration and Justification were dealt with in chapter 11.
What is sanctification? Wayne Grudem defines sanctification in this way:
Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.
In sanctification, God works in us to make us more Christ-like. It is a process throughout our whole Christian life on earth where God works to conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29). Throughout our Christian life, we will by the grace and work of the Holy Spirit learn to hate and forsake our sins and follow Christ more faithfully. We should not think of sanctification as happening in one moment as some have done who believe that the Christian can be sinless. Nor should we think of sanctification is a line going only upward. But rather, sanctification is a process of ups and downs.
Obviously, once we come to know Christ, especially if we had lived a gross life, we will realize that it is no longer acceptable for us to do certain things and we will try to stop doing them. Therefore, there is a direct growth and going upward in a sense, but as we read the Word of God and learn God's will for us we will discover more and more sin in us and we should call on the Spirit of Christ to help us in our war against sin. But Christians do sin and fall into sin, we sometimes have seasons of disobedience and negligence to the means that God has ordained to bless us and sanctify us as for example the Word of God, prayer, corporate worship, etc. Therefore, there are also downs in our Christian life. It is not a straight line gradually going upward, rather a sort of zig-zag or flatline.
Romans 8:28-30 is a life passage for me. I love it and I take great comfort in it. Let us look at this passage and see what it says about sanctification.
Rom. 8:28-29 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
For those who are God's, whom He has pleased according to His sovereign pleasure without anything in them to incline Him to save them, God the Sovereign Lord works in all things for their good. Whatever tragedy, whatever sin, whatever evil, whatever pain, whatever suffering I can cling to this verse because it gives me comfort and hope in God. It is God who is Sovereign and works all things according to His will and everything is under His control, therefore my suffering and evil too. But what is amazing about this passage is that the promise is made only for those who are called according to His purpose, i.e., the elect. It is alone to them that God promises that all things will work for good. But what is the "good," then? I don't believe the good means to live a comfortable life, have no problems, have a good education, have a good job or any other worldly thing. I believe the good which God is working for us is namely that we "be conformed to the image of his Son." The good that God has in mind is ultimately to make us more like Christ. Through our pain and suffering, God is molding us to be like Christ and this is a long process and it is not a one time action. God desires and works in us His will so that we will hate our sin and love Him instead more and more every day.
Notice that with the definition given by Grudem that he says that sanctification "is a work of God and man". In this process of sanctification, which is throughout the Christian life, man and God work together to bring about the result that we would be like Christ. Unlike regeneration, which is monergistic, i.e., there is only one power at work, sanctification is synergistic, i.e., there is a "together" working of man and God. Philippians 2 is an interesting text on this point:
Phil. 2:12-16 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
At the beginning of the chapter, Paul points to the Lord Jesus as the great example of humility whom the believers should model. He sets Christ as the example of the perfect faithful servant of God, Whom all believers should seek to be like. Now Paul is telling the believers to work out their salvation (not work for their salvation), namely—to bring the full perfection and implication of their salvation by following Christ's example as the servant of God. They are to work out their salvation and bring the fruits thereof by doing God's will, “for,” or “because of the reason” that it is, in fact, God who is working in us. It is God who works in us to do His will. It is He who supplies us with all that is necessary to obey Him (Heb. 13:20-21), therefore, all glory goes to God. It is He who will cause us to obey according to the promise of the New Covenant (Ezek. 36:27).
Then we move from verses 12-13 to the rest of the passage quoted above and we see that Paul is commanding and encouraging the Philippians to persevere and do the will of God by obeying Him and doing good to each other. They are not to grumble about the things they are called to do, the reasons for that is that they may be blameless and innocent. That they may become more and more obedient to God and therefore, more and more like Christ. They are to shine as lights in the midst of utter darkness holding fast to the word of life, i.e., the Gospel, the Word of God wherein they find the will of God.
Sanctified and Being Sanctified
There is both a past and an ongoing aspect about sanctification. First, there is the fact that we have been set apart by God from all eternity to be saved and the Holy Spirit, in time and space, accomplishes that eternal plan in the lives of people where they're regenerated, given the Spirit, come to faith and repentance, are justified and so on. And thus the believers are set apart for the purpose and use of God (e.g. 1Cor. 1:2; Col. 3:12; Acts 26:18). Thus, there is a sense in our sanctification which is past and that is that we are no longer slaves of sin, but slaves of God. God is now working in us His good pleasure and has set us apart not for destruction, but for glory. But, as we discussed above, there is still a sense in which should still strive for holiness (Heb. 12:14) and seek to be sanctified now at the present time. Both of these senses come forward in a passage in Hebrews.
Heb. 10:10-14 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be m...