Sanctification is a ten cent word that means “to make holy.” Dictionary.com defines it this way:
verb (used with object), sanc·ti·fied, sanc·ti·fy·ing.
1. to make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate.
2. to purify or free from sin: Sanctify your hearts.
It is the process by which we are made more Christ-like. We are being changed and conformed to the image of Christ. This process is a work of God in concert with the work of the person. We would not be able to sanctify ourselves, but rather the Holy Spirit lives in us and works in us to conform us, to make a change in us. Sanctification is not an instantaneous event, such as justification (the act of God imputing, or reckoning, to the individual righteousness; nothing the individual does earns it, nor can the individual by his efforts keep it), but rather it is a process through which we work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to move away from sinful actions to ua holy and sacred position in Christ. Our work is to submit to God’s will in that we are to become more holy and more godly.
There are two facets to sanctification: the process by which we are purified and freed from sin, and the setting apart as holy. Some verses in scripture speak as if sanctification as finished. For instance:
1 Corinthians 6:11
Some of you once lived this way. 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.
This verse makes sanctification sound complete. But these verses are speaking of the “setting apart as holy” of the saved individual. That much is complete. The process of becoming more Christ-like, and of resisting sin is a mutual effort between us and the Holy Spirit is still ongoing. It is our learning process in a world where we have been given dominion and we have free will to choose.
Within sanctification we have been set apart. What have we been set apart from? Well, from the world and the sinful actions that they embrace. Consider the scripture:
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them, because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but that you keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world.
Jesus, praying to the Father, shows us that we are not part of the world, for they hate us. We do not belong to the world, but the prayer is not that we be taken away but that we be protected. Our mission is here in the world is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In that we are shown to be different than those in the world.
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its flavor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people. 14 You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.
This is our calling, and also what sets us apart from a sinful people. We are to be a light to the lost. In addition we are to be salt. Salt to a wound is an irritant. It makes the status quo uncomfortable. Being salt to the world means that we make them uncomfortable in their sin by shining the light of God and showing them a more holy path. This more holy path means that they must choose to leave their sin behind, and this is uncomfortable to the world.
It is this position of being set apart that is the completed portion of sanctification. The ongoing portion is our learning to resist the sin of the world, for when we shine our light for them to see in the darkness, they will in turn beckon us to come back into the darkness and satisfy the carnal desires within our flesh. We must resist the sin. With the Holy Spirit’s guidance we can overcome the call of sin in our lives.
2 Corinthians 6:14-17
14 Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, ” I will live in them and will walk among them , and I will be their God , and they will be my people .” 17 Therefore “come out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you”
We were once sinners. God extended His Grace to us and gave us a measure of faith so that we could make a decision. That decision, set before us, was either to accept the free gift that Jesus paid for on the cross, or to reject it and turn our backs on God. When we accept the offer God immediately regenerates us, changing us, creating in us a new man. We are changed and now have the propensity to desire righteousness, we know the difference between good and evil, and we have the desire for godly ways. God also justifies us, an immediate imputation of righteousness; in other words righteousness was charged to our account. Any sin we had in our life was taken away by Jesus’ sacrifice and paid for by His act on the cross. Once we were justified, the Holy Spirit comes inside of us and begins to guide us toward a more holy life — thus the sanctification process begins. The Holy Spirit leads and we make conscious decisions to follow or to step off the path. Sanctification is the process by which we learn, quickly or slowly, how to walk in God’s will, how to become holy. We have been robed in righteousness and we are learning how to fit into that robe and walk in His righteousness.
We are no longer children of the devil, but now we are children of God (1 John 3:10).