SANCTIFICATION
 

This writing is taken from the website:  www.bible.org.  Our sincere appreciation goes out to them for allowing us to use it. 
This writing is authored by: 
Lehman Strauss , Litt.D., F.R.G.S.

Our linking to this writing does not necessarily mean that we at Precious Testimonies agree with everything written exactly the way it has been worded in the following writing about this topic.  However, this does not in any way imply that we don't find this writing extremely well written and greatly valuable regarding the topic of Sanctification.

-- Norm Rasmussen, Director, Precious Testimonies


The doctrine of Sanctification is doubtless one of the most misunderstood doctrines of our historic Christian faith. Many Christians either withdraw from it completely or else they associate it with fanatical fringe groups. The result has been its continued neglect or mistreatment.

Now I am aware of the fact that this attempt to expound Sanctification places me on controversial ground. If my reader will heed my plea for charity, I promise not to be quarrelsome. Moreover, I do not want to bring thunder and lightning crashing down upon my own head. If there is going to be any disagreement among us, please let us disagree agreeably. We are in a warfare, not against each other, but against sin. The very fact that we are saved people should tell us that the doctrine of Sanctification does not belong in the ring of polemical pugilism.

If there is a basic error, I believe it is the failure to grasp the meaning of the term Sanctification. On one occasion I gave to my class in a Bible College the assignment to write a definition of Sanctification. Many of the students stressed the idea of purification from moral evil. Several were more explicit in making Sanctification a state of holiness in which it was not possible for a saved person to sin. Not posse non peccare (able not to sin), but non posse peccare (not able to sin). Now the students did not learn this from the Bible. The Scriptures do not teach that Sanctification is the improvement of the unregenerate nature, nor that it is the eradication of that nature thereby rendering it impossible for a child of God to commit sin. I am not suggesting that there is no experiential aspect in Sanctification in which practical holiness will manifest itself in the Christian’s life. Most assuredly does the work of Sanctification in the believer involve victory over sin in his daily life. Sanctification is not merely a single act, but a continuous process.

The basic meaning of the verb sanctify (Gr. hagiazo) is to separate, or to set apart. Possible the latter term comes closest to the Greek word. Sanctification, then, is that sovereign act of God whereby He sets apart a person, a place, or an object for Himself in order that He might accomplish His purpose in the world by means of that person, place, or object.

Having stated the meaning and a definition of the term, let us look at some Scriptures where the word is used:

(1) A day can be sanctified. “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it . . .” (Genesis 2:3).

(2) A building and its contents can be sanctified. God said, “And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar . . .” (Exodus 39:44). “And it came to pass on the day that Moses had fully set up the tabernacle, and had anointed it, and sanctified it, and all the instruments thereof, both the altar and all the vessels thereof, and had anointed them, and sanctified them” (Numbers 7:1).

(3) The house in which a man lives can be sanctified. “And when a man shall sanctify his house to be holy unto the LORD, then the priest shall estimate it, whether it be good or bad: as the priest shall estimate it, so shall it stand” (Leviticus 27:14).

(4) A mountain can be sanctified. “And Moses said unto the LORD, The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai; for Thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the Mount, and sanctify it” (Exodus 19:23).

In all of the above passages the meaning of the word Sanctify is to set apart for holy purposes. However, a day, a tabernacle, a house, or a mountain cannot sin. These items are neither moral nor immoral; they are amoral. It seems quite clear, then, that Sanctification in these instances does not mean a state of holiness in which it is not possible for sin to enter.

An interesting passage in the book of Isaiah shows that men can sanctify themselves (set themselves apart) to do evil. “They that sanctify and purify themselves, in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD” (Isaiah 66:17).

We know that our Lord Jesus Christ was sinless and therefore free from all moral impurity, and yet He prayed, “And for their sakes, I sanctify myself . . .” (John 17:19). In this statement He was simply testifying that He had set apart Himself to fulfill the holy purpose for which He came into the world.

Sanctification is used with reference to God. “And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes” (Ezekiel 36:23). God is here telling of a day, still future, when He will set Himself apart as the one true and living God, and that all peoples in the earth will acknowledge Him as such.

And now, on the background of these preliminary thoughts, let us pursue our study in the doctrine of Sanctification in its relation to the believer in Jesus Christ.

Preparatory Sanctification

By Preparatory Sanctification we mean that initial sovereign work of God preliminary to any experience in the life of the person who is to be sanctified. The Apostle Peter wrote, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied” (I Peter 1:2). Here we see all three Persons in the Godhead active in Sanctification.

Before an unsaved person becomes a child of God, he is “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” Election and Foreknowledge are of necessity the preparatory work of God prior to experiential Sanctification in man. Peter does not here explain the doctrines of Election and Foreknowledge; he merely states the fact that God the Father made a choice before ever God the Son and God the Holy Spirit acted in behalf of our Sanctification. Divine foreknowledge is not limited to mere foresight of what men will do at some future time. It is God’s foresight and choice linked together with His own plan and purpose.

God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). This is a clear illustration of the Preparatory Sanctification of God the Father in Election and Foreknowledge. In the Divine plan God set apart Jeremiah for His work before ever Jeremiah was born, separating and appointing him to be a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah resisted the appointment on the ground of his immaturity and insufficiency, but God assured him that He knew what He was doing. Surely He would not set apart a man for a ministry without providing the enablement to carry out all of the responsibilities attached thereto. “Before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee.” That is Preparatory Sanctification.

The Apostle Paul wrote similarly, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:15, 16). Paul was set apart for the ministry long before the cradle. His conversion, commission and career as an apostle were foreseen and foreordained before he was born. It was all according to God’s eternal purpose and grace. It was dignifying to Paul’s office as an apostle to know that it all did not “just happen,” but that he was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (See: Ephesians 1:14). The Galatians must know that he was no self-styled, self-appointed apostle, but rather divinely set apart. The statement that God separated Paul from his mother’s womb is more than a reference to God’s providential care of him at birth. It refers to Preparatory Sanctification. Even though, as Saul of Tarsus, he waged a fierce warfare against the church, the Lord ruled and overruled, bringing him to the place where Paul himself knew that God had a plan for his life.

God set apart Jacob before he was born, in preference to his twin brother, Esau (Genesis 25:23, cf. Romans 9:10-13); Samson before he was conceived (Judges 13:3-5); and John the Baptist prior to his conception (Luke 1:13-17). And I am convinced that my own conversion and call to the ministry were of God’s choosing and not mine. It was no mere coincidence that I was present at 3314 I Street in the city of Philadelphia on December 25, 1927, the day I was saved. It was no mere incident when I enrolled as a student in The Philadelphia School of the Bible in 1935. I can testify with Paul that God put me into the ministry and has enabled me to continue (I Timothy 1:12). This is Preparatory Sanctification, that work of God the Father in which He sovereignly selects men and sets them apart before they are born into this world.

Before leaving this point of Preparatory Sanctification, let us have a look at some verses which refer to our Lord and His earthly ministry. When Jesus spoke on one occasion to the Jews, He referred to Himself as the One “Whom the Father sanctified, and sent into the world” (John 10:36). We know that this statement from His lips had nothing to do with moral behavior because “in Him is no sin” (I John 3:5). What He said is that the Father set Him apart and sent Him from Heaven to earth to accomplish the divine mission of redemption. Therefore, he could say, “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth” (John 17:19). He had set Himself apart for the purpose for which the Father had set Him apart. In the Father’s plan for the Son we see the principle of Preparatory Sanctification.

Positional Sanctification

From this point in our study we will consider Sanctification, not in relation to places or objects, but only to people. By Positional Sanctification we mean that act of God the Holy Spirit in which He sets apart every saved person. It is the first step in the experience of the believer. The preparatory work has been going on for some time according to Divine plan, but now that work becomes effective in the life of the individual person. He is now actually set apart as God’s possession and for God’s purpose. “This people have I formed for Myself; they shall shew forth My praise” (Isaiah 43:21). Positional Sanctification is the fact and act of belonging to God.

It is important to keep in mind the fact that all three Persons in the Godhead are active in the believer’s Sanctification. Man was created in the likeness and image of God, and he was God’s possession by creative right. But Adam’s sin broke the relationship between God and himself. In Preparatory Sanctification God included the means whereby fallen man could be restored to a right relationship with Himself. And what was that divinely provided means? The Blood of Christ! God could not set apart an unclean sinner for His possession and purpose, therefore, He purchased and purified the sinner by the Blood of His Son. “Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate” (Hebrews 13:12). “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). The once-for-all sacrifice of God’s Son purchased the once-for-all sanctification for the sinner. “For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified(Hebrews 10:14). Apart from the atoning Blood of Christ, man could not be set apart unto God. But the moment we receive God’s Son we are said to be “in Him,” a phrase used more than seventy times in Paul’s Epistles denoting the believer’s unaltered and unalterable position. Thus we are sanctified by the Blood of Christ.

Who then are the sanctified? All who have received Jesus Christ have been sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ” (Jude 1). This is every Christian’s position, independent of the length of time one has been saved, how much or how little one knows about the Bible, or how spiritual that person might be. So if you have trusted Christ to save you, then you have been set apart once for all; you are God’s sanctified one. Now I am not suggesting that the only sanctification a Christian can experience and enjoy is that which is positional, or credited to him at the time he is born again. But I am insisting that there is a Positional Sanctification which was purchased by Christ’s atoning blood and deposited to the believer at conversion.

Let us look now at the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s Positional Sanctification. The First Corinthian Epistle contains some pregnant passages on this theme. “And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:11). Notice the order; they are said to have been Sanctified before they were Justified. Earlier in this Epistle Sanctification precedes it, and the Holy Spirit prepares the heart of the individual, making him ready to receive it.

Some weeks before my acceptance of Jesus Christ I passed through a real struggle, restless and troubled because of a sense of guilt. With each passing day the burden of my sin became increasingly heavy. Then that Christmas Day arrived when my heart eagerly responded to God’s Word and I was born again, Justified. As I look back upon that experience, I know now that, during those weeks of struggling before I was saved, the Holy Spirit was doing His work of preparing me for the great transaction. The moment of the Spirit’s regenerating work in me climaxed His work of Positional Sanctification. Now after 45 years of Christian experience, that work resulting in my being set apart has remained unchanged. Like the Corinthian believers, and all true believers, I was at that moment justified by God.

Beware of the false teaching that urges the believer to seek Positional Sanctification after he has been saved. Positional Sanctification is not a second work of grace to be sought subsequent to the experience of Regeneration. Positional Sanctification takes place at the time of Regeneration. If you have not been sanctified, then you are not saved. The behavior of some of the Christians at Corinth was anything but commendable. Paul wrote, “For ye are yet carnal; for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (I Corinthians 3:3). But then he added, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13). Notice it does not say that some of them were baptized into the Body, but that all were. This baptizing work of the Holy Spirit is synonymous with Positional Sanctification. The Body here is the Church (see Ephesians 1:22, 23). There is no other way of one getting into Christ’s Church apart from the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. At the time of Regeneration He sets the believer apart, sanctifying him positionally. Some of us do not behave at all times as a believer should, but our behaviour does not alter our position in the Body.

Another significant passage appears in the opening of the First Corinthian letter. The letter is addressed “unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints . . .” (1:2). Two words in this verse stem from a common root; they are the verb “sanctified” (Greek hagiaso) and the noun “saints” (Greek hagios). The verb sanctified means set apart, and the corresponding noun “saints” are those persons who have been set apart, the set-apart ones. Paul is here addressing all believers in the Corinthian Assembly, not only those who were spiritual but the carnal ones also. Both the carnal and the spiritual are included in the sanctified saints. When they were saved they were set apart through the operation of the Holy Spirit. That operation effected an eternal union between the Sanctifier and the sanctified, “For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one . . .” (Hebrews 2:11).

The setting apart of the believing sinner as God’s possession and for God’s purpose is associated with the Holy Spirit’s entering the body at Regeneration. The unsaved man is spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), “alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18). Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life” (John 10:10). But how does one receive this life? The answer is, When he receives the Holy Spirit. When we were saved we became “partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4). God the Holy Spirit entered the body to take up His permanent abode. Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16, 17). The Day of Pentecost marked the beginning of the fulfillment of our Lord’s promise, so that now every born-again person is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Through His incoming He sets apart that believing one.

Child of God, the Holy Spirit is in you. He has set you apart for a definite purpose, and that purpose is God’s perfect will for your life. And be very certain that He has a plan for you. The fact that He is in you is the plain teaching of scripture. The Christian assembly at Corinth was an assembly of saints, saved persons, set-apart persons, but not all of the saints were saintly in their behavior. There were disputes and divisions among the brethren. Covetousness and carnality had crept in among them. And yet they were instructed that each believer in the assembly was indwelt by the Holy Spirit. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (I Corinthians 6:19). The Holy Spirit dwells in the Church corporately as well as in each member individually and personally.

This is Positional Sanctification, and it is the portion of every regenerated person. “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Romans 8:9). “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, where we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). “He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, Who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit” (I Thessalonians 4:8). “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (II Timothy 1:14).

The above mentioned verses from God’s Word show clearly that Sanctification is the state predetermined by God for every believer, into which He calls them by His grace, and in which they commence their Christian life and experience. Beloved brethren, think of it! God has separated us unto Himself. “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (II Thessalonians 2:13). “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (I Corinthians 1:30, 31). Are you rejoicing in His imputed Sanctification?

Somewhere I heard or read of a tragedy at sea in which a young fisherman was washed overboard and lost. All efforts to recover his body were futile. He left his young widow and eight-year-old son penniless. Their godly pastor who conducted the funeral service was deeply moved by the tragedy. After he returned from the memorial service he went to the local bank and opened a savings account in the name of the orphaned boy. From time to time he added to the account, which continued to bear interest. Ten years later, the boy graduated from high school and at the commencement exercises he was awarded a scholarship in a university hundreds of miles from home. One day the pastor visited the home to congratulate the boy and his mother. The mother expressed to the pastor her appreciation for the scholarship, but added the lack of necessary funds for travel, clothing, etc. would prevent them from accepting it. Whereupon the pastor advised her to go to the bank and withdraw the necessary money from the boy’s savings account. The mother said nothing but felt keenly disappointed with the pastor’s remarks. Several weeks later, another pastoral call brought up the subject again. Once more the mother expressed her regrets that her son was unable to accept the scholarship. Again the pastor told her to go to the bank and withdraw the necessary amount from the boy’s account. Within herself she thought, If this is supposed to be a joke, it is in very poor taste. But not many days before the deadline, she went to the bank, and after inquiring she learned that the money was there, deposited in her son’s name by another person. Her boy had not earned the money. It was credited, posted to his account.

Even so, when we were regenerated, there was deposited, or imputed, to us the holiness of Jesus Christ, God’s gift of Sanctification. The Holy Spirit is a gift, not given discriminately to some believers, but rather to all believers, as the following passages teach: John 7:37-39; Romans 5:5; I Corinthians 2:12; II Corinthians 5:5. No distinctions are as much as hinted at in these verses, nor would we expect any because of the very nature of a gift. A gift is not a reward nor a debt nor a payment for service. The gift of the Holy Spirit is given to every believer; therefore, every believer has been positionally sanctified permanently.

Some Christians believe sincerely that when a child of God sins, his Positional Sanctification is lost by the Holy Spirit withdrawing Himself from that one. This viewpoint is untenable. Those who hold this view are in error. Our Lord said that the Holy Spirit would “abide with you forever” (John 14:16). If sin in a believer could cause the Holy Spirit to depart from that believer, then that same sin could cause the person who committed it to lose his salvation, and if one could lose his salvation, he never could be saved again. (See Hebrews 6:4-6). The believer’s Positional Sanctification is a Permanent Sanctification because of the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There was no discrimination among the mixed multitude of believers in Corinth. The carnal Christians were in conflict with each other, but without exception they were all addressed as those who were indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

In at least two Epistles, according to the Authorized Version, Christians are addressed as those who are “called to be saints” (Romans 1:7; I Corinthians 1:2). This is incorrect and therefore misleading. The italicized words “to be” should have been left out. Christians are now saints, already set apart, sanctified. These verses do not anticipate a time in the future when God’s children will become saints. Every saved person is as much a saint now as he ever will be in time or eternity.

Practical Sanctification

This portion of our study shall be given to the matter of the Christian’s responsibility in Sanctification, that piety and true holiness which deserve to be seen in the life of every saved person. As I study my own daily experiences as a child of God, and observe those with whom I associate in the Lord’s work, I have a deep conviction that this has been a neglected phase of Christian doctrine. Many who stress continually the great doctrine of Justification fail to see that Practical Sanctification is equally important. Satan knows well the power of true Sanctification in the believer’s life; therefore, it is to the advancement of his kingdom if he can perpetuate confusion in our minds and conflict among the brethren.

In our consideration of Preparatory Sanctification the sovereignty of God was stressed, and rightly so. God is sovereign in all matters. However, we who are His children are wrong when we use His sovereignty as an excuse for our sinful unwillingness to carry out our responsibility. When William Carey was pleading for missionaries to carry the Gospel to unevangelized peoples of the world, a group of preachers in England tried to silence him with the words, “If God wants to evangelize the heathen He will do it without your help or ours.” It was true, and still is, that God can reach the heathen with the Gospel without the help of any of us. However, it is equally true that God in His sovereignty has ordained that men should be the means of carrying His Gospel to the unevangelized. The sovereignty of God in sanctifying Jeremiah and Paul to preach His Word, and that before they were born, did not relieve them of their responsibility to obey God’s call when it came to them. Preparatory and Positional Sanctification are entirely the work of the Triune God, but in the matter of our Practical Sanctification there is that element of human responsibility. God does His work perfectly, but in the area of personal holiness we fail.

Our standard of living, viewed from the financial and material side, has risen to an all time high, but our standard of living, viewed from the spiritual side, has dropped to an all time low. Christians have time for sports, entertainment, travel, and socializing, but little or no time for communion with God in prayer and the study of His Word. The marvels of saving grace call for a life corresponding to our exalted position in Christ. The grace of God which brings Salvation also teaches Sanctification (Titus 2:11, 12).

When one makes a study of Practical (experiential) Sanctification, there are some pitfalls to be avoided. One serious danger is that of interpreting Practical Sanctification by someone’s personal experience. We must beware of that disproportionate emphasis on experience which neglects or omits doctrine. Many of the religious books coming from the presses today are long on experience but short on doctrine. We must see all of life’s experiences in the light of what the Bible teaches. Many persons have been led astray because they substituted some personal experience for the teaching of the Word of God. Dr. Chafer said, “Even if Sanctification were limited to the field of human experience, there would never be an experience that could be proven to be its perfect example, nor would any human statement of that experience exactly describe the full measure of the divine reality. It is the function of the Bible to interpret experience, rather than the function of experience to interpret the Bible. Every experience which is wrought of God will be found to be according to the Scriptures.”

Practical Sanctification differs from Positional Sanctification in that Positional Sanctification is solely the will and work of the triune God, while the Practical Sanctification involves human responsibility. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness (i.e., Sanctification), without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). This Scripture stresses the pursuit of Practical Sanctification. Since we are exhorted to pursue it, then it must be the will of God for His children to do so. “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication” (I Thessalonians 4:3). This aspect of the believer’s Sanctification is then a matter of choice on our part. “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts, but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (II Timothy 2:21, 22).

Following are other scriptures which exhort the Christian to self-sanctification: “But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (I Peter 1:15, 16). “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:5). “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness” (II Peter 3:11). “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Corinthians 7:1). These scriptures do not promise an eradication of the sin nature nor a state of perfection of this life, but they do exhort the believer to self-dedication and surrender to God.

The purpose of self-sanctification is to prevent sin in the life of the Christian. This is important because every child of God, as long as he is in this body, is able to sin. When Adam sinned he lost the divine image and likeness with which he was created. However, in the redemptive plan God restores that image and likeness. “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4).

At this point in our study we must make the necessary distinction between Practical Sanctification and that to which some Christians refer to as “sinless perfection,” an erroneous concept which teaches that a believer in Christ can reach a point in life where he will not commit sin again. The Bible warns against this false view where it says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8). This plain statement of fact should be followed up with the solemn warning, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). It is dangerous for any Christian to associate Sanctification with “sinless perfection” in this life.

In the case of some Christians, the failure to distinguish between Sanctification as taught in the Bible and the deception known as “sinless perfection” results from a misunderstanding of the New Testament words “perfect,” “perfected” and “perfection.” When the Bible uses these terms in connection with us mortals, it refers to spiritual or ethical maturity whether in a person or the finishing of a work. Moreover, the word does not always mean the accomplished end as the net result of a process, but sometimes it is the process leading to the goal of consummation. It is the process that we must ever pursue. “Follow . . . holiness” (Hebrews 12:14), that is, pursue it, press on after it. The Apostle Paul said, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after . . . I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12, 14). Spiritual maturity should be the goal of every saved person. We should seek it eagerly, endeavor earnestly to acquire it with urgency, pursue it as a hunter stalks his game or as an athlete the winning of the race.

Sometimes the word “perfect” is used in the comparative degree. A person or an object may be said to be more perfect or less perfect than another person or object. An example of the comparative degree is seen in Hebrews 9:11 where we read, “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building.” It could be said that a wife is more perfect than her husband, or that the husband is less perfect than his wife, yet neither of them would have at any time attained to “sinless perfection.”

The Greek word translated “perfect” is teleios. Its varied usages in the New Testament shows shades of meaning far removed from the idea of “sinless perfection.” For example, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Brethren, be not children in understanding; howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men” (Gr. teleios) (I Corinthians 14:20). Here the Apostle is drawing a contrast between children and adults, exhorting them, not to “sinless perfection,” but to show forth the kind of understanding that would be expected of mature adults. The same word teleios is translated “of full age” in Hebrews 5:14 where it likewise means spiritual maturity. The Christian is to be “perfect” in the sense that he should be spiritually mature in his behavior toward God and toward his fellow-men.

How does one pursue Sanctification? How does one mature in the Christian life? Certainly it is not through struggling nor self-confidence nor by trying to duplicate those “experiences” to which others testify. For one thing, growth takes time. There is no short-cut to spiritual maturity. It takes twenty-one years before a new born babe reaches the twenty-first anniversary of his birth. No amount of struggling or self confidence or mimicking others will speed up the process. A healthy growth that leads to spiritual maturity necessitates time. Now it is true that some new “converts” appear to take off at an extremely fast pace. But this outward appearance might not be the accurate indicator of the inner man. Moreover, if there is going to be a healthy growth, the pace will be modified. Young believers must not feel that they are not making progress because they are not surging ahead at a fast rate of speed. This wrong attitude can lead to discouragement and even disaster.

We will not mature spiritually if we labor under the false idea that the Christian is free from temptation. No child of God is free from temptation, “because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). His enticements to do wrong will come to us through every doorway of sense, nose, eye, ear, mouth and touch. But it is no sin to be tempted. A young man may seek to entice a young lady to engage in sinful sex, and the girl might be tempted to do so; however, no one can accuse her of indiscretion if she has kept the door shut against her tempter. Every Christian is tempted, but temptation does not necessarily lead to sin. We can be tempted by Satan (I Corinthians 7:5; I Thessalonians 3:5), by the natural desires of the old unregenerate nature (Galatians 4:14; James 1:14), by other persons (Matthew 16:1; 19:3). But God has made provision for His own so that they need not yield to the temptation. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Corinthians 10:13). Every temptation can result in blessing if when we are tempted we are driven to God’s Word and prayer and win the victory.

    First, consider the importance of the Word of God in
    the Christian’s Practical Sanctification.

This aspect of Sanctification was in view in our Lord’s prayer, where He prayed, Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth” (John 17:17). To the child of God who reads and studies the Bible, it becomes a cleansing, sanctifying power in life. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psalm 119:9). When we meditate in God’s Word, the truth of God has its own inherent power to prevent sin. It becomes a stronghold in temptation. The Psalmist wrote, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). Our Lord said to His disciples, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3). Of the righteous man it is written, “The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide” (Psalm 37:31). Paul had this same idea in view when he said, “. . . Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:25, 26). Peter likewise stresses the same truth where he writes, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (I Peter 2:2).

If the problem in the Christian life is to bring our practice up to our position, then let us become men and women of the Word. Practical holiness will manifest itself as we set ourselves apart to search the scriptures. God’s Word is the active agent the Holy Spirit uses to this end. I cannot know the will of God for my life if I neglect the Word of God. The miracle of being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ does not take place in an instant; it is a day-by-day process wrought in us by the Holy Spirit through the sanctifying power of the Word of God. “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the diving asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

    Second, know and reckon on the fact that
    you are dead to sin and self.

“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him. . .” (i.e.; Christ) (Romans 6:6). Beware of the false theory which wrongly uses this verse to teach that a Christian by an act of his own will can die to self. It is not possible for a Christian to die to self. As a matter of fact, I have never met an advocate of the “death to self” movement who could tell me how I might die to self. The difficulty arises from a failure to examine the Greek text in which there is nothing to support the theory of self-crucifixion or dying to self. The verb in Romans 6:6 is in the past tense, so that the correct translation reads, “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Christ.” The reference is not to something the Christian must try to accomplish, but to the perfect and completed work of Christ. The exhortation is not to try to die to self by some effort of our own, but to realize that when Christ died on the cross we did die to self with Him. This is positional truth, and it is important that we continually reckon ourselves dead to self. The death of Christ not only atones for the penalty of sin, but it has power to deliver us from the practice of sin. This is a mighty truth that we must “know” and on which we need to “reckon” continuously.

    Third, Christians are exhorted to yield their bodies to God.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). The surrender of our bodies to God is absolutely essential to Practical Sanctification. The body is not the entire man, but it is the vehicle of the human spirit and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies belong to God by a two-fold right, His right by creation and by redemption. “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:19, 20). Sin manifests itself through the members of the body. “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Romans 6:13). This includes even that “little member” (James 3:5) which too often hurts the membership. It is by means of our bodies that God gets His work done. He chose to save us through a body, thus the necessity of the Incarnation. Jesus said, “A body Thou hast prepared Me” (Hebrews 10:5). The holy man of God will honor God with his body. The Apostle Paul testified, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (I Corinthians 9:27).

Total self-dedication to God is the result of self-determined separation to God. Make up your mind that unless you yield yourself to God you will not experience a life of holiness. Victory over any sin is the result of self-sanctification.

    Fourth, Practical Sanctification involves
    the surrender of the will.

The Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and must therefore be led by the Spirit. The will of God is all-important in the life of the child of God. And how does God guide us? He guides us through His Word. Basically, God’s will is found in God’s Word. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). But closely related to guidance by the scriptures is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. He gives guidance to those who sincerely want His will and who are already walking in obedience to the light which they received from the Word. Any person who is truly saved and who sincerely wants God’s will shall have it. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). The will of God is the present sphere of Christian obligation. “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). Each believer plays an important role in his own Practical Sanctification as he finds and follows and finishes God’s will for his life. The Christian who is out of God’s will is an unsaintly saint.

    Fifth, we sanctify ourselves when we walk in the Spirit.

“This I say then, walk in (by) the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). The verb walk (Greek peripateite) is in the present tense and means to keep on walking by the Spirit. Christians in this dispensation are blessed with the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit who is the divine enablement for our living a holy life. What is impossible for the Christian who is resisting or grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit is possible for the one who is walking by the Spirit. When we sin against the Spirit we break fellowship with him, thereby cutting ourselves off from the supply of His power. “Quench not the Spirit” (I Thessalonians 5:15), and “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30), and your life will be blessed.

Perfect Sanctification

Perfect (or ultimate) Sanctification is that aspect of Sanctification related to the final perfection of the children of God. It will not be realized while we are in this mortal body. Perfect Sanctification is the final step in the sanctifying process. Like Preparatory and Positional Sactification, it is wholly the work of God.

Paul wrote about this in closing his First Epistle to the Thessalonians. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:23). When Christ returns the believer’s Sanctification will be complete. The word wholly (Greek {olotelhs}) is found only here in the New Testament and is made up of two words, “complete” and “end.” The ideas of wholeness and completion are in view, meaning entire Sanctification, through and through, the whole of you, every part of you. It means to be complete and sound in every part. Now this process of Sanctification goes on during the present life here on earth, but it will be perfected at (Greek en), not “until,” the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. This passage is not an attempt to analyze the constituent parts of man; therefore it is not a proof text in support of trichotomy (the three-fold nature of man). What is in view here is the perfect Sanctification of the whole man, the time of its accomplishment, at “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and the fact that God Himself will bring it to pass, for “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it” (verse 24).

The Epistle of Jude commences and concludes with a similar emphasis. It was written “to them that are sanctified by God the Father and preserved in Jesus Christ” (verse 1), and all such are assured that God “is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (verse 24). This is Perfect Sanctification.

Perfect Sanctification is the goal God has set for every believer. “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:5). The Adoption (Greek huiothesia) is not a word of relationship, not the making of a son, but son-placing. Some students make the mistake of confusing Adoption with Regeneration. In Regeneration the believing sinner is made a son of God. In Adoption the regenerated son of God is placed in the position of perfect sonship. The Adoption is not experienced in this life while we remain in this mortal body. All the redeemed are assured of their Adoption (Galatians 4:4, 5) by virtue of the indwelling Holy Spirit who is called “the Spirit of adoption” (Romans 8:15); however, we do not actually experience it until Christ returns for us and our bodies are redeemed. Paul wrote, “. . . Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).

Perfect sonship is that for which we are waiting. If we had it now we would not be waiting for it. There is never any danger of Christians not becoming perfectly Sanctified. The Apostle Paul said that through the indwelling Holy Spirit “ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). Because God did “predestinate (us) to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:28), the glorious goal of our Adoption is assured.

Before the ages God planned to bestow upon the redeemed a glory, unique and appropriate only to the Church in Christ. In ages to come the Church will display that glory because the God of all grace “hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus” (I Peter 5:10). Indeed this is a special kind of glory, even the perfection of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Whereunto He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thessalonians 2:14). In other words, when God called us it was with the view that we should obtain the glorified state. Verse 13 says that the Holy Spirit is the agent in “sanctification” to that glorious end. The glory of the revelation of the Lord from heaven will be shared by Christ’s Church at that day (Colossians 3:4).

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2).
 


A Special Message:  http://www.precious-testimonies.com/Exhortations/f-j/HelpingShareTheMessageOfTheCross.htm

Dear Reader - are you at peace with God?  If not, you can be.  Do you know what awaits you when you die?  You can have the assurance from God that heaven will be your home, if you would like to be certain.  Either Jesus Christ died for your sins, or He didn't (He did!).  Are you prepared to stand before God on the Judgment Day and tell Him that you didn't need the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross to have your sins forgiven and get in right-standing with God?  We plead with you ... please don't make such a tragic mistake.

To get to know God; to be at peace with God; to have your sins forgiven; to make certain heaven will be your home for eternity; to make certain that you are in right-standing with God right now ... please click here to help understand the importance of being reconciled to God.  What you do about being reconciled to God will determine where you will spend eternity, precious one.  Your decision to be reconciled to God is the most important decision you'll ever make in this life.


The staff and our ministry supporters so greatly appreciate hearing how God is touching lives for His glory through this outreach.  If this ministry has blessed you in some special way, would you please consider taking a brief moment and share your blessing with us?  Simply email us at: ptoffice@precious-testimonies.com

We truly thank each of you who allow us to publish your testimony, for those who faithfully pray (and fast) for this outreach, for those of you who help support the ministry financially, and for those of you who pass along these testimonies and other ministry writings to others.  The part the Holy Spirit has you play is vital in helping win lost souls and being engaged in discipleship, and we can never thank you enough for the labor of love and support you provide on behalf of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Precious Testimonies is supported financially by those God directs to sow into this ministry.  We ask each person reading this to please ask God on an on-going basis if He would have you sow a financial gift to this evangelistic outreach of His - trust that He will clearly communicate His will to you in the matter - then simply be obedient.  Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the current financial needs of this outreach, or any other questions you may have.

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