What is Sanctification?
Of all the theological terms Sanctification is possibly the most puzzling to many Christians. But the word is not as foreign as one may think.
The root word “Sanctify” in English roots back through Old French “saintifier” to the Latin word “sanctus” meaning “holy”. Thus, “sanctify” means to make holy… to set a person or thing apart from other persons or things that it may be reserved for some particular use, or entity, or state (i.e. “holy”). “Sanctification” then, refers to the process of making a thing holy or set apart.
You already know this word as in “sanctuary” — a place set apart for holy or dedicated use (e.g. bird sanctuary, the large assembly room of a church), or inner “sanctum” – an area reserved for elite access, or “sanctimonious” – a person who behaves snobbishly as though they were set apart and above others.
For the Christian sanctification is spoken of in the Bible from two perspectives: God’s and our own.
God sees from Eternity. He sees believers as already sanctified… as “holy” already, as being “in Christ.” God sees “now” what John hinted at in his 1st epistle:
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2).
God intends to make us like His Son, Jesus Christ, “holy” as the author of Hebrews tells us we must be (See Heb. 12:14). And He sees this as an already done reality.
We however see from our particular point in time. We look “back” at what “was,” and “ahead” to what will be. From our perspective “sanctification” (personal holiness) seems a long way off. God understands this and invites — actually commands — us to work with Him at this.
“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,.” (Phil. 2:12).
“…clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Rom. 13:14).
“…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Col. 3:12).
“…make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” (1 Pet. 1:5-7).
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified” (1 Thess. 4:3).
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