Sanctification comes from the Hebrew word group,
and the Greek word group, hagios. In both languages, the word means to
set apart or distinguish as unique and special, and thus to classify as
in a particular state or condition. The English words that translate this
verb and its derivatives are, sanctify, sanctity, sanctification, saint,
and holy. Although the New Testament doctrine of sanctification is different
from the Old Testament because is is based on the crucifixion and resurrection
of Christ, the basic meanings of the words remain the same.
There are three categories of sanctification taught in
the Bible. The sanctification that occurs at the moment of salvation, which
is theologically designated as positional sanctification, refers to the
status of being set apart as unique and special through positional union
with Christ. This is accomplished at the very point in time, when a person
trusts in Christ as Savior, and is complete and permanent at that very
There is also an "experiential" or "progressive"
sanctification that occurs AFTER a person is saved and is based on advance
in spiritual growth and consistency of fellowship with God. This refers
to developing a consistent control over the sin nature and avoidance of
And then we have what has been designated theologically
as "ultimate" sanctification. This will occur when the believer
is given a resurrection body. At that time, both soul and body will be
perfectly conformed to the image of Christ and remain that way for all
This refers to the act of God the Holy Spirit by which
He takes the person who has JUST trusted in Christ as Savior and places
him into a unique and special spiritual condition by putting him into union
with Christ. This ACT is called the baptism of the Holy spirit and occurs
immediately at the very moment that a person trusts in Christ. This is
indicated especially at 1 Corinthians 12:13 which reads, "For by one
Spirit we have all been baptized (identified) into one Body." The
body is Christ Himself and the believer is seen as spiritually identified
and in union with Christ, so that WHERE Christ is, that is where the believer
is (in the heavenlies, Eph. 2:6) and WHAT Christ is, that is what the believer
is (righteous, 2 Cor. 5:21).
See Topic: Baptism
of the Holy Spirit
The believer is thus, SET APART or SANCTIFIED IN CHRIST
as we see at 1 Corinthians 1:2, "To those who have been sanctified
in Christ Jesus." This is a perfect passive participle of the verb,
hagiadzo, and indicates a PAST completed action that has a current result
or status. And SINCE they HAVE BEEN SANCTIFIED, they are are called SANCTIFIED
ONES. At the same verse, the very next words read, "called saints."
The word, saints, is the adjective, hagios, and refers to someone who has
been set apart as special in God's plan. In this case, the title, saint,
is based on the previous description, "those who have been sanctified
in Christ Jesus." The designation, "called," indicates entrance
into the plan of God via election. That is, they are saints because they
have responded to the call of God through the gospel. This new title that
is assigned to the person who trusts in Christ occurs several times throughout
the New Testament (Rom. 1:7; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Philip. 1:1; Col. 1:2).
Based on positional sanctification, the
every believer in ONE SPIRITUAL BODY is designated as a holy nation at
1 Peter 2:9, which is a spiritual designation to confirm the fact that
the church is the temporary replacement of the nation of Israel as the
evangelistic agent for this designated time period of God's plan (Mat.
21:33-43; 23:37-39; Ex. 19:5-6).
According to Hebrews 10:9-10, it is the will of God that
designed the plan for sanctification.
1. "By whose will we have been sanctified: Sanctified:
This is the verb, hagiadzō as a perfect passive participle plus the present
indicative of eimi. Its called a perfect periphrastic which is the strongest
way to express a present reality which is based on a past action. Ie, we
were sanctified at some time in the past and we remain sanctified at the
2. And it is the sacrifice of Christ that provided sanctification
for those who would accept it, "through the offering of the body of
Jesus Christ, once for all."
At verses 19-20, the PLACE of sanctification is indicated
as "the entrance into the holies," which refers to the presence
of God. Again, the basis for this entrance is the WAY that was provided
for us THROUGH His flesh, which refers to his SPIRITUAL sacrifice on the
cross, which was the payment for sins that His human soul endured while
residing in His human body (John 1:14; Isaiah 53:10-11; 1 Peter 2:24).
At Hebrews 13:12 we read that Jesus, "so that He
might SANCTIFY the people through His own blood (spiritual death for sins),
suffered outside the gate."
Accordingly, it is JESUS Himself who BECAME to us SANCTIFICATION
(1Cor. 1:30) if we will but trust in Him.
SANCTIFIED BY THE SPIRIT
It is the Holy Spirit who actually accomplishes our positional
sanctification at the moment a person believes. We learn this from
1 Corinthians 6:11, which says, "but you were washed,
but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God." Each of the items mentioned
were accomplished by God the Holy Spirit at the moment of faith.
Another passage that indicates that the Holy Spirit is
the agent of sanctification is 2 Thessalonians 2:13, which reads,
"God has chosen you (as) first fruits unto salvation
sanctification by the Spirit and through faith in the truth."
This passage has caused some confusion concerning the
ORDER of STEPS involved in getting saved. Some think that it is the sanctification
by the Spirit that actually RESULTS in or even CAUSES someone to then express
faith in the truth of the gospel. Others teach that the sanctification
is of the human spirit and likewise precedes and is the basis for being
able to believe. Although this and a few other passages seem a bit innocuous
on this point, there is an abundance of passages that indicate FAITH comes
first, and then God accomplishes all the other factors concerning our salvation.
The fact that sanctification is the act of being placed INTO UNION WITH
CHRIST, as the phrase, "sanctified in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor. 1:2)
indicates, is proof that sanctification does not precede faith, for the
positional status of IN CHRIST does not precede faith.
The bible teaches that once a person trusts in Christ
as Savior, he is permanently secured in the family of God and in his possession
of everlasting life.
See Topic: SALVATION
SECURITY for details
The doctrine of salvation security is applied to positional
sanctification at Hebrews 10:14, which reads,
"He has completed (perfected) for all time those
who are sanctified."
The phrase "who are sanctified" is not in the
usual form of the PERFECT TENSE that we have seen in other passages, which
indicates a completed action in the past with a present condition that
persists based on that past action. It is instead a present passive participle,
which emphasizes only the present CONDITION of those who have trusted in
Christ. However we do find the perfect tense in the verb, COMPLETED. It
is a perfect active indicative of teleioō, which means to complete or bring
to an end - and thus COMPLETE. It indicates that those who ARE sanctified
IN CHRIST, are completed and perfected in that condition "for all
time." The phrase, "for all time," translates a prepositional
phrase, eis to diānekās. The word is an adjective used as a noun,
and means that which is continuous and uninterrupted in regard to time
- thus, forever. The exact phrase is used also at verse 12 to indicate
that the sacrifice of Christ for sins was a once-and-for-all sacrifice.
The perfect tense of COMPLETED (teleioō), indicates that
God has done something in the past with the results of that action continuing
on into the present. In fact, the prepositional phrase extends the PRESENT
CONDITION of salvation into "for all time" or eternity. The act
of sanctification which places the believer into a unique and special condition
of IN UNION WITH CHRIST, is permanent because it is an actual spiritual
transformation and change of status. It is a POSITIONAL adjustment to God
and the spiritual universe that reverses a previous condition (in darkness
and spiritual death), and is as permanent as when a caterpillar transforms
into a butterfly.
The bible also teaches that there is a process of sanctification,
which results from spiritual growth as the believer learns more and more
of God's word, and begins to reflect the character of Christ in his life
(1Thes. 4:1-8; 1 Pet. 1:14-16).
It can be designated by the term, "experiential sanctification,"
or "progressive" sanctification. The term for reflecting Christ's
character can be designated as "experiential righteousness."
Definition: Experiential sanctification is the reflection
of your positional sanctification, in union with Christ, into the Christian
way of life via growth and the filling control of the Spirit.
Because we are "holy" (sanctified) in position
(IN CHRIST) we should be holy in our Christian life (1 Pet. 1:15-16). This
passage reads, "But like the holy one who called you, become holy
yourselves also in all your behavior." And then Peter quotes Leviticus,
"You shall be Holy for I am Holy." The holiness of God refers
to the expression of His functional character toward His creatures. These
functional attributes revolve around righteousness and love. So in other
words, as God is consistent in expressing perfect righteousness and love,
so also should the believer reflect God's righteousness and love.
Paul teaches this in Ephesians 5 when he writes that we
should live in a way that is "proper among saints." The saint
is the one who has been sanctified or made holy through positional union
with Christ. Since we are saints in our position, we should live like saints
in our Christian life.
Earlier, at verses 1 and 2, he writes about being an imitator
of God which is accomplished by walking in love "just as Christ also
loved." Later at verse 8, he writes that our positional status is
"light in the Lord," and that we should reflect that position
by WALKING in the light.
All of these terms refer to experiential sanctification;
the process of building character and living that character in our Christian
experience here on earth.
As we learn God's word, God's character is built in our
souls (1 Tim. 1:5, love) and we develop the capacity to imitate that character
as we choose to follow those standards in every area of our life (1 Pet.
1:14; 2 Tim. 2:19-22).
Jesus taught this as He prayed to the Father at John 17:17,
"sanctify them through your truth; Your word is truth." It is
God then who accomplishes the sanctification process as we are faithful
in learning His word. God is unable to change our character if we do not
learn his word. Paul writes that we need to cleanse ourselves from our
old character flaws and our old human viewpoint, and that in this way we
will be a SANCTIFIED person (vessel), whom God can use here on earth (2
At 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, Paul tells us that it is God's
desire that the believer live a sanctified life, that is, not for the purpose
of impurity (immorality), but as a reflection of God's character and viewpoint.
Accordingly at 2 Corinthians 7:1, Paul exhorts us to pursue
the sanctification process by cleansing ourselves from all defilement of
the body and of the inner spirit. This cleansing process can only take
place as we learn God's word and let His standards weed out the human viewpoint
and lust from our soul.
See Topic: Spiritual
A third category of sanctification can be designated by
the term, "ultimate sanctification," even though the word "sanctification"
does not occur in the pertinent passages. This occurs when the believer
will receive a resurrection body exactly like Christ's at His coming for
He "will transform our body of humiliation into conformity with the
body of His glory" (Philip. 3:21).
John tells us that "when He shall appear we shall
be like Him for we shall see Him just as he is" (1 John 3:2), and
Paul writes about our ultimate destiny in God's plan as being "conformed
to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:29).
See Topic: RESURRECTION
Lewis Sperry Chafer summarizes these three categories
of sanctification in his Systematic Theology, volume VI, page 285.
"The Bible teaching in regard to sanctification,
then, is (1) that all believers are POSITIONALLY sanctified in Christ 'once
for all' at the moment they are saved. This sanctification is as perfect
as He is perfect. (2) All believers are BEING sanctified by the power of
God through the Word, and this sanctification is as perfect as the believer
is perfect. So, also, (3) all believers WILL BE sanctified and perfected
in glory into the very image of the Son of God."
See Doctrinal Outline: SANCTIFICATION
comments and questions are always welcome!