How Is Sanctification Done?

God has his part, but we have our part too. What’s the balance?

Sanctification is the work of God, first and foremost. Humans cannot do it by themselves. If a woman has been regenerated and declared righteous by God, then no one can expect her to sanctify herself by her own efforts and initiative. Jesus said he sanctifies himself (John 17:19), but no one else can say that.

Here’s the interaction between God and man.

1.. The work of God

Exod. 31:13 says that the Lord sanctifies his people.

Jesus prayed that the Father would sanctify the disciples (John 17:17), and we are his disciples today.

Paul prayed that the God of peace himself would sanctify the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 5:23-24).

So God the Father is the source of sanctification.

And Jesus Christ is agent of sanctification.

Paul said the Corinthians were those who “were sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2). Then Paul writes that Christ has become our sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30).

The author of Hebrews says believers have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all (Heb. 10:10). So Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, where he offered his body, is the agent (through) of sanctification.

Paul reminds Titus that Jesus Christ the Savior redeems his people from iniquity and to purify for himself a people who are eager to do good deeds (Tit. 2:13-14). The key word is “purify.” He does that to his church.

One great passage is Eph. 5:25-27, which says that Christ will present the church to be without sport or wrinkle … that she would be holy and without blemish.

Since the Father is the source, and the Son is the agent of sanctification, the Spirit energizes sanctification as he lives in us.

Peter teaches that God chose us through the sanctifying work of the Spirit (1 Pet. 1:2). The Spirit prepares the believer to be obedient to Jesus Christ. So we cannot obey the law of Christ (love) by our own strength.

When we walk in the Spirit, we don’t carry out the deeds of the flesh or sin nature (Gal. 5:16).

Paul says that we his people go from glory to glory, this is done from the Lord, the Spirit (1 Cor. 3:18).

The sanctification of the Spirit happens within the believer. One Scripture that speaks of the Spirit indwelling of collective believers is Eph. 2:19-22. The Spirit lives in each believer, and each one lives as a temple. 1 Cor. 3:16-17 teaches the same concept. We live together as a temple, and the Spirit lives in each one and everyone together.

Then the Scripture reminds us that our individual body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). The Holy Spirit dwells us (2 Tim. 1:14). Paul also teaches that if you don’t have the Spirit, you don’t belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9). The inverse is true. If you have the Spirit, you belong to Christ. Finally, the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5).  Paul speaks of sanctification in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11).

2.. The Cooperation of Man

There are three things a person can do to work with the Holy Spirit to grow in Christ or grow in sanctification.

First, the believer dies to sins or renounces them.

In the old days, dying to sins used to be called mortification, which literally means the process (-ion) of making (fic-) death (mort), or the process of making your sin nature die.

Rom. 8:13 says by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body. Paul also writes that we should put to death what is earthly in you (Col. 3:3-5). But mortification is not a general renunciation of sins only. Sometimes the Spirit bring up a specific sin, but not in an accusatory manner. But he does this just to help you grow.

Jesus said that if anyone would follow him, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily (Luke 9:23). This means that each day there is a battle of wills, your and God. Thankfully, as the believer matures, the human will surrenders and fits in to the divine will. But each day we must listen to the still small voice of the Spirit and mainly to Scripture to know how to live for him. I recommend that the believer says each day, “Lord, I surrender my will to you today. What is your plan for me?” If he does not tell you specifically that his plans have changed, then just keep doing the last thing he told you. You can also deny or renounce your ungodly decisions before you make them.

Paul writes that we have to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present world (Tit. 2:11-12).

Bottom line: you have been crucified with Christ; you no longer live, but the Christ lives in you (Gal. 2:20).

Second, the believer lives for righteousness.

Jesus said we are to hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6). We are to seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness (Matt. 6:33). Paul says that when we have died to our old life and our being enslaved to unrighteousness, we now are raised to new life and are slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6-18-19).

To grow in righteousness, the believer must be immersed in Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17). He must focus on Jesus Christ (Heb. 12:1-2). He must seek the things above, not below (Col. 3:1-2). He must thing on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). Another thing the believer can do to walk in righteousness is to put on Christ or clothing oneself with him (Col. 3:8). He puts away sin and puts on Christ. Some believers actually practice-pretend that they are putting on “spiritual clothes.” “I now put on righteousness. I now put on kindness. I now put on gentleness.”

Third, the believer walks in the Spirit.

When he walks in the Spirit, he does not gratify the lust of the flesh or sin nature (Gal. 5:16). When he walks in the Spirit, he fulfills the old law of Moses, particularly the Ten Commandments (Rom. 8:4). Gal. 5:22-23 teaches us that when the believer walks in the Spirit, the Spirit produces “fruit” in him, as follows: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law that opposes those things or produces them in the believer. The Spirit has to live in him and cause them to grow.

And when the believer walks in the Spirit he lives in love. The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Spirit, so now we can show love to others. 1 John 4:11 says that since God loves us, we must love others. Paul commands us to walk in love, as Christ loved us (Eph. 5:2). Can love be commanded? God’s love can, because it is about treating people kindly and honorably; it is not a gooey feeling.

The ultimate goal of sanctification is to love God and to love our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40).

So how does this post help me grow in Christ?

It literally means the process or act (-ion) of making (fic-) holy (sanct-). It could be called by the made-up and awkward term “holy-fication.” So once God consecrates you at your salvation-conversion, it becomes a process; don’t feel bad if you stumble once in a while. Just get up and realize that your walk in holiness is a long, long process of growing in Christ.

In the New Testament, it is used in the past tense, (believers have been sanctified), present tense (believers are being sanctified), and future tense (believers will be sanctified).

Sanctification is a simple or uncomplicated process. It may be difficult to walk out each day, but it is clear. For me, the best way to grow in purity or sanctification is to walk in the Spirit. You can do that by praying that God will give you the inner strength and grace and anointing to get rid of your vices or sins that easily trip you up. And you can walk in the Spirit by reading Scripture, so you can understand what God wants of you. And you can walk in the Spirit by staying in fellowship. You have to go to the church regularly, so you can learn from others.

Best of all, if you have your prayer language, formerly and archaically called “tongues,” use it. Don’t neglect it. But if you don’t have and want it, you can seek God and ask him for it. If you don’t have it and don’t want it, you can still have victory in your life because you do those other things.

In other words,

Initial sanctification ≠ Sinless, moral perfection

There’s progress in the process, until you die or the Lord returns. Only then will you be morally, sinlessly perfect.

Justification is different from sanctification in these ways:

Justification Sanctification
Legal standing Internal condition
Once and for all time Continuous throughout life
Entirely God’s work We cooperate with God
Perfect in this life Imperfect in this life
The same in all Christians Greater in some than in others
Source: Grudem, p. 746

As noted in the other posts, the only slight disagreement is that God declares us holy only because he transfers us from darkness to light, from the profane to the sacred; we are consecrated to him, no longer to the world. But now we work it out. Justification and sanctification are linked, but distinct. The order is really logical, not sequential in time, according to NT theology. That is, logically, legal declaration by God comes before we humans practice holiness and righteousness. Logically, we receive righteousness as a free gift before we can have it infused in us by the work of the Spirit. (If we believed that our holiness logically came before God’s gift of righteousness, Paul would say his theology was turned upside down and out of order.) Logically, your personal sanctification never launches God’s declaration of your right legal standing and your being born again (regeneration), or else Christianity would resemble other religions, particularly certain strands of Saul’s / Paul’s old Judaism. Just the opposite is the case. Your repentance (by grace) and your saving faith (by grace), and your new birth (by the Spirit) and God’s declared righteousness–all of this at the same time–launches your sanctification process.


Bible Basics on Sanctification and Holiness

What Is Sanctification?

How Is Sanctification Done?

Word Study on Holiness and Sanctification

Sanctification: Past, Present, Future

Sanctification: Can Christians Achieve Sinless Perfection Now?

Sanctification of the Whole Person: Spirit, Soul, and Body


Works Cited

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