Spiritual Blessings - Sanctification
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
THE Old Testament words rendered sanctify, or sanctification, imply setting apart to sacred purposes or to consecrate, and have various applications in the Old Testament. We read, for instance, of holy places, Jerusalem — the holy city; mount Sinai — the holy mount. Or again, the word is used oi persons. It is written of the Lord Jesus that He sanctified Himself, " for their sakes 1 sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth " (Jn. 17. 19). Aaron and his sons and their garments were sanctified (Ex. 28. 41 ; Lev. 8. 30). Things also arc said to be sanctified the anointing oil (Ex. 30. 25); the seventh day (Gen. 2. 3) ; feasts and the year of Jubilee.
From these and other passages of Scripture it seems clear that the fundamental idea underlying the word " Sanctification " is that of separation or setting apart for God. As a skilfully-cut diamond has one beauty but many facets, so this priceless blessing has several aspects, some of which we shall now consider.
Pre-conversion Sanctification. 1 Pet. 1. 2 records, " Elect according to (he foreknowledge of Cod the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." Included in this are the activities of the Triune God — the foreknowledge of God the Father, the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. The same order is evident in 2 Thess. 2. 13 — " God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." God chose us in His sovereignty, and the Holy Spirit sanctified and separated us to believe the truth. Thus " the sanctification of the Spirit is associated with the choice or election of God ; it is a Divine act preceding the acceptance of the gospel by the individual " (Notes on Thessalonians, by Hogg & Vine, pp. 115, 271).
Positional Sanctification. The New Testament describes believers in the Lord Jesus Christ as saints or sanctified ones, and even to the Church at Corinth, where there was so much to bring discredit upon the name of the Lord, the Apostle wrote " unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints " (1 Cor. 1. 2). All believers in the Lord Jesus arc, therefore, saints and because of this it behoves them to be saintly in their walk and character. The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that " by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified " (Heb. 10. 14). This is positional sanctification, our standing before God, which is not determined by our state. Further, Heb. 3, 1 speaks of " holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling," and in 1 Cor. 1. SO, 31, K.V., Christians are said to be " of him in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption," that he that glorieth should glory in the Lord. One has written " sanctification is that relationship with God into which men enter by faith in Christ (Acts 26. 18 ; 1 Cor. 6. 11) and to which their sole title is the death of Christ (Eph. 5. 25, 26; Col. 1. 22; Heb. 10. 10)."
Practical Sanctification. There is, in the New Testament, the aspect of sanctification which involves a separation of the believer from evil things and ways. As in Old Testament times the individual Israelite might be " positionally" sanctified and yet be ceremonially and practically unclean, so may be the believer of New Testament times. Sanctification is God's will for all His people — " This is the will of God, even your sanctification " (1 Thess. 4. 3). And this was His purpose in calling us by the gospel, " for God called us not for uncleanness but in sanctification " (R.V., verse 7). How is this worked out in the life of the believer ? It involves a path of separation in the normal walk and activities of life, whether domestic, social, business, friendships or any other relationships into which we might be brought. The Old Testament principle was, " Thou shalt not plough with an ox and an ass together" (Deut. 22. 10), and the New Testament makes it plain that there must be no " unequal yoke" for Christians (2 Cor. 6. 14). Practical sanctification involves separation from evil, in desire, motive and act from the " world," which is enmity against God and His Christ; all that is of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life. Further, it involves separation from false teachers, vessels unto dishonour (2 Tim. 2. 20). Separation is not from contact with evil in the world or church, hut from complicity and conformity to it. " I pray not I hat thou shouldest take them out of the world, hut I hat thou shouldest keep them from the evil " (Jn. 17. 15). Failure to observe this fact has produced a monastic system, alien to the teaching and spirit of Christ. What then, if we should happen to sin ? " We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 Jn. 2. 1). "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way ? by taking heed thereto according to thy word" (Ps. 119. 9). The priest in the Tabernacle needed the altar and the laver for his cleansing. 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 " (Eph. 5. 25, 26).
Progressive Sanctification. It is God's will that the believer should pursue earnestly and undeviatingly that " sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord " (Heb. 12. 14, R.V.). Practical sanctification and holiness of life are essential if we would see God. Many believers see little of God in their circumstances, in their afflictions, in world affairs, in the daily round and common task — because they know little of practical sanctification. Sanctification is not an instantaneous act, but a steady growth in grace as a result of obedience to the Word of God and of following the example of Christ in the power of the Spirit. The believer is sometimes chastened that he may be partaker of His holiness (Heb. 12. 10) ; he is to present his body, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God (Rom. 12. 1) ; he is to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ day by day (2 Cor. 3. 17, 18) and reckon himself dead unto sin and alive unto God (Rom. 6. 11). May God grant that in all things we may grow up into Him!
Perfect and Prospective Sanctification. " Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish " (Eph, 5. 25-27). " Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall he. We know that if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him, for we shall see him even as he is " (I Jn 3, 2, K.V.).