posted on Nov, 9 2018 @ 05:01 PM
“Such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and in the Spirit of our God”
– 1 Corinthians ch6 v11
The message of the New Testament centres upon what God achieved in Christ, through his death on the Cross and his Resurrection..
All this was happening “on account of our sins”, for the sake of doing something about them.
And the promised result is the forgiveness of sin.
We are told that we have been “sanctified”.
The word “holy”, fundamentally, applies to something set apart for God, belonging to God as his property (“this holy place”).
So the action of “sanctifying” something is the act of setting it apart; thus the Temple sanctifies the gold that is in the Temple, the altar
sanctifies the gifts that are laid there (Matthew ch23 vv17-19).
And the premise found in the New Testament is that believers have been set apart in this way, sanctified as belonging to God.
Jesus asked his Father to do this in the final prayer recorded in John’s gospel;
“Sanctify them in the truth… and for their sake I consecrate [sanctify] myself, that they also maybe consecrated [sanctified] in the truth”
(John ch17 vv17-19).
And the church believed themselves to be in this position;
“I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of
sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts ch26 v18).
That is why the New Testament is always calling them “the saints”.
The church is sanctified “in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians ch1 v2).
It is the effect of what he did; “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the
washing of water with the word” (Ephesians ch5 v26).
The process is further explained in Hebrews;
“He who sanctifies [i.e. Christ] and those who are sanctified have all one origin” (ch2 v11).
We have been sanctified “through the offering of the body of Christ once for all” (ch10 v10).
By that single offering, he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified (v14). That is, he has cleared them from sin in the eyes of
That self-offering is what is meant by “the blood of the covenant by which [the believer] was sanctified” (v29).
And again, “Jesus suffered outside the camp in order to sanctify the people through his own blood” (ch13 v12).
Another way of putting it is that we are sanctified by the Spirit, and by our own faith, because that is our means of access to what Christ has
“God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians ch2 v13).
In all this, it is assumed that our sanctification is something which has happened already, along with our “washing” and our
However, we do find occasional passages which apply the word to the on-going process of tackling the sinful aspects of our lives.
“Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no-one will see the Lord” (Hebrews ch12 v14).
“As he who called you is holy, be holy yourself in all your conduct” (1 Peter ch1 v15)
“If anyone purifies himself from what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the
house” (2 Timothy ch2 v21).
This is about advancing the state of our daily life to “catch up with” our sanctified state in the eyes of God.
But these two aspects of sanctification are reconciled by the teaching that God himself is also responsible for completing the on-going process;
“Now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification… But now you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the
return you get is sanctification, and its end, eternal life” (Romans ch6 vv19- 22).
Hence Paul’s closing prayer to the Thessalonians; “May the God of peace sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept
sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians ch5 v23).
Enough ambiguity remains to cause confusion, because traditional theology has chosen to adopt “sanctification” as a label for the on-going process
alone, discussing the completed event under the heading “justification” .This has the side-effect of enhancing the importance of the on-going
However, this convention is not really in line with the usage found in the New Testament.
When Paul combines together those three claims, namely “washed”, “justified”, and “sanctified”, that indicates at the very least that they
were all made complete at the same time.
But it also implies that these are three different ways of saying the same thing.
Namely that, in the eyes of God, our state of sin is no longer held against us.
In the absence of the old barrier of sin, we have entered into a new relationship with God.