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Thursday, January 05, 2012

A Primer on Sanctification

At different times in Church History, issues of justification and sanctification have led to great errors. Sometimes the attempts to correct these errors have resulted in other errors. What follows is a Biblical perspective on eight aspects of sanctification that deserve to be included in any discussion of the topic. They range from the forensic, instantaneous aspect of sanctification, which takes place right alongside justification, to the oft-mentioned progressive aspect - and several associated aspects which are often overlooked or underplayed. Of course, much more could be said, but it is our earnest prayer that this little primer will help saints to advance in the cross-centered life of holiness.
Sanctification is . . .
We belong to God. This is the "definitive" or "positional" sanctification that accompanies justification. God now calls us holy, saints, His own redeemed people. We become His special possession - immediately, instantaneously, and irrevocably. It is a legal and forensic holiness - entailing a change of status rather than a change of state or behavior. Because we are in Christ, God now looks upon us and treats us as those clothed in Jesus' own perfect holiness.
Acts 26:18 so 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.'
Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
I Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ ...
I Corinthians 1:30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption ... 
I Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 
Hebrews 10:10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Christ has the right of way. We must surrender to Him and yield to the Holy Spirit daily.
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Romans 6:11, 13 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. ... Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit
Galatians 5:16-17 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do
James 4:7-8 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
We are impressed by the splendors of Christ's holiness, and His image is increasingly impressed upon our hearts. We become more like Him in our thoughts and beliefs as our inner person is transformed.
Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Romans 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.  
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 
Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 
Philippians 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus ... 
Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Colossians 3:1-3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 
I John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 
We actively portray Christ's image through our words and deeds.

Philippians 1:27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ ...  
Philippians 3:10 ... that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death ...
I John 2:6 ... whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 
I John 4:17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
We fight against our natural, fleshly and sinful tendencies and say "no" to sin.
Romans 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.

Romans 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
I Thessalonians 4:3-5 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God ...

Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age ...

James 1:21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
We change over time as we replace sinful habits with godly practices, and we gradually become more holy in our thoughts, attitudes and actions.
Galatians 5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 
Colossians 3:9-10 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 
Heb. 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Sanctification takes us beyond the minimum "legal" requirements of obedience to a divine overflow of love and service. 
I Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 
II Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 
Philippians 1:9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more ... 
I Thessalonians 3:12 ... and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all ... 
I Thessalonians 4:1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 
I Thessalonians 4:9-10 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more ...
Our energies and wills are devoted to the mortification of sin and the vivification of Christian virtues. Through a struggle and fight of perseverance we overcome evil with good. We increasingly learn to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength, and we become hyper-conquerors through Him who loved us.
Romans 6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 
Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 
Romans 13:12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 
Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires
Colossians 3:5, 8 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. . . . But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 
I Thessalonians 5:8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.


  1. I like those categories, Derek; they're extremely helpful. I've never seen them before.

  2. Thanks Barry. This all started when I was at the NANC counseling conference and the speakers were discussing progressive sanctification (they did a wonderful job, btw). Suddenly the word "aggressive" popped into my head, along with some Scripture passages, and then the rest of the "-essives" followed a few days later. I thought, "That's a useful way to remember these concepts." But I'm sure as you read through Ryle's "Holiness" you found these same categories reflected in substance if not exact verbiage.

    One aspect not mentioned here is the fact that our sanctification is a cooperative work supported by other believers. We need one another in the body of Christ, both for friction and for encouragement, as God uses iron to sharpen iron!


  3. I think you could turn that into a short book! By the way, your comment that "We need one another in the body of Christ" tempts me to return to that conversation about needs we never finished. I wish I had time... :)

  4. Barry,

    Speaking of short books, I believe I wrote one on that subject. :) Feel free to take jabs at it whenever you have time. Maybe the next time we get together we can discuss it in depth.

    I suppose if we actually do end up disagreeing on a minor point it will prove we are not clones!


  5. Thank you for your diligent study, and great sharing of the depth of your knowledge!


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