“until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and
become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Eph 4:13
Sanctification has multiple meanings. “Sanctification means to make holy, to consecrate, to separate from the world, and to be set apart from sin so that we may have intimate fellowship with God and serve him gladly.”1 In the OT, sanctification is pictured primarily in two ways—ceremonial rituals that picture holiness and obedience to the moral law of God. In the NT, it is simply becoming Christ-like, a progression toward the goal of becoming like God and Christ.2 Where justification is a once for all action; sanctification has three states. First, initial sanctification (or positional sanctification), which is similar to justification, is done once at salvation and complete for the believer (1 Cor 6:11, 2 Th 2:13). Second, practical sanctification is the continuous process throughout the Christian’s entire lifetime where they choose to become like Christ.3 “A man is not considered holy because of the things he does not do. Virtue cannot be judged by the vices from which a person abstains. There must be a positive conformation to the Image of Christ.”4 (2 Th 2:13, 1 Th 5:23) Third and last, there is final sanctification. “Sinless perfection and being wholly sanctified await the Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.”5
We are focusing here on practical sanctification. “In both the NIV and NASB, ‘sanctify’ and ‘sanctification’ are translations of the same Greek words—hagiazo (‘to make holy’ or ‘to sanctify’)...Thus, the concepts of sanctification and holiness are related (sometimes identical)…”6 The OT focuses on sanctification as a setting aside of things as holy to the Lord, and the NT focuses on the believer setting aside himself as holy to the Lord. When things were set aside for the Lord, two things happened. First, these items were not to be used for ordinary purposes any more. Second, they were to be used in the manner prescribed for holy duties. In other words, their useful function changed from one thing to another. The same happens for us as Christians our lives and bodies are set aside now as holy and used for different purposes as described by the Lord. Here are some examples:
“Sanctification is here a matter of casting off evil practices (Rom 13:12), shunning immorality (1 Cor 6:18), putting off the old nature (Eph 4:22), putting away immoral conduct (Eph 4:25; Jas 1:21). Laying aside every weight of sin (Heb 12:1)…In more intense imagery this becomes a putting to death of sin (Rom 8:13, Col 3:12, 14) or crucifying of it (Gal 5:24)….Also present is the imagery of not being conformed to a sinful lifestyle (Rom 12:1; 1 Pet 1:14).
“The positive counterpart to putting off evil is putting on the good (Rom 13:12, 14; Eph 4:24; Col 3:12, 14). The sanctified life is something one builds on the foundation provided by Christ (1 Cor 3:10-15). Again, sanctification involves supplementing faith with virtue (2 Pet 1:5). Sanctification involves producing something that was not present before—a concept implicit in pictures of sanctified conduct as fruit that is produced by a renewed nature (Gal 5:22-23; Phil 1:11)…Sanctification thus becomes a matter of maturing into adulthood and being no longer a child (Eph 4:13-14), of growing up (Eph 4:15), of growing in grace (2 Pet 3:18)…Because sanctification is contrary to the fallen state into which people are born and become acclimated, and because it is a process, the imagery of being transformed and renewed is used (Rom 12:2; Eph 4:23). If we ask what such a transformed life actually looks like, we can do no better than to look at the passages know as paraenesis (exhortation)—commands in the form of lists of virtues to practice and vices to avoid (Rom 12:9-12; Eph 4:25-32; Phil 4:4-9; Col 3:12-17; 1 Thes 5:12-20; Heb 13:1-5).”7
Simply put, God wants us to be just like Jesus to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13), “to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:22-24), and to “Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children and live a life of love” (Eph 5:1-2).
Father, help us, as you helped Jesus, to do only what we see you doing. Help us to quit using our lives and bodies for sin and to use them instead for holiness. Help us to imitate you and to become mature in character so that we might have intimate fellowship with you and a servant’s heart which is overjoyed to serve at your beckoning. To You be the glory! Amen!
1 Stampss, Donald C., and John Wesley Adams. "Sanctificaiton." Life in the Spirit Study Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003. 1988-1989. Print.
2 Ryken, Leland, Jim Wilhoit, Tremper Longman, Colin Duriez, Douglas Penney, and Daniel G. Reid. "Sanctification." Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998. 758-759. Print.
3 Duffield, Guy P., and N. M. Van Cleave. Foundations of Pentecostal Theology. Los Angeles: L.I.F.E. Bible College, 1983. 238-39. Print.
4 Duffield, 239.
5 Duffield, 242.
6 Richards, Larry. "Sanctify/Sanctification." Expository Dictionary of Bible Words. Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1985. 542. Print.
All Scriptures not otherwise specified are quoted from Life in the Spirit Study Bible (NIV). Stamps, Donald C., and John Wesley Adams. Life in the Spirit Study Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003. Print.