The ultimate end of God’s redemption plan for mankind is total deliverance from the power of sin, from the penalty of sin, and from the presence of sin. Jesus Christ did not offer Himself as the atoning sacrifice on the cross merely for our sins to be forgiven, or for us to escape the penalty of sin, but also for us to be eternally set apart from the presence of sin.
The Scripture clearly reveals that sanctification is God’s will for all His children. God wants you to be set apart from sin unto Himself. The Scripture states: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality.” (1 Thess. 4:3 NKJV). “For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification.” (1 Thess. 4:7 ASV).
Sanctification is both a spiritual state and process. It is an act of grace by which a person justified by faith in the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ is separated from sin and the world unto God.
Simply put, sanctification is a state of holiness or separation unto God. By faith in Christ, the born-again believers have not only been forgiven or justified, but we have also been sanctified or made holy unto God in Christ Jesus.
In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul refers to the believers as “those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” (1 Cor. 1:1-2 NKJV).
He further states that the believers “were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:11 NKJV).
However, sanctification is not just a spiritual state of holiness or separation unto God, it is also the process of conforming increasingly to the image or likeness of Christ, or growing steadily in all things into Christ (Rom. 8:29, Eph. 4:13).
The Scripture clearly reveals that it is God’s ultimate desire, expectation and purpose for every believer to grow up “to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:13 NKJV). That is, to “grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.” (Eph. 4:15 NKJV).
The Scripture further states: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom. 8:29 NKJV).
It is the Holy Spirit who purifies, sanctifies, changes or transforms the believers who yield and submit to His dealings progressively or increasingly to the likeness of Christ, using primarily the truth of God’s Word, the word or teaching of Christ (Rom. 15:16).
Jesus said to His disciples: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3 NKJV). You are purified, washed, cleansed or sanctified by the Holy Spirit as you continually imbibe, meditate upon, and obey the truth, the word or teaching of Jesus Christ.
Jesus also prays for His disciples, saying, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” (John 17:17-19 NKJV).
Sanctification has three major aspects or facets: positional or instantaneous sanctification, progressive or practical sanctification, and ultimate sanctification or glorification.
Positional or Instantaneous Sanctification is the state of separation from sin and its defilement, and from the world and its corruption, unto God. The new creation in Christ is sanctified, made holy, or set apart from sin and the world unto God instantly at the point of spiritual regeneration or new birth.
When a sinner puts his faith in the person of Jesus Christ and His perfect atoning sacrifice on the cross, confessing Christ Jesus as his personal Lord and Saviour; he is instantly forgiven, washed, justified, sanctified, made holy or set apart from sin unto God (Acts 20:32, 26:18).
The Scripture clearly states that the born-again believers “have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb. 10:10 NKJV).
In his letter, Jude refers to the believers as “those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:1 NKJV).
In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul also refers to the believers as “those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” (1 Cor. 1:1-2 NKJV).
Sadly, many born again believers today are still totally ignorant of the truth of their positional sanctification at the instance of the new birth. This is the primary cause of the constant failure and frustration being experienced by many believers today who are striving hard but in vain to be holy by their personal effort, performance, or good works.
It is not only difficult but absolutely impossible to walk in holiness if you don’t first acknowledge, admit, recognize, believe, receive and walk in the truth, revelation knowledge or spiritual understanding that by faith in Christ you have been forgiven, justified and sanctified or made holy unto God.
You are born again as a new and holy creation in Christ, set apart from sin unto God. This is apart from your personal effort, performance or good works. It is purely an act of grace, it is God’s gift; no human work or effort is required. You are to simply receive it by faith (1 Pet. 2:9, 1 Cor. 1:2, 6:9, Acts 26:18).
It is only those who have been sanctified, made holy or set apart unto God by faith in Christ who can actually live a holy life or walk in holiness. Similarly, it is only the believers who acknowledge, admit, understand or believe that they have been sanctified or made holy unto God who can actually live a holy life or walk in holiness. This is a pivotal truth!
Living a holy life becomes easy when you quit striving to be holy in your own wisdom and strength, but simply acknowledge, admit, believe and receive the truth of your sanctification or holiness by faith alone in the person and the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
As a new creation in Christ, your spiritual state of being, status or condition has totally and eternally changed. You are no longer a wretched sinner but a gracious saint. You are no longer your old self but a new self in Christ. You are no longer an unrighteous person but the righteousness of God in Christ.
The Scripture states: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21 NKJV).
“And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight– if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (Col. 1:21-23 NKJV).
If you are truly born again by faith alone in the person and finished work of Jesus on the cross, God no longer see, regard or deal with you as a poor, wretched or depraved sinner, but as one who is holy, blameless and above reproach in His sight.
God sees, regards and deals with the born-again believers as a special people redeemed by His grace, justified by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit. This is how you also should begin to see, regard and deal with yourself. This is the basic secret of walking in holiness!
The Scripture refers to the believers as “those who have been made holy in Christ Jesus, saints by the selection of God, with all those who in every place give honour to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” (1 Cor. 1:2 BBE).
It is the devil who still wants you to continue to see yourself in your former sinful and depraved condition. This is the only way he can keep you in bondage of sin. If you continue to see yourself as a sinner, as an unrighteous or unholy person, you will continue to think, speak, live or act as one.
At the new birth, the Holy Spirit has plucked you out of Adam, the sinful and depraved stock, and washed you in the blood of Jesus and then engrafted you into Christ, the holy and righteous stock.
As a branch in Christ you have been justified, washed, sanctified, made holy and set apart from sin unto God; “because as He is, so are we in this world.” and “if the root is holy, so are the branches.” (1 John 4:17, Rom. 11:16 NKJV). This is positional or instantaneous sanctification! It is yours by your union with Christ and it happens instantly at the new birth by the operation of the Holy Spirit.
However, although it is absolutely true that as a born-again believer you have been justified, washed, sanctified or set apart from sin and the world unto God, yet the process of growing up in all things into Christ or becoming fully conformed to the likeness of Christ in your thinking, character, attitude or conduct is far from being completed.
This is why the Scripture states that the saints are still being sanctified. “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14 NKJV).
“For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” (Heb. 2:11 NKJV).
Sanctification is not just a state of holiness or separation unto God; it is also a day by day process of becoming increasingly conformed to Christ in our mind, thoughts, speech, desires, emotions, actions, conduct or character. It is the process of growing in all things into Christ. It is growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29, Eph. 4:15, 2 Pet. 3:18).
The believers are presently perfectly like Christ in their born-again spirits, but not yet in their souls (will, mind and emotions) and bodies. While your spirit has fully experienced the redemption that Christ purchase for you with His precious blood, your soul and your body are still in the process of experiencing this full redemption. They will be fully redeemed at the second coming of Christ. This is why the Bible often speaks of our redemption in a future tense.
The Scripture states: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30 NKJV).
“Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:9 KJV).
“For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” (Rom. 8:22-23 NKJV).
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3 NKJV).
While a newborn baby is perfectly loved and acceptable to his parents, yet his parents’ pleasure or joy is to see him grow up and develop healthily and steadily into a responsible adult.
Similarly, while it is absolutely true that you are perfectly loved and acceptable to God in Christ when you are born again into God’s family, yet God takes delight in seeing you grow up healthily and steadily “to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:13 NKJV).
The day by day process of your sanctifying, purifying, developing, maturing or growing up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ is called “Progressive or Practical Sanctification.”
While the Scripture confirms our instantaneous sanctification, it also speaks about our progressive or continuous sanctification.
The Scripture states: “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” (Hebrews 2:11 NKJV)
“By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Heb. 10:10-14 NKJV).
While your developing, growing up, or increasing in likeness to Christ is also an act of grace done by the Holy Spirit, it however cannot be successfully achieved in your life without your constant and continuous participation, cooperation with, or submission to the Holy Spirit.
Your progressive sanctification or growing in all aspects into Christ is not entirely the business or work of the Holy Spirit; you have a great and definite role to play. If you constantly fail to play your role, you will also hinder the Holy Spirit from playing His role.
Being justified, washed and sanctified or made holy in Christ at the new birth (that is, positional sanctification) is simply a starting point or a precursor for a life-long walk of holiness (that is, progressive sanctification).
What is your primary role in progressive sanctification? The renewing of your mind! How do you achieve this? In the process of growing up in all things into Christ, you need to renew your mind constantly by constantly imbibing, meditating upon, and acting upon the teaching or words of Christ.
The Scripture admonishes: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:2 RSV).
It is as you constantly and continually expose your mind to the truth, the word of Christ, receive with meekness and faith His word or teaching, meditate upon His word, internalize the truths in His word, and act upon or obey His word that the Holy Spirit will transform you increasingly into the likeness of Christ, from glory to glory.
The Scripture testifies: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18 NKJV).
The Holy Spirit primarily cleanses or sanctifies the believers with the washing of the water by the word of Christ (Eph. 5:26). He employs the truth you know from God’s Word to sanctify or transform you increasingly into Christlikeness. Jesus prays: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17 NKJV).
Therefore, when you are slothful or lazy in spending quality time daily or regularly to read, listen to, study, imbibe and meditate upon God’s Word, you are actually forestalling or preventing the Holy Spirit from sanctifying, changing or transforming you progressively or increasingly into Christlikeness.
There is no saint living or dead who has experienced the ultimate sanctification or the glorification of the saints. This will only take place at the second coming of Christ when your corruptible, weak, vile or lowly body is changed and transformed in a moment to be conformed to the resurrected and glorious body of Jesus Christ. This is the Ultimate Sanctification. This is what all the saints both living and dead are still waiting for.
This is why Apostle Paul writes: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Philip. 3:20-21 NKJV).
“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven.” (2 Cor. 5:1-2 NKJV).
The ultimate sanctification is the complete sanctification of the believer – spirit, soul and body. Paul prays: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess. 5:23 NKJV).
The ultimate sanctification or glorification of the believers is the full redemption of the believer – spirit, soul and body. At the moment, only the believer’s born-again spirit has experienced full redemption. That is why Paul refers to our glorification as the redemption of our body.
He said: “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” (Rom. 8:23 NKJV).
Peter also describes it as the end of our faith – the salvation of our souls. He states: “…Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith–the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:8-9 NKJV).
Moreover, the ultimate sanctification refers to the believers’ complete transformation into the image of Christ at His full revelation, at His second coming.
The Scripture states: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2 NKJV). “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Col. 3:4 NKJV). Hallelujah!
Beloved, at the new birth, you were changed and transformed into the image of Christ in your spirit (Positional sanctification). Afterwards, as you continue to behold the truth, the image of Christ in the mirror of God’s Word, you are being changed or transformed increasingly into the image of Christ in your soul – mind, will and emotions (Progressive sanctification).
Ultimately, you will be completely transformed into the image of Christ in your soul and body at the second coming of Christ (Ultimate sanctification or glorification).
While in this fallen world, the believers are only spiritually united or joined with Christ. Paul testifies that “while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:6 NKJV). But at His second coming, we shall be physically and eternally united with Christ.
The Scripture states: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:16-17 NKJV). This is the glorification of the saints, our ultimate sanctification!
While in this sinful and polluted world, your born-again spirit has been set apart from sin and the world and its pollution, but not your soul and your body. But at the coming of Christ, if you are still alive, you will be changed in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet to be joined together with the Lord (1 Cor. 15:51-52).
But if you are no longer physically alive, don’t worry, you will be the first to rise and be joined together with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:15-17). By this means, the believers will be physically and eternally separated from sins and sinners, and from the world and all its injustice, corruption or pollution unto God. This is the ultimate sanctification! Praise God!
Friend, while you are waiting for the ultimate sanctification or glorification what should you do? The Scripture admonishes you to purify yourself. “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:3 NKJV).
The Scripture also commands: “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” (Col. 3:5 NLT).
Moreover, the Scripture exhorts you to eagerly wait for Christ. “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (Heb. 9:28 NKJV).
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Philip. 3:20-21 NKJV).