“For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14 NKJV)
It is absolutely impossible for anyone to be justified, pleasing, or acceptable to God on the basis of his self-righteousness, performance, or good works.
Paul clearly states this truth.
Romans 3:19-20 – NKJV
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
You can only be forgiven, justified, sanctified, and acceptable to God by faith in Christ Jesus and His finished work alone.
Romans 5:1-2 – NKJV
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (NKJV).
Therefore, the born-again believers need not to strive or struggle to be holy in their own wisdom, strength, or effort. Why?
For they have already been forgiven, justified, washed, sanctified or made holy instantly at the new birth!
This is purely an act of grace. It is God’s gift; no human work or effort is required. We are to simply receive it by faith (1 Cor. 6:11, Heb. 10:10). Praise God!
The primary reason why many born-again believers today are still struggling to walk in holiness is that they are setting the cart before the horse – they are striving to live a holy life to be justified, pleasing or acceptable to God.
It is an exercise in futility and frustration to seek to live a holy life without knowing, understanding, believing, and appropriating the truth that you are no longer your old corrupt self, but you are a new creation in Christ, that you are no longer a wretched sinner but a blessed saint in Christ, and that you are no longer an unrighteous person but the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:2, 2 Cor. 5:21).
By virtue of the new birth or spiritual regeneration, you have become spiritually engrafted into Christ, thereby becoming one spirit with Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:17 – NKJV
17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
As a result of your spiritual union with Christ, you now possess the same divine and holy nature that Christ has (2 Pet. 1:4).
Therefore, your regenerated or born-again spirit is now perfect, holy or 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 called “Positional or Instantaneous Sanctification.”
It requires no work or effort on your part other than for you to place your faith in Christ. It is purely an act of God’s grace to be received by faith in Christ Jesus alone.
However, while it is true that the born-again believers have already been justified, washed and sanctified or made holy in Christ (positional or instantaneous sanctification) at the new birth, yet we are still being sanctified (progressive or practical sanctification) by the Holy Spirit using the truths of God’s Word until we are completely sanctified at the second coming of Christ (ultimate sanctification or glorification).
Having examined the first facet of our sanctification (positional or instantaneous sanctification) in the first part of this piece, let us go further to examine the second facet (the progressive or practical sanctification) of our sanctification process.
What is progressive or practical sanctification?
Simply put, it 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 purchased for you with His precious blood, your soul and your body are still in the process of experiencing this redemption fully. They will be fully redeemed at the second coming of Christ.
Therefore, the Bible often speaks of our redemption in the future tense.
Romans 8:22-24 – NKJV
22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
23 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.
24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?
1 John 3:1-3 – NKJV
1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
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2 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.
3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
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 immediately you were 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 you 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 affirms our instantaneous sanctification, yet it also speaks about our progressive or continuous sanctification.
Hebrews 2:10-12 – NKJV
10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
11 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,
12 saying: “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”
Hebrews 10:14 – NKJV
14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
Though your day by day conforming increasingly to the likeness of Christ is an act of grace done by the Holy Spirit, yet it cannot be successfully achieved in your life without your active 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 also have a great and definite role to play. If you are constantly failing in playing your role, you will hinder the Holy Spirit from playing His role, too.
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!
In the process of growing up in all things into Christ, you need to renew your mind progressively by constantly imbibing, meditating in, internalizing, and acting upon the teaching of Christ.
You need to heed Paul’s admonition to the Christians at Rome.
Romans 12:1-2 – RSV
1 I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
2 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.
You will experience progressive transformation into the likeness of Christ in your character as you constantly expose your mind to, meditate in, internalize, and confess the truths of God’s Word about your new status, condition, position, and identity in Christ.
2 Corinthians 3:18 – NKJV
18 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.
Beloved, 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 truths you know from God’s Word to sanctify or transform you increasingly into Christ-likeness.
The Lord Jesus prays, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17 NKJV).
Therefore, if you are slothful or lazy in spending quality time daily or regularly to read, listen to, study, imbibe and meditate in God’s Word; you are actually forestalling or preventing the Holy Spirit from sanctifying, changing, or transforming you progressively or increasingly into Christ-likeness.
What about the last facet of our sanctification (the ultimate sanctification or glorification)?
Find out in the last piece on this series!
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to sanctify and transform me progressively and increasingly into Christ-likeness. I refuse to hinder or forestall the Holy Spirit from doing His work in my life. Help me Lord to play my definite role in my progressive sanctification, in Jesus’ name. Amen.