The universal meaning of sanctification is the state of proper functioning. To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer. For example, a pen is sanctified when used to write, and eyeglasses are sanctified when used to improve sight. In the theological sense, things are sanctified when they are used for the purpose God intends. Therefore, human beings are sanctified when they live according to God’s design and purpose.
The Greek word translated sanctification, hagiasmos, means holiness. To sanctify, therefore, means “to make holy.” In one sense, only God is holy. He is separate, distinct, and no human being or thing shares the holiness of God’s essential nature. There is one God. Still, Scripture speaks about holy things.
Moreover, God calls human beings holy, as sacred as righteous. Another word for a holy person is saint, meaning a sanctified one. The opposite of sanctified is profane.
Who was sanctified in the Bible?
Sanctified people are born again and therefore part of God’s family, detailed in Hebrews 2:11. They are reserved for God’s use. They know the sanctifying work of the Spirit in their lives, abstain from sexual immorality, and understand they have been “called to be his holy people. To be sanctified means that God has been at work in our lives. Under the Old Testament Law, the blood of a sacrifice was required to set things apart from God.
Hebrews 9:22 says the law required nearly everything be cleansed with blood. Individuals would sprinkle blood on tabernacle furniture, priestly clothing, and people. Nothing was sanctified until it had come in contact with the blood. This practice was a picture of the spiritual application of Christ’s blood for our salvation; 1 Peter 1:2 says that we are sprinkled with his blood. Just as the old temple was sanctified for God’s use, our bodies, temples of the Holy Spirit, are set apart for God’s holy purposes.
Human beings ultimately cannot sanctify themselves. The Triune God sanctifies them. The Father sanctified by the Spirit and in the name of Christ. Yet Christian faith is not merely passive. Paul calls for active trust and obedience when he says, “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God in 2 Corinthians 7:1. No one may presume on God’s grace in sanctification. Peter reminds believers to be diligent in making their calling and election sure in 2 Peter 1:10.
Sanctification in the Bible.
Jesus had a lot to say about sanctification in John 17. In verse 16, the Lord says, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” In verse 17, He requests to sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” In Christian theology, sanctification is a state of separation unto God. All believers enter into this state when they are born of God. 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, “You are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” The sanctification mentioned in this verse is a once-for-ever separation of believers unto God. It is a work God performs, an intricate part of our salvation and our connection with Christ. Theologians sometimes refer to this state of holiness before God as positional sanctification; it is the same as justification.
While we are set free from every sin by the blood of Christ, detailed in Acts 13:39, we know that we still sin. That’s why the Bible also refers to sanctification as a practical experience of our separation unto God. Progressive or experiential sanctification, as it is sometimes called, is the effect of obedience to the Word of God in one’s life. It is the same as growing in the Lord or spiritual maturity. God started the work of making us like Christ, and He is continuing it. This type of sanctification is to be pursued by the believer earnestly and is affected by applying the Word.
Progressive sanctification has in view the setting apart of believers for their purpose into the world. John 17:18-19 says, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them, I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” That Jesus set Himself apart for God’s purpose is both the basis and the condition of our being set apart. We are sanctified and sent because Jesus was. Our Lord’s sanctification is the pattern of power for our own. The sending and the sanctifying are inseparable. On this account, we are called saints, hagioi in the Greek, or sanctified ones. Before salvation, our behavior bore witness to our standing in the world in separation from God. Still, our conduct should witness our place before God in separation from the world. Little by little, every day, those who are being sanctified are becoming more like Christ.
To summarize, sanctification is a translation of the Greek word hagiasmos, meaning holiness or separation. In the past, God granted us justification, once-for-all, positional righteousness in Christ. Now, God guides us to maturity, practical, progressive holiness. God will give us glorification, a permanent, ultimate purity in the future. These three phases of sanctification separate the believer from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and the presence of sin. Sanctification means that we are separated from others through our relationship with Christ. When we chose to claim the Lord as our Savior, He picked us up from our old lives and placed us into our new lives, filled with grace, glory, and all other benefits of following Christ.
To be sanctified means that God’s Word has affected us. It is through the word that God cleanses us and makes us holy. God invites us sinners to come to Him just as we are and receive His mercy and forgiveness. When we are saved, the Holy Spirit begins His marvelous work of transforming us into the image and likeness of Christ. To be sanctified means that God loves us too much to let us stay the same.
The apostle’s prayer is for all believers, everywhere. It says, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”