Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Of Sanctification

Sanctification, sanctify, sanctity, saint, sacred are from a Latin root. Holy and holiness are from a Germanic root. But both word groups are used for the same Greek words: ἁγιασμός (holiness, sanctification), ἁγιάζω (make holy, regard as holy, sanctify), ἅγιος (holy, saint).

Sanctification is God’s work in which he transforms a person, making that person holy, conforming him to God's image. The Westminster Confession of Faith explains this doctrine here in its 13th chapter. Here is my paraphrase and brief explanation of that chapter, based on the lesson I gave last Sunday. 

Sanctification begins when God effectually calls a person to Christ. When that happens, the person becomes a new creation, is given a new heart and spirit, and the dominion of sin is destroyed (Romans 6:6, 14; Ezekiel 36:26). 

Sanctification is then progressive throughout the Christian's life (Col. 3:9-10). It is not done all at once. A person is further sanctified more and more. Sinful passions and desires are more and more weakened and mortified (Rom. 8:13, Gal. 5:16, 24). Believers are more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces (e.g. faith, repentance, the fruit of the Spirit) to the practice of true holiness (Ezek. 36:27, Col. 1:9-11). 

Sanctification is necessary, for without this holiness no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14, Matt. 5:8). 

Sanctification is the work of God's free grace, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his word and Spirit dwelling in the believer (Rom. 6:4-6, Ezek. 36:27). 

Sanctification is comprehensive, reaching to every aspect and faculty of man. At the same time, it is imperfect in this life and there are remnants of corruption that remain in every part of the believer. From this remaining corruption arises a “continual and irreconcilable war” of contrary desires. “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.” (Galatians 5:17) 

Sin may prevail in this struggle for a time (Rom. 7:23), but the supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ is continual (1 John 3:9). From that supply, the believer gets the victory over sin and so grows in grace, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God (1 John 5:4, 2 Cor. 3:18, 1 Cor. 7:1). 

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