Sanctification (Position Paper for Alliance Distinctives, Crown College – MN, 2015)

01/29/2016 § Leave a comment

photo courtesy of yahwehistruth.com

photo courtesy of yahwehistruth.com

 

I.  Introduction

Every person who has ever lived has a past, a present and a future.  In much the same way, the new life of a believer who trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior recognizes life in the same way (Ephesians 2:1-7):

There is the believer’s life before the acceptance of Christ as Savior:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient.  We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also (Ephesians 2:1-3 HCSB).

There is today’s life in Christ:

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

There is a future and a hope supported through the faith and trust in God’s promises for the future.  It is salvation through Jesus Christ that drives the believer to move beyond his past and learn more about Jesus Christ is in the present and the future:

“More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.  Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8-14).

“Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6-7).

Our past, present and future is now grafted into a relationship with Jesus Christ (John 15:1-8, 1 Peter 1:3), and life in Christ came from being born again (John 3:3-8) and becoming a “new” person (2 Corinthians 5:17).  The development of this newness in Christ commences with the ongoing development of a relationship with Jesus Christ, who is now more than just Savior.  He now becomes Christ, the Sanctifier.  The present, for the believer, must now allow for the Holy Spirit to be the catalyst for sanctification, in order to be best prepared for the future, which includes living in effective service for Jesus Christ in proclaiming the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

 

II.  Defining Sanctification

Sanctification is the process where a believer recognizes and allows the Holy Spirit, who dwells within the believer the moment he acknowledges Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, to work effectively within all aspects of the life of the believer.  This process requires a whole-hearted effort of reliance upon the wisdom and knowledge of the Holy Spirit imparted to the believer.  In this reliance, there is a progressive growth that takes place over time that helps the believer to make effective change.  This process leads to what Paul refers to as spiritual maturity:

“…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (Ephesians 4:13).

This maturity comes from learning more about Jesus Christ, which comes from a healthy relational development between Christ and the believer–His sanctification of the believer.

Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the Sanctifier when He prayed over His disciples in John 17:

“Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth” (John 17:17-19).

The word “sanctification” comes from the Greek word hagiasmos meaning “holiness” or “separation” (Houdmann, n.d.) and to be “set apart for special use.”  A. B. Simpson noted the following about being set apart:

“Sanctification means dedication. It is not only to separate from but to separate to.  The radical idea of the word is, set apart to be the property of another. And so the complement of this act which we have already partly described is this positive side in which we offer ourselves to God for His absolute ownership, that He may possess us as His peculiar property, prepare us for His purpose and work out in us all His holy and perfect will” (Simpson, p. 5-6, n.d.).

The sanctification process makes the believer more distinct in words and actions as he lives for Jesus Christ, and it gives him the ability to be a light for Jesus Christ in a dark world:

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light—for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth—discerning what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-10).

 

III.  The Relationship between Justification and Sanctification

Justification is the work of God through Jesus Christ that removes the penalty of sin from believers, and Jesus Christ was the atonement for our sin when He paid the penalty.  In His actions, those who believe in Jesus Christ are declared righteous before God.

Sanctification is distinct from justification but equally as important in the life of the believer.  It involves the full participation of the believer to allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to be a partner in the growth process.

Justification by faith comes from believing in Jesus Christ as necessary for salvation.  This is first referenced in Scripture with Abram (Abraham) in Genesis 15:

“Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

Paul, in the New Testament, referred to Abraham’s faith in God as the most important aspect of one’s righteousness before God (Cole, 2013):

“Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, then understand that those who have faith are Abraham’s sons. Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you. So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith” (Galatians 3:6-9)

“A person is accepted by God apart from good works and solely on the basis of the righteousness of God credited to that person’s account through faith” (Cole, 2013).  Sanctification of a believer cannot occur without God’s justification, no matter what a person does to try to be good before Him.  Justification can only take place when the believer has faith in the One who atones for our sin.  Sanctification does not impact or alter God’s justification (Slick, 1995), but “we are justified that we might be sanctified. Sanctification is not a unique privilege for a few; it is the very purpose of our salvation” (Smith, 1992).

 

IV.  Positional Sanctification

When a person trusts in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he is referred to as a believer in Jesus Christ, and it is at the moment of the declaration that he becomes justified. “All Christians understand first the first reality: that Christ’s blood has atoned for their sins and they no longer need to fear eternal separation from God” (Soper, n.d.).  He has received from God a positional sanctification from the moment that the Holy Spirit indwells the believer.  This positional sanctification “is known and experienced in full through a definitive act wherein the believer, by faith, receives the gift of the Spirit” (Smith, 1992).  The new believer is indeed “a new creation in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

This positional sanctification is the separation of a believer in Jesus Christ to that of a non-believer in Christ, who is deemed as lost without this saving faith:

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God” (John 3:16-18).

Positional sanctification does not assure that a believer is in any way mature in their faith.  While the status of the believer remains that of one who is in Christ, there is room for growth and improvement.  Paul noted this level of immaturity to the believers in Corinth:

“Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, because you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready, because you are still fleshly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and living like unbelievers?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

This means that, at this stage of the development of a believer, that the only distinction between one who is saved and one who is lost is the justification of the believer through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is a distinction that allows the believer to be referred to as a child of God, forever justified through the blood of Jesus Christ (Stoll, 1996).

 

V.  Experiential Sanctification

Experiential sanctification moves beyond positional sanctification to where the believer now lives in such a way that conforms to how Jesus Christ would have him to live.  This is a life-progression of one’s faith in Christ.  As the believer recognizes the life that he has because of God’s grace through salvation and sees the importance of what God has done through this salvation, he is compelled to live it outwardly before others.  This starts with the work of the Holy Spirit with a transformation of the way the believer thinks about life and those around him:

“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

Experiential sanctification is the path to maturity by the means of spiritual growth within a greater intimacy with Jesus Christ.  A. B. Simpson noted:

“And so the same Christ is formed in each of us; is formed as a babe and grows, as He did

on earth, into maturity in our spiritual life, and we grow into a closer union with Him, and a more habitual and intimate dependence upon Him for all our life and actions” (Simpson, p. 80, 1890).

This spiritual growth is not without conflict.  The conflict comes from the believer’s perspective of living in a Christlike manner versus the world’s perspective of living.  This conflict involves everything outside of abiding in Christ up to and including spiritual warfare (Klubnik, n.d.).  Our maturity in faith requires ongoing prayer, preparation and endurance within the growth process by relying heavily upon the power of God through the Holy Spirit:

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist,

righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish

all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit,

which is God’s word. Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:11-18).

A lack of spiritual maturity that stunts the growth of the believer is mainly due to fearfulness of the enemy, Satan.  It comes in various forms–the worries of this life, a failure to read Scripture, or even the desire to be liked by people of the world.  The enemies of Christ are thieves who seek to rob the joy of the believer.  They keep many believers from realizing and recognizing the abundant life that Jesus Christ speaks of in John, Chapter 10:

“A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10).

 

VI.  The Connection between a ‘Crisis Moment’ and Experiential Sanctification

Among the definitions for the word ‘crisis’ are “the turning point for better or worse in an acute disease or fever” or “an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person’s life” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.).  A moment of crisis is a turning point for a person.  It brings about, almost in a forceful manner, a change that has a significant impact on a person and the people around him.  The process of experiential sanctification involves a moment of crisis or a group of crises in the life of a believer.  While they do not necessarily need to be dire, they are certainly impactful as to the believer’s approach to life, ministry and his developing faith and trust in Jesus Christ.  A. B. Simpson notes that these moments lead to spiritual maturity that produce a lessening on one’s own strength and  reliance on oneself and a greater dependency upon the power and strength of Jesus Christ, or as he noted, “the absolute all-sufficiency of God Himself” (Simpson, p. 65, 1890).

There are two ways to view a crisis with the relationship of a believer:  it can either drive a person away from Christ, which challenges the notion that the person was a believer in the first place (John 6:60-66), or it will drive a person into a deeper love, appreciation and understanding of Christ:

“We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

This deeper love of Jesus Christ transforms a believer, in his experiential sanctification, to an unwavering faithfulness and dedication to serve Him for the salvation of the lost, even in the midst of adversity.  Paul said it well:

“Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.  For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should” (Ephesians 6:18-20).

God has allowed these moments of crises to occur in the life of a Christian for the sole purpose of growth and progression, but He encourages the believer to not lose heart (Sullivan, n.d.) or give up:

“So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

 

VII.  The Role Progression Plays in Experiential Sanctification

Progression as a believer in Jesus Christ means that there has been growth in living a Christlike life.  This is a necessary component of experiential sanctification.  There must be evidence of this progression that comes from remaining steadfast and opposing those things that hamper such growth:

“Finally then, brothers, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus, that as you have received from us how you must walk and please God—as you are doing—do so even more.  For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, so that each of you knows how to control his own body in sanctification and honor, not with lustful desires, like the Gentiles who don’t know God.  This means one must not transgress against and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you.  For God has not called us to impurity but to sanctification.  Therefore, the person who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who also gives you His Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 3:1-8).

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25).

Progression of the believer includes the ongoing desire to be obedient to the Holy Spirit and allowance of the Spirit to provide self-control over any fleshly desires.  It is the ongoing saturation of God’s Word that gives the believer the power to resist temptation and abstain from sin:

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word. I have sought You with all my heart; don’t let me wander from Your commands. I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9-11).

 

VIII.  How a Believer is Simultaneously ‘Dead to Sin and Alive to God’

A believer has the power of the Holy Spirit through his relationship with Jesus Christ, but the flesh also remains with the believer, which also creates a significant dependence upon the power of the Spirit to resist temptation and sin.  As a person grows in sanctification, the temptations of Satan may diminish, but our earthly bodies will still commit sin:

“For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me” (Romans 7:15-20).

A. B. Simpson correctly noted that “temptation is not sin unless it be accompanied with the consent of your will” (Simpson, p. 37, 1890); however, it is entirely possible to resist temptation by using the proper discernment through the Holy Spirit and denouncing the temptation altogether. Simpson noted, “I will not sin; I reckon myself still dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ” (Simpson, p. 37, 1890).

God also is merciful because of the war that a believer experiences within the flesh because He is faithful in His promise that demonstrates being alive in Christ:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

 

IX.  Holiness and Why it Must Characterize God’s People

Holiness is the standard in which all of God’s people are measured.  It is only attainable because of God’s righteousness from the believer’s faith in Him.  Note the comments of A. B. Simpson and the importance of faith in achieving true holiness:

“And it is possible to any soul that will believe, no matter how unholy it has been, no matter how perverse it is; as mean perhaps and crooked as Jacob, as gross as David in his darkest sin, as self confident as Simon Peter, as willful and self-righteous as Paul–it may be and shall be made as spotless as the Son of God, as holy as the holiness of Jesus Himself, who comes to dwell within, if we will only believe and receive” (Simpson, p. 2, 1890).

Holiness depends upon faith in Jesus Christ but it also requires a serious approach and a humble attitude of obedience to His Word:

“Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 3:13-16).

God’s people are sanctified—set apart—for the purpose of drawing people near to Jesus Christ.  A believer cannot attract people to Christ if he is not striving for this holiness.  He must pass the standard of Christ as a person who is approved for the work in the Kingdom:

“Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, having this inscription: The Lord knows those who are His, and everyone who names the name of the Lord must turn away from unrighteousness. Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver bowls, but also those of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. So if anyone purifies himself from anything dishonorable, he will be a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (1 Peter 1:13-16).

 

X.  How I Will Lead the People I Serve into a ‘Sanctified’ Life

God led me, within a very short time after I accepted Jesus as my Lord and personal Savior, to positions of leadership within churches in the greater Cleveland area; specifically in areas of teaching Sunday school.  I had not asked Him for such a role, but after prayerful consideration, I started out teaching the teens, and then moved up to an adult class within a year.  I’m confident that God gave me such a role because He wanted to make sure that I was focused on studying His Word, which ultimately led to my studying Him more and more. I was compelled to study and grow in His Word with every new assignment:

“Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do” (Joshua 1:7-8).

It has been more than twenty-five years since I was first asked to teach Sunday school.  I am still teaching it today, and it is nothing less than an honor and a privilege to do so.  In preparation for teaching, I have learned to share with my classmates more about sanctification as I have been exposed more and more to Scripture and A. B. Simpson’s teachings.  It is clear to me that my role, as God has shown me, is to bolster up the believers in class by encouraging them to seek a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, which will guide them into living a sanctified life:

“You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13).

My class material has focused heavily on deepening this relationship with the daily reading of Scripture through a two-year bible reading plan and the development of one’s personal image in Jesus Christ.  Following the biblical reference of Genesis 1:27 (So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.), I developed the acronym IMAGE to describe key elements as to how a person develops an intimate, healthy relationship with Jesus Christ:

I – Investigate.  A person does not just read the bible, but investigates the contextual meaning and relevance of the Scripture in the life of the believer (Hebrews 4:12-13; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Romans 10:17).

M – Meditate.  In order to hear how the Spirit is speaking to the believer, there needs to be a regular practice of meditation of the Scripture through consistent (and constant) prayer.  It is time well spent in developing this close relationship that sanctifies the believer (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; Philippians 4:8).

A – Act (Application).  The believer is now called to live out what he has learned in these daily readings and prayer time.  In order to be a light in the world, people need to see the fruits of the Spirit in one’s daily actions.  God will provide you with many opportunities to make a testimony of Christ before others (Psalm 37:23; 2 Timothy 2:15).

G – Grow.  This daily practice of bible reading, prayer and meditation and living for Christ is a recipe for growth within your Christlike existence.  This growth is the progression of a believer in his desire for intimacy with Christ, and Christ sanctifies the believer more and more within this process.  There is a greater desire, in this growth, to want to sin less and live more for Christ (Ephesians 4:15-16; Colossians 1:9-12; Philippians 4:13).

E – Endure.  Living a Christlike life will always have its share of challenges, including outright opposition.  Jesus calls for us to live for Him and be prepared to face any adversity because He will keep us through the entire process.  He simply calls for the believer to stand in Him and His promises.  These are all within the process of his sanctification of the believer (Galatians 6:9-10; Ephesians 6:16-19; Matthew 10:16-22; Colossians 1:11-12).

I have given emphasis to this personal development in Sunday school class and in a number of seminars that I have hosted over the past few years, and I have posted these teachings online through our church website.  I am grateful for God’s vision as to how to not only proclaim the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but to also provide strength and encouragement to believers in Christ, for these are the people that ultimately must stand and make a declaration of the saving power of Christ in a lost world.

 

XI.  The relationships between sanctification and Christian service

The process of the sanctification gives the believer the desire to serve Jesus Christ.  While sanctification is a process that moves the believer away from fulfilling his own desires or conforming to the world, it also gives the believer the impetus to live in a Christlike manner, remain obedient to Christ and also reach people who are lost by taking part in His Great Commission.

A. B. Simpson described one of the effects of sanctification:

“Sanctification means dedication. It is not only to separate from but to separate to. The radical idea of the word is, set apart to be the property of another. And so the  complement of this act which we have already partly described is this positive side in which we offer ourselves to God for His absolute ownership, that He may possess us as His peculiar property, prepare us for His purpose and work out in us all His holy and perfect will” (Simpson, p. 5-6, n.d.).

As a believer is sanctified and presents himself before others as sanctified, there is an ongoing preparation to get to work for Him in order to carry out His will:

“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

This spiritual worship is whatever God would have the believer to do in whatever place or position the believer is in.  He desires to be obedient to God by living according to His will and purpose before others.  The sanctified believer is empowered by the Holy Spirit to perform this reasonable service, and its purpose is to glorify God before others:

“Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—-to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

 

XII.  “The Indwelling Christ’ and the Implications for Those Professing Faith in Christ

Once the believer in Jesus Christ accepts Him as a personal Savior, the person is sealed with the presence of the Holy Spirit:

“When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

The Holy Spirit indwells the believer and gives him the power to live, through ongoing progression with sanctification, a life that resonates that love and belief in Jesus Christ.  The proclamation of faith is the release of the joy within the believer because of Christ’s presence in his life.  A. B. Simpson noted about this joy:

“This is the deepest secret of spiritual joy; it is the indwelling Christ Himself rejoicing in the heart as He rejoiced on earth even in the darkest hour of His life, and as now, in heaven, He realizes the fulfillment of His own Messianic words in the sixteenth psalm: ‘Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope. For Thou wilt not leave my soul among the dead, nor suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence there is fullness of joy, and at Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.’ In the fullness of joy He is reigning now, and its tides are swelling and rising to the same level in every heart in which He dwells” (Simpson, p. 21, 1890).

God desires for the sanctified believer to be filled with joy and rejoice in his love and faith in Christ before others.  Because He loves us, He wants the believer to share the love of Christ to others in professing faith in Him:

“As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father. You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. This is what I command you: Love one another” (John 15:9-17).

 

XIII.  The Scriptural Evidence of a Sanctified Life

A believer who is sanctified and is growing in sanctification will reflect this growth openly and outwardly to everyone that he comes into contact with.  M. DeWayne Anderson noted, “If there is sanctification in the believer, then there must be evidence of that sanctification. Sanctification is made nothing if there is no evidence.  The definitive evidence of Christ’s great power is being demonstrated by His presence and work in our lives” (Anderson, 2012).

Sanctification means a separation from the past life and a progression that reflects a change from where the believer was to where the believer is today, and that change is visible:

“Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

At the very least, a believer who is progressing in sanctification should be distinct from the life of a non-believer.  This is not about perfection, but it is about the demonstration of living a life of holiness and the production of spiritual fruit that originate from the Holy Spirit. The evidence of being set apart from the world will be in reflected in action, speech and conversation before others:

“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25).

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

 

XIV.  The Relationship between Sanctification and the Lordship of Christ

Upon Christ’s presence in the life of a believer, he is being set apart in the world through the three tenses of salvation:

I have been saved: Justification

I am being saved: Sanctification

I will be saved: Glorification (Soper, n.d.)

Michael Houdmann noted, “In the past, God granted us justification, a once-for-all, positional holiness in Christ. Now, God guides us to maturity, a practical, progressive holiness. In the future, God will give us glorification, a permanent, ultimate holiness. These three phases of sanctification separate the believer from the penalty of sin (justification), the power of sin (maturity), and the presence of sin (glorification)” (Houdmann, n.d.).

“But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God-given wisdom for us—our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, in order that, as it is written: The one who boasts must boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

The key to this relationship is that God, through Jesus Christ, imparts His wisdom to us that brings the believer to recognize that He is indeed Lord and Savior.  He is the Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 1:8, 22:13) that was there from the very beginning and will be in the future when He dwells with all believers.

The sanctification of the believer requires a life of humility in order to be effective led by the Holy Spirit.  A person who desires to live a Spirit-filled life must be adaptable to change in the process of sanctification.  It requires a surrender of one’s own understanding of life and an acceptance to Christ’s role as sanctifier, and to faithfully abide in Him through obedience to His Word (Soper, n.d.).  This desire to live a Spirit-filled life is because Jesus Christ is declared to be Lord and Savior.  It is a life of humility that Christ desires for us to imitate, and the believer willing does this because of who he serves:

“Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).

 

XV.  My Personal Experience of Sanctification: Its Effect and Implications on My Lifestyle and Ministry

I am thankful for Jesus Christ for saving me, and I am honored to serve Him in my role as a speaker, writer and instructor of His Word.  I don’t take it lightly; however, I know that my sanctification in my relationship with Jesus Christ is ongoing.

I know that he has changed me from where I was in my former life before accepting him. I am no longer lost due to the penalty of sin because of the grace of God through Jesus Christ, which provided me with immediate sanctification when I said “yes” to Him:

“But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification-—and the end is eternal life! For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23).

I know that He set me apart to do something, but it took me a little while to determine what that “something” was.  People that I came into contact with seemed to think that I was a pastor, and that came only from what people saw in me through the Holy Spirit.  This was happening well before I had even presented my first message in 2003 at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church.  I was just beginning to see the value of trusting in God enough to show me what my talents and spiritual gifts were.  I had to see, through my own progression in sanctification, that my talents were somewhat hidden until I became an adult, but the Holy Spirit brought forth my gift to write and to speak, and He has helped me to grow in this area over the past five years.  After hearing gifted speakers such as my pastor, Gus Brown, Charles Stanley, Franklin Graham, Alistair Begg and Ravi Zacharias through live appearances and podcasts, to name a few, I realized that I still had a lot to learn.  From this, I prayed over this and, after careful deliberation, I decided to go for my Master’s Degree at Crown College, and enrolled in 2013.

I wanted to learn more and remain teachable, for I had witnessed others who wanted to assume the position of pastor in different venues but were unwilling to put in the time or effort to make themselves more biblically sound.  I wanted to make sure that my desire to speak was not an ego-driven enterprise; instead, I wanted it to be a God-glorifying exercise of faith:

“Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14).

I also learned, through my sanctification process, that God gave me the gift of discernment, which has proved to be valuable in assessing persons who have aspired to join our church in our quest for a partner in ministry.  I was very disappointed by the number of people who see ministry as a status symbol and not as an opportunity and a privilege to teach the fellowship of believers and with the desire to reach the lost.

Our church is now undertaking a transition in that we do have a new assistant pastor-in-training on board, and he is relying heavily on both the pastor and myself to help him along.  He will be challenged to grow in the faith and to trust in Jesus Christ as I have.  As for me, my journey as I work (and sometimes wrestle) with Jesus Christ over what He would have me to do will reach another step in July 2016 upon graduation, and I am pondering my next steps of training.

The illness and eventual passing of my father-in-law and the ongoing illness of my mother has exposed me to latent feelings of helplessness in my life.  I have had to reckon with the futility of living life without Jesus Christ by praying for my father-in-law’s salvation, which finally took place about a week before he died.  The experience of the daily efforts to care for him and my mother were exhausting and yet exhilarating at the same time because of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, who provided rest in Him.  It gave me the opportunity to further deepen my relationship with Him, and He, in turn, taught me a great deal more about empathy and humility, a very important characteristic that a believer must possess in any ministerial leadership capacity.  To be clear, while these moments were emotional, I did not consider these to be Spirit-filling experiences.  This is an erroneous view of how the Spirit works (Soper, n.d.).  I had to go back to His Word and read it each day, for the ultimate joy came from fellowship with Jesus Christ through His Word speaking to me.

Jesus sanctifies me daily.  I trust in Him and His presence.  I will trust in Him, through good times and through difficulty, and my desire is to do all that I can, in my work, life and church ministry, to glorify God.

 

References

Holman Christian Standard Bible (2009). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

Houdmann, S. (n.d.) – Article – What is sanctification? What is the definition of Christian sanctification? gotquestions.org. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.gotquestions.org/sanctification.html

Simpson, A. (n.d.). Wholly Sanctified. New York, NY: Christian Alliance Publishing Co.

Riser, S. (2008). The Way We Were (Before Christ) – Weblog Article. The John Ankerberg Show. Chattanooga TN: Ankerberg Theological Research Institute. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from https://www.jashow.org/articles/guests-and-authors/dr-steven-c-riser/the-way-we-were-before-christ/

Cole, S. (2013). Lesson 31: Justification by Faith Alone (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:1-5). From the Genesis Series.  Bible.org. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-31-justification-faith-alone-genesis-156-romans-41-5

Slick, M. (1995). Article – Justification and Sanctification: What is the Difference? Nampa ID: The Christian and Apologetics Ministry. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from https://carm.org/questions/about-doctrine/justification-and-sanctification-what-difference

Smith, G. (1992). Article – Conversion and Sanctification in the Christian & Missionary Alliance.  Alberta, Canada: Ambrose University College.  Retrieved December 31, 2015 from https://online.ambrose.edu/alliancestudies/ahtreadings/ahtr_s103.html#*

Soper, J. (n.d.). Article – Sanctification. The Alliance. Colorado Springs, CO: The Christian and Missionary Alliance. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.cmalliance.org/about/beliefs/perspectives/sanctification

Stoll, J. (1996). Chapter 20 – The Threefold Elements of Sanctification. Biblical Principles for Christian Maturity. From Leadership University. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.leaderu.com/offices/stoll/maturity/chap20.html

Simpson, A. (1890). A Larger Christian Life. New York NY: Christian Alliance Publishing Co.

Klubnik, J. (n.d.). Article – The Sanctification of a Believer. BiblicalResources.org. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.biblicalresources.org/resources/christian-life/sanctification/

crisis. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, 11th ed. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/crisis

Sullivan, M. (n.d.). Essay – Five Views on Sanctification. xenos.org. Columbus, OH: Xenos Christian Fellowship. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from https://www.xenos.org/essays/five-views-sanctification#My view of sanctification

Anderson, M. (2012). Article – The Evidence Of Sanctification. Website – Dr. M. DeWayne Anderson Growing in the knowledge of the Lord. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.mdanba.com/2012/01/05/the-evidence-of-sanctification/

 

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