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Doctrines of Grace - Sanctification


"Sanctification is the work of God's free grace whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness." (Westminster Shorter Catechism)

"Sanctification is that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit by which the holy disposition imparted in regeneration is maintained and strengthened." A.H.Strong.

In justification the believer is declared by God to be righteous (see notes on justification); in sanctification the believer is actually made to be holy by God. We may say then that while justification has to do with our standing in the sight of God, sanctification has to do with our actual state.

Sanctification - Justification - Regeneration

These three vital elements of the great work of salvation are vitally related. We may view justification as the foundation of the Christian life, and sanctification as the superstructure. You cannot think of one without the other. Sanctification is the evidence of justification. To claim to justified without giving evidence of sanctification is a delusion.

We may say that regeneration is foundational to both the other two, in that there could be no justification without regeneration for faith (through which we are justified) is the action of the new heart given in regeneration. Likewise there could be no sanctification without regeneration because sanctification is but the strengthening and increasing of that holy principle imparted to the soul at regeneration. You cannot be sanctified (holy) in the Biblical sense therefore without being born again. You may well be moral or religious without regeneration but not holy.

The Author of Sanctification

God Himself                                           1 Thessalonians 5:23; John 17:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:13
In particular God the Holy Spirit           Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:18

The Standard of Sanctification

This may be expressed in a variety of ways:

God Himself                                                          Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15,16
The Lord Jesus Christ                                            Romans 8:29
The revealed will of God in scripture                    Romans 12:1,2

The fact that perfection cannot be attained in this life ought not to keep us from making perfection our constant aim.

The means of sanctification

1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ                            Acts 15:9
2. The Word of God                                               John 17:17; Acts 20:32
3. Prayer                                                                 Psalms 51:10; Jude v.20
4. Christian fellowship                                           Hebrews 10:24,25; Proverbs 13:20
5. Providential experiences                                    Psalms 119:67,71

The necessity of sanctification

1. Without it no man shall see the Lord                 Hebrews 12:14
2. By it we bring glory to God                               Matthew 5:16
3. By it we are a witness to others                         Philippians 2:12-16; Titus 3:8

The Christian's responsibility in sanctification

Though sanctification is a work of God, yet He involves the Christian in it. The Christian is not passive but active in this great work. Compare Philippians 2:12,13

He is to exercise discipline over himself               1 Corinthians 9:25-27
He is to put forth effort                                          2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 12:14
He is to fight                                                          1 Timothy 6:12
He is to run the race                                               Hebrews 12:1

We must recognize of course that our effort is not to be in the energy of the flesh, not in self-confidence, but in complete dependence on God - Romans 8;13; Philippians 4:13

Sanctification is incomplete in this life

Though it effects every part of out life - 1 Thessalonians 5:23 - yet it is not complete - Philippians 3:12-15; 1 John 1:7-9; 3:2,3

Sanctification is progressive in nature

Biblical figures of speech indicate this: e.g. development from babyhood to adulthood - Hebrews 5:12-14; 1 Peter 2:1,2; Ephesians 4:14,15Biblical exhortations indicate this: 2 Peter 3:18; 1:5-8The prayers of Paul for his converts indicate this: Colossians 1:9,11; Philippians 1:9-11.The general teaching of the New Testament indicates this: 2 Corinthians 7:1; 3:18; Romans 12:2

Some attempted substitutes for sanctification


Religious ritualism