Sanctification is “more than a counteraction, in which sin is merely restrained or repressed without being progressively destroyed. Sanctification is a real transformation, not just the appearance of one.” (Reformation Study Bible, “Sanctification: The Spirit and the Flesh”, p. 1650)
I have discovered that in at least one important way, I tend to look at the Christian’s Sanctification wrongly. Sanctification changes the inner man. It is not merely an outward work that makes a person look a little more Godly. Sanctification is transformation.
Sanctification can be a painful process because it involves the chipping away of recalcitrant sin. Sin that has hardened and become a part of who we are. Sin that we sometimes don’t even realize is there. Mercifully, our Heavenly Father often uses a light hand, the delicate touch of a craftsman’s tool. And just as mercifully, sometimes He uses a sledge hammer.
But whether God’s Hand is light or heavy, there is always some pain involved in the process. After all, Sanctification is the putting to death of the flesh, one agonizing inch at a time. It is the means by which the Gospel gets worked into a Christian’s heart, becoming the woof and warp of the inner man. God often uses trying circumstances to draw our sin to the surface. It is a hot fire that brings forth impurity and the Christian may see his reflection in the very dross itself. This truth drives him to his knees for forgiveness and help. The believer’s Sanctification results in something beautiful. A vessel of honor used of God.
Because of the Gospel, we are given the great opportunity to “present” ourselves “as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (see Romans 6:19-23). Without the Gospel, this transformation would be impossible, and we would remain “slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness” and finally to death. But, thanks to the Gospel we are released from this vicious circle of sin begetting more sin. We are set free (an interesting irony here) to become slaves to God, and the fruit of this transaction leads to Sanctification and its final outcome – eternal life.
Our Sanctification is a by-product of regeneration, not the cause of it. It is made available to us at a great price, the sacrifice of God’s own Son. Sanctification is built upon the foundation of God’s Grace and centered unalterably in the Gospel. Sanctification is a call to holiness. It is the sine qua non of the victorious Christian life.
What are your thoughts on Sanctification?
By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel
(Also see: Proverbs 25:4; Isaiah 1:22; I Thessalonians 4:3-8; Romans 8:13; 12:1-2; Hebrews 10:10; 2 Timothy 2:21; John 17:17)