To be sanctified is to be set apart, separated or holy. The word and its derivatives are variously translated sanctify, hallow, be holy, holiness, and sanctification. Sanctification involves being separated from one thing and being dedicated to another. Sanctification for the Christian means to be separated from the world and consecrated to the service of God. Let us consider three aspects of sanctification.
Sanctified When Washed from Sins
The New Testament teaches that one is sanctified when he is washed, cleansed from his sins. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26). Speaking of the church, which is the saved people, Paul says Christ sanctified and cleansed the church with the “washing of water by the word.” One is cleansed, and at the same time sanctified, by the washing of water as taught by the word. This is none other than the time one is baptized in obedient submission to the word. Jesus taught the same in John 3:5 when He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” One must be born of water (baptism), and the Spirit (the word of God). Some may object to the idea that being born of the Spirit refers to being born of the word of God, but Peter connects the Spirit and the word of God when he writes, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:22-23). One who is born again of the word of God is the one who has obeyed the truth through the Spirit. The word of God is the means by which the Spirit begets.
Set apart FROM and UNTO
The New Testament teaches that one who has been sanctified is not just separated, set apart, from the world, but he is dedicated to the service of God. Comparing their past life to their new life in Christ, Paul reminds the Corinthians, “…and such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Paul wants them to remember that when they obeyed the gospel, they were sanctified, set apart, from their past, wicked ways, and they were dedicated unto the service of God. Chapter 6 concludes with their responsibility in their dedication now to God: “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
Thus, having been sanctified, saints are to continue to pursue sanctification or holiness. “Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). This is written to Christians. Likewise, Peter commands saints, “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…” (1 Peter 1:14-15). The Christian then is to devote himself to transformation to holiness and not conformation to former lusts. The instruction of Paul in Romans 12:1-2 rings distinctly with the Christian’s responsibility in his sanctification: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Be holy: Don’t be conformed to the world – be set apart from its ways. And be transformed to be a living sacrifice to God, set apart for His service.
Therefore, the New Testament teaches us these things about sanctification. First, we are sanctified when we put on the Lord Jesus Christ in baptism, not before. Second, sanctification is a setting apart from the service of the devil and unto the service of God. And last, we must continue in sanctification, separation from sin and unto righteousness, in order to please God. Let us therefore pursue holiness.
– Larry Jones