Q: #185. What is sanctification?
By: Steve Shirley
A: The word "sanctify" comes from the Greek word "hagiazo" which means "to make holy" or "to set apart for God." Sanctification begins after we are justified. As we spoke of in the previous question, justification happens in an instant, and at that moment, we are declared righteous in God's eyes because the righteousness of Christ's sinless, perfect life is imputed or credited to us. This is not a process, but a one time act. Sanctification, on the other hand, is a process. After we are justified, the Bible tells us that we are to begin the process of becoming more and more holy (1 Pet 1:15-16)(1 Th 4:7)(Lev 11:44-45).
The moment we are born again (justified), God comes to live inside of us in the form of the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13-14)(Eph 4:30)(2 Cor 5:5)(2 Cor 1:22). The Holy Spirit helps us become sanctified (2 Th 2:13)(1 Pet 1:2) by changing all of the sinful areas of our lives that need to be changed. In addition, Jesus (1 Cor 1:2)(Acts 26:18)(Heb 2:11)(Heb 10:10) and the Father (Jude 1:1) also help sanctify us. This is often a difficult and sometimes painful process, but we must remember that this is done out of God's love for us and He will not give us more than we can handle (1 Cor 10:13).
It is important to note, however, that while the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit help to change us, we are ultimately responsible for taking the steps towards becoming more holy or sanctified (2 Tim 2:21)(Heb 12:14). One of the primary ways we can accomplish this is by using God's word which teaches us the truth and sanctifies us (Jn 17:17). It will show us the difference between right and wrong. This process will last throughout our lifetime, and we are all at different stages of cleansing and growth in our Christian faith. Our ultimate goal, of course, is to become more and more like Jesus everyday (Eph 4:13.15)(Phil 3:12-14)(2 Cor 3:17-18)(Rom 8:29).
Is this happening in your life? Are you more holy today than yesterday? While we may not necessarily be more holy today than yesterday (we all have our up and down days), let me ask you this, "Are you more holy today than you were a YEAR ago"? If you aren't, you aren't growing spiritually and you are missing out on all that God has for you.
This process is finished at glorification, which we will discuss in the next question.