by Peter Ditzel
The Christian Life
Sanctification means to make holy or to set apart for holy use. As this writer says, this begins (but doesn’t end) with our being born again:
Now, then, unregenerate humanity sins habitually. Not only are the overt actions sinful, but even those acts which most people would not call sinful, are so because of evil motivation…. Then the Holy Spirit comes upon this individual and instills into him different habits. These new habits, though they may and will develop by practice, are not produced by practice. The Spirit immediately forms the habit for him. Such is regeneration…. The regenerated sinner now has desires and thoughts he never had before…. The Holy Spirit has regenerated us and changed our mind.
—Gordon H. Clark, The Holy Spirit
(Hobbs, N. Mex.: The Trinity Foundation, 1993), 34
And God continues to work in us and change us. Through the inner work of sanctification, God saves us from the power of sin and begins to make us holy. How does God do this? Concerning His followers, Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Commenting on this verse, Charles H. Spurgeon said, “We cannot afford to give up God’s inspired Word, because it is a means of our sanctification; and if this be taken away, it is not such-and-such a dogma, as they call it, put into the background, but it is truth that would sanctify us which is discarded, it is God’s own Word that is flung to the dogs; and that must never be” (Sermon “Christ’s Care of His Disciples,” delivered in 1857).
When we read God’s Word, the Bible, or hear it rightly taught, God’s thoughts begin to become our thoughts. We are nourished spiritually. As Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for Christians to be reading the Bible daily. God’s Word is our spiritual manna. Jesus said He is the spiritual bread from heaven (John 6:32–35). He is also the Word of God made flesh(John 1:1, 14). Philippians 2:5 tells us, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” We do this when we read the written word, the Bible. In this way, we see that, in reality, it is Jesus Christ “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Some people make the mistake of saying that our good works sanctify us. This is not correct. Sanctification is a part of our salvation, and salvation is all of grace. Sanctification is a work that God works in us through His Word and the Holy Spirit working in our minds. Immediately after explaining that we are not saved by works, but by grace, Paul writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
We must be careful, however, not to fall into the error of thinking that our sanctification, or any part of our salvation rests on our good works. Our salvation rests entirely upon the finished work of Jesus Christ. The good works you perform are merely the result of the salvation Jesus Christ bought for you on the Cross and which God is now working in you: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
As is true of all Christians, there will certainly be times when it will seem that you are doing no good works, and you will have times when you slip into sin. But you can take comfort in the fact that your salvation is in Jesus Christ and that God will never abandon the work He has begun in you: “I thank God for every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3–6). Once we are saved, we cannot lose our salvation. After all, our salvation is God’s work and He can’t fail.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that God will turn from you or that you can lose your salvation because of sin. He may chastise you as a father chastens his child in love (Hebrews 12:6), but He will never leave you or remove His salvation from you: “For I am persuaded,” wrote Paul, “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).
You will never become completely holy or sinless in this life. That remains for another work of God, called glorification, when Jesus, returning from heaven, will “change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Philippians 3:21), and, “when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:54–58). Whatever happens, hold on to these words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5), and “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
Scriptures links on this page:
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.—John 6:32-35—back
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.—John 1:1, 14—back
For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.—Hebrews 12:6—back
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