Over the past weeks we have discussed two acts of God that occur at our conversion: justification (being made legally right) and adoption (being made God’s children). This week we look at another act: sanctification.
Sanctification is being made holy and to be made holy is to be made sinless. Now when we become Christians God immediately sanctifies us and makes us holy in his eyes. This is known as definitive sanctification – we are defined as holy people. Paul describes the Corinthian church in this way: ‘But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 6:11). Although the people at Corinth had previously been terrible sinners, they were now considered holy people and could be called saints. If you have believed in Christ you are a saint too – a holy one.
But there is also the progressive sanctification process that begins at our conversion. Although God views us as holy, Christians do continue to sin. Yet as we grow and mature in the faith we progressively become more holy in our actions. Sin no longer has complete dominion over us and we gradually put our sinful nature to death day by day. This is what Paul is describing in his second letter to the Corinthian church: ‘Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God’ (2 Corinthians 7:1). Although Christians are sanctified in Christ, they gradually behave more and more like sanctified people as they conquer their sins. We also learn from Paul’s example that progressive sanctification is something we should pray about for us and fellow Christians: ‘May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through’ (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
Lastly we see that the progressive sanctification will not go on forever, but the process will be completed when Jesus gives us new bodies that are unable to sin any longer: ‘And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body’ (Philippians 3:20-21).
Therefore as Christians we can (i) rejoice that we are definitively sanctified; (ii) work at being progressively sanctified; and (iii) look forward with hope to when progressive sanctification will be completed. Are you sanctified and being sanctified?