Understanding Sanctification

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Understanding​​ Sanctification

By​​ Rick Moffett

Note​​ – All scripture from the New American Standard Version (NASB) of the​​ Bible unless otherwise noted.​​ 


I have three questions for all Christians –

  • Are you holy?

  • Are you a saint?

  • Have you been sanctified?​​ 


Likely you answered​​ no​​ to at least one of those questions, and possibly to all three of them. I have another question for you –

Would you like to be holy, a saint, and sanctified?​​ 


Certainly, all those things sound good and desirable, but do you even know what they mean? Would it surprise you to know that in the​​ Bible, they​​ all come from the same Greek word​​ group?​​ The basic meaning of these words​​ in the​​ Bible​​ is “set apart”. More specifically​​ -​​ set apart unto God​​ for his intended purpose (that’s what it means to be holy). Those who have been made holy (sanctified) are called saints.​​ 


Sanctification​​ -​​ from Greek​​ hagiasmos

Usage Notes:​​ translated "holiness" in the AV of​​ Rom 6:19,​​ 22;1 Thes 4:7;1 Tim 2:15;​​ Heb 12:14, is always rendered "sanctification" in the RV. It signifies​​ (a)​​ separation to God,1 Cor 1:30;​​ 2 Thes 2:13;​​ 1 Pet 1:2;​​ (b)​​ the resultant state, the conduct befitting those so separated,​​ 1 Thes​​ 4:3-7, and the four other places mentioned above. "Sanctification" is thus the state predetermined by God for believers, into which in grace​​ He calls them, and in which they begin their Christian course and so pursue it.​​ Hence,​​ they are called "saints" (hagioi).​​ 

Note: The corresponding verb​​ hagiazō​​ denotes "to set apart to God."​​ Vine's Expository Dictionary​​ 

The Greek word translated​​ "sanctification"​​ (hagiasmos) means "holiness." To sanctify, therefore, means "to make holy." In one sense only God is holy (Isa 6:3). God is separate, distinct, other. No human being or thing shares the holiness of God's essential nature. There is one God. Yet Scripture speaks about holy things. Moreover, God calls human beings to be​​ (holyas)​​ holy as he is holy (Lev 11:44; Matt 5:48; 1 Pet 1:15-16). Another word for a holy person is "saint" (hagios), meaning a sanctified one. The opposite of sanctified is "profane" (Lev 10:10).​​ Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary



Good News


Here’s some good news for you who have received Christ by faith, i.e., you who are Christians. You are a saint! You are holy! You have been sanctified! Here’s some more good news – You didn’t have to work to achieve your “sainthood” or to become holy or sanctified. There​​ is​​ absolutely no performance required!​​ These were true of you the moment you received Christ​​ (Acts 26:18).​​ The person who has been a Christian for one minute is just as holy as the person who has been a Christian for 60 years!​​ What I am talking about here is your identity (not your behavior).​​ 


The following verses are referring to a person’s sanctified (holy) identity​​ 


To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who​​ have been sanctified​​ in Christ Jesus,​​ saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their​​ Lord​​ and ours:​​ 1 Corinthians 1.2​​ 

But​​ by His doing​​ you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and​​ sanctification, and redemption,​​ 1 Corinthians 1.30​​ 

9​​ Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,​​ 10​​ nor thieves, nor​​ the​​ covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.​​ 11​​ Such were some of you; but you were washed, but​​ you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.​​ 1 Corinthians 6.9-11​​ 

If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him,​​ for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.​​ 1 Corinthians 3.17​​ 

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with​​ the saints, and are of God's household,​​ Ephesians 2.19​​ 

giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of​​ the saints​​ in Light.​​ Colossians 1.12​​ 

so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus​​ with all His saints.​​ 1 Thessalonians 3.13 (NASB)

By this will​​ we have been sanctified​​ through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.​​ Hebrews 10.10​​ 



Sadly, there is some confusion about the subject of​​ sanctification. The phrase “progressive sanctification” is often used​​ today to describe the process of a Christian striving to become holy or more “like Jesus”. But beware, the phrase “progressive sanctification” is NOT in the​​ Bible.​​ Furthermore, many that discuss this subject often fail to distinguish between the Christian’s identity​​ (a saint)​​ and their behavior. ​​ 


Sanctification​​ can refer to one’s behavior; however, only those who are first sanctified unto to God can live in this manner. Because we​​ are holy​​ (sanctified), we​​ are​​ encouraged to live as holy people. Here’s what the apostle Peter said on the subject​​ of​​ sanctified (holy) behavior​​ ​​ 


13​​ Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober​​ in spirit,​​ fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.​​ 14​​ As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts​​ which were yours​​ in your ignorance,​​ 15​​ but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all​​ your​​ behavior;​​ 16​​ because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."​​ 1 Peter 1.13-16​​ 


Do you see the difference?​​ 


We don’t strive (behavior) to become holy (identity); we choose to live holy (behavior) because we are holy (identity).​​ Our​​ holy​​ living is a reflection of our true identity.​​ In Christ, you have been set apart (holy/sanctified) for good works.​​ So, live like who you are!


For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.​​ Ephesians 2.10​​ 


Our behavior tends to conform to whom​​ we believe we are (our identity), thus the importance of knowing your true identity. The late Zig Ziglar said it this way​​ ​​ 


“You cannot consistently perform in a manner which is inconsistent with the way you see yourself.”​​ 


Knowing and believing your true identity in Christ will do more to change your behavior than anything else​​ you can do. Trying to follow a list of rules, e.g., a “10-step program”,​​ to become more holy in your behavior will fail every time!​​ 


11​​ For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,​​ 12​​ instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,​​ Titus 2.11-12​​ 


If you have been born again, know that you are a new creation; furthermore, you are a saint, holy and sanctified, so​​ believe it and​​ live accordingly!


I will leave you with this quote from Chuck Swindoll –​​ 


“Be who you are,​​ 'cause if you ain’t who you are, then you are who you ain’t.”


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1.​​ Strong’s Talking Greek – Hebrew Dictionary

2.​​ Vine’s Expository Dictionary​​ 

3.​​ Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary