by Vijay Chandra
HOLINESS IN THEOLOGY: SANCTIFICATION
With the biblical data that we have, now we are able to draw out what is the theology of holiness. This resulting doctrine is called ‘sanctification’ and we will put this under two subheadings.
a. Status conferred by the Work of Christ or His merits.
The New Testament informs us that every believer is sanctified in the principle by the sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 10:10, ‘We are sanctified’). Christ is our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30). And the living church is sanctified (Ephesians 5:25, 26).The believer’s status before God is one of sanctity in Christ, even when his ‘character’ has not yet perfected holiness (1 Corinthians 1:2, 1 Peter 1:1, 2, Hebrews 2:11, 9:13, 14, 10:14, 29, 13:12).
b. This Process is Pursued by Christ’s work of Application.
The true Christian has not arrived to a wholly sanctified ‘condition’. The believer must strive for sanctity, for holiness (Hebrews 12:14). Most of the Bible commentators do not say anything or say very little about this verse which is very important. They have not exegeted it. Growth in holiness should follow regeneration (Ephesians 1:4, Philippians 3:12). Paul prays that the Thessalonians be sanctified wholly as something still to be accomplished (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
As believers, sanctification is something we have in Christ before God and something we must strive for in the power of Christ. Our state of holiness is conferred, our condition in holiness must be pursued. Through Christ we are made holy in our standing before God and we are told to reflect that standing by being holy in daily life. Our whole life should reflect ‘holiness’.
What then must we correctly pursue? Three things:
- Conformity to the character of God the Father. God says, ‘Be ye holy, for I am holy’.
Seek to image your Father in heaven in righteousness, holiness, and integrity. In the Spirit, strive to think God’s thoughts after Him [via His Word] and to live and act as God himself would have you to do.
- Conformity to the image of Christ: Do not aim for conformity as a ‘condition’. We cannot be holy in our strength (Isaiah 64:6). Do not aim for conformity to Christ as a condition of salvation, but as a fruit of salvation received by faith (James 1:2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).
- Conformity to the mind of the Spirit: The Holy Spirit was sent to conform your mind to His mind (1 Corinthians 2). He was sent to make sinners holy. How does the Spirit work holiness?
First, He shows your need for holiness through conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).
Secondly, He plants desire for holiness. His convicting work never leads to despair but always to sanctification in Christ.
Thirdly, He provides strength to live a holy life. Live by means of obedience to and dependence on the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of your sinful nature (Gal.5:16).
Fourthly, through humble intake of the Word and exhaling of prayer, the Spirit establishes an ongoing realization that holiness remains essential as being worthy of God and His kingdom (1 Thessalonians 2:12, Ephesians 4:1, Colossians 1:10), as aiming at fitness for service (1 Corinthians 9:24, 25) and striving for personal consecration of the whole life like Paul who writes as a willing ‘doulos’, that is, ‘servant, slave.’ There is room for unending growth in sanctification because Christ’s fulness is infinite. He is Holiness par excellence. He is it, He lived it; He merited it and He sends His Spirit to apply it.