In previous blogs I have covered the top ten teachings according to the frequency with which Christ taught (seen on page 133 of the download ‘What on earth have we done with the teachings of Jesus’). We are now covering the Words of Jesus in the Words of Jesus. What the Word is and what the Word brings us. The next of these is ‘His Words sanctifies us’. Sanctify me, Lord.
Sanctification means to use something or someone for their proper functioning. It is to use it for its original intended purpose by its designer. We were created to love God and live for Him. Sanctification is the act or process of being made holy. We are therefore restored to our proper state and use for God through this process.
Making us holy
Martin Luther taught that, ‘Sanctification is only caused by the Holy Spirit through the powerful Word of God… It is the Holy Spirit’s work of making us holy. When the Holy Spirit creates faith in us, He renews in us the image of God so that through His power we produce good works. These good works are not meritorious but show the faith in our hearts. Sanctification flows from justification.’
Justification is ‘God’s righteous act of removing the guilt and penalty of sin while, at the same time, declaring the ungodly to be righteous, through faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice.’ Justification can be said to happen at the outset of someone coming to the saving heart knowledge of Christ crucified and sanctification the ongoing process of being made right with God.
The first mentions of sanctification in the Old Testament were of the Lord directing His people to set themselves apart for His special purposes. In Leviticus (20:8) God says, And you shall keep My statutes and do them. I am the Lord Who sanctifies you. God made the correlation here of keeping the laws, His Word, and being sanctified. Clearly our understanding of His Word is part of the process. How can we know what the straight line is without a plumbline?
Sanctified by truth
Jesus was about to ascend back to heaven and was praying to the Father for His disciples, Sanctify them [purify, consecrate, separate them for Yourself, make them holy] by the Truth; Your Word is Truth, John 17:17.
Sanctify them by the truth. His word is a divider For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energising, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analysing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart, Hebrews 4:12.
It is in this exposing, sifting and judging that we are then sanctified. We are brought into a purer state and made holy and set apart for the Lord and His work.
Jesus here shows that He made a choice to sanctify Himself, And so for their sake and on their behalf I sanctify (dedicate, consecrate) Myself, that they also may be sanctified (dedicated, consecrated, made holy) in the Truth, John 17:19. I believe that we too have that choice to make. Do we choose to be sanctified? Do we choose to set ourselves apart for the Lord? We cannot make ourselves fit, but we can by the confession of our lips tell God that we dedicate ourselves to Him and allow Him to work His way in us.
The yielding of ourselves
And Joshua said to the people, Sanctify yourselves [that is, separate yourselves for a special holy purpose], for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you, Joshua 3:5. Here separating themselves unto holiness was a precondition to experiencing the wonders of the Lord among them. Do we not want to see God work wonders among us and our people?
It comes in the yielding of ourselves to the Lord, as you yielded your bodily members [and faculties] as servants to impurity and ever increasing lawlessness, so now yield your bodily members [and faculties] once for all as servants to righteousness (right being and doing) [which leads] to sanctification, Romans 6:19.
And Jesus said, You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect, Matthew 5:48.
Henry says – The next thing Jesus prayed for was that they might be sanctified, not only kept from evil, but made good. Here is the petition (John 17:17): Sanctify them through Your truth, through Your Word, for Your Word is truth. It is true—it is truth itself. He desires they may be sanctified.
Let that good work carry on
As Christians our sanctification is our preservation. ‘Father, make them holy, and this will be their preservation’, 1 Thess. 5:23 And may the God of peace Himself sanctify you through and through [separate you from profane things, make you pure and wholly consecrated to God]; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved sound and complete [and found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The disciples were sanctified, for they were not of the world, yet He prays – Father sanctify them, that is, “Confirm the work of sanctification in them, strengthen their faith, inflame their good affections, rivet their good resolutions.” “Carry on that good work in them, and continue it, let the light shine more and more.” “Complete it, crown it with the perfection of holiness, sanctify them throughout and to the end.” It is the prayer of Christ for all that are His that they may be sanctified. He cannot for shame own them as His, either here or hereafter, either employ them in His work or present them to His Father, if they be not sanctified.
Those who through grace are sanctified have need to be sanctified more and more. If He that was the author of the good work is not the finisher of it, we are undone. Not to go forward is to go backward. He that is holy must be holy still, more holy still, pressing forward, soaring upward. (Didn’t Jesus say, ‘be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect Matthew 5:48).
It is God who sanctifies
It is God that sanctifies, as well as God that justified, 2 Cor. 5:5 He Who has fashioned us [preparing and making us fit] for this very thing is God, Who also has given us the [Holy] Spirit as a guarantee [of the fulfillment of His promise]. It is an encouragement to us, in our prayers for sanctifying grace, that this is what Christ intercedes for on our behalf.
The means of obtaining this is through His truth, His Word is truth. The Holy One is not limited to means, but it has been settled and agreed that all needful truth should be comprised and summed up in the Word of God. Divine revelation, as it now stands in the written Word, is not only pure truth without mixture, but entire truth without deficiency. This Word of truth is means of our sanctification, not of itself, for then it would always sanctify, but as the instrument which the Spirit uses in beginning and carrying on that good work. It is the seed of the new birth (1 Pet. 1:23 You have been regenerated (born again), not from a mortal origin (seed, sperm), but from one that is immortal by the ever living and lasting Word of God).
Sanctify them – that is, “Qualify them for the office, with Christian graces and ministerial gifts, to make them able ministers of the New Testament.” I have called them, they have consented: Father, say Amen to it. “Own them in the office, let Your hand go along with them, sanctify them to Your truth, the Word of Your truth, to be the preachers of Your truth to the world,” That great thing to be asked of God for gospel ministers is that they may be sanctified. That they be effectually separated from the world, entirely devoted to God, and experimentally acquainted with the influence of that Word upon their own hearts. The Word which they preach to others. The Father sanctified Jesus when He sent Him into the world, (John 10:36 the One Whom the Father consecrated and dedicated and set apart for Himself and sent into the world). Now, they were being sent as He was and as we are, let us also be sanctified.
He sanctified Himself for us
John 17:19, For their sakes I sanctify Myself. He entirely devoted Himself to the undertaking, especially that which He was now going to do—the offering up of Himself without spot unto God, by the eternal Spirit. He sanctified Himself as the sacrifice. When He said, Father, glorify Your name—Father, Your will be done—Father, I commit My spirit into Your hands, He down paid the satisfaction and so sanctified Himself. By His own blood He entered into the holy place (Heb. 9:12 His own blood, having found and secured a complete redemption (an everlasting release for us).
It is for the disciple’s sakes (and ours), that they may be sanctified, that is, that they may be saints and ministers, duly qualified and accepted of God. The office of the ministry is purchased by Christ’s blood. The priests under the law were consecrated with the blood of bulls and goats, but gospel ministers with the blood of Jesus.
He that designed the end designed also the means, that they might be sanctified by the truth. The truth which Christ came into the world to bear witness to and died to confirm. The Word of truth receives its sanctifying virtue and power from the death of Christ.
In order for God to be served, we must be sanctified, in the Spirit, and in truth. And this is what Christ has prayed for, for all that are His. For this is His will, which encourages them to pray also for it.
adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
But we, brethren beloved by the Lord, ought and are obligated [as those who are in debt] to give thanks always to God for you, because God chose you from the beginning as His firstfruits (first converts) for salvation through the sanctifying work of the [Holy] Spirit and [your] belief in (adherence to, trust in, and reliance on) the Truth, 2 Thessalonians 2:13.
Be Holy Prepare your minds for action. Set your hope fully on the grace, Which will be given to you When you meet Jesus face to face. Obey God because you are His children. Remember these are the latter days. Now that you know differently Don’t slip back into your old ways. Be Holy because I am Holy. It was I who invited you To be My child, so let My Holy Spirit, Be the controller of all that you do. Since you call on the Father Who judges impartially each man’s work here You must spend your lives on earth As strangers living in reverent fear. For you know what was paid To set you free. It was not something that can be destroyed As silver and gold can be. It was the sinless, spotless Lamb of God The precious lifeblood of Christ paid in full for man God chose Him for this purpose Long before the world began. In these latter days As a blessing to you He was only recently Brought into view. Through Him you now believe in God. No longer do you tread paths unknown For your faith and hope now rest, In Him, in Him alone. Now you can have real love for everyone. The joy of Christ you can freely impart, If you really do love each other warmly With all of your heart. For you have a new life Rejoice in this truth today, Unlike the life passed on from generations That will so soon fade away. This new one will last forever Rejoice I say again For this life comes from Christ God’s ever living message to men. Our natural lives will fade as grass does When it becomes brown and dry. All our greatness is like a drooping flower But the Word of the Lord will never die. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer: Father, I thank You for Your work of sanctification in my life. I declare afresh today that I am Yours and I set myself apart for Your glory and Your work. I continue to pray for an all-consuming desire for Your Word, that Your Spirit may continue the refining process in me. In the name of Christ, I pray. Amen.