"But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brothers beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:" (2Th 2:13)
"Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, to obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you, and peace, be multiplied." (1Pe 1:2)
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2Co 5:17)
"For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." (2Co 4:16)
Just as in Justification a believer is properly judicially freed from the guilt of sin and has spiritual life given him, so in sanctification the same believer is freed from the filthy conditions and stain of sin, and the purity of God's image is infused into him over the period of his life on earth.
Sanctification is not to be confused with Regeneration or Justification (although part and parcel of the gift of Salvation to the elect sinner) which are instantaneous actions, operated entirely by the Holy Ghost in the heart of the elect sinner. Sanctification is rather to be understood as progressive change in a believer’s behaviour in which he has righteousness and indwelling holiness imparted (wrought) to him whilst collaborating through the Spirit in achieving sanctification.
Both the Hebrew and Greek words translated "sanctify" and "sanctification" conveying the idea "to set apart" or "to make holy". Thus the true believer, having been regenerated, united to Christ and justified, is now being progressively sanctified or "set apart" from the world and sin. Sanctification is growing in the Lord, becoming holy in life. Sanctification is living every day in light of who we are in Christ. It is practiced purity, a tough challenge, especially in the evil culture in which we live.
Sanctification – Part of Salvation
It is important to differentiate between justification and sanctification. Justification is another word for imputed salvation. Jesus gave His life on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, His blood washes away all our sins and frees us from an eternity of suffering and condemnation. Believers are saved because of what Christ has already done for them on the cross. We can do nothing to earn salvation, it is the gift given to every child of God regardless of race, age, maturity, or merit. Sanctification occurs as a result of Salvation. At the moment of conversion, the Holy Spirit enters our life, we are no longer held hostage by death, but are free to live the life God has decreed for us. We are thus sanctified simply because of our standing as lost souls saved by His grace.
Sanctification - A Continuing Process
Sanctification does not stop with salvation, but rather begins with it and is a progressive process that continues in a Christian's life. Unlike the things and places that are sanctified by God in the Bible, people have the capacity to sin. Even though we have been "set apart" as God's children, we continue to behave in ways that are contrary to His ways. As Christians, we realize shortly after we have been saved that there is a new inner battle being waged within us - a battle between our old sin-lead nature and new Spirit-lead nature (Rom 7:19-25). Paul in Galatians best describes this inner struggle in Galatians 5:17: "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish."
Like Paul, our new heart's desire is to please and obey God, but our old flesh is weak making sin difficult to resist. Yet, it is in our continual struggle with sin and obedience to God that sanctification does its work. But praise be to our Lord and Master for He will bring to completion what He has started (Heb 12:2).
But what is the work of sanctification? What does it practically mean to be "set apart"? Sanctification can be described as an inward spiritual process whereby God brings about holiness and change in the life of a Christian by means of the Holy Spirit. The effects of living in a fallen world have harmed everybody differently. We all face different issues, struggle with sin, and past hurts of varying degrees, hindering our ability to live the life God desires for us. Once Jesus Christ comes into our lives, the Holy Spirit enters our life to start a transformation process (progressive sanctification). He convicts us on areas that need to be changed, helping us to grow in holiness. We begin to view the world, people, and personal difficulties from a more biblical perspective. Our choices begin to be motivated by love and truth and not selfishness. For instance, we may have misplaced our confidence and security on beauty, wealth, and materialism, but God may ordain difficult circumstances to liberate us from these cancerous snares. The transformation process may be painful (depends on how much we resist Him), but it is always motivated by God's love for us. Further, God promises in His Word to not give us more than we are able to handle (1Co 10:13).
This is the working process of sanctification in the life of every believer. Though the process is personal for each individual, the end goal is always to prevent sin and produce spiritual growth. Note that sanctification has nothing to do with living in sinless perfection. We will never be sinless in this earthly life. In fact, the Bible warns against such false teachings in 1Jo 1:8: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."
Sanctification is not about trying to be sinless in order to earn the favour of God. Rather, sanctification is for our own benefit (like everything else God does for us). God commands us to pursue sanctification so that through it we may be blessed and perfected in saint pleasing to Him.
A proof of your Sanctification is that after conversion, ALL your previous heathen friend will very shortly abandon you. "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amo 3:3)
The general steps in Sanctification are:
God's sovereignly grating his Grace to the sinner 1Pe 1:2,
The sacrificial work of Christ for His people is applied to them, Heb 13:12,
A progressive impartation of Christ's righteousness work of renewal through the indwelling Holy Spirit, 2Th 2:13,
God’s truth being worked in the believer through the Spirit, Joh 17:17,
The ‘eyes’ of the believer being opened to understand Christ, Act 26:18; Col 1:21,23,
Made willing to walk toward perfection in Christ, Rom 6:19; 2Co 6:17,18; 7:1,
Finally being made perfect in Heaven, Heb 12:23.
Our present position is then that we find ourselves judicially in the Kingdom of God, but physically in the world. Why doesn't God sanctify us immediately and take us into His presence right now? Why does He leave us here on this earth when everything He has done for us in Jesus is so that we might be with Him for eternity? Why stay here in this valley of tears when we can be there with Him? Truly, these are VERY GOOD QUESTIONS.
Well the answer we have is that the Lord leaves us in the world, so that through the rough and tumble of life we might learn to be the person we are judicially in Christ, so that we might be purified by life's experience. Life then for us is to be our school of holiness. As we live life under the direction of Jesus, we are slowly moulded into His image; we become a holy people pure and set-apart people like Jesus. We begin to be the people we are in Christ. We learn to be His holy people through the process of learning obedience in difficult circumstances as Jesus did: "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;" (Heb 5:8).
Indeed the process of becoming a holy person is called sanctification. It simply means, becoming eventually a person like Jesus. The word holy means sanctified, set apart, pure or resembling God in character.
The process of sanctification is one of being conformed to the likeness of God's Son, of being glorified, Rom 8:29-30. It is a learning to express the holiness which we possess in Christ; to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, 2Co 3:18; to attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, Eph 4:13; to put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator, Col 3:10.
Sanctification and Justification are similar things in that both are Gifts of God, Justification is a gracious sovereign act of God declaring the person judicially cleans of his sins on the basis of being Graced by the works of Christ, it is an instantaneous act of God, once for all. Sanctification is also a sovereign act of God declaring the person ‘holy’ and sanctified, i.e. set apart for the service of God, in a judicial sense, but this sanctification is then wrought in the inner essence of the person during his life on this earth. Both are of God, but in the case of Sanctification, the saved sinner in his new nature (born again) collaborates with the Holy Spirit, in obedience to His prompting, in changing his character to conform with that of Christ as time goes on.
In simple terms, sanctification can be defined as "the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole image of God and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness", Eph 5:8. Through Jesus' death on our behalf we are regenerated, justified and sanctified in God's sight, i.e. when God looks at us it is just as if have never sinned. We are white pure as snow in His sight: "Come now, and let us reason together, said the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isa 1:18)
The reasons for this is:
Jesus has taken the punishment due our sins on the cross - He died for us,
The reward due to Jesus' perfection and obedience has been transferred to us - we live in Him (Gal 2:20),
So when God looks at us He doesn't see the way we are, rather He sees the way Jesus is, AMEN
Now in truth, we all know we are still pretty rotten for we are sinners, graced yes, but still sinners in behaviour. So God sets about to mould us into the image of His Son, to shape us into the person we are in Christ, to sanctify us. When we put our faith in Christ we become God's holy people. As we live for Christ we learn to be that holy people,
We must understand sanctification in the same terms as the Biblical doctrine of justification, in that it is a gift of grace appropriated through faith. We are righteous in the sight of God and that righteousness is being shaped in our life day by day, not by an effort of our will to keep the law, but by trusting Christ to change us into His image, into the likeness we forensically already possess in Him,
The work of God's grace by which the believer is separated from sin and becomes dedicated to God's righteousness. Accomplished by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, sanctification results in holiness, or purification from the guilt and power of sin. Sanctification is instantaneous before God through Christ and progressive before man through obedience to the Holy Spirit and the Word,
"22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 6:22-23)