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Sanctification

(The evidence of our Justification)

 


          Salvation comes in three parts: justification (Rom. 4:25), sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3), and glorification (Rom. 8:30).  The purpose here is to discuss the second part of salvation called sanctification.  The word sanctification (hagiasmos), literally means "purification" or "consecration" or to be "set apart" (Strong's Concordance G38).  This word is always translated as "holiness" or "sanctification."  While justification is purely the act of God pardoning the sinner's transgressions, sanctification is the act of God and man consecrating the sinner to the life that God prescribed for us (Phil.2:12-13, Eph. 2:10).
          Justification is an instantaneous act where God declares a sinner to be righteous before Him based solely on the sinner's belief (Rom. 4:3).  It is not earned by the works of the law (Gal. 2:16), but is a free gift from God (Rom. 6:23).  Since salvation is free, does that mean the believer can sin as he pleases?  Certainly not, for the Apostle Paul states clearly, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Rom. 6:1-2, 15)  After we have received this free gift, we are no longer to live in sin.  This begs the question, what is sin?  The answer is in 1 John 3:4 where the Apostle John states that, "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."  Here is the answer.  We sin when we break God's law.  God offers us forgiveness and a full pardon, but after we repent and believe the gospel, we have to turn from sin and back to Him.  Or, to put it another way, we have to stop breaking His law and start following it.  This then is sanctification.  It is a lifelong process of turning back to following God's law.

 

Should We Follow God's Law?


          This is where many believers lose interest in God's plan.  A common theme in biblical theology today is that, "the law of God is abolished," but is this true?  The answer is no.  The Messiah clearly states so in Matt. 5:17-18, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.  For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."  The Messiah Himself declared the law to still be in full force and effect.  If there is earth under your feet and sky above, God's law is still here (Matt. 5:18).  Paul even supports this as well when he said, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law" (Rom. 3:31).  Paul was not advocating the abolishment of the Mosaic law, like many seem to espouse, but rather Paul was saying that faith establishes (histēmi G2476 - to stand up) the law.  New Testament faith makes God's law more firm.  This was even foretold by Isaiah when he stated the Messiah would, "magnify the law, and make it honourable" (Is. 42:21).  To add even more evidence to our requirement to follow God's law, Solomon concludes in Ecclesiastes that we should, "Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" (Eccl. 12:13).  This is our duty before God, to keep His commandments.

 

How Much of the Law Should we Follow?


          The question that logically follows is, how much of the law should we follow?  Are we required to practice all of God's law, or just a portion like some would say?  The Messiah answered this question in Matt. 5:19 when He states, "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."  The Messiah advocated practicing all of God's commandments, even the "least commandments."  It is interesting to note that this is not justification, for He clearly stated that those who do not practice the least commandments will be "least in the kingdom of heaven."  This does not mean they will not be part of the kingdom of heaven, but that they will have a lesser inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.  Justification is free and cannot be earned.  All those who practice faith in the Messiah will have a place in the kingdom of heaven, but our rewards in the kingdom are based upon our practicing of God's law.  Solomon made this clear in Ecclesiastes when he finished with, "Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.  For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Eccl. 12:13-14).  God will judge our works of the law and that judgment will determine our rewards in the kingdom of heaven.

 

Faith and Works:

 

          Other New Testament writers state the same principle.  James mentioned a faith that was dead, because it was without works.  In James 2:17-18 he states, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works."  The context is clearly the works of the law.  James 1:22-25 calls the Torah the "perfect law of liberty."  James 2:1-9 speaks of showing respect of persons, which is a law from Lev. 19:5.  James 2:8-11 speaks of fulfilling the "royal law" of love by keeping all the commandments.  The entire book of James deals with God's Law and our faith should lead us to practice that Law.  The works of the law is the evidence of our faith.  Those who believe in the Messiah will seek out His will and follow it.

          James also mentions that the law acts the same as a mirror (James 1:22-25).  One looks into a mirror to check their face to see if it is clean or dirty.  If you find something wrong you fix it.  The law of God is the same.  You look into the "perfect law of liberty" to see if you have anything to fix.  This is sanctification.  We "study to shew ourselves approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" as a means to live the life God called us to (2 Tim. 2:15).  This is not Justification, but Sanctification.

 

Defining Sanctification:

 

          Probably the clearest verses to define sanctification as learning to practice God's Law is one that is usually quoted to demonstrate the opposite.  The Apostle Paul said, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).  This is our justification and can only be attained by grace and faith, but the next verse clearly defines sanctification as the learning and practice of the Mosaic Law.  Paul continues, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).  We are justified by grace alone, but after our justification we are created unto good works, "which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."  The question to ask is this, when did God "before ordain" our good works?  The answer is clearly in the Mosaic Law.  God mentions over and over again that His people should "walk" in His Law (Ex. 16:4, Ex. 18:20, Lev. 18:4, Lev. 26:3, Deut. 5:33, Deut. 8:6, Deut. 10:12-13, Deut. 11:22, Deut. 13:4-5, Deut. 19:9, Deut. 26:17, Deut. 28:9, Deut. 30:16, and many more).  This could not be more clear.  In fact, I only quoted this phrase from the Torah, but it is found dozens of times throughout the rest of the Old Testament as well.  The only possible "good works" Paul could be speaking of is from the Law of God.  Of course, this is right after our justification by faith and Grace.

          In fact, the Greek word for sanctification is hagiazō (Strong's G37) or hagiasmos (Strong's G38), which means "to make holy" or to "purify" (Strong's Dictionary).  This word is throughout the Old Testament Greek Translation (Septuagint), which is the translation most often quoted by the New Testament.  This word is used most often in the Old Testament to describe how God's people are sanctified when practicing His Law.  In 1 Peter 1:15-16 the Apostle is calling believers to "be ye holy; for I am holy."  This is a direct quote from Lev. 11:44, which is the dietary chapter of the Torah.  It is also found in Lev. 19:2, which is a chapter listing several statutes and commandments of the Torah.  It is also found in Lev. 20:7-8.  This verse straight out says that we are sanctified by God's Law.  "Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.  And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which sanctify you." Either the Apostle was misquoting the scripture, which I highly doubt, or we are still required to keep God's commandments.

 

Conclusion:


          It is very unfortunate that most people who reject following God's Law have usually never even studied God's Law.  Their view of the Law of God is usually that of the Jews, which the Messiah rebuked for their improper understanding of it (Matt. 15:3-9).  Perhaps if people would actually take a look at God's Law they would not see it as a religious system, but a legal system.  We should never pass judgment on the Mosaic Law until we have considered the entire matter (Prov. 18:13).  The New and Old Testaments confirm that the Torah is still to be practiced by the people of God.  It is not for our salvation (justification), but rather for our sanctification.

          This process called sanctification will take a lifetime, for Paul himself stated that, "he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).  We are to, "be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom. 12:2).  Our job in this lifetime is to, "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God which worketh in [us] both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13-14).  Sanctification is us working together with God to become the person He describes in His law.  This will take a lifetime of study and devotion to God's word (2 Tim. 2:15).  The ultimate end will be our glorification where God will remove this old decaying body of sin and replace it with a new spiritual body without sin (1 Cor. 15:42-44).  To read more about glorification click here.

 

By Steve Siefken

  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth

not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 KJV