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
(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
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.
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.
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.
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.