“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification…” (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
The English word “sanctification” is the translation of the Greek word “hagiasmos”; which means “to set apart.”
This word is used of “separation to God”; and of “the course of life befitting those so separated… Sanctification is also used in the New Testament of the separation of the believer from evil things and ways… it cannot be transferred of imputed, it is an individual possession, built up, little by little, as the result of obedience to the Word of God, and of following the example of Christ” (Vine).
As far as our Spiritual Sanctification, it happened in Christ. This event is to be viewed the three distinct areas:
I. Our Position in Christ
II. Our Practice for Christ
III. Our Perfection to Christ
The first area of our Sanctification is Our Position in Christ. Our (the saved’s) Position in Christ is focused in three areas:
1) Eternal Sanctification
2) Judicial Sanctification
3) Experiential Sanctification
1) Eternal Sanctification (in the past tense); this means that before time ever was, we (the Chosen Sheep of God) were sanctified, or set apart, in Christ.
“But of him (God) are ye in Christ Jesus (God in the flesh), who of God is made unto us (the Chosen Sheep) wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” (1 Corinthians 1:30)
This means we were set apart in Christ before the world began:
“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” (Ephesians 1:4)
“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,” (Ephesians 1:5)
“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)
In the Eternal Past, before time, God chose us in Christ, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.
To accomplish this, note:
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8)
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;” (1 Peter 1:18)
“But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:” (1 Peter 1:19)
“Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,” (1 Peter 1:20)
The Death of Christ (our Substitute, our Sacrifice for our sin debt, and our Savior) was in the mind of God in Eternity Past. Therefore, in the first sense of our Sanctification, it was an Eternal setting-apart for His Glory.
2) Judicial Sanctification (in the present tense):
Our sanctification in the present tense was revealed to be in Christ on the Cross in His vicarious (substitutionary) and expiatory (satisfaction; appeasement) Sacrifice on the Cross; which is also called the Atonement for our sin debt.
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Ephesians 1:7)
“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” (Romans 3:24)
“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through [the] faith (Christ Himself, who is The Faith) in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;” (Romans 3:25)
The Purpose of God in Christ as our Sanctification was manifested as Christ was our Substitute, Sacrifice, and Savior on the Cross. It was in the work of Christ as our Substitute, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21), that we (those of Ephesians 1:4-11) were Reconciled, Justified, and Redeemed, as Christ ratified the Covenant of Grace for us. (See Hebrews 9:1-26; especially verses 12-26.)
It was on the Cross that Christ became the Sacrifice (the innocent dying for the guilty (us)) that propitiated, or satisfied, the demands of the Holy God for our sin against Him. (See Isaiah 53:1-12; especially verses 10-11.) (God was satisfied with this offering for our sin debt in Christ.) This is why it is called a vicarious (or a substitutionary) death; and why the term expiatory (or appeasement) is such an all-vital term concerning the believer’s salvation.
Therefore, Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, in whom was no sin, being God in the flesh, went to the Cross as the Sacrifice, and as our Substitute; and there He Sanctified us in His Atonement. Hallelujah!
Jesus gave up His own life. They did not kill Him; He gave up His own life. After He said on the cross, “It is finished”; He gave up the ghost and died (John 19:30).
However, the Atonement for the believer’s sin debt was completed before Christ gave up His life. From 12 noon to 3 pm, Christ bore the punishment of our sin debt; and our sin debt was paid, it was satisfied in His actions to the Father.
Proof of our Reconciliation, Justification, Redemption, and Sanctification was revealed in His bodily, literal Resurrection from the grave. (See I Corinthians 15:1-22.)
Therefore, Paul declared:
“And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4).
And Jesus declared:
“… I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:” (John 11:25)
Upon this Foundation (the Eternal Purpose in Christ, and the Atonement, in time, on the Cross) God the Spirit gives the chosen Experiential Sanctification:
3) Experiential Sanctification (in the present tense):
This is at the moment of conversion. When the chosen vessel of God is Regenerated by God the Spirit (the process from quickening; to repentance; to conversion, or believing, or trusting Christ) – then the saved man has Experiential knowledge of his relationship with Christ.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:14)
“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:” (Romans 8:16)
“To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:5)
“And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:6)
“Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Galatians 4:7)
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” (2 Timothy 1:9)
“But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:” (2 Timothy 1:10)
These verses prove that the Chosen’s calling is in the present tense, in this physical life. It is not according to our works (or merits), but according to His Purpose and Grace in Christ.
Therefore, in the summary of Our Position in Christ, the saved’s Sanctification is viewed in three distinct areas: Eternal (past tense); Judicial (present tense); and Experiential (present tense).
“This is the will of God (or His Plan, His Eternal Purpose in Christ for His Chosen People), even your sanctification…”
But the Sanctification of God’s Chosen is not only seen in their Position in Christ, but also in their Practice for Christ.