Bible Reasons For Sanctification
Paul, in writing to the Thessalonians, said, “This is the will of God even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.” (I. Thess. 4:3.) Here the reason given for their sanctification is to keep them from wrong doing. As a preventative of this gross sin which was so common in their midst, he urges them on to the experience of sanctification. Fornication is the outcome of evil desire; sanctification destroys the root of evil desires. Justification deals with the shoots of sin, while sanctification deals with the roots of sin. The inference is that if they were not sanctified they were in danger of falling into this gross sin.
In Romans 6:6 we read, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” The teaching here is unmistakable; our “old man is crucified,” and the “body of sin destroyed” in order “that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Our “old man” and “the body of sin” are identical and refer to indwelling or original sin. In justification our moral nature is quickened and made alive from the dead; in sanctification our “old man” is crucified and put to death, and the “body of sin” destroyed.
There is no method of interpretation that can make the term “quickened,” which has to do with regeneration, and the term “crucified,” which has to do with sanctification, to stand for the same experience: those two terms represent two separate and distinct experiences. Nor can we understand how any person of intelligence could interpret the terms “crucified” and “destroyed” to simply mean repression, as taught by the Keswick School; if those terms do not teach eradication we know of no language that would. And the reason given for the crucifixion and destruction of this sin principle is that we might cease from sin. The inference and implied teaching here is, that if the “old man” is not “crucified” and “the body of sin destroyed,” we will not cease from sin. The experience common among Christians is, that where this sin principle yet remains in the heart it will at times gain the ascendency, and betray them into sinning; they admit this by saying they do things they should not do, and leaving undone things they should do. And thus they backslide.
A second reason given for the cleansing and purging of those who are fruit bearing branches of the true vine is, that they “may bring forth more fruit,” (John 15:2.) The term fruit is used interchangeably in the Scriptures, at times denoting the inward “fruit of the spirit,” and at other times referring to our activities and service for the Master; but in either case it means increased and enlarged usefulness. Before we can be at our best for Him we must have His best for us. After we have been purged and “sanctified” we are “meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” II. Tim. 2:21. No person who is truly sanctified will be barren in the service of the Lord. God uses every one whom He can use, and one of the first requisites for service is that we be clean. A sanctified person is not only clean, but also filled with the Spirit; and it is this fullness of the Spirit that is the true qualification for service. If the disciples, who had been associated with Jesus three years, and had the advantage of both His precept and His example, were not yet fully qualified for their life work until they tarried in the upper room and received their Pentecost, how much less are we prepared for effective service without this experience. The salvation of our loved ones, and of the unsaved around us, may depend upon our becoming sanctified.
A third reason for sanctification may be seen in the prayer of Jesus when he said: “Sanctify them through Thy truth . . . that they all may be one” (John 17 :17, 21), and the object of this unity is “that the world may believe.” We are aware that some who oppose this doctrine teach that sanctification would divide and split the church, but Jesus teaches that sanctification is the Scriptural basis of true unity. By this oneness we do not understand that He is teaching an organic or theological union — that all would belong to the same organization, or see alike on every non-essential matter — but an essential inward heart union. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul declares that carnality is the divisive element; that because there is among them “envying, strife and divisions,” they “are yet carnal.” (I. Cor. 3:3.) So we see that it is not sanctification, but lack of sanctification that causes division. If holiness were divisive we might expect to find much division in heaven, seeing they make a specialty of holiness in that country.
Not only is sanctification the scriptural basis of unity among His people, but the essential condition of oneness with Jesus. The writer to the Hebrews declares, “He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” (2:11.) The words, “for which cause,” give the inference that if we were not sanctified He might be ashamed to call us brethren. In sanctification all we have is consecrated to Him, and so becomes His, and in turn, all He has becomes ours; and thus we become one with Him. It is sin in the heart that is the divisive element and prevents a complete union and one-ness both among believers and with Christ himself. And not until the prayer for our sanctification is answered can we know true one-ness.