If any defense is needed for writing on the subjects we are dealing with in this present series of articles, it is sufficient to say that they deal with men's relation to God. The secularist is apt to complain that such articles are not practical and profitable, inasmuch as they do not bear directly on politics, economics, and other social sciences. It might be argued that we are making no contribution towards solving the problems now perplexing the statesmen of the world. Human relations, whether on the individual or collective level, are generally accepted as of much importance, and this we do not deny or ignore. Great industries have their public relations agencies. Governments have their agencies which deal with domestic and foreign relations. And since every man must have dealings with God, the Creator and Lawgiver, to have right relations with Him is of supreme importance. To ignore or deny this is to take a fatal attitude. Every man must undergo a change of attitude towards God or suffer eternal and fatal consequences.
The proper presentation of any Bible doctrine lies largely in correct definition of terms. Much of the false teaching so rampant today began with incorrect definitions of Bible words. This is particularly true with regard to the doctrine of sanctification. If we accept the definition of the word as given by the so-called holiness sects, then we will have to accept their teaching on the subject.
In getting at the true meaning of Bible words, we must remember that human dictionaries do not determine, but merely register the meaning of words according to their current usage. This explains why Webster and others define baptism as the act of dipping, pouring, or sprinkling. These men did not profess to be theologians, and their definitions merely reflect the opinions of recognized theologians whose opinions differ. It was observed that some denominations dip or immerse and call their act baptism, while others pour or sprinkle and call their act baptism; and so baptism is defined as being any one of these acts. Bible doctrines cannot be settled by the human dictionaries. We must get our definitions of Bible words from the Bible itself. We shall observe:
1. The view that sanctification is merely a progressive work of grace in the soul. This is only a partial explanation of the doctrine. It covers only one aspect of the doctrine. It ignores the objective side of sanctification, and makes it only a subjective experience in which the believer grows in grace. Sanctification is both objective and subjective, positional as well as experiential.
2. The view that sanctification is a blessing for only a few sample saints, the mark of an advanced and mature Christian. This view distinguishes between the ordinary Christian and those who are more pious and godly. But the fact is that every born again person is a saint. All the saved are sanctified. Sanctification like justification is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me" (#Ac 26:18). Paul wrote to the carnal believers at Corinth and addressed them as saints, that is, sanctified persons.
3. The idea that sanctification is a second work of grace in which sin is eradicated from the soul. This makes sanctification subsequent to justification, a blessing which may be lost unless the second blessing of sanctification is received. This would break the Scripture which says that the justified are (in the purpose of God) already glorified: "Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (#Ro 8:30).
4. The Romanist view that nobody is sanctified until after death when the church, by a tedious and painful ceremony, canonizes the person on the ground of personal merit. According to this view there are no living saints. In reply, it is sufficient to say that Paul wrote to living people and addressed them as saints.
Let us bear in mind that the words saint, sanctuary, holiness, and sanctification are from the same root word, which means "to set apart", or "to cause to pass over". By comparing #Ex 13:2 with #Ex 13:12 we get the Bible meaning of the word sanctify. In #Ex 13:2 God says, "Sanctify unto me all the first-born, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine." In verse 12, the command is repeated but instead of the word sanctify, the words "set apart" (margin: "Cause to pass over") are used. The thought is that of separating from and setting apart to, or causing to pass over to. The first-born Israelite was separated from the other children in the home and considered as the peculiar possession of the Lord on the ground that the death angel passed over the house, sparing him the fate of the first-born Egyptian.
There is no moral element implied in the word sanctification, and so it is used of things as well as of persons. We find that vessels, and beasts, and a mountain (things without moral value) are said to be sanctified. They were simply separated from one use and set apart to another use. Isaiah speaks of idolators as sanctifying themselves, which means that they separated themselves from the true congregation of Israel to engage in idolatrous worship. "They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD" (#Isa 66:17).
Nor does the word sanctification imply any internal change in the thing or person sanctified. Mt. Sinai was sanctified "And Moses said unto the LORD, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it" (#Ex 19:23), but there was no internal change; the soil and minerals remained the same as before. Jeremiah was sanctified before he was born. "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations" (#Jer 1:5), which precludes the idea of any internal change. Our Lord was sanctified "Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?" (#Joh 10:36); "And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth" (#Joh 17:19), and this does away with the idea of eradication of a sinful nature in sanctification, for He was ever the sinless One.
The sanctification of persons does involve the question of morals because men are moral beings. And there is one aspect of sanctification which, when completed, will be the eradication of sinful nature and will consist of personal holiness. The various aspects of sanctification should not be confounded but clearly distinguished. The Bible speaks of sanctification by the blood of Christ, by the Holy Spirit, by the word of God, and by the Father.
In #Heb 10:10 "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" ,we are told that our sanctification is by the will of God through the offering of the body of Christ once for all. The same truth is given us in #Heb 13:12: "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate." We note three things about this aspect of sanctification.
1. It is positional or objective. The above Scriptures express what the believer is before God by virtue of the blood of Christ. This is imputed holiness, for Christ is "made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (#1Co 1:30). It is as Scriptural to speak of imputed righteousness.
3. It is absolute. In Christ we are absolutely holy-we are as holy as He is holy. This aspect of sanctification is not gradual and relative, but absolute and eternal. If Christ is our holiness, then we are as holy as He is. How precious this makes the blood of Christ to the believer!
This is internal and experiential in which the believer is separated from the world and set apart as belonging to God. Paul thanks God for the Thessalonians "because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (#2Th 2:13). Peter writes to those who are the "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (#1Pe 1:2).
Salvation in the sense of conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the initial work of grace and not a second blessing. And it is to be followed by blessing after blessing. Paul expresses confidence "that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (#Php 1:6). The Holy Spirit convicts of sin and leads one to faith in Christ. And he keeps in faith those begotten unto faith. There are no abandoned projects in the economy of grace.
This is personal and practical sanctification and has to do with our daily walk, or every day life. In praying for His disciples, our Lord said, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth" (#Joh 17:17). The word of God has a separating influence on the life of the believer. If the word has a large place in our life, sin will have a proportionately small place. An increased desire for the word will mean a decreased desire for the world. Sin will keep us from the word or the word will keep us from sin. A woman was complimenting her friend on her knowledge of the Bible. She said, "I would give all the world for your knowledge of the Scriptures." "Well, "said the friend, "that is exactly what it cost me."
Sanctification by the word is also progressive. We make progress in personal holiness by feeding on the word: "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (#1Pe 2:2). When we consider how little the average Christian feeds his soul on the word of God, we are not surprised to find them dwarfed spiritually-Christians who never grow up to maturity. Sanctification is a divine work and a human obligation. The believer has not strength of his own for godly living, and to think otherwise is highly presumptuous and reveals a spirit of self-righteousness. On the other hand, to deny the obligation to holy living is to justify sinful living.
There is a close analogy between good health in the physical and good health in the spiritual sense, or between good health in a man considered as a physical being and as a moral being. There are three things essential in each case.
1. There must be wholesome food. Physical health may be impaired by what one eats. We have pure food laws for our protection. But in spite of this many people make of their stomachs a sort of garbage can for harmful foods. And we need to know how to eat as well as what to eat. Many would have better health physically if they would masticate what they eat. They may be said to bolt their food. They do not use their teeth, but try to make their stomachs do what the teeth were given to do. Now there must be wholesome food for the soul if the Christian is to have good health. The Christian's food is what he puts into his mind-it is what he reads and hears and looks at. There is a lot of mental food dished out to Christians that impairs their spiritual health. The believer needs to shun the lustful, trashy, filthy literature, constantly pouring off the presses in shocking abundance, as he would shun poison for the body. The proper food for the Christian is the Bible and such books and magazines as are true to the Bible.
2. Another essential to good health is proper exercise. And the best exercise is that which uses all the members of the body. Every member of the body has its own muscles for it was intended to be used, and if not used the muscles will become weak and flabby. Put your arm in a sling and keep it there month after month-never give it any exercise-never use it---and after a while you can't use it. Put your well leg in a cast and keep it there six months, and you can no more walk than fly.
Now spiritual exercise is just as essential to the health of the soul as physical exercise is to the body. Spiritual muscles can also become weak and flabby. The strength we get from spiritual manna must be used. We must exercise our spiritual gifts by doing good. We are created in Christ Jesus for the purpose of doing good works. There is much for Christians to do, and we are exhorted by Paul to be rich in good works. The lost are to be witnessed to, the sick are to be visited, and the afflicted are to be comforted. To talk of Christ to others will make Him more precious to our own hearts. Witnessing to others about Christ is the best tonic for a run-down feeling spiritually. We may lift ourselves out of the doldrums by giving somebody else a lift. We save our lives by losing our lives for Christ's sake in the service of others.
3. A third essential to good health is the right kind of atmosphere. We must have oxygen if we are to breathe. Mrs. Cole cannot have normal health in Florida. The altitude is too low and the air is too damp and heavy. And on Frisco Peak in Arizona, the altitude is too high and the air is too light---not enough oxygen for her. The climate and atmosphere has to be considered in the matter of physical health.
Now for the spiritual health we must breathe the right atmosphere-we must have the proper environment. And this has to do with our associations. We are to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness" (#Eph 5:11). Bad company will ruin good character "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners" (#1Co 15:33). The blessed man does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, that is, he does not follow the advice of those who hate God. He does not stand in the way of sinners, which means that he is not a joint partaker of their ways. He does not sit in the seat of the scornful, that is, the blessed man has no part with those who mock at holy things.
The believer is in the world, but he is not of the world. He must not shun physical contact with the world, but must have no moral fellowship with its ways.
Complete personal sanctification in the sense of sinless perfection is a goal to be striven for and not a reality to be boasted of. Regeneration has been called the crisis of the disease of sin, and sanctification the progress of convalescence. To live in the truth of the glorious doctrine of sanctification will keep the believer humble, happy, hopeful, and helpful on his journey to glory. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it" (#1Th 5:23,24).