Sanctification

Set apart for the Lord.  That was the Old Testament of “holy.”  The Tabernacle with all of its furnishings, the Ark of the Covenant, the Temple, the Priests, even the people of Israel—they all were set apart for the Lord.  They were holy.

There is a theological term that is used to speak of this process of making the common holy.  Theosis is used in different ways by different traditions, but generally refers to the transference of holiness that results from contact with the Lord.  Another term that is used is “sanctification.”

When the craftsman would make two pots and set one aside for common use and the other for use in ritual washing, the second would have a different status.  It may be considered holy.  It would be used in a different way and disposed of in a different way.  Two lambs might be raised by a family.  One would provide a few meals and the other would be dedicated for the Passover.  The latter would be considered sanctified or holy.  The Sabbath was just another day of the week until the Lord sanctified it as His own.

The idea here is that things and people are made holy by the touch and will of God.  No one is made holy by what he or she does.  No one becomes more holy by doing the right thing.   And to be holy is to be sanctified.

We use sanctification in two ways.  I think only one is helpful, but the other is widely used.  We have been sanctified, made holy, by the presence of Jesus Christ as our Life.  We do not get more of Jesus by being good.  We are holy by His presence.  So the fact is that we are already sanctified, as sanctified as we will ever be, simply because we belong to Him and He is in us.

The other use of the term, which I find less than helpful, suggests that there is a process of sanctification in our lives, a sense in which we are becoming more holy.  The problem I see with this usage is that it mixes up who we are with what we do.  Because the flesh is still active and we still live in the corrupt world, our actions often do not reflect who we are.  My holiness is not made evident by my actions, at least much of the time.  But my actions neither take away from nor add to the fact that I am in Christ and Christ is in me.  I become neither more nor less holy because of my actions.

So when I ask what Jesus did for me, I have to say that He has made me holy.  I may not look or act particularly holy, but I am.  I am holy because of Him.  I am sanctified because of Him.

The author of Hebrews mentions both the fact that I am already sanctified and the fact that more and more of me is being set apart for the Lord.  I take this to mean my attitudes, thoughts and actions.

10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:10-14

Obviously, I am not free to say that the second use of the term is incorrect, because the Scripture uses it that way.  But it is important that the believer understand that the process of sanctification is simply “us becoming who we are.”  Nothing is added to us in the process.  Christ in me is increasingly revealed, increasingly in control, and increasingly enjoyed.  More and more I live the sanctified life Christ has already given me.

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Filed under grace, Relationship, Theology and mystery

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