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What the Bible Teaches--A Guide to Total Christian Commitment 
by Rev. James McRobbie    ©Pillar of Fire, International 
"Sanctification is . . .to be enjoyed, . . .might and sustaining, . . a necessity to all who would live the triumphant, victorious life."
Learn more about the power of the Holy Spirit for personal holiness through Sanctification

[Bottom of page] [The Living Word] [Back: Chapter 9] [Next: Chapter 11] [Index]
Chapter 10 Contents: [What Sanctification Means] [What Sanctification Does] [There is a Double Experience] [Sanctification is Imperative]
 [What the Bible Teaches refers to numerous passages from the Bible. Your study will be greatly
enhanced by looking up the verses as you go along. If you want to look up Bible verses online as you study, clicking here will open up "The Bible Gateway" in a new window. You may then use the title buttons on your browser screen to move back and forth between the Bible and this study. All quotations in What the Bible Teaches are from the King James Version [KJV] unless otherwise specified.]

Chapter 10: What the Bible Teaches ABOUT SANCTIFICATION

"Holiness by faith in Jesus,
    Not by effort of my own,
Sin's dominion crushed and broken
    By the power of grace alone."
    It is to be borne in mind that sanctification is plainly declared in the Divine Oracle: "This is the will of God, even your sanctification" [1 Thessalonians 4:3]. The Bible shows that the word "even" is in the form of italics, showing that it is not in the original, revealing that "your sanctification" is not something extraordinary or exceptional, as one might infer from this little word -- it is simply and plainly the will of God.

What Sanctification Means

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    Sanctification is not a mere theory or doctrine, it is something to be enjoyed, something that is might and sustaining, something that is a necessity to all who would live the triumphant, victorious life. While the experience of sins forgiven at our justification is outward (when all the sins of a lifetime are blotted out), sanctification is inward; it deals with the sin principle of the heart. Then, too, with the pardon of our sins we receive a new life in our regeneration, but sanctification is a death -- a death unto sin and self. This is, of course, paradoxical, for while it means a death to sin and self, it also implies that we have life "more abundantly" [John 10:10]. It is, as Rev. George Matheson said:
"Make me a captive, Lord,
    And then I shall be free;
Force me to render up my sword,
    And I shall conqueror be."
    Consider sanctification etymologically. The English word is taken from the Latin, sanctus, meaning "holy", and facio, "I make". Therefore it means to "make holy." It is, then, a purification from all inward and outward defilement, complete conformity to the will of God. From the New Testament Greek standpoint I turn to Dr. Godbey, who says hagiasai, sanctify, is in the aorist tense, and signifies an instantaneous work of grace; from alpha, not, and ge, the world, signifying the elimination of the world. Regeneration takes you out of the world, and sanctification takes the world out of you. We are to remember St. Paul's prayer: "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly." This signifies entirety and completion, and here he adds a further petition: "And I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" [1 Thessalonians 5:23].
    It is held by some that sanctification is synonymous with dying grace, which means that when a believer is about to be taken from these scenes of time, God imparts a dispensation of grace to the heart, making it holy, preparatory for heaven. But, believe me, it is just the opposite, it is living grace, for no one can live the Christian life adequately without sanctification. It is not consecration. All the sanctified are, of course, truly and wholly dedicated, and that is an indispensable requirement. A dedicated and consecrated life is one of the most beautiful things in this world. Still, we must consider 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. We may be consecrated unto death, be martyrs, and yet, without divine love, be simply "nothing." It is not suppression. If the old nature is merely suppressed, it is natural to think that there might be a time when the old lion would spring out of his lair and prove harmful. If the old nature is chloroformed, it is quite logical to think that it may get from under the power of the ether, and prove itself ugly and disastrous.
    Your sanctification, then, has to do with your inward being -- your ego, your heart, your very soul. Man is a fallen being; he is sinful, willful, and carnal by nature. Even a little child may give evidence of this in fits of anger and passion. St. Paul had to say to the Corinthians, "Ye are yet carnal," and note what he adds (showing the outcropping of the old nature): "For whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal?" [1 Corinthians 3:3]. Nowhere in the Bible do we get a better picture of this nature than in Romans 8:7: "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Seeing then that this is the Word of God, it is prima facie evidence that it must be dealt with in cold, harsh extermination. This old nature comes under various designations; here are some of them: "The old man," the "body of sin" [Romans 6:6]; "the old leaven" [1 Corinthians 5:8]; the "carnal mind" [Romans 8:7]; "indwelling sin" [Romans 7:20; an "evil heart of unbelief" [Hebrews 3:12]. These names given to us by the Holy Spirit show various aspects of this fallen nature, imparted to and inherited by the human race through the fall of Adam.
    Sanctification means a death to the old nature. The verse that proves this beyond all doubt is Romans 6:6: "Knowing this [something to know], that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." In the Old Testament typology, the bond woman had to be cast out of Abraham's household in order that there might be peace. Goliath, who defied God's ancient people, had, not alone [simply] to fall and be stunned, he had to be beheaded -- he had to die. Your sanctification implies that God's mighty power deals with your inward sinfulness and inherent moral weakness; that the power of sin may be crushed, broken, and banished.
"Pure and holy I would be,
    Jesus Savior, dwell in me;
Seal Thy image on my heart,
    Make me perfect as Thou art."

What Sanctification Does

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    The basic Greek word in the New Testament for sanctification is hagiasmos, but the same word is sometimes translated holiness, as in Hebrews 12:14: "Follow . . . holiness [hagiasmon], without which no man shall see the Lord." Sanctification then makes one holy and is synonymous with holiness. These words are used interchangeably, in the Bible and by individuals. Some other phrases for sanctification are as follows" "A clean heart," for which David prayed [Psalm 51:10]. It is soul rest, which Jesus gives, "I will give you rest." It is also a heavenly, worshipful, spiritual rest: "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God" [Hebrews 4:9], which is literally a "Sabbatic rest," comparable to the Sabbath. It is the most desirable peace, called "great peace." "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them" [Psalm 119:165]. It is perfect love, often called "Christian perfection." It was this that John Wesley strongly and continually advocated. What is it? It is to love the Lord supremely; it is the absence of all idolatry; it is summed up in both the Old and New Testaments in the words: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" [Deuteronomy 6:5]. It contains no element of fear. "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: . . . perfect love casteth out fear" [1 John 4:17-18]. These various aspects of sanctification create amiable characteristics in the heart: the peace of God that passeth understanding; Christ's very own joy; the fulness of hope; inward, spiritual and moral strength.
    Not only does sanctification make one holy but it unifies irrespective of denomination, nationality, or class distinction, because then Christ is all. In John 17 our Lord prayed: "Sanctify them through thy truth: . . . That they all may be one." Sanctification also fits one for service because then there is the baptism of power [Acts 1:8]. Our Lord's command is to "tarry" until "endued with power from on high" [Luke 24:49]. Then, and then only, are we vessels "unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use" [2 Timothy 2:21]. God works through sanctified persons; He will do "wonders" amongst us if we are dedicated, humble and cleansed. Sanctification is the qualification for the second coming of Christ. "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; . . . unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Our hearts are to be established "unblameable in holiness" at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is only those who have experienced the cleansing of the Spirit who will find their mortal bodies "quickened" at and for the rapture [Romans 8:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17]. Above all, sanctification is needful in that it alone qualifies us for our heavenly home. None but the "pure in heart" shall see God [Hebrews 12:14]. Remember, heaven is holy [Deuteronomy 26:15; Psalm 20:6], and since it is God's dwelling place all sin is excluded [Revelation 22:15]. The most glorious thing about sanctification is that it brings Christ into our hearts -- yes Christ, with all His virtues, graces, and powers. Listen to Paul: "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me [Galatians 2:20].
"God's own holiness within thee,
    His own beauty on thy brow;
This shall be thy pilgrim brightness,
    This thy blessed portion now."
    Let me say first of all that sanctification is for believers, and not for sinners. The merchant man who sought the "pearl of great price," a type of our sanctification, was dealing in precious things.
    What were the one hundred and twenty doing who received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost? They were expecting, they were waiting, they were dedicated to the hilt. Jesus had said, "Tarry." They were prayerful and God was evidently dealing with them.
    To those whom God has been leading on to the higher life, to seek the experience of a clean heart, the following is what the Bible teaches about how we are, without any doubt, to obtain the experience of holiness.
"Come, Thou witness of His dying,
    Come, Remembrancer divine;
Let us feel Thy power applying
    Christ to every soul and mine."

There is a Double Experience

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    Sanctification is often called the "second work of grace," the first being our regeneration or justification. In our justification all our actual sins, the sins of a lifetime, are dealt with; they are forgiven and washed away. In our sanctification the thing that causes us to sin, the sin principle within, the "body of sin" [Romans 6:6] is dealt with -- it is destroyed.
    There is a double rest. Jesus said, "I will give you rest," and in the next verse, "Ye shall find rest" [Matthew 11:28-29]. There is a double peace: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." The Psalmist called this second peace "great peace," and concluded that all such were above offense -- nothing shall offend them. The ancient temple had a "holy place" but also a "most holy place." Jacob had his first experience at Bethel [Genesis 28], when he entered into a covenant relationship with God. In chapter 32 he confessed his deceitful nature and was touched and renamed Israel, a prince. It was not enough for the ancient Israelites to leave Egypt. That experience was a type of our deliverance from the world, sin and Satan. But the wilderness was not their God-given inheritance. For them there was a blessed Canaan experience of rest. Our Canaan is Christ. This is the abundant life. "I am come," said our Lord, "that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" [John 10:10]. There is a double baptism. See John the Baptist's statement: "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" [Matthew 3:11]. John said there was "love," and such a thing as our love "made perfect" [1 John 4:17]. The disciples were made "clean through the word;" nevertheless they were to "tarry" for the enduement of power. In the eighth chapter of Acts there is the story of a spiritual awakening in Samaria under the preaching of Philip. The people believed and were baptized. Yet the Word says the Holy Spirit had fallen "upon none of them." Peter and John were then sent from Jerusalem to show them the way of holiness, and the Holy Spirit then came upon them. See what St. Paul says in Romans 5:1-3. In verse 1 we see justification by faith. In verse 2 we read: "By whom also [something additional] we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand" -- the establishing grace of holiness. Then he adds: "And rejoice in hope of the glory of God." This, of course, is still in the future; it is our glorification.
    In the nineteenth chapter of Acts we have the incident where St. Paul visited Ephesus and found "certain disciples." He accosted them with the words: "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" They replied that they had never heard of the Holy Spirit. "Unto what then were ye baptized?" interrogated the apostle. The answer was, "Unto John's baptism." Paul preached to them of the coming of the Holy Spirit, they were baptized, and, with the laying on of the apostle's hands, they received the Holy Spirit. See also what St. Paul wrote later to these Ephesians, and how he marked out the two experiences of grace: "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise" [Ephesians 1:13].
    There is a second rest, a second work of grace, a second baptism, a second experience -- it is the enduement of power, the baptism which Jesus gives, a complete cleansing through His precious blood applied to our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Sanctification is Imperative

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    We are not to think that sanctification can be taken or left alone. The last command of our Lord was for His disciples to "tarry" till endued with power. In Leviticus 11:44 we find the issue of holiness imperatively stated: "I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy." Our holiness is therefore a strict necessity because of the holiness of God and that is how St. Peter expresses it: "Like as he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy" [1 Peter 1:15-16, R.V.].
    It is imperative because no one can love God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength if the heart is filled with self and the corruption of the carnal mind. But when the Holy Spirit enters the heart and applies the precious blood, He then fills the heart with true love -- love of God and love for all our fellows, and this is scripturally the "love of the Spirit" [Romans 15:30].
    Consider blundering Peter after he tarried and received a clean heart and the Pentecostal fulness; there were no more carnal expressions, wavering, or denying of the Lord; with the absence of the "Old Adam," he was bold, courageous, steadfast, and enlightened. Sanctification is then the establishing blessing. Many evangelists have testified that after receiving the definite experience of the Holy Spirit, they lived thereafter a new life -- a live of power, blessing, and soul winning. David could say that the Lord brought him out of the mire and clay, and, as a second measure, "established" his goings. Jude, in the closing verses of his epistle, reminds the people that they were to build themselves up in a "most holy faith," that this would keep them in the love of God, and by doing so, he said, God will "keep you from falling."
    The experience of sanctification is imperative also in view of the rapture, for it is the Holy Spirit who will "quicken" our mortal bodies, rapture them from the earth, and glorify them in order to meet the Lord in the air. Read the verse St. Paul gives us in Romans 8:11: "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." This is not a quickening of our dead bodies at the resurrection, but it is a quickening of our bodies still mortal.
    With sanctification comes the crucifixion of the big self within us, and Christ becomes all. In this way, the only way that it is possible, the church becomes united. With hearts filled with divine love, with Christ exalted, with self dead, there is then a beautiful oneness in the church. Look what St. Paul said of the Corinthian church -- some were of Peter, some of Apollos, some of Paul, some of Christ, and so he added: "Ye are yet carnal" [1 Corinthians 3:4]. How beautifully the Holy Spirit, dwelling in cleansed hearts, puts each and all in the church in their respective places with their respective gifts and talents -- all dedicated to a single purpose. Note, too, our Lord's final prayer: "Sanctify them through thy truth: . . . That they all may be one" [John 17:17, 21]. The Psalmist expresses unity in the most beautiful terms [Psalm 133].
    Consider carefully the secret of St. Paul's matchless life of usefulness in the light of his own exclamation: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me [Galatians 2:20]. Therefore come boldly; wait humbly; trust simply; take freely; ask believingly; dedicate unwaveringly; walk firmly; lean hard; plead the promises; praise Him --
so shall the work be done.
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