Essay / Theology

What Sanctification Is

What is sanctification? How is it obtained? What does it do for you?

Here we have three questions in one and pretty large questions to answer briefly. The questions are answered at length and fully in my book. WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES in the chapter on Sanctification.

To answer briefly, to sanctify means to separate or set apart for God, and therefore sanctification is the process of setting apart, or being set apart for God. This is the primary meaning of the word, but to sanctify means also to separate from ceremonial or moral defilement, to cleanse. In this secondary meaning of the word sanctify, sanctification is the process of separating or the state of being separated from ceremonial or moral defilement.

A man is sanctified when he is wholly set apart for God, when he has made an absolute surrender of his will to God. He is fully sanctified in the second sense of the word when he is delivered from all sin. It is God who sanctified men; He does it through the work of the Holy Spirit (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2) by the instrumentality of His Word (John 17:17). In the Word Jesus Christ is presented to us as our sanctification, i.e. separation from sin and separation to God are provided for us in Christ. By the appropriation of Christ we obtain this sanctification thus provided, and the more completely we appropriate Christ, the more completely we are sanctified. As Christ takes continually more and more complete possession of every corner of our being we are more and more completely sanctified. Sanctification is something that we must pursue or seek earnestly if we are to obtain it (Heb. 12:14).

While it is God’s work, we have our part in it, viz., to make it the object of our earnest desire and pursuit. On our part we attain unto sanctification through presenting our members as servants or slaves to righteousness and becoming ourselves bondservants unto God (Rom. 6:19, 22). We perfect holiness by cleansing ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, and to this end we are to come out from among unbelievers refusing all alliance with them and touching no unclean thing (2 Cor. 6:17; 7:1). The completion by Christ of the work of sanctification in us, i.e. our presentation before God wholly without blemish and unreprovable, is conditioned upon our continuance in the faith grounded and steadfast (Col. 1:21-23 R.V.).

Sanctification takes place the moment any one becomes a member of the church of God by faith in Christ Jesus–that moment he is sanctified. All believers are (not shall be) sanctified (1 Cor. 1:2 R.V.; 6:11 R.V.), i.e. to say by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all we are cleansed forever from all the guilt of sin, we are “perfected forever” as far as our standing before God is concerned in which every believer may be already sanctified. It is the believer’s present and blessed privilege and immediate and solemn duty to present his body to God a living sacrifice, not some part or parts of the body, but the whole body with its every member and every faculty; such an offering is “well pleasing to God” (Rom. 12:1).

As God in the Old Testament showed His pleasure in an offering by sending down fire to take it to Himself, so when the whole body is offered to God, He still sends down the fire of the Holy Ghost and takes to Himself what is thus presented. The moment this is done, the believer so far as the will, the governing purpose of his life, the center of his being, is concerned, is wholly God’s or perfectly sanctified. He may and will daily discover as he studies the Word of God and is illumined by the Holy Spirit acts of his, habits of life, forms of feeling, speech and action that are not in conformity with this central purpose of his life. These when discovered must be immediately confessed to God as blameworthy and be put away and this department of his being and life brought by God’s Spirit and the indwelling Christ into conformity with God’s will as revealed in His Word.

The victory in this newly discovered and unclaimed territory can be instantaneous. For example, I may discover in myself an irritability of temper that is manifestly displeasing to God and confess it, renounce it and instantly, not by my own strength but by looking to Jesus and claiming his patience and goodness, overcome it and never have another failure in that direction, and so with everything in my life I am brought to see is displeasing to God.

Of course, that is not at all inconsistent with the thought that there is a progressive work of sanctification, an increasing in love, an abounding more and more in a godly walk, and in pleasing God, a growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and begin transformed into the image of our Lord Jesus from glory unto glory (1 Thess. 3:12; 4:1, 10 R.V.; 2 Peter 3:18 R.V.; 2 Cor. 3:18 R.V.; Eph. 4:11-15). Complete sanctification in the fullest sense of the word, when the whole spirit, soul and body is preserved entire without blame, is something to be sought in prayer, to be accomplished by God in the future, fully perfected at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:23 R.V.; 3:12, 13).

Does Revelation 20:15, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire,” indicate a second probation?

There is not the slightest implication of a second probation in this verse. It simply teaches that at the Judgment of the Great White Throne which is at the end of the thousand years, when the rest of the dead, those who did not have part in the first resurrection, are raised, if any one of those raised at that time were not found written in the Book of Life he was cast into the lake of fire. It does not say that any were found written in the Book of Life, but even if it did imply that some were found written in the Book of Life it would not imply a second probation, for there is to be death during the Millenium and those who die during the Millenium they will be judged at the Great White Throne. There is not the slightest suggestion here that any who had died unbelievers afterwards repented and thus were written in the Book of Life.

Originally from, The King’s Business “Questions and Answers” by R.A. Torrey,
December, 1913, pp. 600-601

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