How is the Christian Sanctified?

How is the Christian Sanctified?

By Curt Wildy

Objectively, we are right now completely sanctified in Christ. We are  as completely set apart for God’s use, holy, and without spot or blemish as He is. To quote one of my favourite passages in the Bible “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). How blessed it is to be so thoroughly yoked with Christ, so utterly united with Him, as to have His righteousness, His sanctification, and His perfection as our very own.

What Is The Definition Of Sanctification?

Consider the first biblical use of the English word sanctify (which is also the first use of the primary Hebrew word for sanctify in the Old Testament):

Genesis 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified [qadash – H6942] it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made [lit. created to make].

Qadash [H6942; קדשׁ kaw-dash’] is a primitive root verb which, in its Piel form (used in the passage above) means: to set apart as sacred, consecrate, dedicate; to observe as holy, keep sacred; to honour as sacred, hallow; and/or to consecrate. It also means to be clean; to causatively, make, pronounce or observe as clean; and/or to clean ceremonially or morally. A brief sampling of other uses of this word include:

Leviticus 8:30 And Moses took of the anointing oil, and of the blood which [was] upon the altar, and sprinkled [it] upon Aaron, [and] upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon his sons’ garments with him; and sanctified [qadash – H6942] Aaron, [and] his garments, and his sons, and his sons’ garments with him.

Exodus 12:43 And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This [is] the ordinance of the passover… 13:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Sanctify [qadash – H6942] unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, [both] of man and of beast: it [is] mine.

Consider also the the first two uses of the Greek word for sanctify in the New Testament:

Matthew 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed [hagiazo-G37] be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven.

Matthew 23:17 [Ye] fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth [hagiazo-G37] the gold? 18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.2  19 [Ye] fools and blind: for whether [is] greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth [hagiazo-G37] the gift?

Hagiazo [G37; αγιαζω  hag-ee-ad’-zo] is a verb meaning to make holy, consecrate, sanctify; to dedicate, separate, set apart for God; to purify, make conformable in character to such dedication; and (forensically, to free from guilt {#1Co 6:11 Eph 5:26 Heb 2:11 10:10,14,29 13:12}). A brief sampling of other uses of this word include:

John 10:36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified [hagiazo-G37], and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

John 17:17 Sanctify [hagiazo-G37] them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify [hagiazo-G37] myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

The clear intent of the words [qadash-H6942] and [hagiazo-G37] is the setting apart of someone or something, whether common or divine, for God’s use. Utensils, buildings, money, people, days of the year, and even God’s name are set apart by God unto His predetermined  purpose. When we pray hallowed be Thy name we are praying that God will so set apart His authority and glory in our lives as to make it manifest in us and through us persistently. Our desire is for such a consecrating of His name in us that He causes us to bow to His will and to seek all the more to be under His guidance and headship.  

When God sanctified the seventh day in Genesis 2:3, He took that which was common and set it apart. In and of itself, the seventh day had no more value than any other day. What made it different was His sovereign choice of making it (a) the day in which He ceased from His creative work and (b) the day which He set apart for the sabbath rest of His people (under the Old Testament economy). Thus, our first understanding of this word must be in the context of being set apart for the specific purpose that God has ordained. When the sanctified person or object exists or operates in light of that purpose, that person or object is declared holy. Therefore, when God deems something to be holy or sanctified and providentially keeps it in that state, then it is perfectly sanctified and perfectly holy.

Note that this setting apart is unto a good use or purpose; one that glorifies God. The setting apart of the non-elect as vessels of wrath and dishonour, for instance, does not make them sanctified or holy (really, they are not set apart at all since they are the masses and the set apart ones are the elect). Likewise, being set apart for religious purposes does not make one holy if that religion is a false one. The Hebrew word that the AV/KJV translates as sodomite is actually qadesh [H6945; קָדֵשׁ  (kaw-dashe’)]. Although this word stems directly from [qadash-H6942] and literally means “a (quasi) sacred person,” it was generally used to denote a male devotee (by prostitution) to licentious idolatry (i.e. a male, homosexual temple prostitute) as well as any man that acts like one (i.e. homosexuals in general; see my post on the subject here).  

One Cohesive Whole 

The Bible reveals that when God does something for us, He does it as part of a whole (from our vantage point) and as a whole (from His). We tend to view election, redemption, sanctification, justification, understanding, faith… as separate acts. In fact however, these are manifestations of the same act — union with Christ from eternity. Sanctification, as we saw, means set apart. However, can God set apart something unless He has chosen to set it apart? Choosing is election. Where we have sanctification we have a manifestation of election (especially as it pertains to the elect being sanctified). If election and sanctification go hand-in-hand, then we know that predestination is right there along with it. If predestination is there then justification, calling, and glorification are as well (Romans 8:30). That leads us into redemption, atonement, propitiation, substitution, and so on. All these things tie-in as the one complete unit or act that was purposed by the Father, accomplished by Christ, and manifested in us by the Holy Ghost. 

The Great Importance Of Understanding Verb Forms

To rightly understand our eternal state before God, and our present state in this world, we must have a right understanding of the verb forms that God uses. Most of the time, the straight reading of the KJV/AV will suffice. However, to confirm and seal the matter, it helps to look into how God has chosen to phrase things to make sure we are in line with His intended understanding. Personally, I am quite amazed at how much insight one can gain by carefully analyzing these forms, especially as it relates to the work of God in general, and of Christ, in particular.  

When God used a verb in the Bible, does it mean that when the action was performed,  it was completed but the results can be altered? Does it mean that it was completed and the results were permanent? Does it mean that the action was performed as a one time act in the doer’s “now?” Does it mean that it was an act that started in the past and is, even now, continuously being performed? Likewise, when He uses a verb, is He teaching that it is something we do actively to others, something we do to ourselves, or something that is done in us or for us passively? Is the verb used as a statement of fact, or as a strong desire, or as  a command? These are all questions that we need to ask and answer when reading scripture. If we do not have the right understanding of these things, our point of view will run contrary to the biblical intent. Because such nuances of form can vary the meaning, I want to take the time to clarify the forms to help prevent misunderstanding. 

The Sanctification Of The Elect From Eternity

We read in Jude 1:1Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, [and] called…

God’s people are eternally sanctified by God the Father for this word sanctified [hagiazo; αγιαζω; G37; hag-ee-ad’-zo], which means to make holy, consecrate, sanctify, is used here as a participle in the perfect tense and passive voice. According to the website (which is in line with other authoritative sources on the matter):

Perfect tense: The basic thought of the perfect tense is that the progress of an action has been completed and the results of the action are continuing on, in full effect. In other words, the progress of the action has reached its culmination and the finished results are now in existence. Unlike the English perfect, which indicates a completed past action, the Greek perfect tense indicates the continuation and present state of a completed past action.

Passive Voice: …[if] the subject is the recipient of the action…[i.e.] If the subject of the sentence is being acted upon, then the verb is referred to as being in the passive voice.

Participle: A participle is considered a “verbal adjective”. It is often a word that ends with an “-ing” in English (such as “speaking,” “having,” or “seeing”). It can be used as an adjective, in that it can modify a noun (or substitute as a noun), or it can be used as an adverb and further explain or define the action of a verb. (For a more complete explanation of participles, please go to the advanced section on participles.)

The PreceptAustin site puts it as follows:

In short, the perfect tense…speaks of an action that took place in the past, which was completed in past time, and existence of its finished results. For instance one might say “I have closed the door” which speaks of a past completed action. But the implication is that as a result the door is still closed. Thus, the entire meaning is, “I have closed the door and it is closed at present.”

We see from the use of the perfect tense above that the Father completed, in the past, the one time act of sanctifying us (i.e. making us the sanctified ones as per the participle form), without our input or participation (as per the passive voice), and with this action never needing to be performed again. We know from the perfect tense that the result of that one time, completed act is such that we will ever remain sanctified by it. One may ask, how do we know that this sanctification was from eternity and not simply from some previous point — in time. Consider,

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly [places] in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.

1 Corinthians 1:2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified [perfect, passive, participle] in Christ Jesus, called [to be] saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the Truth: 

1 Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

As touched upon concerning the elect, where there is sanctification there is election and where there is election there is predestination. If our election and predestination were from eternity, then so was our sanctification. The Christian is elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, having from the beginning been chosen and predestinated in Christ, through both sanctification of the Spirit and sanctification in Christ Jesus. This sanctification is unto belief, obedience, and the sprinkling of the blood of Christ.  The result of our one time, completed, sanctification is that even now “we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (with should be holy being a present tense form of the verb to be). All that the Father does in eternity is done and done perfectly. All that He purposes, is! All that He deems to be is! The Bible declares that we were justified from eternity, thus, we are perfectly justified from eternity. We are now holy because God sanctified us completely from eternity, in Christ, and (as we shall see) in light of Our Lord’s finished work on the cross.

The difficulty in comprehension lies in the precept that eternity is the everlasting now. A “one time act” in eternity is hard to imagine because if eternity is always now (without time) then what does a one time act really mean? Nonetheless, the perfect tense as used and described above clearly indicates that we are completely sanctified by this eternal, yet one time, act. 

The Sanctification Of The Elect From The Cross And Through Union With Christ

Concerning our sanctification from the cross, we read:

Hebrews 10:7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and [offering] for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure [therein]; which are offered by the law; 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By the which will we are sanctified [perfect, passive, participle] through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once [for all]…. 14  For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified [present, passive, participle].

We have already seen that the perfect tense is a completed past action with permanent results. We are already sanctified by the completed act of the Father, through the Spirit, and in Christ — all from eternity. Yet, the Bible also teaches that we are sanctified by the completed act of Christ on the cross when He finished the work of substitutionary atonement, redemption, and propitiation for us (Hebrews 10:10). Is this a contradiction? Not at all. Our eternal sanctification by the Father was performed in light of both the eternal atoning act of Christ — the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8) and our union with Him. Our Lord Jesus was crucified in time; however, the act of fully paying for the sins of the vast multitude of the elect in the span of just three days (and not even three whole 24 hour days at that) evidences the eternal nature of His propitiatory act. This is not to say that Christ suffered for all eternity; yet, there is a clear aspect of Christ’s divinity and eternality that enabled Him to endure the full wrath of God for each and every one of our sins. 

I envision a divine, unbreakable conduit that connects the eternal sanctifying act of the Father (through the Spirit and in Christ) to the actual work of Christ on the cross. The two are one act in an eternal sense because everything in eternity is timeless, it is now; yet we struggle with this because we are creatures of time. For the most part we think in the linear; we are not able to grasp the eternal, ever-present now.  Therefore, the temporal distinction between the cross and the eternal act of election, predestination, sanctification, and justification, is one that God makes for us for our own understanding. Perhaps for ease of comprehension, we can say that we are completely sanctified from eternity because God (who declares the end from the beginning) “already saw” that we were already completely sanctified from the cross (by the lamb slain before the foundation of the world) — even though this sanctifying act was yet to manifest itself in time (because it did manifest itself in the eternal now).

However, whereas verse 10 states “…we are sanctified [perfect, passive, participle] through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once [for all]….“, verse 14 states “by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified [present, passive, participle].” Concerning this use of the present tense, the PreceptAustin site states:

Present Tense with the indicative mood represents contemporaneous action, as opposed to action in the past or future. In moods other than in the indicative mood, it refers only to continuous or repeated action.

The website states:

The present tense usually denotes continuous kind of action. It shows ‘action in progress’ or ‘a state of persistence.’ When used in the indicative mood, the present tense denotes action taking place or going on in the present time.

From the definitions above, it becomes clear that the competed act of sanctifying us once and for all results in us being sanctified forever (continuously and persistently). Our consistent and persistent state of holiness results from the completed act of having forever been made holy. Thus, “by one offering [Christ] hath perfected for ever them that are [presently and continuously sanctified]. Consider,

Hebrew 2:11 For both he that sanctifieth [Present, Active, Participle] and they who are sanctified [Present, Passive, Participle] [are] all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren. 

Here we see Jesus Christ, the Sanctifying One, set forth as the one who continuously sanctifies us and we see the elect as the sanctified ones who are continuously sanctified in Christ. Through the eternal efficacy of the cross, and through our oneness with Him, we are eternally sanctified — eternally set apart for God’s use and made holy even as He is holy. Notice the full context:

Hebrews 2:10 For it became him, for whom [are] all things, and by whom [are] all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified [are] all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. 13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.  

The context is one of eternal vital union. We are all of one with Christ; the Lord Jesus declares “Behold I and the children which God hath given me” in the sense  that where He is, we are. The “one time act” of sanctification in eternity is based upon us being in Christ — and how long were we in Christ? Eternally! If our life is hid in Christ and Christ is our Life [Colossians 3:3,4], and if we were chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) then we were eternally with Him and thus eternally sanctified in Him. That one time act in eternity encompassed eternity thus making it a continuous action for us in time — but it is a continuous, perfected act. Not a continuous act that progressively brings us to perfection. The growth in our sanctification comes only in our experience and realisation of it — not in the current nature, state, and quality of it. We do not start of as 10% sanctified and then become 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, and so on. We are as perfectly sanctified at the start of our walk with Christ as we were from eternity and as we will be — come glory. What changes is the depth of our experience as the outer man waxes weaker and Christ in us waxes stronger.

Hebrews 9:11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption [for us]. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth [Present, Active, Indicative] to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

In the passage above, we see sanctifieth used in the present indicative form (as opposed to the present participle which implies continuity). As per the above definitions, the  blood of bulls and of goats and the ashes of an heifer succeeded in sanctifying to the purifying of the flesh (ceremonially) only at the time it was applied. The present indicative represents a contemporaneous action and not one that is continuous or that extends into the past or future. This is a clear picture of the blood of Christ being infinitely more efficacious than the blood of bulls and goats. 

Consider also:

Hebrew 13:10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. 11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. 12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify [aorist, active, subjunctive] the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.

In this passage we see the aorist, active, subjunctive form used. The Motorera website states the following concerning the aorist subjunctive:

…the aorist subjunctive εἴπω indicates a single act… if the subjunctive does not have its own time, it borrows the time from the main verb. If the subjunctive verb in each of these examples were in the present tense instead of the aorist, then the sentences would express on-going [activity] in the present, past, or future time depending on the time of the main verb.

In Hebrews 13:10, the act at issue occurred as a single act in the past. In other words, Christ had already suffered without the gate when this verse was written. However, in describing the purpose and intent of His suffering, the writer of Hebrews stated that intent (the sanctifying of the elect) as a one time act resulting from the prior act of suffering. Thus, this sanctifying is not an on-going sanctifying but rather a one time, completed act of sanctifying. In all of the verb forms mentioned above, we see that the one act of sanctification has permanently resulted in our forever being in a perfectly sanctified state. Again, we are not in some progressive state of being made more and more sanctified. We are in a state of being continually (yet completely and perfectly) sanctified in Christ, by Christ, and through the Holy Spirit.

The Experimental Sanctification Of The Elect

1 Peter 1:13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy [hagios; G40; ἅγιος; hag’-ee-os; sacred, holy, blameless], so be ye holy [hagios-G40] in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

In this section, I want to address the issue of our “ongoing sanctification;” namely, is there a sense wherein even now we are being sanctified. In the above passage, “be ye holy” is in the aorist, passive deponent, imperative. It is basically a command to passively become holy. How does one obey a command to become holy through the actions of Another (that other being God in you)? You do so by waiting on the Lord and working out your salvation with fear and trembling knowing that it is He who works in you (presently, actively, continuously) both to will and to do of His good pleasure. As His perfectly-sanctified ones, our working out our salvation is essentially the outward manifestation of His own will in and for our lives.

Though our objective sanctification is both complete and perfect in Christ, that perfection and completeness is by no means fully realised (manifested) in our walk. There is an experimental sanctification wherein our Lord is setting us apart for His use manifestly — in this world. This experimental sanctification is the working out of our sanctified state in our experience, in our daily walk. Our Lord makes our inward sanctification (after the inner man) more and more outwardly visible — all at the expense of the outer man. The Father is sanctifying us in our own thoughts, words, and deeds as He conforms us to the likeness of Christ experimentally throughout our daily lives. We are already perfectly conformed to the image of Christ after the inner man, and come final glory our bodies will be conformed to His likeness; but in this world, we are being molded into a new, manifest creation as we see ourselves (and as this world sees us) being turned more and more away from the things of time and sense and more towards the service of Christ. They will see that communion with Him and His people becomes more important to us than chasing after the riches and pleasures of this world. They will see that entertainment and amusements begin to take a back seat to spiritual things. Some call this experimental sanctification growing in grace; others call it (though I do not like the term) progressive sanctification. Whatever term one wishes to use, their is a real sense wherein — by Christ and through the effectual working of the Holy Spirit — the inner man takes the predominance in our lives over the outer man.

The Bible teaches that one of the main reasons why we are sanctified is so that we will walk in obedience — For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). We see this in 1 Peter 1:2, wherein Christians are spoken of as being Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. Sanctification is the noun hagiasmos [αγιασμος; G38; hag-ee-as-mos’] which stems from hagiazo (as defined above). Although we are sanctified unto obedience, obedience does not make us sanctified after the inner man (because we already are). Growth in our obedience is part of our subjective sanctification, or manifest sanctification, and comes from the work of God in us in light of Him already having permanently set us apart in Christ, through the Spirit. We obey because we are sanctified — we do not become sanctified by our obedience (except in the eyes of those looking upon us and seeing the change in us, in our lives, by God’s grace).

2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.4  20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore purge [aorist, active, subjunctive] himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified [perfect, passive, participle], and meet for the master’s use, [and] prepared unto every good work.

It may appear that our sanctification, to some degree, is brought about by departing from iniquity and by purging ourselves of these things; however, “sanctified” in this passage is still a perfect tense, passive voice, verb. Even though “shall be a vessel” is in the future tense, and “purge…” is aorist subjunctive, sanctified is in the perfect — it still refers back to a completed act, performed by God (without our aid or doing). The very act of our being sanctified by God, of being a sanctified one, will lead to our departing from iniquity and being purged of such things to one degree or another. The actions resulting from our completed sanctification will (in the future) evidence before all our state as a vessel of honour. Yet even this departing and purging is the result of a greater manifestation of Christ in us, as He works in us through the Spirit to will and to do of His good pleasure, and as He brings us through the fire to burn away the influences of sinful self (as He grows experimentally stronger in us) — ‘For all who are in Christ, God has made Him to be our “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).’

At first we see little of Christ as our sanctification because we are weak in the flesh and walk after the flesh. The more the Sun of Righteousness rises in our hearts over time, the more we will see Him as our sanctification and the more we will walk in accordance with that sanctification. We will see Him as our Victor as He conquers our idols, groves, and high places — not unto sinless perfection, but unto greater communion with, and obedience towards Him.  Again, the house of David must grow stronger and stronger as the house of Saul must grow weaker and weaker (2 Samuel 3:1). We read in:

1 Thessalonians 4:1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort [you] by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, [so] ye would abound more and more. 2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, [even] your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; 5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: 6 That no [man] go beyond and defraud his brother in [any] matter: because that the Lord [is] the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.3 4  7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness [i.e. sanctification; G38; αγιασμος; hagiasmos; hag-ee-as-mos’]. 8 He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit. 

The will of God is our sanctification and our sanctification is the will of God. That sanctification manifests itself in our abstaining from fornication, avoiding lust, and turning from uncleanness. These things do not make us sanctified — it simply reveals the sanctification that we had, and have, in God before the world was. When we avoid such things, we are manifesting Christ, who is our sanctification and who is the fulfilment of God’s will in our lives. Woe to them who think that they are sanctified by their own carnally-mustered (and thus, supposed) obedience; they fail to understand that true Christians are obedient because they are already sanctified and because Christ, through the Spirit, must manifest obedience in them.  Likewise, let it never be said that Christians make the work of Christ in us of more importance and of greater focus than His work on the cross for us. We must never steal the glory from our Lord by claiming that our actual sanctification is based upon us or upon what God enables us to do.

Where The Past And Present Meet

Consider the following passage:

John 17:17 Sanctify [aorist, active, imperative] them through thy truth: thy word is truth… 19 And for their sakes I sanctify [present, active, indicative] myself, that they also might be sanctified [perfect, passive, participle] through the truth.

In John 17:17,we see Christ praying that the Father, who had in the past completely sanctified the elect, would even then and there sanctify them as a single action (i.e. that He would perform the one act of sanctification by which they are sanctified). Yet verse 19 describes the means by which this would be done. In the present indicative tense, Christ stated that He would, in an ‘action taking place or going on in [His] present time‘ sanctify Himself so that His elect would be continuously sanctified in Him, through the Spirit. Our  sanctification is through Truth, and our Lord declared that God’s Word is Truth. Is not Christ our Truth (John 14:6)? Isn’t our Lord the divine Logos, the divine Word? Isn’t the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth that testifies of Christ? Through the scripture brought home with power by the Holy Ghost, we grow in knowledge and in faith in our Lord and we, through Him, make manifest the good works that God afore ordained that we should walk in. We see a related message in:

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

Remember also the context of John 17; the entire passage is a prayer from our Lord, to the Father, all for the experimental benefit of His people. Christ states what He stated in this chapter not for His own benefit, but so that those with Him (and we with Him now) would be comforted and exhorted. Yes we were sanctified from eternity and yes we were being sanctified at that moment these words were spoken (given that Christ clearly stated that His hour is come – meaning that His time of suffering and redemption was even now in play); however, the Lord Jesus Christ wanted those there with Him (and us with Him now) to know that even now we are sanctified completely and forever more.


Scholars agree that, as per the website “In the indicative mood the aorist tense denotes action that occurred in the past time, often translated like the English simple past tense.” Thus, when we see the aorist indicative used in the following passages, in light of the present tense used in so many other relevant passages, we can know that we are completely, objectively sanctified in Christ based upon His past (finished) act of atonement.

1 Corinthians 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made [aorist, passive deponent, indicative] unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified [aorist, passive, indicative], but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

If we were (1) fully sanctified by the completed act of the Father, in Christ, through the Spirit, and from eternity based upon the finished work of the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world; (2) fully sanctified by the completed act of Christ’s work of atonement, in time, on the cross (who is the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world);  and (3) continuously (and yet still fully) sanctified throughout our lives through eternal vital union with the Lord — then whatever progressive sanctification or growth in subjective sanctification that we experience in time can only be a growth in the outward manifestation of that perfect sanctification that we already (perfectly) have after the inner man. The inner man is not being perfected because it is already perfectly sanctified — we are simply growing in our awareness and manifestation of this truth. To argue otherwise is to take the glory from Christ and transfer it to ourselves. It is to make His work in us more important than His work for us. This is God-dishonouring and should never be; Christ must have the preeminence in all things.

To Him be the glory.

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