Sanctification and Holiness


The Holman Bible Dictionary defines sanctification as the process of being made holy resulting in a changed life-style for the believer. The English word sanctification comes from the Latin santificatio, meaning the act/process of making holy, consecrated. In the Greek New Testament, the root hag- is the basis of hagiasmos, “holiness,” “consecration,” “sanctification”; hagiosyne, “holiness”; hagiotes, “holiness”; hagiazo “to sanctify,” “consecrate,” “treat as holy,” “purify”; and hagios, “holy,” “saint.” The root idea of the Greek stem is to stand in awe of something or someone. The New Testament usage is greatly dependent upon the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, for meaning. The hag- words in the Septuagint mostly translated the Hebrew qadosh, “separate, contrasting with the profane.” Thus, God is separate; things and people dedicated to Him and to His use are separate. The moral implications of this word came into focus with the prophets and became a major emphasis in the New Testament.

The Webster?s Dictionary defines sanctification as to set apart for sacred use: consecrate, to make free from sin: purify

Sanctification can be generally defined as being separate or set apart. In the case of the Christian, we are set apart for God and we are separate from the world. Sanctification, therefore, establishes a distinction between the true Christian and the world. Also, note that sanctification is closely related to holiness.


Holy has four distinct meanings. First is “to be set apart.” This applies to places where God is present, like the Temple and the tabernacle, and to things and persons related to those holy places or to God Himself. Next, it means to be “perfect, transcendent, or spiritually pure, evoking adoration and reverence.” This applies primarily to God, but secondarily to saints or godly people. Next, it means something or someone who evokes “veneration or awe, being frightening beyond belief.” This is clearly the application to God and is the primary meaning of “holy.” It is continued in the last definition, “filled with superhuman and potential fatal power.” This speaks of God, but also of places or things or persons who have been set apart by God’s presence. A saint is a holy person

To be sanctified is to be made holy.

The Holiness of God

The focus of holiness in the Old Testament was on God. God was holiness in the sense that he is the definition of holiness. The Bible speaks of God?s holiness.

  • (Psalms 99:9 KJV) “Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy.”
  • (1 Samuel 2:2 KJV) “There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.”
  • (Leviticus 11:44 KJV) “For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

We note from the last scripture that all that pertains to God are holy by association. ? Certain times are sanctified in that they are set apart especially to the Lord:

  • The Sabbath (Genesis 2:3)
  • The various festivals (Leviticus 23:4-44)\
  • The year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:12

By strictly observing the regulations governing each, Israel sanctified (or treated as holy) these special times of the year. Also, the land of Canaan (Exodus 15:13), as well as Jerusalem (Isaiah. 11:9), was holy to the Lord and was not to be polluted by sinful conduct. The tabernacle/Temple and all the objects related to it were holy (Exodus 25–Numbers 10; Ezekiel 40-48). The various gifts brought in worship were sanctified.

Scripture Examination of Sanctification

(John 17:17 KJV) “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

We, as the disciples in the above scripture, can be sanctified by the word of God which is truth. Note also that since Jesus is the word of God and truth, we are sanctified by Christ.

(John 17:19 NIV) “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”

Here we see a specific case where Jesus is sanctifying (setting apart from) his disciples.

(Acts 26:18 NIV) “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'”

In The above scripture we see that Jesus implies that we are sanctified by faith in Him. Of course having faith in Christ means that you have accepted the Gospel and are therefore saved. Once saved, we are set apart from the world.

(Romans 15:16 NIV) “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”

Here we see Paul alluding to the fact that the Holy Spirit sanctifies us. This is consistent with salvation when we consider that the Holy Spirit enters into us when we are born again.

(1 Corinthians 6:11 NIV) “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

This scripture seems to reveal a relationship between washing, sanctifying, and justification. The washing alludes to the act of purification which itself refers to being saved (Titus 3:5). As we said earlier, salvation implies sanctification because of being set apart or made holy. When we are saved, we are justified, made righteous, by faith.

(1 Corinthians 7:14 NIV) “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”

Paul teaches that the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband. The unbelieving spouse is purified or consecrated by the believing spouse which enables them to produce pure (“Clean”) children.

(1 Thessalonians 4:3 NIV) “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;”

The sanctification mentioned here has to do with being apart or separate from the ways of the heathen world. They do not practice self-control in the area of sex. We are to practice self-control which itself distinguishes us from the world. Greek cities like Thessalonica were wide open to all kinds of sexual looseness, even in connection with religious rites.

(2 Thessalonians 2:13 NIV) “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.”

Again we see a reference to the fact that the Holy Spirit sanctifies us. He also points out that our salvation comes as a result of this sanctification work of the Holy Spirit. See also (1 Peter 1:2)

Levels of Sanctification

There are three aspects to sanctification referred to in scripture:

  1. positional sanctification, possessed by every believer from the moment of his conversion (his perfect standing in holiness, Acts 20:32; 1?Corinthians 1:2)
  2. Progressive sanctification, the daily growth in grace, becoming in practice more and more set apart for God’s use (John 17:17; Ephesians 5:26)
  3. Ultimate sanctification, attained only when we are fully and completely set apart to God in heaven (1?Thessalonians 5:23).

The Anointing

There is a relationship between the anointing and sanctification. The word anoint describes the procedure of rubbing or smearing a person or thing, usually with oil, for the purpose of healing, setting apart, or embalming. We will look at the setting apart aspect of anointing since to sanctify means to set apart also.

The Anointing of King David

As an example of the anointing and sanctification, let us look at the selection of David as King over Judah.

(1 Samuel 16:12-13 NIV) “So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” {13} So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah.”

This anointing revealed God?s selection of David as King eventually over all Israel. Note that after David was anointed that the Spirit of God came upon him.

The Anointing of Jesus Christ

Let?s look at another example

(Acts 10:38 NIV) “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”

The word anointed in the above scripture refers to the consecration to an office or religious service.

The Anointing of the Christian

Christians are anointed by God for specific tasks in ministry (2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 John 2:27) for the tasks of ministry.

Purpose of Sanctification

The first purpose of sanctification is the separation or distinguishing ourselves (Christians) from the world. We are made holy by the process and act of sanctification by the Holy Spirit. This sanctification gives us the right to say we are children of God, citizens of the Kingdom of God.

The second aspect of sanctification involves the anointing or consecration for a specific ministry task. What has God sanctified you for. We all have a purpose and we should discover this purpose and begin the task of fulfilling it. Your sanctification for a purpose will be accomplished since it was God who anointed you for that purpose. By faith in God begin to live your purpose and accomplish it without considering the opposing circumstances.


Prepared by William R. Cunningham
1997 All rights reserved



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Our Newsletter to Help Your Christian Walk

Newsletter Opt-In

Your email address will never be shared with anyone. It will only be used to send you newsletters, announcements, and special things that may be going on at Pursuing the Truth Ministries. Furthermore, we will only email you about once or at most twice in one month.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This