Sanctification means to make holy. Sanctification deals with the holiness of life. Holiness refers to a separation or being apart from (see Deuteronomy 7:6 for an example).

True holiness is founded upon being separate from all else including other gods and man. See Exodus 15:11 and Hosea 11:9. I should also include that it implies a joining with God the father. The idea of holiness is also seen in the New Testament (1 Peter 2:9). Holiness also refers to purity and cleanliness. This also is founded on the purity of God.


Sanctification or holiness already belongs to those who are saved (regenerated). Sanctification exists for Christians due to the separation and purification from sin. See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (we are already sanctified).

We are both separated from sin and washed. This sanctification, the cleansing aspect, is founded in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30, Hebrews 10:10).

We have been removed from the guilt of sin as well as its inner defilement (pollution).

Those who are sanctified are also saints (1 Corinthians 1:2). Therefore, a saint is simply a true Christian and not some high-level minister.

Note that the Old Testament sanctification only affected the flesh (Hebrews 9:13).


Note that sanctification is at the beginning of our Christian walk and is a part of that same walk. Sanctification (holiness) is, therefore, a continual thing in a Christian?s life. Example: In the Old Testament God said that Israel will be a Holy people. He then goes on to give them guidelines for holy living. See Leviticus 19:1-2.

Paul declares that we are sanctified and then says flee immorality. This implies a lifestyle requirement or expectation of the one sanctified (1 Corinthians 6:11, 18-20).

Paul, as another example, says to cleanse ourselves (including himself). Though we are holy, through regeneration, we still have to maintain a life of holiness.

Why is holiness a continuing thing in our lives? We still have sin (1 John 1:8). There still remain sinful elements of the old nature. Think of a person with a disease that scares the body. Even if the disease is cured, the scares remain until the body becomes healed. It is a continual process, the healing that is, until the perfection or fullness of the healing process has occurred. We will discuss this aspect of our sanctification later in this study.

Though we are sanctified, we still need cleansing on a continual basis (1 John 1:9). Therefore, we strive for the perfection of the holiness we have.

There is, therefore, a progressive transformation of holiness in our lives (see Romans 12:1-2). We are called to be transformed

We grow in or develop the sanctification that we already have?our life develops as we approach complete sanctification. See 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Growth in sanctification can be likened unto a seed that is planted. The seed contains the fullness of the plant. However, the plant is continually developing into the fullness of the seed, i.e. the plant and its fruits.

The Goal

Full sanctification is the goal for Christians (1 Thessalonians 5:23). This implies an approaching blamelessness and purity. See Philippians 1:9-11, James 1:4, 1 Peter 3:12-14. So sanctification implies being blameless and complete as well as being pure.

Hebrews 12:2?Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. This implies a point of completion.

Is total sanctification achievable in this life? The Bible does not indicate that total sanctification is possible in this life.

The Bible indicates that there is a continuance of sin and an ever-present need for sanctification (see 1 John 1:8).

Paul presses toward the mark (Philippians 3:12,14). Paul never says that he has arrived or obtained complete holiness.

Hebrews 3:22,23 suggests perfection comes in the future world

See Colossians 1:28

There are degrees of maturity in sanctification but no one obtains complete maturity of sanctification in this lifetime.

The Bible also suggests that total sanctification comes at the end of this life (Hebrews?3:2-3, 1?Thessalonians 3:12-13, Colossians 1:22.

The goal and fulfillment of perfection must be distinguished. We never “arrive” because the goal is ever present in this life.


Sanctification involves the renewal of the whole person. This renewal refers to our regeneration as a continual renewing of our lives. It is not that we are being renewed each day as if we start all over. It is more of a continual process until the point where we are complete renewed into the image of Christ. This is the continual sanctification that we discussed earlier. See Titus 3:5, Colossians 3:9-10.

(1 Th 5:23 NIV) May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The key words in this scripture are “through and through, spirit, soul, and body. Let?s examine these components of the entire person.

The Spirit

“The spirit of a person is the deepest dimension of human nature.” It is the core of our existence. The human spirit is that which God contacts us. However, because of sin, our human spirit is separated from God. We are therefore dead to God because of this separation. Jesus Christ, who lives on the inside of us, makes our human spirit come alive to God. We, therefore, become connected to God the father and are children of God (Romans 8:16).

(2 Corinthians 7:1 NIV) Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

The above scripture implies that the human spirit can be contaminated. It also shows that there is a continual advancement of maturity in spirit regarding holiness.

The Heart

The word “heart” is used many times interchangeably with the word “spirit.” Example: Psalm?143:4, Psalm 51:10 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13. The heart is also the core of the human being. However, the word heart is sometimes linked to understanding, thinking and emotions.

HEART–The center of the physical, mental, and spiritual life of humans. This contrasts to the normal use of kardia (“heart”) in Greek literature outside the Scriptures. The New Testament follows the Old Testament usage when referring to the human heart in that it gives kardia a wider range of meaning than it was generally accustomed to have.


Very much related to the heart is the conscience. The heart deals with the spiritual or core of a person. The conscience is more tied to morals that affect our actions stemming from the mind. It is more behavioral then spiritual. However, it has a profound impact on what we do and therefore our lifestyle. Look at the following scriptures.

(Romans 2:14-15 KJV) “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: {15} Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)”

Here Paul specifically states that the law of God is written in the hearts of the gentiles and that their conscience bears witness of the work of the law in them. This demonstrates the fact that the law (ways, precepts, will, purpose, etc.) of God involves more than just knowing it in our heads. Paul says that the law of God was written in the hearts of the Gentiles thought they didn?t know the law. The law should be understood as the Old Testament laws.

(1 Timothy 1:5 NIV) “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

Here Paul speaks of having a pure heart as well as a good conscience. This again shows the separation and relationship of the heart and the conscience.

Other scriptures that show the importance of the conscience are: Acts 24:16; 1?Timothy 3:9, 2 Timothy 1:3, Hebrews 13:18, and 1 Peter 3:16.

The conscience refers in general to that human moral awareness that judges an action right or wrong. Right and wrong is relative or subjective unless there is a standard by which to judge. This standard comes from God. So the conscience is being aware of what is right or wrong based on God?s word. Having a good conscience can, therefore, mean that you are acting in accordance with what you perceive as right according to God?s standard of right.

We can see that the conscience involves both the spirit (the realm of God?s standard) and the mind (the implication or application realm of the standard). Therefore, we must grow in an awareness of right and wrong as well as establishing within ourselves what is indeed right and wrong relative to the word of God. The conscience, therefore, has a profound effect on our lifestyle, Christian or not.

The Soul

The soul can be thought of as the inner life of a person through which the spirit expresses itself. The soul is the seat of the intellect, emotions, and will. Therefore, the soul has an influential part in our Christian lifestyle, which involves our continual sanctification. Let?s examine some of the parts or components of the soul.

The Mind

The mind is where the thinking process takes place. The mind is where we make our decision. Therefore, the mind must be in agreement with the “mind of Christ” in order for us to have an effective Christian walk (realizing that we grow in such). Paul said,

(Romans 12:2 NIV) “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Our minds must be continually renewed as we are frequently beset by evil thoughts in general. We may ponder or plan things that are not according to a good conscience. Sometimes our mind may slip into a fleshly self mode of operation instead of the spiritual and Godly mode of operation. The fact that this is the case indicates that we need constant and daily growth in the area of the mind.

(Philippians 2:5 KJV) “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:”

The NIV uses the word attitude instead of the mind. Therefore, our mind directly correlates to our attitude or our disposition on things.

We should take careful note that the renewed mind is important for sanctification. The renewed mind enables us to know and test what the will of God is. Without this renewed mind, we cannot test what God?s will is. Again we see the importance of a good conscience. The proper testing of God?s perfect will (testing something to know that it is God?s will) is a part of sanctification. That is, the perfection aspect is related to sanctification since we grow to perfection (completion).

We should also be aware of the struggle of presented by the world?s way of thinking and the Godly way of thinking. If we are not aware then we can fall into a worldly way of thinking and go against God?s will. Furthermore, we can also go contrary to God by seemingly harmless thoughts that are overall against the will of God. Again we see the importance of the renewed mind.


The feelings involve emotions, desires, and passions. The Christian has a major reality from the apostle Paul.

(Galatians 5:24 NIV) “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”

The flesh in the above scripture refers to carnal nature. The carnal nature is opposed to the new nature we have from Christ. However, the carnal nature has been put to death in exchange for a life in Christ. This doesn?t mean that the carnal nature no longer exists and we are purely spiritual. It only means that the carnal nature is not dominant in the life of a Christian. We now have a new nature that we can turn to in order to live according to God?s will. We now have a choice.

Sanctification is necessary here because we need to grow in the new spiritual nature. Still, there is a war on the inside of the believer. The carnal nature wars against the spiritual nature. See Galatians 5:17 (the internal conflict).

(Titus 2:11-12 NIV) “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. {12} It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,”

Here we see that it is the responsibility of the Christian to resist the worldly passions and to live a self-controlled life. Of course, this involves more than just mere resistance as in simply saying no. We have the power of God on the inside of us, which empowers us to resist these passions beyond the normal and insufficient human will. Sometimes we have to resist things contrary to our will (according to the flesh). The denial of “worldly desires” is an aspect of the continuing life of sanctification. Consider also 1 John 2:15-16.

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. {16} For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.”

The passions of the world are not of God. Therefore, we have to be careful about what we desire and the passions that we have. Again, it is up to us to judge such things and take appropriate actions. This discernment must be done according to the standards set forth by God.

There is much in the realm of feelings and passions that needs to be sanctified (in a continual basis). These include anger, lust, envy, jealousy, and covetousness. All Christians deal with these things and need to overcome their control to live a sanctified (continually so) and therefore more holy life. See Matthew 5:48.

The perfecting or maturity of holiness must deal in depth with desires and passions that are not of God.

The Will

The human will is in bondage before salvation. Once a person has been born again (saved), the human will becomes liberated from the bondage of sin. Before salvation we had no choice but to sin except for the “good” morals that we may have received from our parents, church, school, etc. However, there was nothing internal to liberate us from the bondage of sin. We truly become liberated when we become born again.

The challenge for the Christian is to pursue to accomplish and live the will of God instead of the will of the world. The will of the world leads to death. Sometimes we are so conditioned by our old ways that we do not will to do what God desires. The human will must be sanctified continually as we conform our will to the will of God.

The Body

The sanctification of the body (the use of such) is necessary. Before we were saved, our bodies were vessels devoted to sin. Now that we are saved, our bodies can be used as vessels to please God.

(Romans 6:6 NIV) “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–“

(1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 NIV) “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; {4} that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, {5} not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God;”

The body is the vessel or tool for righteousness or sin. It is our choice whether to use the body to satisfy sinful desires (of the flesh) or to satisfy the Lord. The ability to follow after righteousness comes from continual sanctification.

In God’s Image

The goal of sanctification is to transform us into the image of God the Father.

(Colossians 3:9-10 NIV) “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices {10} and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

(2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV) “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

The likeness of God is the likeness of Christ (See John 14:7,9). Therefore, the goal of sanctification is to transform us into the image of Christ. Note what Paul said to the Romans.

(Romans 8:29 NIV) “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

The Method of Sanctification

How does sanctification occur? There are at least two sides to the answer to this question. There is a divine side and a human side to the method of sanctification.

God Sanctifies

First and foremost it must be understood that God sanctifies. Sanctification is primarily the work of God. We cannot sanctify ourselves (make ourselves holy). Some scripture references to this fact are Exodus 31:13, John 17:17, and 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24. We see that God the Father is the source of our sanctification.

The Agent of Sanctification

Jesus Christ is the agent of sanctification (See 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30; Hebrews 10:10).

The Power of Sanctification

The Holy Spirit is the energizer or power of sanctification. Sanctification comes from God, is channeled to us by Jesus Christ, and has its power by the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:2). Our transformation to live according to the Spirit of God is accomplished by the Holy Spirit (see 2?Corinthians 3:18).

The Holy Spirit lives in the believers collectively and individually. Paul says,

(1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NIV) “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? {17} If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”

The above scripture shows the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ collectively.

(1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV) “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;”

The above scripture reveals the individual indwelling of the Holy Spirit. See also 2 Timothy?1:14.

We can conclude that sanctification, which is by the work of the Holy Spirit, is an internal operation. Sanctification takes place on the inside of a believer.

The Human Task

The Bible plainly tells us that God sanctifies us (Exodus 31:13, Leviticus 20:8). However, the Bible also tells us that there is something that we must do (Leviticus 20:7). How do we sanctify ourselves?

(Hebrews 12:14 NIV) “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

(2 Corinthians 7:1 NIV) “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

Each Christian should strive to live according to the word of God. We should make a conscious effort to live at peace with others and to be holy. Recall that holy means to be separate from. Therefore, we can be holy by separating ourselves from those things that would snare us or from those things that are not of God. With this comes the knowledge of God?s word, sensitivity to His Holy Spirit, and effective discernment.

(1 Peter 2:24 NIV) “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

Dying To Sin

First, Paul declares that we are dead to sins.

(Romans 6:2 KJV) “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”

If we are dead to sins then how can we live in it? How then can we live dead to sins? The following scripture gives us a clue.

(Titus 2:11-12 NIV) “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. {12} It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,”

For one thing, it tells us to say no to the things of the world and to live a self-controlled and upright life. I am also reminded of the scripture that says,

(James 4:7 NIV) “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

First, we have to realize that it is the power of God that enables us to live free from the bondage and influence of sins. However, we have to take the initiative to activate that power in our lives so that we mature in the righteous living that we are called to. Therefore dying to sins involves a conscious effort to first denounce those things that are contrary to God?s will (His word) and to live according to the principles and lifestyle that God desires.

A practical example of this comes from the words of Jesus Christ.

(Luke 9:23 NIV) “Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

The key point in the above scripture is that we must deny ourselves if we want to follow Jesus Christ. The term “self” should be understood as being opposed or contrary to the way of God. Self should be understood as the sinful natured person who is only concerned with self instead of the things of God. Therefore, if we are to follow Jesus Christ, then we are going to have to put our own agenda aside and come into agreement with the purposes of God.

From this, we see that a great part of dying to sin is the denying of self that is a part of the nature of the sinful world around.


Dying to sins can also be understood as a process of mortification or putting to death the deeds of the flesh, which are of the sinful nature.

(Romans 8:13 NIV) “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,”

We should also note that the power to mortify comes from the Holy Spirit. The activation of mortification comes by the efforts of the believer. For example, suppose you feel gripped by feelings of jealousy. You can pray and with the authority of the word of God declare that “by the power of the Holy Spirit I put you jealousy to death! I am dead to jealousy by the power of God.” Note that this confession must be made with the authority of scripture and real faith in the power of God to effect the denouncement of the sin in your life. See also Colossians 3:5.

It should also be recognized that the process of mortifying the sinful deeds in us is not easy. Sometimes it may take great effort to rid ourselves of the sins that haunt us. Paul states the following.

(Hebrews 12:4 NIV) “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

Here Paul indicates that the struggle against sin may be so fierce as to cause a person to shed blood. This may be figuratively or perhaps literal when considering the persecution of Christians during this time.

(Matthew 5:29-30 NIV) “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. {30} And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Here Jesus illustrates the drastic actions that may need to be taken to avoid sins. We should not take these scriptures as literally meaning to pluck out the eye or cutting off your hand.

Living For Righteousness

The other aspect of the human part of sanctification is living a righteous life. This means first of all that the believer has a basic desire for the righteousness of God (manifested by righteous living). See Matthew 5:6, 6:33.

Paul describes this quest for righteousness in the following scriptures.

(Romans 6:18-19 NIV) “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. {19} I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.”

Our quest for righteousness should be equally as strong as our quest for unrighteousness when we were sinners. We are free from sin. Since we are free from the bondage of sin, we can live the righteous life that is in accordance with the righteousness of God.

The next question may be how should we live for righteousness? The basic answer to this question is to simply obey God?s word. Consider that the word of God consists of his holy and righteous will. Therefore, living according to the word of God will direct us to a life of righteousness.

(Psalms 119:11 NIV) “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

From this scripture, we can suppose that having God?s word in our hearts will keep us from sin. We see the significance of having the word of God stationed in the center or our existence (mind and spirit).

(2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV) “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Here we see that one of the functions of scripture is to train us in righteousness. God?s will is found in the scriptures, which are God-breathed. This reveals the importance of Christians knowing and understanding the scriptures in the Bible. This means regular study, prayer, and meditation.

We must also do what the word says in addition to knowing God?s word.

(James 1:22 NIV) “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”


Proper focus is very important when considering living a righteous life. We have to focus on Jesus Christ. The proper focus will help to keep us on the correct track relative to righteousness while dealing with the many snares that this world has to offer.

(Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV) “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. {2} Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

See also Colossians 3:1-2, Philippians 4:8

Abiding In Christ

Righteous living most certainly involves abiding in Christ. This could be understood as residing, living (as a lifestyle) in the anointing of God. The Bible also tells us that those who are in Christ cannot keep on sinning. This also refers to a lifestyle of sin (1 John 3:6).

Walking in the Spirit

This implies a lifestyle that is governed by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25). It involves freedom from sin and freedom to obey God. The believer can now live freely in obedience to God and not live according to the law (Romans 7:6, Galatians 5:18).

The Spirit of God produces fruit in the lives of Christians. See Galatians 5:22-23. Consider the concept of fruits of the Spirit. We all know that mature fruit takes time to grow. Therefore, the production of fruits of the Spirit will take time to grow as we mature in the things of God.

Walking in the Spirit will keep us on the correct path to maturity in sanctification.


A study Justification from the Book
Renewal Theology: Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living (J. Rodman Williams)
Study Prepared by William R. Cunningham, February 1998




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