The Nuts and Bolts of Sanctification, Part II
The Nuts & Bolts of Sanctification, Part II
Definitive and Progressive Sanctification
The grammar of God’s Word teaches us that believers are sanctified (definitive sanctification), and are presently being sanctified (progressive sanctification). We have been set apart as holy (I Cor. 1:2), and are thus called to be holy (I Pet. 1:14-16; Col.3:1-17). God has definitively sanctified us so that he might progressively sanctify us. Indeed, united to Christ, we have been set apart for sanctification. These important distinctions underscore the nature of our identity as God’s redeemed children, as well as the way in which we are called to live as his children (I Peter 2:9-25).
In definitive sanctification we are called out, separated, and set apart from the world unto God. Like the vessels in the temple which were set apart or sanctified for a holy purpose, so we who are in Christ Jesus have been set apart or sanctified for a holy purpose (2 Tim. 2:21). In this sense, God’s people are sanctified.
In progressive sanctification, the indwelling Holy Spirit transforms and renews the moral life of the believer. This inward renovation and spiritual growth impacts the whole man. The mind, heart, will, and affections are all progressively sanctified through the work of the Holy Spirit and the divinely appointed means of grace. The grace of sanctification renovates every part of what sin has ruined. Thomas Boston writes:
As the sap conveyed from the stock into the branch goes through it, and through every part of it; so the Spirit of Christ sanctifies the whole man. The poison of sin was diffused through the whole spirit, soul, and body of the man; and sanctifying grace pursues it into every corner (I Thess. 5:23). Every part of the man is sanctified, though no part is perfectly so. (Thomas Boston, Human Nature In It’s Fourfold State, 294-295)
Just as a real estate investor might purchase ramshackle homes in a promising part of town, and over time renovate them to the highest standard; so God purchases ruined sinners with the blood of Christ, owns them, and over time renovates them to the highest standard, the standard of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29; I John 3:2).
This is good news! God’s grace not only saves, it sanctifies. It not only redeems, it renovates. We are not left to wallow in our sin as believers. No, God has called and empowered us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and to mature in him (II Pet. 3:18; Eph. 4:13-16). We have been set free from the tyranny of sin to a life of increasing holiness. Of course, progressive sanctification is a life-long process. An oak tree doesn’t grow overnight. It takes years and decades to grow deep and abiding roots. As we earnestly seek the Lord, and encourage others to do the same, we must be prayerful and patient. A mentor of mine used to say, “we are sinners under construction.”
Dearest members of CCP, in Christ you have been sanctified to a life of growing godliness. United to Christ, you are set apart to a life of spiritual growth. Therefore, let us cut out of our lives that which would hinder spiritual progress, and cultivate those godly habits of devotion that would encourage it. Indeed, as “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” let us “put to death what is earthly” in us, and “put on” that which is pleasing to the Lord (Col. 3:12, 5, 12-17).