What does Sanctify, Sanctification mean in the Bible?


CARM Theological Dictionary - Sanctify, Sanctification
To sanctify means to be set apart for a holy use. God has set us apart for the purpose of sanctification not impurity (1 Thessalonians 4:7) and being such we are called to do good works (Ephesians 2:10).
Christians are to sanctify Christ as Lord in their hearts (1 Peter 3:15). God sanctified Israel as His own special nation (Ezekiel 27:28). People can be sanctified (Exodus 19:10; Exo 19:14) and so can a mountain (Exodus 19:23), as can the Sabbath day (Genesis 2:3), and every created thing is sanctified through the word of God and prayer ().1" translation="">1 Timothy 4:4).1
Sanctification follows justification. In justification our sins are completely forgiven in Christ. Sanctification is the process by which the Holy Spirit makes us more like Christ in all that we do, think, and desire. True sanctification is impossible apart from the atoning work of Christ on the cross because only after our sins are forgiven can we begin to lead a holy life.
Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Sanctify, Sanctification
SANCTIFY, SANCTIFICATION.—Sanctification is the translation of ἁγιασμός, which is one of the group of words that includes ἅγιος, and ἁγιάζω, and ἁγιωσύνη. The root idea of the group seems to be ‘separation’ or ‘restricted use’ (see Holiness). ἁγιασμός denotes primarily a process; but in NT it is used also to describe the state resulting from that process. This wider usage is familiar in our language, and therefore we take ‘sanctification’ to describe both a state and a process. It is the process by which men are made holy, and it is also the state into which men pass as they become holy. Therefore this article must discuss what state is considered by Jesus Christ to deserve the name ‘sanctification,’ and what is the process whereby He conceives men are sanctified.
The first fact to be noticed about this entire group of words is that it occupies a meagre place in the teaching of Jesus. The number of times when either of them is put into His lips is very small, and none of these few usages refers to man. ἅγιος is used as follows: He addresses God as ‘Holy Father’ (John 17:11); He speaks of ‘the holy angels’ (Mark 8:38 ||); He uses the name ‘Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 12:32 || Matthew 28:19, Mark 12:36; Mark 13:11, Luke 12:12, John 1:4-5; John 20:22); He warns against giving ‘that which is holy’ unto the dogs (Luke 10:25-37); and He refers to the abomination that stands ‘in the holy place’ (Matthew 24:15). ἁγιάζω is used of ‘the temple that sanctifieth the gift’ (Matthew 23:17; Matthew 23:19); and there are three very important usages in John 10:36; John 17:17; John 17:19. It occurs also in the Lord’s Prayer in the sentence, ‘Hallowed be thy name’ (Matthew 6:9). This petition suggests that both the ceremonial and ethical aspects of the word were present to our Lord’s mind. The ‘name’ of the Father is to be reverenced. It casts awe upon the worshipping soul. But also the name stands for righteousness. It is a name whose ethical splendour must not be smirched. The same double reference can be traced in His usage of ἅγιος. When Jesus employs these words, He seems to give them their true historical sense as implying (1) a state of consecration to the Divine purposes, and (2) a state of ethical holiness.
ἁγιασμός, the NT word for ‘sanctification,’ does not occur at all in the recorded sayings of Jesus. But He was constantly speaking about the thing itself. Therefore we are constrained to recognize some special significance in the absence of the familiar words from the Lord’s teaching. Probably the explanation is found in the state of religious feeling in His day. ἅγιος is the nearest Greek equivalent of the Hebrew קָדוֹשׁ. This term, with its kindred terms, had acquired a distinct connotation. It has been pointed out that the idea of holiness in OT is progressively spiritualized, and receives more and more ethical content. But whilst this is true of OT usage, the Greek period in Jewish history had ushered in a time of reaction in the significance of religious terms. The struggle of pious Jews to resist Hellenizing tendencies threw the emphasis of religion upon keeping the Law. Thus arose the Pharisaic interpretation of piety as rigid obedience to the Law. Under this influence holiness was again interpreted ceremonially instead of morally. When Jesus was born, the religious phraseology of the day was legal rather than ethical. Now this conception of sanctification was the subject of unsparing denunciation by Jesus. One long chapter in Matthew’s Gospel gathers up seathing rebukes of those who put the emphasis of religion upon what is external (Matthew 23:1-36; cf. Luke 11:39-52). In the Sermon on the Mount He said: ‘Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:20). So that, if Jesus had used the current terms, He would have been understood in the current sense. In order to secure new moral contents for the terms, He had to drop them, and to use other phraseology to describe their true meaning.
A further explanation of the absence of the familiar terms is found in Jesus’ method of teaching. His teaching was not doctrinal. He did not express His ideals in formulas, but in pictures of what men ought to be. Instead of reiterating familiar maxims, He minted new precepts for men’s daily use. Neglecting the outworn dogmas of the scribes, He uttered sharp calls to men as to what they ought to do. His teaching was ‘new,’ and was ‘with authority’ (Mark 1:22; Matthew 18:21-22). When we turn to the Epistles, we discover that, though the familiar terms reappear, they reappear in a new form. They have no longer the Pharisaic connotation. They have a new Christian connotation, which lifts them above the highest ethical attainment of OT. The NT writers use OT words with the significance that Jesus Christ has given to the idea they represent.
1. Christ’s teaching about sanctification.
i. His teaching about the ideal of sainthood.—Jesus Christ’s conception of sanctification started from the holiness of God the Father. He found certain attributes in God that are capable of being the ideal for men. These attributes belong to the Fatherhood of God. He summed up many exhortations in the words, ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48). This command held out a new ideal of perfection. Hitherto men had found their ideal in various human excellences. Jesus fixed attention upon God the Father. There are many Divine attributes that are inaccessible to men. No man can be perfect even as God is perfect. The omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence of God are absolutely beyond human reach. But as ‘Father,’ God displays certain qualities that may be copied by men; and these qualities unite to form the Christian ideal. Such teaching rested upon the underlying belief of Jesus that man has a capacity for sonship of God, and that he reaches his ideal by realizing his sonship. And Jesus could conceive sonship only in the ethical reslm. To give men power to become children of God, is to make them resemble their Father ethically (John 1:12).
The details of the teaching may be summarized conveniently under some of the leading categories of thought used by Jesus:—
(1) His own example. He claimed to set forth the moral ideal, because He was the Son of God (John 14:6). As the Son, He revealed the Father (Matthew 11:27, John 14:9-10); therefore the children of God are those who resemble Him (Matthew 11:29). The imitation of Christ is the true sanctification.
(2) Love. The central and all-pervading glory of the Divine Fatherhood is love (Matthew 5:45, John 14:21; John 14:23). The Apostolic phrase ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8) sums up the irresistible testimony of Jesus to the Father (cf. 1 John 3:1; 1 John 4:9-10, John 3:16). Therefore holy people must be loving. The first demand is for love towards God. To ‘love the Lord’ is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37 ||). The character that lacks this devoted love for the heavenly Father is fatally defective. But Jesus bracketed the commandment to ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ with this ‘first and greatest’ (Matthew 22:39 ||); and the parable of the Good Samaritan (Matthew 7:6) has been interpreted as teaching that ‘charity is the true sanctity’ (Bruce). Likeness to the heavenly Father is impossible without the cultivation of a loving spirit (Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 15:25-32). This love must be unselfish (Luke 14:13-14). It must forgive freely and unweariedly (Mark 1:27). It must not judge (Matthew 7:1-2). It must be full of compassion towards all needy ones, and must find a neighbour in any one requiring assistance (Luke 10:24-35). Jesus also inculcated the supreme importance of love by His rebukes of its opposites: of lack of compassion (Matthew 18:23-35, Luke 10); of selfishness (Luke 16:19-31); of inhumanity (Matthew 25:41-45). Equally terrible were His denunciations of Pharisaic injustice to the weak (Matthew 23:4-14 ||).
(3) Righteousness. The love of the Father is a holy love. God is the ‘righteous Father’ (John 17:25). Jesus came into the world from the Father to save from sins (Matthew 11:19, Luke 15:7; Luke 15:10; Luke 15:18, Matthew 26:28, John 3:16-17). Therefore no man can resemble the Father who does not desire supremely to be eleansed from sin. Likeness to the Father involves complete consecration to His holy purpose, and readiness to be separated from every evil thing (Matthew 5:6; Matthew 13:43; Matthew 18:8 ||). The Christian must seek first the righteousness of the Heavenly Father (Matthew 6:33). His goodness must be manifest in deeds as well as words (Matthew 7:21). He must be pure in heart (Matthew 5:8). His righteousness must be inward and real, not outward and ceremonial (Matthew 5:20, Matthew 23:25-28).
(4) Life. Jesus came that men might have life (John 10:10). Moral perfection is conceived as the true self-development (Matthew 25:46, Mark 10:30). God has made us for Himself; unfailing obedience to the will of God leads to fulness of life (Matthew 19:17, John 17:3). Mutilation is urged in preference to the loss of life (Mark 9:43; Mark 9:45 ||). But mutilation is only second best. The moral ideal is to find perfect life (Mark 8:35 ||).
(5) Citizenship in the Kingdom. Jesus taught that moral perfection cannot be realized by men in isolation. This is the aspect of sanctification brought out by His teaching about the Kingdom of God. His ideal man is a citizen as well as a son. He must live as a member of a Society, showing those qualities that help to build the City of God (cf. Matthew 5:9; Matthew 5:13-16; Matthew 5:19). Such a recognition of other lives will keep men meek (Matthew 5:5, Matthew 11:29), and will fill their hearts with humility (Matthew 18:1-6 ||).
ii. Christ’s teaching about the process of sanctification.—(1) We note that sanctification is a process having a definite beginning. It is not another aspect of natural development. Its history is distinct from the record of physiological and psychological growth. We note the striking saying about His forerunner: ‘Among them that are born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is but little in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’ (Matthew 11:11). Here two kingdoms are distinguished: the natural kingdom into which men are ‘born of women,’ and the Kingdom of heaven. The latter kingdom belongs to a higher order than the former, as the animal kingdom is higher than the vegetable, or as the weakest mammal is greater than the strongest reptile. The babe in the higher kingdom of men is greater than the tiger in the kingdom of animals. So the least in the Kingdom of heaven belongs to a higher order, and has larger possibilities of spiritual development, than the greatest among those ‘born of women,’ i.e. produced by natural birth and growth. This implies that entrance into the Kingdom of heaven is secured by a new principle of life. This necessity is further hinted at in the teaching about defilement proceeding from the heart (Matthew 15:11). It is not enough to adorn a life with kind actions, to hang bunches of grapes on a thorn bush (Matthew 7:16). Good actions must be the fruit that grows on a good tree (Matthew 7:16-18, John 15:4). The tree must be made good; the heart must be cleansed; the river of life must be purified at its source. It will not suffice to build a fine house on a wrong foundation. The hidden principle must be made secure if the life is to be saved (Matthew 7:24-27). These hints prepare us for the demand, ‘Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 18:3 ||). Sanctification involves the quickening of a new life in men. The maturing of their physical nature cannot suffice; their spiritual nature must pass through the stages of birth and childhood before it can attain maturity. This teaching finds exact expression in the words addressed to Nicodemus: ‘Except a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3). Man’s destiny is not achieved through his physical birth into a physical kingdom. ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh’ (John 3:6); therefore no number of reincarnations can produce a spiritual result. Before we can be born into a spiritual kingdom, we must have a second kind of birth corresponding to the kingdom; we must be ‘born of the Spirit’ (John 3:5-8).
(2) A second group of passages hints that sanctification may be a long process before it is completed. This is suggested in the parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3, Mark 4:3); the parable of the Seed as growing up—‘first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear’ (Mark 4:28); and in all the figures of fruit-bearing, because fruit-bearing is the late result of a long process (cf. John 15:2, Luke 13:8). Another set of parables represents men as servants of a long-absent Lord, who have to show diligence in trading with the pounds, fidelity in the use of talents, and patience in watching (Matthew 25:14, Luke 19:12, Matthew 24:42). Probably this thought is contained also in the identification of true life with the knowledge of God (cf. John 17:3, Matthew 11:27). Such knowledge is not merely an intellectual apprehension; it is a spiritual fellowship. It implies ethical likeness through surrender of the whole being to the Divine will. Such likeness can be secured only through long conformity of the heart and mind and will to God. A pure heart is the organ of such a vision of God (Matthew 5:8).
(3) There are definite statements as to the means whereby this ethical likeness to the Father is secured.
(a) By prayer. Jesus was a man of prayer. There are fifteen references to His prayers in the Gospels. It is specially noteworthy that He betook Himself to prayer when any fierce temptation assailed Him (Luke 5:16; Luke 9:28, John 12:27, Matthew 26:36 ||), when any work of critical importance had to be undertaken (Luke 6:12, John 11:41; John 11:17), or when He was exhausted with toil (Mark 1:35, Matthew 14:23); and that it was while He was praying that He was anointed with the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-38,3), and that He was transfigured (Luke 9:29). But it is clear also that He was accustomed to pray on all occasions (cf. Luke 10:21, Luke 11:1, Luke 22:32, Luke 23:46). It is instructive, therefore, that He urged men to pray (Matthew 5:44; Matthew 6:6; Matthew 26:41 ||, Luke 11:2; Mark 10:29-309; Luke 21:36). He encouraged prayer by promising large blessing (Matthew 7:7-11, Mark 11:24). He declared that true prayer ‘justified’ a man (Luke 18:14) All these references seem to make it clear that prayer ministers to our sanctification.
(b) Self-denial. Jesus had a very definite philosophy of life; but it was clean contrary to worldly wisdom. He summarized it thus: ‘Enter ye in by the narrow gate: … for narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life’ (Matthew 7:13-14 ||). ‘Whosoever will lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, shall save it’ (Mark 8:35 ||). Self-denial is thus taught not for its own sake, but as the only way to reach self-perfection (Matthew 16:24 ||).
(c) Good works. We have noticed the emphasis put by Jesus on works of love and mercy. It must be pointed out now that He taught their sanctifying efficacy. The blessed of the Father, who inherit the Kingdom, have qualified by good works (Matthew 25:31-40). The young ruler could be perfect if he would keep the commandments (Matthew 19:21), and the lawyer could inherit eternal life in the same way (Luke 10:28). Several times Jesus promised a reward for obedience, fidelity, and diligence (cf. Matthew 25:10; Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 19:12-27, 1618180258_69 ||); and if heavenly rewards are granted to those morally fit, as is taught clearly by the parable of the Pounds (Luke 19), these passages imply that sanctification is advanced by a life of obedience to God’s will.
(d) Faith in Christ. There is a large group of passages in all the Gospels, and there are specially important discourses in John, in which Jesus Christ is offered to men as a means of their sanctification.
(α) Sometimes sanctification is promised to those who copy His example. This is done in the gracious invitation (Matthew 11:28-30). Learning of Jesus, we may become meek and lowly in heart; yoked with Him under the yoke which He wears and which He graciously invites us to share, we may hear our burden easily. It is also taught by His claim to be the one Master whom all are to obey (Matthew 23:10).
(β) Sanctification is bound up with obedience to His teaching. The wise man is one who builds on the words of Jesus (Matthew 7:24). He offered His words as the rock of eternal truth on which men may build for eternity, in place of the shifting sand of opinion and hypothesis which will not continue. Eternity will put the strain of judgment upon the characters we are building; and only those characters resting on the rock of His words will stand the strain (Matthew 7:25-27). The same truth is taught in the impressive words of Matthew 10:32-33. To confess Him and His words is the same as building upon them; whilst to be ashamed of them is to refuse to make them the foundation for conduct. The same sentiment is expressed in John 5:24. He that ‘cometh not into judgment,’ because ‘he hath passed out of death into life,’ is one in whom the signs of sanctification are recognized. This sanctified man is ‘he that heareth my word and believeth him that sent me.’
(γ) Sanctification is secured by union with Jesus as the Son of God. It has been pointed out that ‘knowledge of the Father’ is one of Jesus Christ’s descriptions of sanctification. And a very solemn claim made by Jesus is that ‘none knoweth the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him’ (Matthew 11:27). The Son willeth to reveal the Father to all, for the very next word is, ‘Come unto me all ye that labour’: but there is no relaxing of the claim that men must come to Him and learn of Him if they would know the Father; cf. John 6:46; John 14:6. Other conceptions of God may be attained by other means. ‘The Father’ can be revealed only by One who fulfils perfectly the complementary relationship.
(δ) Separate reference may be made to the discourses in John’s Gospel, because these amplify the teaching in the Synoptics, though the germs are found there. We may note the claim of Jesus to be the light of the world (John 8:12; John 9:5; John 12:35-36; John 12:46; and cf. John 14:26; John 1:9; John 3:19); to be the living water (1618180258_42 John 4:14); to be the bread of God come down from heaven to feed the world (John 6:32-35; John 6:47-58). These figures imply that men must follow Him if they would walk in the ways of holiness, and must sustain their life by union with Him, if they would have it strong and healthy. This last means of sanctification is described quite definitely in the words, ‘He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I in him’ (John 6:56, cf. John 15:1-10). The words have been interpreted sacramentally, as referring solely to the elements offered to the participants in the Lord’s Supper. But such an interpretation is entirely opposed to the spirit of Jesus, and would have been inexplicable to the people addressed. And though an allusion to the Lord’s Supper as a ‘means of grace’ need not he denied (cf. Matthew 26:26-28 ||), it is plain that our Lord was thinking of a spiritual union between Himself and His followers, maintained by their faith. Another significant passage occurs in John 8:31-38. It has affinity with passages emphasizing the importance of His words (John 8:31; John 8:38). But it passes on to the statement, ‘Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ This is explained to mean freedom from sin (John 8:34); therefore it implies sanctification. And as ‘the truth’ is changed in John 8:36 to ‘the Son,’ this is another direct claim on the part of Jesus to be our Sanctification (cf. John 14:6, John 15:3-4; John 15:10). It leads us naturally to the very important text John 17:17; John 17:19. Jesus prayed for His disciples, ‘Sanctify them in the truth: thy word is truth.… For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.’ ‘Sanctify’ seems ho be used here with its full meaning. The idea of consecration is not absent (cf. John 17:18 and (Revised Version margin) ); but John 17:14-16 prove that the ethical significance is prominent. This sanctification is secured ‘in truth.’ The truth is identified with ‘thy word,’ which has been given to the disciples by Jesus (John 17:14), partly by His words (John 14:10), and partly by His character and example (John 1:14, John 14:9). Th

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