What is Sanctification?
What is the Definition of Christian Sanctification?
All of my life I have repeatedly heard the statement “Of course, nobody’s perfect.” A few months ago my attention was arrested by Hebrews 10:14 which says, “For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.” I immediately attempted to reconcile this statement from God’s Word with what I viewed as the many imperfections in myself. Could it be that there are human beings on this earth that God considers perfect?! It appeared that Hebrews 10:14 stated just that “He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.”
The only qualification for this perfection according to Hebrews 10:14 is to be sanctified. If we are sanctified, God says that we are perfect.
How Are We Sanctified?
Hebrews 10:10 tells us that “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” From this scripture we know that we are sanctified, not by what we do, but by what Jesus did for us on Calvary. All that we need to do in order to receive this great blessing is to accept His work of Calvary by being born again. Once we are born again, we are sanctified. Hebrews 10:29 says that we are sanctified by the blood of the covenant. If we know that we have the blood upon our lives and have been born again, then we know that we are sanctified! Furthermore, according to the scripture, we are perfect!
But wait! What about all our faults and failures? What did Jesus mean when He said that He has perfected us forever?
Perfect As Pertaining To Conscience
Does this mean that we can never be lost? No! Does this mean that we will never commit sin? Not absolutely. In what way then has God perfected us?
There are two kinds of perfection in the Bible. One type of perfection is referred to by Hebrews 6:1 “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection.” This perfection deals with growing unto “a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). This perfection is not the object of this article.
The perfection to which I refer is explained in Hebrews 9:6-9 “Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people” The Holy Ghost thus signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience”.
Verse 9 tells us that the salvation of the first tabernacle (the law) could not make the worshippers “perfect, as pertaining to the conscience”. However, verse 14 tells us that the blood of Christ shall “purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” These scriptures are saying that the salvation of Christ will make us perfect, as pertaining to conscience. We are to have a conscience void of offense and relieved of all guilt forever. This fact is further explained in Hebrews 10:1-2 “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the thing, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered: Because the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.”
The law could not give us a perfectly clear conscience, but the better salvation of Jesus Christ is able to totally relieve from guilt even to the point that the worshippers once purged should no longer be conscience of sin. Jesus came as the second Adam to undo the damage done by the first Adam. The first Adam lost innocence for the human race bringing us under guilt and condemnation. Jesus Christ came to restore our innocence so that there is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. Because we are delivered from all sin, guilt, and condemnation, Hebrews 10:22 exhorts us “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” Our full assurance is that when Jesus saved us, He brought us into a state of perfection and set us forever free from condemnation. Verse 23 tells us to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering. We must never doubt that He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.
With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:10). All of this comes to us, not because of what we have done, but because of the work of Christ at Calvary. All we do to receive this great gift is to believe on Jesus Christ and receive His great salvation by being born again.
In order to fully understand how we can be perfect, as pertaining to conscience, we need to understand the Bible’s teaching on imputation. Romans 4:1-8 tells us much about imputation:
“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”
Notice in verse 6 “Blessed is the man to whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” Verse 8 says, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” We have sometimes only understood half of what happens when we are born again. We believe that Jesus was made sin on the cross. When we are born again, our sins are placed on, or imputed to Him. If that was all that happened, we could not be perfect, as pertaining to conscience. When our sins are placed on Jesus, His righteousness is imputed to us. We immediately become as righteous as Jesus Christ. If you are born again, you are as righteous as Jesus Christ right now! This is not because of anything we have done except we have believed on Him who justifieth the ungodly (Romans 4:5). To justify means to acquit or to declare not guilty. Righteousness is not something that we do. It is a gift that is imputed to us. Romans 5:17 calls it the gift of righteousness. Blessed is the man to whom God imputeth righteousness without works. They asked Jesus what should be done to work the works of God. His reply “Believe on Him whom God hath sent” (John 6:28-29). Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness (Romans 4:3).
No Law = No Transgression
Romans 4:15 says, … for where no law is, there is no transgression. Romans 5:13 states further that, … sin is not imputed when there is no law.
These scriptures raise a very important question. Are we under the law today? Romans 6:14 emphatically states, “Ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Galatians 3:13 tells us that “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” These scriptures state plainly that we are not under the law. If sin is not imputed where there is no law, then we are made free from sin! Because sin is not imputed to us, God sees us as perfect, and our conscience is perfectly free from guilt. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Ministry of Condemnation vs. Ministry of Righteousness
II Corinthians 3:9 says, “For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.”
The ministry of the law is referred to as the ministry of condemnation or guilt. The ministry of faith is referred to as the ministry of righteousness or innocence. If our preaching produces guilt in the hearers, then we are still ministers of the law. If our preaching produces innocence, then we have become ministers of faith or righteousness. The law came as a schoolmaster to show us our guilt and to teach the need for a savior. No one was justified by the law. The preaching of righteousness is now given to bring salvation to all who will believe. Much of the epistles is devoted to explaining the difference between condemnation preaching and righteousness preaching, between law and grace.
Paul rebuked the Corinthians in his first letter to them because they were tolerating immorality. When he wrote his second letter, he told them he had repented for making them sorry with his first letter, for the sorrow of the world worketh death. He said, however, “repent; for you sorrowed after a godly sort unto repentance. Godly sorrow worketh repentance that needeth not to be repented of again.” Negative, condemning law preaching has its place in the New Testament church. I Timothy 1:8 says that the law is good if it is used lawfully. Law preaching brings people to repentance.
Negative preaching without understanding or discretion will work death. A steady diet of negative preaching will kill a church. The continual preaching about problems will not cure problems. It will create more. What we preach is what we get. Preaching incessantly about sin will not liberate from sin. I Corinthians 15:56 tells us that the strength of sin is the law. When the sign says, “Wet paint! Do not touch!”, something in human beings has an accelerated desire to touch. Receive a letter that says, “Do not open this letter!” That’s the one we open first! The strength of sin is the law.
Faith preaching is the thing that brings the benefits of Calvary to us. How received ye the spirit by hearing of the law or by the hearing of faith? The preaching of righteousness, if believed, will produce the fruit of righteousness which is holiness (Romans 6:19, 22).
We have to think about something before we can be tempted by it. Until something gets our attention, we can’t be tempted by it. That’s the reason Paul said, “I would that you be simple concerning evil, but wise to that which is good” (Romans 16:19). The less we know about sin, the less power it has to attract us. The more law that we hear, the more power sin has over us for “the strength of sin is the law”. The harder we try to live above sin, the more we will fail. Paul talked about this fact in Romans 9:30-33 “What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness… which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling stone and rock of offense: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”
The Gentiles didn’t try to be righteous, yet they attained unto righteousness. Israel tried to be righteous, but did not achieve righteousness. The Gentiles didn’t try and succeeded. The Jews did try but failed. It just doesn’t seem fair. Why did this happen? Because the Jews sought righteousness by the works of the law and not by faith (verse 32). The Bible says that they stumbled at the stumblingstone. They thought serving God was hard, they delighted in making it hard, and it upset their spiritual pride when Jesus made it easy. The Gentiles believed in Jesus and wanted to be like Him. In so doing they attained the righteousness that was so elusive to the Jews. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4).
Serving the Lord is Easy
Proverbs 13:15 says “The way of transgressors is hard”. Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11: 30). It has been commonly supposed that, if you would be a real true Christian, it is very hard. Actually, the opposite is true. If we think that it’s hard to serve God, it is because we have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2). True salvation brings righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost! True righteousness does not come through effort, but through submission. “For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3). Being in sin is what is hard! When your life is assaulted by drugs, alcohol, divorce, addictions, jealousies, envy, strife, this is the hard life. If you don’t think that being a sinner is hard, you haven’t talked to any sinners lately.
The righteousness of faith is compared to the righteousness of the law in Romans 10:5-10 “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law. That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is,to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
The righteousness of the law says the man that does all these things shall live by them. In other words, if we get good enough, we can have God. The righteousness of faith says that if we receive Christ through faith that He will make us good. Goodness becomes a result of receiving God, not a requirement for receiving Him. Believing and obeying the gospel is the only requirement for receiving God.
The above passage tells us that we should not say who can ascend into heaven (or get spiritual enough) to bring Christ down from above, Or who is deep enough to bring revival? But what saith it? The word (or answer) is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is the word of faith, which we preach (verse 10) “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; (Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness) and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”. It is important that we confess that we are saved. We have many people who have real doubts about their salvation. This is not God’s will. God wants us to be sure that we are saved. When we understand that He has perfected us forever, then the blessed assurance of salvation will be ours.
If We Sin Willfully
Some will anxiously say, “If the salvation of Christ is this far reaching, then I can do anything I want to do. God’s grace will cover”. Is this true? Absolutely not! This kind of thinking turns the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 4). Paul said in Galatians 2:17, “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ (rather than legislation), we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.” We are not talking about a license to sin. We are talking about a salvation that can deliver from the strength of sin, which is the law, and present us holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight (Colossians 1:22).
Notice carefully Hebrews 10:25-26. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.”
The sacrifice for sin is continually flowing in the born again believer’s life. I John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
This wonderful benefit of continual cleansing can be lost. If we decide to live in sin, we are sinning willfully. One of the foremost indicators of willful sin is unfaithfulness to God’s house. Hebrews 10:25-26 says “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together … For if we sin willfully…” When people pitch their tent toward Sodom, they invariably start missing church. They are deliberately removing themselves from God’s chosen method of dispensing His grace. God has chosen by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
The concept of willful sin is illustrated by Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians on the Lord’s supper. I Corinthians 11:29 states, “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” What does Paul mean by “eating and drinking unworthily”? None of us feel worthy! When Jesus transformed the passover to the Lord’s supper, two of the apostles within twenty-four hours committed serious transgressions against Jesus. Judas betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver, and Peter denied that he knew Him and cursed to prove it. Judas ate damnation to himself, but Peter didn’t. What was the difference?
Communion is a statement of loyalty. It is promising to serve the Lord till death. If saints absolutely never intend to backslide, they may safely take communion. Judas partook of this sacred oath knowing that he planned to betray Jesus. Peter on the other hand sinned unpremeditatively under the pressure of temptation. As soon as he realized what he had done, he repented.
Willful and unwillful sin is much the same way. If a person commits sin under the pressure of temptation, the blood of Jesus cleanses that sin. However, if a person decides they want to live a life of sin, then the continual cleansing stops. This does not mean that they can never be saved. It does mean that they will have to return to a repentant life before they can be saved. This wonderful benefit of continual cleansing is the thing that makes it possible for us to be perfected forever as pertaining to conscience. Blessed is the man to whom God imputed not sin!
Who Can Lay Anything To The Charge of God’s Elect?
What happened at The Fall? What did Adam and Eve have before they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil? They lived in a state of innocence. They didn’t have any condemnation. That is the way God intended for mankind to live. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Would you like to live one day without condemnation? How about one week? A month? Forever? Is that impossible? Not if God hath perfected forever them that are sanctified!
What would happen to the apostolic movement if suddenly the energies of God’s people were not being siphoned off by guilt? What if we knew without a doubt that we are saved and that eternal life is securely ours? What a great assurance to share with neighbors, loved ones, and friends!
Did Jesus come to reverse what happened when Adam and Eve fell? Doesn’t the Bible call Him the second Adam in I Corinthians 15? Romans 5:12 declares that by Adam’s disobedience many were made sinners, but by the obedience of Jesus shall many be made righteous (or innocent).
The Old Testament plan of salvation could not make the comers thereto perfect as pertaining to the conscience. It could not liberate a person from guilt. Hebrews 9:13-14 says “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 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?” The reason a lot of people are not very effective in serving God is because they don’t have enough faith in the blood of Jesus to purge their conscience from dead works. The purpose of salvation is to set us free from guilt so that we can live for God. When we are guilty, we can’t live for God. “If our hearts condemn us, then God is greater than our hearts, but if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” We can believe that, if our brother trespasses against us 490 times in a day, we should forgive him 490 times; but we can’t believe that, if we trespass against God, He gladly forgives us.
Hebrews 10:1 states that the Old Testament sacrifices could not make the comers thereto perfect. “For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins”. If the law would have worked, they would have made sacrifices one time and then stopped. Once the worshipped had been purged, they should have no more conscience of sin. They should become oblivious to sin. They are liberated, set free from sin!
Hebrews 10:17-23 “And their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say His flesh, and having an high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering (for He is faithful that promised).”
All of this means that, if you are born again of the water and the spirit and daily striving to serve God, you are saved. There is no doubt about it! If the Lord calls you home in the next 10 seconds, you’ll go straight to heaven! We don’t receive all of this because we are worthy. If we wait till we’re worthy, we’ll be waiting a long, long time. We enjoy all of this, not because of what we have done, but because of what He did! This does not create a license for sin, but it does create a cure!
The Lord said, “I didn’t come to condemn the world. I came to save the world.” Satan is the accuser of the brethren. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died.” No wonder that the angels say, “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! What a great salvation! What a gospel! What good news! He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified!
By Irvin Baxter