Question: Will you please discuss the subject of sanctification?
Answer: The questioner in this case has asked for a discussion on repentance, justification and sanctification. This is a good comprehensive question covering the three major steps of our salvation. The first step in salvation is a genuine repentance for sins committed. When this is thorough, complete and genuine, then God injects a faith into the penitent, broken heart to believe in Jesus Christ and His blood atonement for his forgiveness, salvation and the washing away of his sins. Then God, for Christ’s sake, justifies the repentant sinner (absolves him from guilt of his committed sins) and counts him innocent in His sight because of his faith in what Christ did.
The forgiving of sins committed is not the sum total to the solution of the sin problem. There is another type of sin we did not commit that every person has, which cannot be repented of because we did not commit it and are in no way responsible for it. It is a genealogical thing. It is transmitted from generation to generation from Adam clear on down through the generations of humankind until now. Sin brought about a change in man’s moral nature. In God’s moral likeness and image, as he was created, he was possessed of “…righteousness and true holiness.” Ephesians 4:24. (See also Colossians 3:10.) Now, instead of this “righteousness and true holiness,” he becomes depraved and corrupt in his moral nature. (Ephesians 4:22, 25-31.) The fact that the moral likeness and image of God was effaced from the human soul by this means, is evidenced by the fact that when we obtain the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ we are said to be RENEWED in that image. (Colossians 3:10.) In other words, it is a restoration to the image of God hence we conclude it had been lost. As a result of this the moral nature of all mankind was affected in this way and became depraved and corrupt. Sin has become universal as a result of the sin of this first pair. (Romans 3:23; Romans 5:12; Romans 11:32; Galatians 3:22.)
The Scriptures conclude something about sin being hereditary, a depravity of nature to be handed down through the generations of mankind from the original parent. Genesis 5:3 says that “…Adam…begat a son in his own likeness, after his image;… His moral likeness and image was now depraved and corrupt and he could only transmit what he had. For a thing to be hereditary it must be inherent in a child at birth and not something acquired later on in life. Hence, this depravity of nature must be in the infant child at birth. Thus we see that the infant child just born is already one step below the plane on which God created man in His own likeness, after His image. However, we must not confuse this hereditary sin (or seed of sin, or principle of sin) with sin acquired or committed one’s actual transgressions for which he repents when seeking salvation. Some find the idea of our inheriting a seed of sin objectionable on the grounds that they cannot conceive of an infant child just born into the world being a guilty sinner. That is exactly right, but just what these people are doing is confusing sin inherited with sin acquired or committed.
Inherited sin is never productive of guilt. Even though the infant child possesses within him the germ or seed of sin from his first parent, Adam, he remains in a state of perfect innocence before God until he reaches an age of accountability to know right from wrong and by an act of his own free will does the wrong thing. This is confirmed by a scripture in James 4:17, “Therefore to him that KNOWETH to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” But he had to KNOW it before it became sin to him. Further in John 3:19, Jesus said, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” NOTE: The condemnation and guilt came when the light (knowledge of right and wrong) came to them and they rejected the right and chose to continue in the wrong. When the child comes to the age of accountability before God and falls into willful disobedience to God’s law and becomes guilty of sin and a partaker of the sinful life, this is more than just the nature or principle, which in itself is not productive of guilt, but is the fruit of that nature or the projection of it into a way of life of actual sins committed which brings guilt and condemnation upon the soul. This, then, takes him a second step lower than the plane on which man was created.
God devised a plan of salvation by which man is restored back to the Edenic state in which man was created in the likeness and image of God and which was lost when sin entered into this world by the willful choice of our fore parents, by which they apostatized from God. (Genesis 3:1, etc.) And not only so, but Adam s sin brought about a change in man’s moral nature and it became depraved and corrupt instead of having the righteousness and true holiness he had possessed before. Further, this morally depraved nature was transmitted to all generations of the human race. (Genesis 5:3; Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12.)
Now, it must be evident unto all that there are just as many steps going up the stairs as there are coming down. Since man has fallen two distinct steps below his created state, it would surely be evident that there would be two separate, distinct steps in his getting back to the original state of the likeness and image of God. Indeed there are two parts to our salvation; two separate and distinct works of grace justification and sanctification. Justification is the first step up and is the forgiveness and absolving from guilt of all our actual sins which we have committed when we properly repent of them and put our faith in the merits of the all-atoning blood of Jesus Christ for salvation. But it does not deal with that inherent depravity. Neither could it, because we could not repent of it inasmuch as we were in no way responsible for it. Neither is it possible to recognize it so long as our conscience is crowded with guilt and condemnation for unforgiven sins. But after we are justified and absolved from guilt and are at peace with God and our burden of sin gone, it is then, in our efforts to live a holy life according to New Testament standards, that we become aware of the conflict going on within us.
The sanctifying work and grace of God is ordained in God’s plan of salvation to meet this need and purge out that old depravity of nature and purify the heart and affections and fill us with the Holy Spirit and an indwelling, abiding Comforter, empowering us to meet all our problems of life and overcome them and enabling us to live a victorious, triumphant holy life according to New Testament standards. Then it must be evident unto all that one’s salvation is not complete without this second grace. Some have lost out entirely with God because they did not press on into this experience when they became conscious of its need. When one becomes conscious of a real conflict within as they endeavor to live a holy life pleasing to God, then they are face to face with a decision in their Christian experience; either go on and die out to the self-life and consecrate his life to God for divine service and sacred use and lay himself on the altar of sacrifice or service, or draw back unto perdition. (Hebrews 10:39.) It is either go on or go back; we cannot remain the same from that point.
Hebrews 10:14 says, “…He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” We see here that sanctification is the completion of our salvation. Hence, we can never say we are complete without this experience. In Acts 15:8-9, we find that God gave the Gentiles the Holy Spirit even as He had given Him to the Jews on Pentecost and PURIFIED their hearts by faith. Justification delivers from the power of sin and cleans up and purifies the outward life, but it takes a definite inner working of the Holy Spirit in the heart to purify the heart from its inherent depravity. This is what sanctification is: a genuine, thorough cleansing of the heart by the Holy Spirit and then Him taking up His abode in the heart thus cleansed.
One is justified through repentance. One is sanctified through consecration and faith. They are different works obtained by different means and having different objectives. In Romans 12:1 we are instructed to present our bodies (our lives) a living sacrifice to God (entire consecration) and verse 2 says, that we might “…prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” And I Thessalonians 4:3 says, “…This is the will of God, even your sanctification,…” In Romans 15:16, we read “…That the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.” Here again we see that sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit and that there is an “OFFERING UP” (consecration) connected with it on our part.