A non-traditional look at the word “Sanctify”

This is a very small, immature apple tree that needs help standing up and probably won’t produce any fruit this year.
It is still an apple tree.

I was considering applying for a ministerial license through a really amazing organization. When I was filling out my Theological Profile I stumbled across question number 11. Wow, question number 11 threw me for a loop! So here’s a bit of what I found as I started to dig. (Click here to read the full paper w/ scripture references).

I don’t think I’m necessarily right (as many a more-brilliant man before me has taken a much different stance), but I do think it is an interesting perspective.

A FAIRLY COMMON CONCEPT OF SANCTIFICATION:

A forever process of becoming more God-like through trial and testing. Not possible to ever attain, but must be striven after for your entire life.

(Picture a rabbit with a carrot hanging off of a stick that is harnessed to the animal. It can never reach the carrot, but it sure can try hard to do so!)

#11. What is your understanding of sanctification? [I used NASB for the following references]

Sanctification is an act of being set apart for God alone, or to be set apart as holy
(uniquely and exclusively appointed for one thing alone).

You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be sanctified among the sons of Israel; I am the LORD who sanctifies you,who brought you out from the land of Egypt, to be your God; I am the LORD.”

God himself was sanctified among men in Lev. 22:32 in connection to the use of his name. God’s name is set apart as being special, unique, uncommon and holy. There is a distinction between what is common (unsanctified) and holy (sanctified). Distinguished is another word that would be associated with being sanctified.

…do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

Jesus Himself was sanctified in John 10:36 and John 17:19. The Father sanctified Him and sent Him to earth. He was set apart for His specific role/mission. It is also possible that He was sanctified apart from the Father and Spirit in that He became human for all eternity. Before His human conception He was strictly divine, but in becoming human there was a setting apart from who He was into the man-God He became. What Jesus did not do is struggle to become more God-like for His entire life, this was not the purpose of His sanctification.

There were plenty of other things that were sanctified: The sabbath, priests, the first-born children of Israel, and the Levites (to replace the first-born as belonging to God) to name a few. None of these were sanctified so that they could struggle to become something that they weren’t, but rather so that they could be recognized for their unique and specific role that they had already been appointed into at the moment of sanctification. The sabbath didn’t have to try hard to be set apart as a day of rest, it only needed to be recognized and honored as such. The natural result of this recognition would be acting properly toward a day that was already set apart as holy.

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours…

For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.

Followers of Christ ARE sanctified/set apart for the work and worship of God in 1 Cor. 1:2, 6:11, Acts 26:18, John 17:16-19, Hebrews 10:14, 10:10. This is not describing a continuous struggle of becoming more God-like, but a living out of an established reality.

Eph. 5:25-27 talks about us as the bride of Christ being washed with the water of the word and being sanctified as his bride. An interesting parallel is that washing was something that was done when the priests were set apart for their role as priests (Lev. 8:6) The bride of Christ is also a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) and as such we can enter the Holy of Holies since we have been sanctified, cleansed, clothed and anointed (Lev. 8:7,12, Rev. 3:18). This is not something that is earned as we become more God-like, but is a current reality because we have been appointed into this position by Christ.

This is a very large, mature apple tree that can withstand huge gusts of wind and produces a crazy amount of fruit every year. It is still an apple tree.

The danger in redefining what “sanctification” really means is that many will assume that we don’t have to mature as believers. I would argue that true maturity is only realized through true recognition of who you are, and growing in that. If we continue to live our lives trying to be something we are not, we aren’t growing; we’re attempting evolution. And, that is done through human effort apart from the finished work of Christ. If, however, we recognize that in Christ we are new creations, the old being gone and the new having come (2 Cor 5:17), then we can grow in that.

Practically, this means living differently. You have been set apart so live out of that reality. Everything you do has been set apart as being uniquely and exclusively appointed for one thing alone. A bowl in the tabernacle could not be used for any other use but as an object of worship before God. Do not do things like you used to, in fact, think completely differently (Romans 12:1-2). The life you had before Christ showed up is gone. I’m sorry, but that person died (Romans 6, Gal 2:20). Live entirely differently in every area at every moment. Not in an attempt to become something, but because that is who you are. You, as a Christ-follower, are uncommon. You are holy. You are special. You are unique. You are set apart. You are sanctified. (Bonus: You are accepted!)

Realize it.

Act it.

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About Nathan Banker

Nathan, Michelle and their two sons are occupational ministers in the Twin Cities. They do spiritual mentoring, a form of prayer ministry call Prayer Resolution and help run a small church-like community called Immerse. They dream of changing the world, one person at a time.

5 responses to “A non-traditional look at the word “Sanctify””

  1. Kurt says :

    Nate / Michelle

    Pretty deep thinking…reads like your on the way to a PHD i Theology, keep up the good work and we are looking forward to seeing you!!!!
    Love Great Grandpa and Grandma S (:)(:)

  2. Justin says :

    I believe your understanding is quite orthodox and is probably the one held by most theologians. To be sanctified is to be set apart. Believers are, upon redemption, set apart as God’s people. This is the way God is sanctified – by position. He is holy (a closely linked word) because He is unlike anything else which is. Believers are also sanctified progressively in action. Our actions become more and more ‘set apart’ as we conform to who we are in Christ. You must be careful in word studies, because words do not mean the same thing in all places, but context provides flavor. The Bible uses the idea of sanctification both in positional and progressive ways.

    • Justin says :

      A fairly standard treatment is found here (what they call total sanctification is often called glorification): http://bible.org/seriespage/necessity-sanctification-romans-6

    • nathanbanker says :

      I’m not sure my thoughts are actually orthodox.
      Here is the Westminister Confession of Faith on Sanctification:

      I. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection,[1] by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them:[2] the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed,[3] and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified;[4] and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces,[5] to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.[6]

      II. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man;[7] yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part;[8] whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.[9]

      III. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail;[10] yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part does overcome;[11] and so, the saints grow in grace,[12] perfecting holiness in the fear of God.[13]

      I supposed I would like to redefine “progressive sanctification” and clarify that it never does require that you become something you are aren’t already. I prefer the term “maturing” because it more clearly states that you grow up, without attempting to become something else. If the finished work of Christ didn’t make you into an entirely new being (2 Cor 5:17), then there is nothing left in heaven or earth, life or death or any amount of human effort that will be able to recreate you. Through and through, it is by faith (Gal 3:3). Everything we need is already ours (2 peter 1:3).

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