1th 05v23 The Very God of Peace Sanctify you Wholly



 I Thess. 5:23


Sanctification is a gracious work of God in behalf of his people. For too long, we have said too little about this work. And what has been said has left most people with the idea that sanctification is a work of man, by which he improves his standing before God.

The word "sanctify" simply means "to set apart". That which is common and ordinary is set apart for the service of God. The Sabbath day, the tabernacle, and the priesthood of the Old Testament were set apart for God's use. And in this sense, the people of God were separated from the rest of Adam's race by God the Father (Jude 1).

We were set apart by God for himself by his decree of election in eternity. We were set apart legally by the purchase of Christ. And we were manifestly set apart in regeneration by the effectual call. Are we set apart for God? Then we ought to be given up wholly to serving him in all that we do. And that which is set apart for God is under God's protection.

Another meaning of the word "sanctify" is "to regard, treat, and declare that something, or someone is holy". For example, we are commanded to "Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself”. Moses' sin in smiting the rock twice was that he did not sanctify the Lord before the people. In his fit of anger with Israel, Moses failed to regard the holiness of God. In the sense too, we are perfectly sanctified. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, God regards us as holy men, he treats us as holy men, and he declares that we are holy (I Cor. 1:2, 30; Heb. 10:14).


"With His spotless garments on,

I am as holy as God's Son!


We do not believe in imputed sanctification; nor do we believe in imputed justification. We believe in imputed righteousness, by which we are both justified and sanctified. By the imputation of Christ's righteousness to us, we are justified from all things written in the law against us, and we are declared to be perfectly wholly, perfectly sanctified.

A third meaning of the word "sanctify" is to "actually make something holy". For example, before the Lord gave the law upon Mt. Sinai, he commanded the children of Israel to sanctify themselves. They were required to wash, cleanse, and purify themselves before they could receive God's holy law. That which was filthy was actually purified, cleansed, and made holy. In this sense too, every believer has been sanctified by the gracious operation of God the Holy Spirit (II Thess. 2:13). In regeneration, the Holy Spirit creates within us a new man, created in the image of Christ, one that cannot sin (I John 3:9, 5:18). Yes, the believer is a man with two natures, an old nature that cannot do anything but that which is evil, and a new nature that cannot sin. In this sense too, we are perfectly sanctified.

Yet, there is such a thing as progressive sanctification. There is a work of sanctification going on in every believer continually. In what sense is the believer progressively sanctified? Progressive sanctification is not an improvement of the old nature. It is not an increase in our acceptance and holiness before God, which will finally culminate in glorification. Progressive sanctification is a continually increasing separation to God (I Thess. 4:3-7). It is growing in the grace and knowledge of God. Just as the child Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, though not in actual holiness, the new man created in us grows in the knowledge of Christ. Faith, hope, and love increases. Progressive sanctification is an increased consecration to the will and the glory of God. Just as our Lord sanctified himself to do the will of God, the child of God, as he grows in grace, is more and more set upon seeking God's will and God's glory in all things. Progressive sanctification is conformity to the image of Christ. It arises from a vital union of faith with Christ. This is the heart desire of every believing, redeemed, justified, regenerate, and sanctified soul, he wants to be like Christ (Phil. 3:12-14).


More like the Master I would ever be,

More of His meekness, more humility;

More zeal to labor, more courage to be true,

More consecration for work He bids me do.


More like the Master I would live and grow;

More of His love to others I would show;

More self-denial, like His in Galilee,

More like the Master I long to ever be.