What is Sanctification?
That query may be quite familiar – it’s question number thirty-five in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and can often be a point of contention for many – it’s part of the concepts of Calvinism, but more broadly Christianity as a whole. Sanctification is defined by common dictionaries as the act of setting [something] “apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use” – which actually applies pretty well to the way we should look at it.
When something is sanctified, it’s set apart, lifted higher, and seen as an object of holiness, but it’s done so by God. A human, or a church – which is still technically human – cannot sanctify anything – sanctification is entirely under the direction of God. We become sanctified as we grow in our walk with God, our sanctification happens through the merit of Christ alone, and through the work of the Holy Spirit as we experience life. We are not able to raise ourselves to a position of holiness (see ), alone – it requires the work of Christ in our lives.
So, how are we sanctified? How does God improve us, how does He make us more holy? He does it through the experiences that we have in life – through ups and downs, through the events that cause us pain, from loss of employment to an early death of a child, to loss of limb and mobility, loss of friends, painful experiences, and feelings of wretchedness. He does it through times of joy and happiness, celebration and exaltation, successes and failures, friendships, love and wonder.
It’s also a cooperative process – it’s a two way street. We grow closer to God – more Christ-like – through what we do in our daily walk with God, the prayers we say, the Word we read, and the time spent alone with Him.
Sanctification is a process of becoming more like God – through the messiness of life. God uses pain and suffering, joy and satisfaction to draw us nearer to Him, to show us who He is, and we take a part in that process as well.
Be a willing participant in God’s work in your life.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (ESV)