We know that believers are made righteous without works because Christ took our sins on the cross and He rose from the dead to gift us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). We are in Christ and not in sin – therefore God will never impute our sins (Romans 4:4-8, Hebrews 10:1-17)
But what about “sanctification” or “holiness”? Some teachings say that sanctification is about our works and is a life-long process. Some believe that we can lose salvation if we are not “sanctified”.
But let us remove all such fears by looking at the scripture.
The word “sanctified” means to be “set apart” by God. It is not by our works.
Salvation is not a 50-50 work between God and the believer.
Salvation is 100% the finished work of Jesus Christ.
We are already sanctified when we believed in Christ.
1 Corinthians 1 “2 to the assembly of God which is at Corinth—those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I always thank my God concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus; 5 that in everything you were enriched in him, in all speech and all knowledge; 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 so that you come behind in no gift; waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ; 8 who will also confirm you until the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
- We are already sanctified by Christ – He did it.
- We are saints – not based on our works but only by faith in Christ.
- We will be kept blameless till the end because God is faithful and He does it.
- We are eternally in fellowship with Christ.
1 Corinthians 6 “9 Or don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s Kingdom? Don’t be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor extortionists, will inherit God’s Kingdom. 11 Some of you were such, but you were washed. But you were sanctified. But you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God.”
- The unbeliever is unrighteous (they love to sin) and will not be saved.
- The believer may stumble but he is already washed by the blood of Christ.
- The believer is already justified/righteous by faith without works. (Done by God and not us)
- The believer is already sanctified by God who set us apart from the world by giving us His Holy Spirit as His beloved children.
How were we sanctified? Was it our good works? No it was by faith. When we believe in Christ, we were sanctified because our sins were forgiven.
Acts 26 “8 that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’”
Our sanctification is a FINISHED WORK – we have been sanctified in the past tense!
Hebrews 10 “10 by which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. “
Our sanctification is permanent – once for all – forever because Jesus did all the work!
Christ’s death and resurrection made us PERFECT forever.
Hebrews 10 “14 For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are being sanctified…..“I will remember their sins and their iniquities no more.”
He has made us perfect forever by His blood and not our works.
Why does it say “being sanctified” in verse 14 but “have been sanctified” in verse 10. Well you have to remember that 99% of the Hebrews were not saved but were still mixing the old and new covenants. They were not fully convinced in Christ. So the writer was telling them to be sanctified by faith in Christ. Some of them were “being sanctified” – they were hearing the gospel on their way to a firm faith. Once a person fully believes, then they are fully sanctified once and for all.
This is why God will never judge the believer anymore.
What about this verse here?
Hebrews 12 “14 Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man will see the Lord, 15 looking carefully lest there be any man who falls short of the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and many be defiled by it, 16 lest there be any sexually immoral person, or profane person, like Esau, who sold his birthright for one meal.“
The believer is already in the GRACE of God and is sanctified. But the unbeliever falls short of God’s grace and sanctification in Christ. The unbeliever lives in sin and is not saved.
The grace of God gives the believer the power to walk in sanctification.
1 Thessalonians 5 “3 For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality, 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in sanctification and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles who don’t know God, 6 that no one should take advantage of and wrong a brother or sister in this matter; because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified. 7 For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification. 8 Therefore he who rejects this doesn’t reject man, but God, who has also given his Holy Spirit to you.”
Paul is not saying that you have to do works to be sanctified. But he’s telling the believer to walk in the sanctification that we already have.
1 John 2 “29 If you know that Christ is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”
Paul’s warning is to those who are not truly saved because they love wickedness. He repeated that warning in Ephesians 5:5, Galatians 5:18-24) telling the people in the Churches that those who love wickedness are not saved.
Revelation 21 “6 He said to me, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give freely to him who is thirsty from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes, I will give him these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son. 8 But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
But the believer is sanctified by grace. From this glorious freedom, we can walk in the sanctification by living according to our new nature and identity as children of God.
Romans 6 “19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh, for as you presented your members as servants to uncleanness and to wickedness upon wickedness, even so now present your members as servants to righteousness for sanctification. 20 For when you were servants of sin, you were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit then did you have at that time in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now, being made free from sin and having become servants of God, you have your FRUIT of sanctification and the result of eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The unbelievers receive the wages of sin (unbelief) as death. But the believer received the FREE GIFT of eternal life in Christ that produces this sanctification as the FRUIT of the Christian’s life. It is not something that we earn by our works. It is the result of eternal life that we ALREADY have. It is done by the Holy Spirit and not our efforts. It’s His fruit within us and not our efforts.
Romans 15 “the Gentiles might be made acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”
We are sanctified because Jesus is Holy – not because of our goodness.
Hebrews 2 “For both he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers,”
John 17:9 “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.”
It is because CHRIST is our ALL in ALL. We are unable to do anything sanctified unless He bears fruit in us by grace through faith and not our works:
1 Corinthians 1 “28 God chose the lowly things of the world, and the things that are despised, and the things that don’t exist, that he might bring to nothing the things that exist, 29 that no flesh should boast before God. 30 Because of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption: 31 that, as it is written, “He who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.”
- Jesus is our Righteousness (we are justified by grace in Him)
- Jesus is our Redemption (He will resurrect our bodies from death)
- Jesus is our Wisdom (we have nothing apart from Him)
- Jesus is our Sanctification (His holiness has been imparted to us)
Therefore the believer has nothing to boast in our works.
Let us boast in CHRIST ALONE.