The word ‘sanctification’ has become another one of those words that makes people uncomfortable, like ‘repent’, where it needs to be defined otherwise legalistic definitions automatically spring to mind and weigh you down.
I read an article on sanctification yesterday and it was full of requirements, burdens, unrealistic expectations and false doctrine. I think what it was teaching is fairly common across many denominations. It’s the kind of teaching that makes you want to throw your hands in the air in frustration and walk away from God. It’s not ‘good news’. 99% of the responsibility is on the believer and 1% is the Holy Spirit’s. The article said that we are in covenant with Jesus, thereby saying that He saves us and in return we have to obey the law, be holy, purify and sanctify ourselves, and walk in righteousness. No! We are under the Everlasting Covenant which God the Father made with Jesus. We have no part to play in it, we are just the recipients of it through faith in Jesus. We can’t break the covenant because we are not a party to it. There is, actually, no such thing in the Bible as ‘progressive sanctification’. This is a man-made doctrine that has been used to keep us under law.
The fact is that our old man is crucified and buried, and our new man is risen in Christ Jesus. This new man is who we are now, and he is pure, holy, sanctified and righteous. Any sin in our life comes from the old man who refuses to acknowledge that he is dead and buried. Because Christ is our life, He is the one that produces anything good in us; we can do nothing but yield our members to him, agree with His Word, and rest. Yet people tell us we must fight sin in our lives, fight against the flesh and overcome sin to make ourselves more sanctified.
Well, sin comes from the flesh. Any effort/striving on your part comes from your flesh. How can flesh fight flesh? The winner in that situation can only be flesh. You can only subdue flesh with the Spirit.
How do you walk in the Spirit? By regularly reckoning on your old man crucified on the Cross and buried, and your new man risen in Christ Jesus. You agree with the truth about who you are in Christ and count on Christ as your source of life.
We also yield to the Spirit. Romans 6:13
Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
Notice we are like a musical instrument which can either be used to play discordant notes, or beautiful harmony. The instrument does not play itself. It is passive. It is either yielded (or presented) to sin, or to God. Presenting your members to God is not an act of trying not to sin, but it is agreeing with God that you are a new creation in Christ and delighting in that truth. He then plays beautiful music through you, which in this action on God’s part, also subdues the flesh so that sin will not reign in your life.
We can’t fight sin, only the Holy Spirit can. We can’t produce fruit of the Spirit, only the Holy Spirit can do that. So, we can’t fight sin/flesh, and we can’t produce any fruit/good works, so there is nothing we can do to make ourselves more holy or sanctified. What are people trying to do when they pursue holiness/sanctification? Trying to perfect the flesh with the effort of the flesh?
Galatians 3:2-3 (KJV) says:
2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Our spirits are reborn of God and are holy and sanctified. Our flesh is crucified and buried. So as far as our spirit and flesh go, they are what they are, there’s no changing them and no need to.
We are spirit, flesh and soul. Our soul is our mind, will and emotions. The soul is the only thing that can be changed. It’s got the flesh trying to convince it that the flesh is in charge, and the spirit trying to convince it that it is the new creature, alive in Christ, and the flesh is dead.
So, what is there to do but for the mind, will and emotions to come into agreement with the Spirit? That is being transformed by the renewing of your mind, being conformed to the image of Jesus, growing in the knowledge of Christ Jesus, walking in the Spirit, reckoning the old man crucified and the new man alive in Christ, etc.
When Paul admonished believers for major sin in their lives, he reminded them of who they were in Christ so that they might renew their minds:
1 Corinthians 6:9-12 (KJV)
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. 12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
See that? “Ye ARE sanctified”. He tells people not to be like the unforgiven sinners who will not inherit the Kingdom of God because it doesn’t line up with who they are in Christ, which is washed and SANCTIFIED.
Saying that sanctification is not by keeping law is not saying “let’s go sin because we’re already sanctified so who cares”. The desired result is the same whether you attempt to do it by keeping the law, or by renewing your mind – that is sin does not reign in your life. The believer living in sin does so because they have not renewed their mind. They think they are a slave to sin and see no way out. They are miserable, especially when they are told they must overcome the sin themselves. Telling someone they must keep the law, purge themselves from sin, separate themselves from the world, obey, be righteous, be holy and so on, all of their own effort before God will look on them favourably, guarantees they will fail. They will never achieve the end of ‘progressive sanctification’.
The truth is that we (our new man) is already sanctified, holy and righteous. So, there is no such thing as ‘progressive sanctification’. If you want to call it anything, it should be ‘spiritual growth’. We renew our minds daily by agreeing with the identification truths enabling us to walk in the Spirit. This subdues the flesh, and holds it in the place of death, but we are under constant attack from the enemy in our minds. As a result, we will go through periods where we start to doubt and believe the enemy instead of the truth. This puts us back in the flesh. So, we are either walking in the flesh, or walking in the Spirit, and throughout our lives we will do both. It does not make us any more, or less, sanctified. The only progression is that the more we reckon on the identification truths, the more we are transformed by the renewing of our minds and are conformed to Christ’s image. We will still have relapses, but we will be able to turn to Jesus and more quickly get back on track. The enemy and our flesh will have less and less wins.
So, what it comes down to is this:
You are sanctified, holy and righteous. Do you agree with that?