1 Thessalonians 4:1-7
A. Sanctification is a Bible term often obscured by the theories of men.
1. The view is held by many that sanctification comes initially by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit in a miraculous and mysterious conversion process; some theorists allege that later the baptism of the Holy Spirit may be obtained, which puts the recipient beyond the possibility of committing sin of any kind.
2. This is not a scriptural view.
a. Peter had received Holy Spirit baptism, and yet he committed sin… Galatians 2:11-14
b. The apostle John likewise had obtained this baptism, but wrote that he and all saints are capable of sin… 1 John 1:6-10
c. No one in this life stands beyond the reach of temptation and disobedience… 1 Corinthians 10:12
B. This study will focus on learning what the Bible teaches on this significant subject.
1. We have no pet views to preach or defend; we are willing to take whatever the Bible teaches on this or any other subject, and abide with the truth.
2. Our sincere aim is always to learn the will of God more perfectly, so that we can serve him more and better.
A. First, we need to learn the definition of the word sanctification.
1. Our English word derives from two Latin words.
a. Sanctus (“holy”) and facio (“to make”). Thus, sanctification describes the process by which one is made holy.
b. Webster defines it as “the act of consecrating or of setting apart for a sacred purpose; the act of making holy.”
2. The Greek word is hagiosmos. Vine defines it as “separation to God”
a. The word is used ten times in the Greek New Testament, being as translated sanctification and holiness
b. In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7, it is used twice (vs. 3, 7) – translated as holiness (v. 7) in KJV, NKJ, ESV. The two English words, which are used interchangeably, are identical in meaning.
3. The Bible itself gives the meaning of sanctification. [The same Greek word (LXX) is used].
a. Exodus 13:1-2, 12
b. Genesis 2:3
c. Exodus 29:37
d. Leviticus 27:16
e. These things, animals, and people were set apart (sanctified) to God’s holy purposes and uses.
4. The meaning of sanctification then is plain:
a. “To set apart to God to be used by him and for him.”
b. Once the item or individual was separated, it was not to be used again for common purposes. When the pagans offered a hog on the altar at the temple, the altar was polluted.
c. When a person obeys the gospel and is sanctified, he must live a holy life, a life that is consecrated and dedicated to God’s service; he cannot return to his old way of life and remain in fellowship with God.
d. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
B. There are two sides of sanctification as used in the New Testament.
1. It is used in reference to the process by which one is first set apart.
a. All who become Christians are set apart at the time they are saved. This sanctifying process is called being “added to the church” (Acts 2:47), “translation into the kingdom” (Col. 1:13), and “entering Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27).
b. The gospel of Christ (God’s word) is the sanctifying power…
1) John 17:17
2) Acts 18:8… “hearing”
3) Romans 1:16-17
4) 1 Corinthians 1:2
c. Notice something about these Corinthians and their sanctification… 1 Corinthians 6:11 – The Corinthians were washed, sanctified, and justified.
1) They were washed when they were baptized:
a) John 3:5
b) Acts 18:8
c) Acts 22:16
d) Ephesians 5:26
e) Titus 3:5
f) Hebrews 10:22
2) In this washing, they (and we) received the cleansing made possible by the blood of Christ.
a) Matthew 26:28 (Acts 2:38)
b) 1 Peter 1:18-25
c) Revelation 1:5… Loosed us from our sins by his blood
3) This same process justifies (causes us to be held as though we were never guilty of sin in God’s sight) and sanctifies (sets up apart in Christ to serve and glorify God).
d. Notice what we have just seen: Salvation is in Christ (2 Tim. 2:10); sanctification is in Christ (1 Cor. 1:2); baptism puts us into Christ (Gal. 3:27); thus to enter Christ results in salvation, sanctification, and justification, and baptism is the culminating act which places us into this spiritual state with all of its attendant blessings (Eph. 1:3).
2. Sanctification is also used in reference to our spiritual development after we obey the gospel.
a. 1 Thessalonians 5:23… These Christians had already been sanctified, but Paul’s desire for them is that they might be sanctified wholly or fully. His inspired statement spoke of their need to be made sound in every part, with every grace present.
1) James 1:4
2) 2 Peter 1:5-11
b. 2 Corinthians 7:1… Perfecting holiness (sanctification) is bringing our spiritual development to completion, to reach spiritual adulthood.
c. Romans 6:19-23
1) They had given themselves over to be servants of sin in the past to work uncleanness; now Paul calls on them to give themselves over to serve righteous unto sanctification; that is, to go on to greater sanctification.
2) The fruit of sanctification is the blessed state of being free from the practice and guilt of sin, to serve the God of heaven, and to have the hope of eternal life in heaven. – To truly be set apart
3. Sanctification (being in a state of holiness) means we are separated from sin.
a. We are separated from the guilt of our past sins and set apart to God’s holy purposes when we obey the gospel.
b. As we increase our store of knowledge, and live better and serve God more fully, we grow in holiness (sanctification), and draw nearer to spiritual perfection.
c. As long as we are in this life, absolute perfection is beyond our reach (cf. Matt. 26:41); we never reach a point here when we can say that there is nothing else to learn and nothing more to do for the Lord, or that we have grown beyond the possibility of violating God’s word (1 John 3:4).
d. 1 John 1:7-10
C. There is other information given regarding the means by which we are sanctified.
1. The claim is made that sanctification is accomplished by some sudden, mysterious, supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit upon the human heart, a procedure called the second work of grace.
a. Passages which are used in support of the theory offer no support… Romans 15:16. The verse says nothing about the means by which the Holy Spirit accomplishes the action denoted. It simply states a fact. The statement might even have reference to Paul’s apostleship, and not to the sanctification of individuals.
1) Paul says he is writing to them so that he can put them in mind of things they need to know and remember. Note 2 Peter 1:12; 3:1-2
2) The apostle wrote with some measure of boldness to accomplish the aims intended. Paul had the authority to write such a letter because of his apostleship. He sometimes speaks of his apostleship as grace (Eph. 3:6-11; Rom. 1:5; Gal. 2:1-9). The apostles received authority and power vouchsafed to no other Christian.
a) Matthew 19:28
b) 2 Corinthians 12:12
3) The apostle states here that the grace granted to him (Rom. 15:15) was the commission and power Christ gave him to be his minister to the Gentiles (Acts 26:15-19). Paul did not limit himself, of course, to preaching only to Gentiles. His practice was, on entering a new city, to meet with the Jews and try to teach them first; … afterwards, he sought out the Gentiles (Rom. 1:16-17; Acts 13:14- 48). Usually there were proselyted Gentiles who assembled with the Jews; these made excellent prospects for the gospel. Paul’s calling took him especially to Gentile lands, and more than any other one person, he was able to reap a great harvest of souls among them. The other apostles gave themselves especially to work among the Jews (cf. Gal. 2:1-8).
4) The remnant of the Gentiles obeyed the gospel; these were acceptable before God. The Gentiles were the offering that was acceptable to God. They were sanctified (set apart) by the Holy Spirit. This statement of fact does not tell how the Holy Spirit sanctified these people who obeyed the gospel. Jesus spoke about people being sanctified by God’s word (John 17:17); since the Holy Spirit revealed the word of God, the way the Spirit sanctifies people is by that word, the gospel. The Holy Spirit appoints elders (Acts 20:28), but he does not do so by a supernatural fiat directly from heaven; he does so by men meeting the qualifications set forth in the inspired word, and being selected by the church to serve as elders.
5) We are baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13), but the Spirit does not personally immerse us; rather, as individuals believe the gospel and obey it by being baptized, they are sanctified thereby; the Spirit’s role in the process is one he accomplished by revealing the gospel.
6) When men do not follow sound procedures in interpreting the Bible, they accept all kinds of foolish and hurtful beliefs and practices (2 Tim. 2:15).
a) 2 Thessalonians 2:13
b) The apostle states the fact that the Holy Spirit is the author of the sanctification that accompanies salvation, without stating the method by which the sanctification is accomplished. There is no support in the verse for the theory.
b. Sanctification is attributed to the word of God.
1) John 17:17-19
2) Hebrews 10:10, 29
2. Sanctification is accomplished by the Holy Spirit; he uses the inspired word of God to bring this spiritual condition to pass. It is not an action done by the Spirit in a direct, miraculous way; it is not done independent of our will.
a. 1 Peter 1:2
b. The Spirit’s work is accomplished through the message he revealed to inspired men, and which he caused to be recorded as the New Testament.
1) 1 Corinthians 2:9-14
2) 2 Timothy 3:16-17
c. The part the individual plays in the great spiritual drama of sanctification is to hear, believe, and obey the Spirit-given message.
1) Acts 18:8
2) 1 Peter 1:22-25
3. The Godhead is unified in the sanctification process:
a. The Holy Spirit sanctifies, using the inspired message of truth.
b. Christ redeems through the ransom price of his blood.
c. God elects those who meet the condition into the ranks of his spiritual family.
4. The sanctification process includes:
a. the initial setting apart when we obey the gospel and
b. the growth we experience as we study, learn, serve, and increase in spiritual strength.
D. Both of these aspects of sanctification are essential to our eternal salvation.
1. It is God’s will… 1Thessalonians 4:3
a. Can God’s will be ignored in any matter with impunity?
b. We cannot shun either part of God’s plan of sanctification; we must obey the gospel in order to be saved from our past sins; and we must walk in the light of the gospel in order to retain salvation.
c. Romans 5:8-9
2. Sanctification prepares us for useful service in Christ’s kingdom… 2 Timothy 2:21
a. The one-talent man was unprofitable: “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30).
b. The ancient Gentiles and some of the Jews were not profitable… Romans 3:12
c. We are saved in order to serve, not to be served.
1) 2 Corinthians 5:15
2) Galatians 2:20
d. We cannot be useful to the Lord unless we are separated from the sinful world, and dedicated to the Lord’s business.
3. Sanctification qualifies us for fellowship with the saints, both here and in eternity.
a. Matthew 5:8
b. Ephesians 3:15
c. 1 John 1:7
4. Sanctification permits us to enter heaven and see God in peace.
a. 2 Corinthians 7:1
b. Hebrews 12:14
c. Revelation 21:27
d. 1 John 3:2-3
E. Examination of the means by which sanctification is produced.
1. Sanctification is produced by the word of God.
a. John 8:31-32
b. John 17:17
c. Hebrews 10:10
2. We are made free from sin (separated from its guilt) by the truth when we believe and obey the truth (God’s word).
3. We cannot expect to be acceptable if we reject any of the requirements of God… Luke 7:30
4. We cannot expect to be acceptable if we do not continue in to follow the truth.
a. Matthew 10:22
b. Revelation 2:10
5. We are sanctified when we obey the truth and try to live in harmony with the truth.
a. 2 Corinthians 3:18
b. James 1:23-25
6. Growth in sanctification is produced by worshiping in spirit and in truth…
a. It is a well-established principle that we become like the object of our adoration.
b. God has ordained our worship to be offered through studying his word, singing praise, eating the Lord’s Supper, praying, and giving.
c. Each component of scriptural worship is a powerful influence in developing sanctification. Who are the spiritually weak and poverty-stricken members? Those who do not attend and worship sincerely. Who are the mature, strong Christians? Those who ever attend and worship devoutly.
F. Results of sanctification.
1. If one is sanctified, he has a deep reverence for sacred things.
a. He has profound respect for the Bible, for worship, for the Lord’s church, and for the name of the Lord.
b. When he speaks of God or to God, he does so with awe and respect… Leviticus. 19:12
c. If one uses the Lord’s name loosely, or is critical of his church, is inattentive in worship, or treats the Bible lightly, we can know that he is not a sanctified person; he is either grossly ignorant or indifferent.
d. Hebrews 12:14
2. If one is sanctified, he has the earnest desire for the prosperity of the church and for the salvation of the lost world.
a. He is willing to sacrifice self-interest for the church’s welfare.
b. He will go out of his way to avoid being offensive to the saints or to the lost.
c. He is willing to do his part to reach the lost, with his talents, his time, his energy, and his money.
d. Hebrews 12:14
3. If one is sanctified, he is longsuffering.
a. If impatient, peevish, harsh, critical, unfriendly, or ever complaining about others, he has an unholy disposition of mind.
b. The heart that is right is the heart that suffers long with others even when others are out of step with the Lord.
c. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
d. Ephesians 4:32
4. If one is sanctified, he hates all sin and religious error and loves the truth.
a. One who hates sin and error does so because God does… Psalm 119:128
b. We hate it because it is ruinous to man.
c. We love the truth because it leads to everlasting life.
d. If a man is tolerant of sin and error, he is not on God’s side.
5. One who is sanctified delights in worshiping and obeying God.
a. He does not view it as a heavy burden, but a joyful privilege.
1) Micah 6:8
2) 1 John 5:2-3
b. He counts it a happy fate to be even the lowliest servant… Psalm 84:10
c. He considers it a privilege and joy to give… 2 Corinthians 9:7
d. It is a time of happiness for him to be able to sing praise to God, to eat the Lord’s Supper, to study God’s word, and to pray; and he is happy to be able to serve in any capacity.
6. One who is sanctified is a willing worker in the kingdom of Christ.
a. There is no need to threaten or cajole such a one.
b. He is willing to learn and do his duty without keeping a record of his accomplishments.
c. Mark 14:8
A. Do you measure up to God’s high standards?
1. 2 Corinthians 13:5
2. Do not get discouraged if you are trying but fall short: keep trying.
3. But if you are not trying, or think little of sanctification or of other spiritual affairs, reflect on these statements of truth:
a. Hebrews 12:14
b. Revelation 21:27
c. Revelation 22:14
B. What we have presented in this study is what the inspired apostles wrote:
1. Philippians 2:12
2. 1 Peter 1:13-16
***Material gather from Bob Winton