The Author of Sanctification
What is sanctification? Sanctification is that work of God and man where believers are made holy and Christlike progressively. It is the Spirit-induced pursuit of Christlikeness wherein believers strive to grow in holiness, love, purity, and righteousness. In other words, it is the process of growing holy and being conformed more into the image of Christ (Phil. 2:12-13; 1Thess. 5:23; Rom. 12:1). This involves the killing of sin, submission to the Lord, obedience to Scripture, weakening of lusts, warring against the flesh, and growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Sanctification begins at regeneration. This growth will and must continue throughout the life of a believer and will only be completed at death (Rom. 6:11-14; Tit. 3:5; 2Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:13-14; Col. 3:10; 1Cor. 15:49).
The Baptist Confession of Faith defines sanctification as follows:
They who are united to Christ, effectually called, and re generated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them through the virtue of Christ s death and resurrection, are also further sanctified, really and personally, through the same virtue, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them, the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. (Chapter 13, paragraph 1)
Sanctification, becoming like Christ, is real and very difficult. Unfortunately, holiness is not imputed to believers. It is a painful process of trial and error, learning, praying, struggling, wrestling, striving, pursuing, combating, persevering, and repenting. Something vile and unholy is slowly being made pure and holy. Our fallen natures were at one time opposed to God because of his purity and holy brilliance. Now, the nature of the believer is transformed and made desirous of his holiness. Our very natures are changed, awakened, made alive in Christ. Our affections, desires, thoughts, and passions are aroused. Sanctification impacts the entire man. Body and soul are being renewed in Christ's image (2Cor. 7:1; Eph. 4:17-24; Col. 3:5-10; 1Thess. 5:23).
Although life is a constant battle, believers can anticipate and look forward to being completely sanctified in heaven (1Jn. 3:2; 1Cor. 15:50-57). The Christian life, unfortunately, is filled with grueling difficulties and trials, but we serve a powerful and sovereign God. He is able to finish what he started. His grace is sufficient!
The Holy Spirit is the primary author of sanctification. This is evidenced in 1Cor. 6:11, 2Cor. 3:18, 2Thess. 2:13, and 1Pet. 1:2. Although the work of sanctification is often attributed to the Father and Son (Jn. 17:17; Heb. 13:21; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 2:14), it is the Spirit that indwells believers and applies the work of Christ to them eventually bringing salvation to completion. He enlightens the minds of Christians (Jn. 14:26; 1Cor. 2:9-16; Eph. 1:18, 3:18-19; 1Jn. 2:20, 27), gives strength (Eph. 3:16), and takes up residence within the believer (Rom. 8:9; Eph. 1:13-14).
God saves sinners with the purpose of making them like Christ. He does this in order to bring all glory to himself. Believers are not saved and then left to their own devices. Oh no, God has a plan. He saves them, keeps them saved, and begins the arduous process of making them fit vessels for heaven. Christians are saved by God, from God, and for God. We do not belong to ourselves; we have absolutely no ownership over our lives. Christians are God's property, having been purchased by the precious blood of the Lamb. We were bought with a price and now willingly serve our great God and desire to become like our great Savior.