John 3 & Romans 6
“Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
To sanctify is, literally, to set apart, and in the biblical context it means set apart to God. In the Old Testament this setting apart was both moral and ritual. An object such a bowl was set apart from common use for exclusive use in the temple ritual. It was then considered holy (from the same root as sanctify). But of deeper and more enduring significance was, on the one hand, a personal separation from sin, and on the other hand, his or her consecration to God. One who is set apart from sin (sanctified) is rightly called a saint (from the same root as sanctify or holy).
This moral and theological sense of sanctification is the one I invite you to consider. To be sanctified is of utmost importance, because without it, one will not see God (Heb. 12:14). That is, until the sin problem is cared for, no one is qualified to associate with a holy God, who is Himself completely without sin and who, moreover, cannot countenance sin in any form.
God is not only holy, He is supremely a God of love, and therefore His ultimate desire for is for us to be restored to full loving fellowship with Himself. But there is a barrier: sin. For complete unity of heart, two persons must be compatible, in harmony of spirit. They must have the same purposes, outlook, and way of life. If one is sinful and the other holy, what oneness can there be? Their total mindset is in conflict. So in order to accomplish the ultimate purpose of our existence, namely to live in oneness with God, the sin barrier must be removed. The removal process is called sanctification. This is God’s work of grace.
There are three ways we are set apart from our wrongdoing. First the person is forgiven so that the result of sin, eternal punishment, is done away with. Second, a person is justified, so that his or her guilt is removed, the guilty record is expunged. God views the person no longer as a weak, stubborn, and failing sinner but now as an individual who is as clean and pure as His holy son, Jesus. These two aspects of positional sanctification are judicial, that is, a transaction between the Father and the Son that declares the sinner forgiven and made right with God. Third, the forgiven, justified person is regenerated, or set free from the controlling authority of a sinful disposition. Some make this step a part of experiential sanctification, since it is a condition experienced more than a legal standing granted, as in the case of forgiveness and justification. I include it under positional sanctification, since it is part of the initial salvation transaction and results in a position that is the condition of every true believer.
The change is so radical as to be comparable to the change that a person experiences at birth (John 3) “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (ESV, v3) or death (Romans 6). Though there is continuity with the same human personality, as in the case of birth or death, in regeneration also there is passage into a totally different dimension of human life, with totally different characteristics of personal being. Sin is the prevailing characteristic of persons who live apart from God. They do not have the desire or power to choose consistently the right or to change their condition. Upon union with God the process is reversed, and right begins to prevail. A new life-force has been introduced. How is this freedom from the controlling authority of a sinful disposition demonstrated in you today?