The Gospel and its Ministry - ch 14 - HOLINESS AND SANCTIFICATION

Chapter Fourteen

WORDS mean exactly what they pass current for, and with the English Bible before us it is idle to insist on a distinction between "holiness" and "sanctification." But an examination of the various passages where the Greek correlatives of these terms occur will help much toward accuracy of thought and a clear grasp of the truth upon this subject.
The meaning of (hagiazein) in Scripture (and I am not aware that it ever has any other meaning), is to separate, or set apart, for God, or to some sacred purpose; and (hagiasmos) means either the act of consecration, or the condition into which that act introduces the subject of it. There is no question of any change of essential qualities. The subject may be (a) intrinsically holy already, or (b) it may be, and continue to be, intrinsically unholy, or (c) it may be incapable of moral qualities altogether. For example (a) Christ was sanctified by the Father,1 (b) the sinner is sanctified on believing; and an unconverted husband or wife is sanctified in virtue of marriage with a holy person; and (c) the vessels of the temple were sanctified, as also the creatures we use for food are "sanctified by the word of God and prayer."

The word means, therefore, to make a person or thing holy, in the sense in which to justify a person is to make that person righteous. His condition is changed, but not necessarily his character. In the Appendix I give a list of all the passages where the word occurs, and a careful perusal of them will show that in one case only does the word seem to bear a different meaning. I allude to the prayer of I Thessalonians v. 23. "The God of peace sanctify you wholly." But a consideration of the context will show that "wholly" refers not to progressive sanctification of the whole man regarded as a unit, but to the absolute sanctification of every part of the man considered as a complex being, made up of body, soul, and spirit. In John xvii. it is quite unjustifiable to put a different meaning on the word "sanctify," when the Lord uses it of Himself, and when He applies it to His disciples. And Ephesians v. 26 teaches that He gave Himself for the Church "that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the washing of water by the Word."

It will be observed that we are said to be sanctified by God the Father, sanctified by the Spirit, sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, sanctified in Christ Jesus, and sanctified by blood. These all refer to one and the same sanctification. God is the Author, the Spirit the Agent, and the blood the means, of our sanctification, and it is in Christ that all this is ours. The attempt of some commentators to cut up verse eleven of 1st Corinthians vi., and to make "justified" refer to Christ, and "sanctified" to the Spirit, is mere special pleading. The believer is sanctified absolutely and for ever, even as he is justified; and of necessity it is by the Spirit, for through Him it is that every blessing flows to us.

All this is confirmed by a careful study of the passages where (hagiasmos) is used. It is very remarkable that when sanctification is spoken of as by the Spirit it is connected with election, and precedes faith. And the reason of this seems to be that, though chronologically faith and sanctification are simultaneous, there is nevertheless a moral order, varying according as we view the subject from our own standpoint, or from that of the sovereignty of God. In the former case, faith comes first, and sanctification follows as a consequence; but when election comes in, we see our faith to be the result of othe divine decree which set us apart to eternal life.

It is further remarkable that, save as above noticed, sanctification is never spoken of as being specially the work of the Spirit. But the reason of this is clear ; the truth is too obvious to need even to be stated. It is only by the help of the Holy Spirit that a believer can stand for a moment. Truth is emphasised in Scripture, not, as in a creed, according to its doctrinal importance relatively to other truths, but according to the practical need which exists for enforcing it upon the believer.
Holiness means, as we have seen, not merely the state of being sanctified, but also the moral character akin to that state. And here the Greek, a language rich in such distinctions, is not confined to a single word. The quality or attribute of holiness is expressed by (hagiosunee), a word, which, strange to say, is used but thrice, namely, Romans i. 4, "the Spirit of holiness"; not the Holy Ghost, but the Spirit of Christ, in contrast with the flesh mentioned in the preceding verse; 2 Corinthians vii. i. upon which I have already commented and 2 Thessalonians iii. 13, "unblameable in holiness," a very solemn and significant word, especially in the connection where it occurs. The kindred word (hagotees) is found only in Hebrews xii. 10, "That we might be partakers of His holiness." And (hosiotecs) in Luke i. 75 ; and Ephesians iv. 24.

A comparison of Ephesians iv. 24 with I Corinthians i. 30, will give an insight into the difference between this last word and (hagiasmos). Israel's sanctification, and indeed their entire position as a redeemed people, was maintained by the "middle wall of partition" which separated them from other nations. But Christ Himself is to His people, now, what the " middle wall of partition" was to the Jew He is our sanctification. The words are plain and simple "But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus who was made unto us wisdom from God, and both righteousness and sanctification, even redemption." It is often in virtue of what Christ has done for us that we gain the place we hold in redemption it is entire in virtue of what Christ now is to us that we can be maintained in that place.

But in Ephesians iv. 24, it is not a questioned what Christ is to us, but of the essential qualities the new creation of which He is the Head, and of what we ourselves ought to be in practical conformity therewith. The new man is created in holiness. To ignore the truth that Christ is made unto us sanctification and that therefore the believer is holy, independently of his life on earth, is to abandon or deny the true position of the Christian but to suppose that Christ is made unto us holiness in this further sense also, would lead to the still deeper error of supposing that holy living is of no account.