(Article for publication week of 1-15- AD 2015)
"For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;" (I Thessalonians 4:3-4).
This week we begin a planned series of articles on the doctrine of sanctification. Those of you who are regular readers of the Narrow Way may remember that we wrote on the doctrine of justification from March 14, 2012 through November 13 of last year. We laboured to show you that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ Alone. Justification is the "heart of the gospel", to quote my dear Brother in Christ and co-labourer, Elder Jimmy Barber. Justification is, as Martin Luther said, the article of faith upon which the Church stands or falls. Without a clear understanding of the doctrine of justification, we in reality have no gospel to preach. But next in importance is the doctrine of sanctification.
I shall begin by giving you a concise definition of sanctification. The Greek word that is generally translated "sanctification", is "hagiasmos", and literally means "purification." It is translated "holiness" in other places in the New Testament. Noah Webster, who was an excellent theologian as well as lexicographer (you would do well to obtain his original 1828 dictionary), defined sanctification thusly "1) in a general sense, to cleanse, purify, or make holy; 2) to separate, set apart, or appoint to a holy, sacred, or religious use; 5) to cleanse from corruption; to purify from sin; to make holy by detaching the affections from the world and its defilements, and exalting them to a supreme love to God." The Baptist Catechism gives us this definition of sanctification, "sanctification is the work of God's free grace whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness." The original Articles of Faith of the Mississippi Baptist Association (1806) says in article 6, "we believe all those chosen in Christ, before the foundation of the world, are in time effectually called, regenerated, converted, and sanctified; and are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation." Our Presbyterian Brethren may consult chapter 13 of the Westminster Confession, which is essentially the same as the Baptist Confession, for a concise doctrinal statement on sanctification.
So what we will be writing on in this series is the necessity of a holy life in those who claim to be justified by free grace. The fact is the scriptures nowhere say that a justified person may be unsanctified. By the same token, the scriptures nowhere indicate that a sinner may be sanctified without first being justified. Justification may be compared to the structure of a building, while sanctification is the finishes. Justification takes care of our bad record, while sanctification takes care of our bad heart. No one will ever get to heaven without a good record with God, and the only way any sinner may have a good record with God is by the imputed righteous of Christ as we have laboured to show you for nearly two years. Nor will anyone ever get to heaven without a good heart, and the only way you will ever have a good heart is by the sanctifying work of God's grace within you. You must be sanctified as well as justified in order to see God in peace.
It is God's will that you be holy. My text says so. It is God's will that you be pure in heart, affections, life and actions. Dear reader, are you being sanctified by God's grace?