Q. 35. What is sanctification?
A. 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.
“But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thess. 2:13)
“I remember a classmate of mine, a Lebanese Presbyterian, who threw a theological temper tantrum during his first semester in seminary. ‘All you Americans care about is justification!’ he howled. ‘You love sinning and being forgiven, sinning and being forgiven, but no one seems to want off that hamster wheel. Have you ever heard of sanctification? Is anyone interested in learning to sin a little less?’” - Barbara Brown Taylor, book “Speaking of Sin”
We are all broken in some way, both sinful and sinned against. Because none of us has escaped the results of sin, we suffer spiritual and emotional damage. We won't let others love us. We can't say no. We don't know how to connect with people. We're unable to be firm in our convictions. We need help to be disciplined, to accept our weaknesses, to stand against those who would abuse us. The broken, damaged, immature parts of our character need to be fixed.
And doing this repair, many wrongly believe, is God acting alone, by himself, unaided by anyone or anything. All we really need, they insist, is to do what the Bible says. Yet the Bible says over and over again that we should find people to help us return to spiritual and emotional health. Faith must grow. Faith is linked with love and hope. Faith is one of the “fruits of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23), bestowed by God as a gift. Our spiritual formation as a disciple is about growth in faith and faith is growth in holiness, called “sanctification” in the New Testament.
The act of healing our brokenness and the process of our recovery is the work of sanctification. God is always striving toward redeeming those lost parts of our souls that are injured and broken by sin. God’s ongoing activity in our lives is bringing those parts into the light of his grace and truth.
Jesus bears witness in his own person and in the mighty works which he performed that God's deliverance has truly come to those who accept him as Savior of Israel and Redeemer of humankind. Jesus did not leave us alone, but left us the Holy Spirit as our guide, advocate and counselor to strengthen us in holiness and service. The Holy Spirit not only purifies our hearts and minds, but transforms our lives through God’s saving love and mercy. Our necessary task is allowing the light of God's truth and love to shine in our heart and mind?