The Doctrine of Sanctification - The Gospel Coalition (2023)

Various Christian denominations and groups have their distinctive “models” of sanctification. There is the Pentecostal Holiness model, the Reformed model, the Fundamentalist model, the Higher Life model, and so on. For all the differing distinctives among them, they all have one major point in common: sanctification is something you strive by God’s grace to obtain. For one it may be perfection(ism), for another it may be progress, for another it may be surrender, and for another it may be a given experience. But virtually all sides understand sanctification in terms of something we do.

By contrast, the New Testament writers overwhelmingly use the “sanctification / holiness” terminology in terms of what we are and have in Christ. It is a certain status and relationship we enjoy in Christ: in him we are consecrated to God, “saints” (1 Cor. 1:2) made his for his possession and use. Christ is our sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). Christians are people who have been “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11; Acts 20:32; Heb. 10:10, 14; 1 Pet. 1:2). We are “holy” by virtue of God’s calling and our faith union with him.

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In other words, our theological discussions of sanctification are not always tied tightly to the biblical usage of the terms. We have not always used the sanctification terminology in quite the same way the biblical writers do. In theological discussion, sanctification usually denotes something we do or strive to obtain—personal godliness, the process of becoming increasingly godly, and so on. But in New Testament usage, the sanctification terminology overwhelmingly has to do with a status we enjoy in Christ.

At some level, of course, this consecrated status entails reform and personal godliness; we must strive to be what we are. This is reflected, for example, in 2 Corinthians 7:1: “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” That is, our consecrated status must be evident in real life; “be what you are,” as we like to say (cf. 1 Pet. 1:16). But the New Testament writers generally address this matter of personal godliness in other categories—they use the terminology of renewal, transformation, being like Christ, being godly and pure, living out what God has worked in us, even the now/not yet experience of glorification (2 Cor. 3:18), and so on.

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To summarize, in New Testament usage, “sanctification” language is used to describe our consecrated status in Christ. Personal godliness is usually spoken of in other categories, whereas in theological discussion all this is usually just lumped together.

Now then, because in theological discussion these categories have merged, theologians have had to add descriptive terms to differentiate. And so they speak of “definitive” or “positional” sanctification to describe what the New Testament writers mean by the term, and then they speak of “progressive” sanctification to describe our pursuits of Christian virtue and personal godliness. What in the New Testament is spoken of as “sanctification” and “renewal,” in Christian theological discourse is “definitive” and “progressive” sanctification, respectively.

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This, in turn, raises the question of progress. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24, the apostle Paul does pray that God would sanctify the Thessalonians “wholly” and keep them blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus. But this is simply a plea for God to bring about the consecration of every aspect of their lives to himself in the present. The New Testament does not tend to speak of “sanctification” as progressive transformation culminating in glorification. “Sanctification” is a status we have in Christ.

So, the biblical writers can speak of progress, but it is not tied to the “sanctification” terminology. Instead, they speak of increasing faith (2 Cor. 10:15), increasing corporate church stability (Eph. 4:11–12), knowing Christ (presumably with increasing acquaintance; Phil. 3:10), increasing in love (1 Thess. 3:12), growth in grace (2 Pet. 3:18), and so on. “Holiness” and “sanctification” remain something we have and are in Christ.

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Again, odd though it is, in theological discourse it is this personal-experiential-godliness dimension that dominates discussions of “sanctification,” even though this is not how the word is used in the New Testament. This is not a major crime, of course. After all, the pursuit of personal godliness is at some level an entailment of our consecrated status (“sanctification”) in Christ, and this is a deeply important aspect of the Christian faith and life. But this subtle turn does have one unhappy consequence: it can move—and almost inevitably has moved—our attention away from what the New Testament means by (definitive) sanctification, and we therefore fail fully to appreciate the blessing of our consecrated status in Christ. If when we speak of sanctification virtually all our attention is given to what we do, what becomes of what we are? What about what we are in Christ is important to know in order for us to be godly people?

This confusion of categories persists in theological discussion, and it is probably impossible, at this point in theological history and tradition, to correct Christian vocabulary entirely. But it is important to recognize these distinctions.

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At the very least we must keep in mind that all New Testament exhortations to personal godliness rest on a “definitive” work God has done for us and in us, in Christ. God has made us his, consecrated us in Christ to himself; he has broken sin’s former dominion, rendering us free to live unto him. And so we now obey God because we can. As many like to say, the imperative (what ought to be) rests on the indicative (what is); we are called to be what we are.

That is to say, union with Christ carries with it not only judicial implications (justification) but moral and ethical implications also (transformation). There is in Christ a definitive break with the sin-slavery of the past—a marvelous theme the apostle Paul unpacks for us in Romans 6, among other places. Being “led of the Spirit” we are now free to live unto God and able to defeat sin.

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What is the doctrine of sanctification? ›

The Catholic Church upholds the doctrine of sanctification, teaching that: Sanctifying grace is that grace which confers on our souls a new life, that is, sharing in the life of God. Our reconciliation with God, which the redemption of Christ has merited for us, finds its accomplishments in sanctifying grace.

What is the doctrine of sanctification John MacArthur? ›

Justification and sanctification are like the two arms of Jesus Christ by which he embraces us to himself. John MacArthur does a masterful job of showing us how Christ, the great shepherd whose Spirit lives in every true spiritual shepherd, earnestly desires for his image to be formed in his beloved people.”

What 3 things are part of the process of sanctification? ›

Specifically, man's part in sanctification consists of three distinct responsibilities.
Each area can be summed up by one key word for memory purposes.
  • SEEK - It is not only that we are willing to be sanctified, but that we want to be! ...
  • BELIEVE - The content of our belief in the area of sanctification is very important.

What denomination is the Gospel Coalition? ›

Beliefs. The denomination has an evangelical and Reformed confession of faith. Members are from a broad geographic and denominational spectrum (Anglicans, Baptists, Free Church pastors, Independents, Presbyterians).

What are the 3 types of sanctification? ›

McQuilkin then breaks sanctification down into three main types: positional, experiential, and permanent sanctification.

What is Paul's doctrine of sanctification? ›

Sanctification is the work of God.

Paul highlighted the Holy Spirit's role with repetition of the phrase “by the Spirit” in Galatians 5:16,18,25. He used the phrase “sanctified by the Holy Spirit” in Roman 15:16, and in Romans 8:13 he said it is “by the Spirit” that we are able to “put to death the deeds of the body.”

Did John Wesley believe in entire sanctification? ›

Though he never himself claimed to be entirely sanctified (he believed that claiming it was a fair sign that one was not so), Wesley recorded the experiences of others whom he had no doubt were delivered from all sin and filled entirely with the pure love of God.

What does Martin Luther say about sanctification? ›

First, the renewing and sanctifying union with Christ takes place in faith, which is followed by the renewing union with the Holy Spirit, which causes good works. Union with Christ renews the person so that he or she is made capable of believing in Christ, which is naturally impossible for sinful humans.

Do Baptists believe in entire sanctification? ›

Baptists look forward to complete sanctification in heaven, in the presence of Christ. However, no New Testament believer achieved entire sanctification on earth.

How does the Holy Spirit sanctify us? ›

Thank God that the Holy Spirit sanctifies us by working in and through us! The Holy Spirit has not only set us free from sin but also lives in our hearts and reminds us to follow Jesus more closely. As we daily follow Jesus, we become holy, set apart for serving God.

What do the Gospel Coalition believe? ›

We believe in one God, eternally existing in three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who know, love, and glorify one another. This one true and living God is infinitely perfect both in his love and in his holiness.

What Bible does the LDS church use? ›

Members of the Church are encouraged to study it and follow its teachings. The Church uses many translations of the Bible in various languages. In English, the King James Version is used as the official Bible of the Church.

Are evangelical Presbyterians Calvinists? ›

Presbyterians descend from Scottish Calvinists. Many early Baptists were Calvinist. But in the 19th century, Protestantism moved toward the non-Calvinist belief that humans must consent to their own salvation — an optimistic, quintessentially American belief.

Which comes first sanctification or justification? ›

Justification happens instantly at the moment someone is born again; sanctification happens gradually over the whole life of a Christian. Justification sets people free from sin's penalty; sanctification means being set from sin's power.

What do Pentecostals believe about sanctification? ›

10. We believe in sanctification. While sanctification is initiated in regeneration and consummated in glorification, we believe it includes a definite, instantaneous work of grace achieved by faith subsequent to regeneration (Acts 26:18; 1 John 1:9). Sanctification delivers from the power and dominion of sin.

What denominations believe in entire sanctification? ›

Holiness Pentecostal denominations, also known as Wesleyan Pentecostals or Methodistic Pentecostals are Pentecostals that believe in entire sanctification as a second work of grace.

Why did the Wesleyan Church split from the Methodist Church? ›

The Wesleyan Methodist Church in America was created in early 1843 as a result of a schism from the Methodist Episcopal Church over slavery, holiness, and the arbitrary use of episcopal power by the parent church.

Was John Wesley kicked out of churches? ›

In his early ministry years, Wesley was barred from preaching in many parish churches and the Methodists were persecuted; he later became widely respected, and by the end of his life, was described as "the best-loved man in England".

Do Lutherans believe in sanctification? ›

Contrary to Erasmus and Wesley's accusation, Luther has a positive, dynamic concept of sanctification. Like his doctrine of justification, it is theocentric—as God justifies man, God also sanctifies man.

What were Luther's 3 main teachings? ›

Luther's teaching, and that of the reformation, is often summarized in three “solas.” Sola gratia, sola fide and sola scriptura — by faith alone, by grace alone and by scripture alone.

Do Baptists follow Calvinism? ›

The group of Strict Baptists called Strict and Particular Baptists are Baptists who believe in a Calvinist interpretation of Christian salvation.

Who do Baptists think Jesus is? ›

Baptists believe that all members are equal under God in the fellowship of the church. Jesus is the one mediator between God and humanity.

Are Baptists predestination? ›

"Like (Methodist founder) John Wesley, they placed more emphasis on free will, less emphasis on predestination," George said. The Particular Baptist tradition, he said, involves a belief in "partial redemption," or the belief that God has destined some people for salvation and others for damnation.

How does a person become sanctified? ›

Hebrews 10:10 tells us that as followers of Christ “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” But most of the time when Christians use the word sanctification, they are referring to the progressive work of God to make a believer more like Jesus Christ.

What is an example of sanctification? ›

Examples of Sanctification in the Bible

God sets people apart from the world to honor him through sacrificial service (John 17:15-18; Romans 12:1-2). People are purified from their sins by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9:11-14) and are conformed to the image of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:29).

What does it mean to live a sanctified life? ›

A Sanctified Life. The Christian should have a passionate desire to be Christ-like in every sense and at all time. We should never stop asking ourselves: What would Christ have us do? Apostle Paul said in 1 Cor. 11:1, 'Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ', Jn.

Does the Alliance Church believe in speaking in tongues? ›

After Simpson's death in 1919, the C&MA distanced itself from Pentecostalism, rejecting the premise that speaking in tongues is a necessary indicator of being filled with the Holy Spirit, and instead focused on the deeper Christian life.

Where is the Gospel Coalition based? ›

Bannockburn, IL 60015

What denomination are evangelists? ›

As a transdenominational coalition, evangelicals can be found in nearly every Protestant denomination and tradition, particularly within the Calvinist (Continental Reformed, Presbyterian, Congregational), Arminian, Plymouth Brethren, Baptist, Methodist (Wesleyan, Holiness), Lutheran, Moravian, Free Church, Mennonite, ...

What part of the Bible do Mormons not believe? ›

Nevertheless, most Mormons do not accept the doctrine of the Trinity as codified in the Nicene Creed of 325 and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381. Although Mormons consider the Protestant Bible to be holy scripture, they do not believe in biblical inerrancy.

Do Mormons believe the Book of Mormon is scripture? ›

Latter-day Saints believe in an open scriptural canon, which means that there are other books of scripture besides the Bible (such as the Book of Mormon) and that God continues to reveal His word through living prophets.

Do Mormons believe Jesus is God? ›

Like most Christians, Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Creator of the World.

Are General Baptists Calvinist? ›

The Particular Baptists adhered to the doctrine of a particular atonement—that Christ died only for an elect—and were strongly Calvinist (following the Reformation teachings of John Calvin) in orientation; the General Baptists held to the doctrine of a general atonement—that Christ died for all people and not only for ...

What is the most conservative presbyterian denomination? ›

The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is the second-largest Presbyterian church body, behind the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the largest conservative Calvinist denomination in the United States. The PCA is Reformed in theology and presbyterian in government.

Do Calvinists believe God loves everyone? ›

While some Calvinists forthrightly deny that God loves everyone, more commonly Calvinists attempt to affirm the love of God for all persons in terms that are compatible with their doctrines that Christ died only for the elect--those persons God has unconditionally chosen to save.

What are the doctrines of sanctification and justification? ›

Justification and sanctification are elements of a divine process that qualifies us to live in the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Justification and sanctification are at the center of God's gracious plan of salvation and are the essence of our witness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What is difference between justification and sanctification? ›

Justification sets people free from sin's penalty; sanctification means being set from sin's power. Justification is something that God does for us; sanctification is what God does with us. Justification is by grace through faith, while sanctification is by grace applied in life.

What is the biblical term for sanctification? ›

God calls his own to set themselves apart for that which he has set them apart. Sanctify, therefore, becomes a synonym for "trust and obey" ( Isa 29:23 ). Another name for this action is "consecration." To fail to sanctify God has serious consequences ( Num 20:12 ).

What do Baptists believe about sanctification? ›

Baptists look forward to complete sanctification in heaven, in the presence of Christ. However, no New Testament believer achieved entire sanctification on earth. Paul is very clear about his continued struggle with sin, despite his close walk with God.

Do Protestants believe that justification is based on sanctification? ›

Protestants teach that in justification one's sins are forgiven and one is fully reconciled to God, but that one is not wholly sanctified (that is, renewed or made holy). Luther's formula that we are simul iustus et peccator (both just and sinner) is widely accepted by Protestants.

What is God's purpose for sanctification? ›

In its most basic sense, to sanctify something is to set it apart for God's special use and purpose. Therefore God's people are sometimes said to be sanctified because they are set apart for God's special purposes in the world: “Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy; for I am the LORD your God.

What is God's role in sanctification? ›

Sanctification is God's from beginning to end because God is the one who initiates it, who carries it through by the work of his Holy Spirit, and who will bring it to completion on the last day.

What is Romans 8 17? ›

And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17).

Are we justified by faith alone? ›

God's plan is for Christians to be justified in His sight, saved, by grace alone through faith alone. Easter and the resurrection of Christ has its meaning in this truth. While we are justified by faith, we cannot let that become an excuse to not do works.

Why is sanctification important in Christianity? ›

Sanctification is the believer's cleansing or purging from the nature of sin. This experience is not for sinners, but for people who, through grace, are saved and reconciled to God. This second work of grace makes the believer to be holy, have the nature of God and reflect the life of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

What is the root word of sanctification? ›

The Latin root of sanctified is sanctus, "holy." Definitions of sanctified. adjective. made, declared, or believed to be holy; devoted to a deity or some religious ceremony or use. “sanctified wine”

How many times does the Bible mention sanctification? ›

In Scripture, you can find the word family of “sanctification” and “sanctify” used 22 times in the New Testament (NIV).

What is the Hebrew meaning of sanctification? ›

The term for 'sanctification' as used in the New Covenant is HAGIOSMOS and means basically 'set apart', in the sense of being set apart from all else and dedicated for Yahweh's use.


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