Christian Doctrine of Sanctification

Originally the term sanctification derived from the Greek language. It comes from the Greek verb hagiazo, which is translated like separate, set apart. In the Bible sanctification is usually described like a divine act, where God separates person, place and things, in order to fulfill his plan. In the book of Expodus we can read about the scarification of the worship place: “And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory.” (Expodus, 29:43) The seventh day becomes a day of rest and time, dedicated to God. That is the reason this day becomes the day of sanctification. “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” (Genesis, 2:3)

In the case when the person is sanctified from God, this is done for some divine purpose in order to accomplish the will of God. Being the part of God, people are sanctified from Him in order to fulfill his purpose.

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The concept of sanctification is different from the concept of salvation. Salvation is a gift of Jesus Christ to the mankind. He died in the cross in order to save the mankind and this became his gift, which gave people hope for salvation. Sanctification comes as a result of salvation. All adherents of Christianity receive sanctification through Jesus Christ. His death for all the mankind gave people opportunity to enter the process of sanctification but this does not mean that they do not have to do anything. “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord…” (1 Corinthians 1:2) Jesus brought three virtues, which made it possible for people to find their path to god. These three virtues are righteousness, redemption and sanctification. As the Bible states, “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption…” (1 Corinthians 1:30)

Sacrifice of Jesus gives only the first push to the person, who performs spiritual search. Since sanctification is not something, that can be achieved right at once, but rather a continuous process a person should put his or her own effort in order to develop the process initiated by Jesus.

Another important thing about sanctification, which is often misinterpreted, is its universal nature. Sanctification is available for everybody and God’s purpose was to open it to people as a way to achieve him. Sanctification can be available for anyone but not only for the selected group of people. The Bible gives very direct instructions concerning this universal nature of sanctification. “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20)

Sanctification can be achieved only through the relations. A person can achieve sanctification only through relationship with God, who is the only holy creature. In this case the term is referred to major change, which happens with the believe with the help of God. This major change or transformation, which starts at the point of salvation, lasts for the entire life of a person. Continuity is one of characteristics of sanctification. The process, which starts with salvation continues through the human life and ends only in heaven. In some Christian traditions the concept of sanctification is connected to the inbred sin or sinful nature of all humans. If justification deals we the sins we commit during our earthy existence, sanctification deals with our born sins. The issues of born sin is confronted with the holiness of God.

Verlyn Verbrugge centers on positive meaning of sanctification. As he writes, “The basic idea is not that of separation (though this is favored by many scholars), but the positive thought of encounter, which inevitably demands certain modes of response” (Verbrugge, 9) In such an approach sanctification is regarded like a kind of encounter, which can push people towards true spiritual search and help them to obtain union with God. As states William Greathouse, “that while holiness certainly involves separation from uncleanness and sin, it is primarily separation to God” (Greathouse, 18)

From the first lines of the Bible we can see the God’s call to sanctification. God asks Abraham to live his native land. The entire Israeli nation became separated from their native place and had to make a long journey in order to fulfill the divine purpose. Even apostles, who became the carriers of the God’s will had been selected and thus separated from other people. Through the act of sanctification God wants people to become as holy as He is.

Different branches of Christianity present somewhat different concept of sanctification. In Protestant religion sanctification is closely connected with the notion of grace and is usually used to describe people rather than objects. As soon as we come into relations of salvation with God we start realization that we not always fulfill God’s will and step away from holiness. At this point a person discovers a great separation between the divine purpose of God’s creation and the way of life he or she leads. All the attempts to act right finally end in nothing because our sinful nature prevents us from right behavior. At this point person realizes, that he or she must deal with born sin. This sin can not be forgiven in contrast to sins, which people commit during their life. People have to ask forgiveness for the sin of Adam but it can not be forgiven, it can be only cleaned. Sanctification becomes that cleaning, which is able to recover an ill nature of people. It can be done only by Holy Spirit and it can not be received neither through any physical actions nor through mental activities. It can be received only though faith. Sometimes sanctification is called the second grace because it’s the second grace people receive from God after salvation. As soon as the person achieves sanctification, “Our carnal nature has been dealt with, and we can truly love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. But there still remains growth in grace and spiritual maturity that each believer must pursue even after being entirely sanctified.” (Philippians 3:8 – 16)

In some branches of Christian religion not only humans can be sanctified. In Roman Catholic tradition bread and wine are transformed into flesh and blood of Jesus. This is an act of sanctification.

Despite sanctification sounds like complicated and controversial notion, it has practical appliance, which helps people to become close to God in their everyday life. Perfection and closeness to God seem unattainable goals and people do not want even to try to reach this high ideal as they believe that their sinful nature will not let them to reach this high objective. Sanctification can become not a wall, that separates people from God but a pointer, which shows them right path to him. “If you will study the specific wording in some of these verses, God the Father is showing you very clearly how this sanctification process can start to occur in this life. You don’t have to wait until you get to heaven to get this sanctification process started with Him.” (Wesley, 114)

Sanctification can be regarded not only as Christian doctrine but also as a practical guideline for everyday life. Sanctification is a way to God and a help people receive in their spiritual search. God’s love can be felt by an individual in any part of his spiritual search and one does not have to spend years in spiritual search in order to feel sanctification. When we speak about sanctification and meaning it has in our everyday life, we should remember three aspects of this phenomenon. Sanctification can be achieved and experienced on three levels. These levels are body, soul and spirit. This means that sanctification must be complete and must influence all parts of human existence. Sanctification is the easiest way to let God enter into your life. As Jack Hayford states in his famous Hayford’s Bible Handbook, “The work of God’s grace by which the believer is separated from sin and becomes dedicated to God’s righteousness. Accomplished by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, sanctification results in holiness, or purification from the guilt and power of sin. Sanctification is instantaneous before God through Christ and progressive before man through obedience to the Holy Spirit and the Word.” (Hayford, 79) Sanctification is not an object, which can be achieved. It is a reality, which can be experienced and it can be experienced any moment of human existence if the person possesses right perception of God and Divine Purpose. Sanctification can be regarded as a chance to the entire mankind and separate individuals to find their way back to God and become saint, sharing God-like nature with our Creator. Sanctification, which can be regarded as a way to get back to God and this process, initiated by God and Jesus Christ must be supported by inner work and inner intention of an individual. Only in this case the person can get a true meaning of this complicated phenomenon and use it as a way to achieve sanctity. The Bible proves this thesis. We can find proof of God’s purpose in the lines of the sacred texts, which tell about sanctification. When talking about sanctification, the term “being sanctified” is used in the Bible. For example, “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren…” (Hebrews 2:11) Such a use of the words underlines the continuousness of the process. So, the process started by Jesus must be continued by each individual and should be regarded as processes, which continues in time.


1. Verbrugge Verlyn D., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 2000, 9
3. Grider, J. Kenneth. A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology. Kansas City:Beacon Hill Press, 1994
4. Wesley, John. A Plain Account of Christian Pefection. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, reprinted 1968
5. Hein, David. “Austin Farrer on Justification and Sanctification.” The Anglican Digest 49.1 (2007): 51–54.
6. Hayford, Jack W.: Hayford’s Bible Handbook. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995
7. Greathouse, W.M., Dunning H. R., Introduction to Wesleyan Theology, Nazarene Pub House, 1981

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