Positive Sanctification –
The Key To Christian Maturity, Part 1
By Pastor J.D Link
1Th 4:3-4 “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 honor.” Sanctification – GK def. “Purification; the state of purity; consecration; holiness”. This Greek word is found ten times in New Testament, and is translated “holiness“ five times, and “sanctification” five times. In English, the suffix “-fication” means “to make” (i.e. Clarification means “to make clear”). “Sanct” from where we get “Saint” means sacred, pure, holy. So, Sanctification means to make holy.
Of the ten times this word is used, seven of those times it is spoken as a present, ongoing action (Rom 6:19, 22; 1Thess 4:3, 4, 7; 1Tim 2:15, Heb 12:14) – something we are to continue in, follow after and yield to. The other three verses speak of a finished work (1Cor 1:30, 2Thess 2:13, 1Pt 1:2). What does this mean? It means: We are sanctified; we are being sanctified; we will be sanctified, aka “glorified”. Christ in us (spiritual sanctification) is the hope of glory (Col 1:27, Rom 5:1-2). Hope is future. It is an expectation of something good. We are sanctified in spirit upon conversion (the new birth); we are being sanctified in soul – daily being shaped and molded into the image of Jesus in our mind, will, emotions, attitude, reason, speech, etc.; and we will be completely sanctified in body at the resurrection, when we receive an eternal, incorruptible body like that of Jesus (Philp 3:20-21). This is glorification.
Why does Paul speak of glorification in the past tense in Rom 8:29-30? Because if one is predestined; and called; and justified in spirit; and (by implication – vs. 14) being sanctified in soul – then glorification must be the result. In other words, this final step is certain to come to pass in the true Believer. It is our blessed assurance.
Here are some other verses that speak of sanctification as a finished, past tense work (1Cor 1:2, 6:11, Heb 2:11, 10:10, 10:14, Jude 1:1). Here are some verses that speak of sanctification as a continual process (1Thess 5:23, 1Pt 3:15, Eph 5:26). You will notice that in Eph 5:26, it is the washing of the Word that sanctifies and cleanses continually. Water immersion (baptism) symbolizes the spiritual reality of our being immersed into the Church of Jesus – His body. Like the High Priest of the Old Testament, this initial washing wasn’t repeated. It was one time. However, the washing of the feet was often, for he would pick up the dirt of the world as he went about his daily business. As Believers, we are spiritually cleansed by the Blood of Jesus; but we must continually wash our minds with the Word of God. This is the ongoing sanctification process. As a baby is prepared nine months for the world it will come into, so we are being prepared in this life for the world to come.
So, in this study, we will be focusing on the continual aspect or the ongoing process of sanctification taking place in our soul and body. When we speak of the positive and negative, we do not use the word “negative” as something bad or wrong, but only as a “shalt not” or “don’t do”. And we use the word “positive” in the sense of “do this – what you should do”. For instance, in Eph 4:28, it says, “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs.” So, the negative is “don’t steal”, but the positive is, “Work, that you may have to give”.
While the negative is necessary, it does not necessarily promote transformation. The positive is what transforms. You see, I can stop stealing, without working and giving. It’s good I no longer steal, but if I’m not a giver, I’m not maturing in Christ. Mature Christians are givers, because Jesus is a giver. It’s being like Him. Not only does Jesus not steal, but He also gives. This is what we mean by “positive sanctification”. It’s a matter of focus. It is focusing on what I ought to be doing, versus only focusing on what I shouldn’t do.
Another example is Eph 5:18, which tells us to not be drunk, but to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Drunkenness is a sin. We ought not get drunk. However, I can stop getting drunk, and still not be filled with the Spirit. You see, to grow and mature in the faith, I must be filled with Spirit. This is the positive command. If we grab hold of this truth, it will turn the Christian walk into a joy instead of a drudgery. It will become everything we get to do, instead of everything we can’t do. There is much more to say on this. Next week, Lord willing, we will continue. Selah.
Positive Sanctification –
The Key To Christian Maturity, Part 2
By Pastor J.D. Link
1Th 4:3-4 “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 honor.” This week we will complete our two part series on Positive Sanctification. Last week we learned that sanctification means “to make holy or sanctified”. We saw from Scripture that sanctification is something that has been done; is being done; and ultimately will be done at the resurrection within the Believer. We also learned, that “negative” doesn’t mean bad, wrong or unnecessary. However, the “positive” is where the power comes from. Like a 9 volt battery, both negative and positive are necessary, but the juice comes from the positive.
In the above verses, we see that the negative is to abstain from fornication; but the positive is to posses our body in sanctification and honor. In 1Cor 6:18-20, we see the same principle, to flee fornication (negative), and to glorify God with our body (positive). If we focus on the positive command of glorifying God with our body, then we will by default abstain from fornication. The result is the same, but the focus is on what I should do, versus what I shouldn’t.
We see an interesting fact when we look at the Ten Commandments (Ex 20) vs. The Great Commandment (Mk 12:28-31). In the Ten Commandments, 8 out of 10 are in the negative (you shall not). Only number 4&5 are positive, which means 1/5 or 20% are positive, and 80% are in the negative. In contrast, the Great Commandment given by Jesus is 100% positive. Love God, and love your neighbor. All the Law is fulfilled in these (Gal 5:14). When our focus is positive – loving God and our neighbor – then we naturally keep the Law. This is the New Covenant. The law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (Jn 1:17).
In the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 6), Jesus first gives the negative (don’t give; pray; fast – like the hypocrites); but then focuses on the positive. “This how you pray… and give… and fast…”. This is to be our focus. When we do the positive, the negative is automatically not being done. If I am doing something correctly, then I am not doing it incorrectly. This may seem minor, or just playing with words; but I assure you, this makes all the difference in Christian growth and maturity. The “Thou shalt nots” – taken alone – only bring discouragement, heaviness, even rebellion. However, focus on the “Thou shalts”, and it brings positive motivation and encouragement. What works better: berating and shaming a child, or correcting and then inspiring to righteousness?
Yield your body as an instrument of God, and you will not be yielding it as an instrument of unrighteousness (Rom 6:13). Overcome evil with good, and you will not be overcome with evil (Rom 12:21). Be kind, loving, tenderhearted and forgiving of one another; and you will not be grieving the Holy Spirit by speaking evil, being bitter, envious, angry, etc. (Eph 4:29-32). Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal 5:16). Focus on the fruit of the Spirit (against which, there is no law), and you will not be fulfilling the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19-23). Real growth comes from acknowledging the good in us – which is Jesus (Philm 6). It is how our faith become effective.
Christianity is not about all the things you can’t do, but about all the things you get to do. Do we speak of all the things Jesus didn’t do – or do we speak of all that Jesus did? The focus is on the positive. This doesn’t mean we never mention the negative, but only that we do not stop there. We must bring the focus to the positive action. This is how we actually grow up in the faith. If we focus only on the negative, we will achieve some measure of holiness, but no real growth. Not until we act on the positive, will we become more and more Christ-like.
Look up these verses, to find more of this principle (Eph 4:28, 6:4, 5:18, Philp 4:6-7, 1Thess 5:15, 1Tim 6:11, 2Tim 2:15-16, Titus 3:2, Jam 1:22, 4:4, 7; 1Pt 2:1-2, 16; 1Pt 3:3-4). When we are sanctified in spirit (born again), this is only the entrance into the Christian life. It is then that sanctification of the soul starts, and this is life-long. This is discipleship. We are to be growing in Christ. We should not be the same as we were years ago. God is shaping and molding the Believer to be more conformed to the image of Christ. By focusing on the positive aspect of the commandment and yielding to the Spirit, this growth will take place naturally.
The Word is the key. The more time you spend honestly examining the Scriptures, the more transformed you will become – and the less conformed to the world you will be (Rom 12:2). Selah.