Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 10, 1960
NUMBER 43, PAGE 5a-6


Herschel E. Patton, Shelbyville, Tennessee

We come now to consider the tenth article in the series which we are now investigating. This article bears the title of "sanctification." This is a Bible subject; and one that deserves our serious consideration.

Article No. X

"We believe the scriptures teach that sanctification is the process by which, according to the will of God, we are made partakers of his holiness; that it is a progressive work; that it is begun in regeneration; that it is carried on in the hearts of believers by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, the Sealer and Comforter, in the continual use of the appointed means — especially the word of God — self-examination, self denial, watchfulness, and prayer; and in the practice of all godly exercise and duties."

Meaning Of Sanctification

Sanctification is defined in this article as the process by which individuals are made partakers of his hotness, which process is called a progressive work, involving watchfulness, prayer, godly exercise and duties. This is indeed a strange contention in view of the affirmation back in article number five, entitled "Justification," where we were told that Christ's righteousness is freely imputed to us by God, not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done. Now, are we partakers of his holiness by effort on our part, as indicated in article ten, or are we holy and righteous on account of Christ's righteousness being imputed to us without effort on our part, as contended in article number five? Since this cannot be both ways, we notice another glaring contradiction in these articles.

But, getting back to the definition of sanctification: Is it a process by which we are made partakers of his holiness, or does the term express a condition? It seems that the term sanctification better expresses a condition than a process. Sanctification is one thing, and the means or process of sanctification is another. Webster defines the word "sanctify" thus: "To set apart to a sacred office or to religious use or observance; to hallow. To make free from sin or purify." Sanctification is the noun form of the term. A number of passages show the meaning of "sanctify" to be just as Webster defined it. Moses said to Israel in Deuteronomy 5:12 "Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee." In other words, the sabbath day was to be set apart to religious use or observance. God said to Solomon concerning the Temple he built, "For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there forever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually" (2 Chron. 7:16). Thus, God sanctified or set apart this house which Solomon built for sacred use. In Job 1:5 we find that Job's sons and daughters had feasted together "And it was so; when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts." Here the expression "sanctified them" suggests they were made free from sin or purified. Their sanctification was made possible through the sacrifices which Job offered for them.

In the New Testament scriptures, Christians are said to have been sanctified. In I Corinthians 6:11 Paul referred to the former condition of some at Corinth when when they were living in sin, saying "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." Here the apostle did not speak of a process through which they were passing, but of something that had previously taken place. The thing which had previously taken place was sanctification. In other words, these Corinthians had been made free from sin or purified and set apart to the Lord's use. In Hebrews 10:14 we read "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." The reference is, of course, to Christians; and they are said to be sanctified, or sanctification had taken place on their part.

According to the meaning of the term under consideration, as often as a man becomes guilty of sin and then is again cleansed and set apart for sacred duty, just that often he is sanctified. In other words, one may be sanctified many times during his life. The man guilty of sin in I Corinthians 5:17 was sanctified at the time of his conversion. When he later became guilty of fornication, repented and was forgiven, he was sanctified again. The only sense in which sanctification may he looked upon as a lifetime responsibility is that it may take place more than once. In fact, it should take place just as often as one sins.

There are numerous means by which one may be sanctified. Of course all cleansing is through the blood of Christ according to his will, but there are various items contributing to one's cleansing or sanctification. Let us notice some of the things mentioned in the scriptures by which we are sanctified. We are sanctified by the Holy Spirit: II Thessalonians 2:3 speaks of salvation "through sanctification of the Spirit"; Paul in Romans 15:16 speaks of the Gentiles "being sanctified by the Holy Spirit." Secondly, we are sanctified by God: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly" (I Thess. 5:23); Jude 1 "to them that are sanctified by God the Father." Thirdly, we are sanctified by Christ: "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus' (I Cor. 1:2); Ephesians 5:25-26 "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." Fourth, we are sanctified by the truth or by the word: John 17:17 "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." Fifth, Paul speaks of a husband or wife being sanctified by their companion (I Cor. 7:14). Of course, no one is completely sanctified by any one of these things alone, but each in its own legitimate sphere contributes to sanctification. Friends, these observations should give us some idea of what sanctification is.

Sanctification As A Continual Process

In support of sanctification's being the process by which we are made partakers of his holiness, this article cites us to I Thessalonians 4:3 which reads, "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication." This passage tells us how to keep sanctified, rather than how to become sanctified. The Thessalonians had already been sanctified, and they would remain in a state of sanctification so long as they abstained from fornication and other evils. If they should become guilty of fornication, or other evils, they would then again stand in need of sanctification. When we take into consideration the doctrine of article number eleven, "the perseverance of saints," yet to be studied, wherein is advanced the idea that a saved person can never be lost, we can see where it would be advisable to contend that sanctification is a continual process. Then, if a Christian becomes guilty of fornication and died in that guilt, it could be contended that he was never completely sanctified. However, this passage shows that a sanctified person can become guilty of fornication; and if he does, he is no longer sanctified. And, of course, the Bible is clear in showing the destiny of the fornicator or unsanctified person.

We are also cited to II Corinthians 7:1 in support of the idea of sanctification's being a continual process and a responsibility of man. This passage says "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." Instead of this passage teaching that sanctification is a process, begun in regeneration and carried on continuously, it simply points out that man has a responsibility in regard to his cleansing. Certainly no one would contend that man can cleanse himself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit by his own efforts alone. Man can thus cleanse himself through laying hold on the means provided for such cleansing — through repentance and obedience to whatever conditions may have been stated by the Lord. Being cleansed is sanctification, but this cleansing is effected only when man does what the Lord requires. Man is sanctified when he has been cleansed; he keeps himself sanctified by abstaining from evil. When he becomes guilty of sin, he again needs to be sanctified. If this article had said sanctification involves a continuous responsibility, then we could agree, realizing that man is responsible for keeping himself from sin so that he might remain sanctified, and that God is responsible for cleansing or sanctifying when man has truly repented of his sin. Eternal salvation involves continuous responsibility both on the part of God and man. Christians are to "fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life" (I Tim. 6:12), be faithful unto death in order to receive the crown of life (Rev. 2:10), and work out his own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). However, the salvation is one thing and the process of obtaining it is something else. Likewise, sanctification is one thing and the process of sanctification is another. It is a mistake, therefore, to say that sanctification is the process.

Sanctification or Edification What the article refers to as sanctification would more appropriately be called edification. Some of the means, listed in this article, connected with sanctification are the word of God, self-examination, self-denial, watchfulness, prayer, and godly exercise. Paul commended the Ephesian elders "to God and to the word of his grace which is able to build you up" (Acts 20:32). To be builded up is to be edified. Paul said in Romans 15:1-2 "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification." Here is the practice of godly exercise and duty, which edifies both the practitioner and the subject. Ephesians 4:11, 16, a passage to which we are cited in this article, tells what has been provided for the edification of the church rather than what was provided for its sanctification. We are also cited to I Peter 2:2 and to II Peter 3:18 which speak of Christian growth, and not of sanctification.


In conclusion, I must say, according to this investigation, we are forced to reject this tenth article, entitled sanctification, on the grounds that it confuses the process of sanctification with sanctification itself. Furthermore, as pointed out in the beginning, in declaring here that sanctification is the process by which we are made partakers of his holiness, a contradiction is made of previous teaching; that we are holy and righteous on account of Christ righteousness being imputed to us without effort on our part. Any teaching which is contradictory cannot be scriptural teaching, for the scriptures do not contradict themselves.