Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 14, 1968
NUMBER 44, PAGE 2b-3,5b-6a

Sanctification Before Primary Obedience?

Jimmy Tuten, Jr.

Several months ago a six page treatise was handed me, the context of which argues for a new slant on the use of "sanctification." While it has received light distribution, the nature of it deserves some consideration. The author states his position in this fashion: "I believe there is another sense in which one can be sanctified — sanctified before becoming obedient to the gospel. We find the term `sanctified' used in this way in I Peter 1:1-2."

With even a casual reading of this treatise, it is obvious that the writer assumes the thing to be proven, viz., that Peter is talking about sanctification before PRIMARY obedience. The entire position of the writer is based on the fact that "unto" (eis, in order to; with a view to) looks forward, therefore he says "sanctification is in order to obedience, and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus." With the structural make-up of the passage, there is no problem. Peter is talking about something else. The thing this writer is objecting to is the writer's assumptions: (1) That primary obedience is under discussion. (2) That the word translated "sanctification" (hagiasmos) is used in a sense so as to exclude the idea of holiness.

It should be noted that one of the most frightful causes of false explanations is dogmatic presuppositions. The writer of the article I am reviewing has drawn a conclusion without the necessary facts to sustain them. He has (so it appears) gone to the Scriptures in search of material to sustain his view s. By no means a proper way to approach a study of any Bible subject.

Peter's Use Of Sanctification

The word rendered "sanctification" in the text of I Peter 1:2 is from the Greek term "hagiasmos." It means "separation of God" (Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. 3, P. 317). Separation "of God" has reference to consecration and holiness, which is something entirely overlooked in the article. Bagster's Analytical Greek Lexicon defines "hagiasmos" as "moral purity, sanctity" (P. 3). The Greek-English Lexicon by Arndt & Gingrich defines the word as "holiness, consecration, sanctification." This means, therefore, that the believer is obviously not purified and made holy until he comes in contact with the blood of Jesus (Heb. 13:12). Hence, only an obedient believer is sanctified. We cannot understand Peter's use of the word while overlooking this fact. On page two of the article, a distinction is made between the "sanctification of the Spirit," and sanctification by the blood of Jesus. Arndt & Gingrich tell us that sanctification (which is by the blood of Jesus) is also said to be "through the Spirit" (P. 9). In II Thessalonians 2:13, Paul addresses Saints (brethren), thanking God that they had been chosen "to salvation through sanctification of the spirit and the belief of the truth" (Italics mine, jt). This is parallel to I Peter 1:2 (more about this later in the review). Would one be so foolish as to say that "belief of the truth" in this passage does not include obedience? The connection between "sanctification" and "belief of the truth" in this passage within itself destroys the position that one is "sanctified even before becoming obedient to the gospel."

We note further that one cannot disassociate "holiness" and "consecration" from sanctification. Since the treatise argues that sanctification takes place before baptism, the writer is forced to take the position that one who is still in sin is holy and consecrated to God, for he insists that such one is sanctified. See it in the form of a syllogism:

Major premise — sanctification is holiness and consecration to God.

Minor premise — the alien sinner is sanctified. Conclusion — the alien sinner is holy and consecrated to God.

Is the writer ready to accept the consequences of his position?. It is true that in a sense, "those who have a knowledge of the word of God" are not in a class with "those who have not heard the truth," and as such "are set apart from the rest of the world, and in a position to be obedient." But, they are yet in their sin and are still servants of sin (Rom. 6:17). They are not sanctified in the sense that Peter uses the word (I Peter 1:2). The first fallacy, therefore is taking a position contrary to the definition of the terms used in the context.

Sanctification Of The Spirit And Belief Of The Truth

A second fallacy is evident in that an effort is made to separate "sanctification of the Spirit" from primary obedience. Notice II Thess. 2:13 where those who were called by the gospel (v. 14) were chosen to salvation by, or "through the sanctification of the Spirit and the belief of the truth." "Belief of the truth" involves "obeying the truth through the Spirit" (I Peter 1:21-22). Whatever was through "belief of the truth" was also through "sanctification of the Spirit," since both expressions are joined by the conjunction "and." This passage teaches therefore that "sanctification of the Spirit" does include primary obedience (belief of the truth.)

Sanctification of the Spirit is just one aspect of regeneration. It is a part of the process of being washed and justified. See it illustrated in I Cor. 6:9-11:

Observe that the washing. sanctification and justification, though ascribed to Christ in other passages, is ascribed to the "Spirit" in the text before us. This is no more difficult to understand than the fact that the saints who are baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27), are at the same time said to be baptized "by one Spirit" into the body (I Cor. 12:13). The spirit has a function in God's scheme of Redemption,

The Author's Two Scriptures

Two scriptures are cited to show that sanctification has "no relationship to a cleansing process." The first one cited (Leviticus 27:14-25) has no bearing on our discussion, for the simple fact that sanctification under the Old Testament has an outward and inward significance (i.e., to make holy outwardly and inwardly; Strong, Systematic Theology, P. 880). The other passage (I Cor. 7:14) likewise has no bearing on the discussion, for it has reference to the human side of sanctification as it applies to the marriage relationship of a believer and non-believer. This passage is merely showing that the marriage relationship in this case is an approved relationship in God's sight. Therefore their children are not unclean.

A Closer Look At The Context Of I Peter 1:1-2

The idea that Peter is discussing a form of sanctification unknown to the rest of the New Testament, and that this sanctification precedes primary obedience is foreign to the text. As suggested earlier, it is assumed that "obedience and sprinkling" refers to obedience to the gospel in a primary sense. Hence, the brazen challenge, "I challenge someone to take the word 'sanctification' in its usual meaning ... and show how the expression ... can make sense without doing violence to the word 'unto'," is meaningless! The writer thinks that because "sanctification" in the text is UNTO what he has ASSUMED to be primary obedience to the gospel, it has to exclude holiness. This is an example of failure to take into consideration the context, which in this instance means the difference between understanding and not understanding the passage. The context is talking about God's election and foreknowledge, hence His eternal purpose (I Peter 1:2, 18). It is parallel with such passages as Ephesians 1:3-12 and Romans 1:5; 16:25-26. He is addressing the sanctified (the elect), informing them that in (Greek "en", i. e. through) the sanctification of the Spirit they became, such as are begotten unto a lively hope (I Peter 1:3). "Sanctification of the Spirit" is a grammatical classification known as a locative of sphere (Wuest, First Peter In The Greek New Testament, P. 16) This means that in the sphere of the Spirit's work setting apart they became the elect or chosen of God. Hence, verse 2 of I Peter 1 will have to be taken and understood according to the context. The most plausible explanation of "obedience and sanctification of the Spirit" (and one that fits the context) is that it refers to God's Divine purpose. The parallel is Romans 1:5, "by whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience for the faith among all nations..." (Italics mine, jt). Paul says that the mystery (cf. Eph. 1) was made known to all nations "for the obedience of faith" (Rom. 16:25-26). The state of being God's elect takes place through the work of the Holy Spirit, who through obedience in the life of the elect is able to set one apart from the world in service to God. Just when and where one is sanctified has already been discussed.

Sanctification Is A Continual Process Though sanctification fundamentally means a separation from sin and consecration to God, the saint, consistent with His heavenly calling (II Tim. 1:9), continues to live a holy life (I Peter 1:15; II Peter 3:11). Saints are thus called a "holy priesthood" (I Peter 2:5), and a "holy nation" (I Peter 2:9).


After careful study of the context of I Pet. 1:1-2, this scribe is convinced that God's eternal purpose is under consideration. This purpose is carried out and applied (by the authority of Jesus) through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. Its purpose is to issue a life of obedience and a "walking in the light as He is in the light" (I John 1:7). This is the meaning therefore of "sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and belief of the truth."

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