SANCTIFICATION (Gr. hagiasmos from the verb hagiazō). The process or result of being made holy. As the article on Holiness makes clear, holiness when applied to things, places, and people means that they are consecrated and set apart for the use of God, who is utterly pure and apart from all imperfection and evil. When used of people, it can refer also to the practical realization within them of consecration to God: that is, it can have a moral dimension. Thus in the NT, believers are described as already (objectively) sanctified in Christ—“your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our sanctification” (
The separation of one's entire being from all that is polluting and impure, and a renunciation of the sins toward which the desires of the flesh lead. Both the Greek hagiasmos and the biblical doctrine of sanctification disallow any idea of progressively becoming holy. What God has once made holy in election and redemption is always thereafter holy, and there can be no degrees in the state of absolute holiness. Our moral progress is not a growth into holiness out of a state of comparative unholiness, but a growth in holiness effected by a supernatural act of God. The Christian can and is expected to cooperate by the proper use of the means God makes available (Rom. 12:1,2), but it is God who does the all-important work (Gal. 5:16-25). Sanctification involves the mortification of the old man (Col. 3:8-10; Rom. 6:6), and the giving of vitality to the new man, created in Christ unto good works (Rom. 6:11-23).
See Perfectionism; Holiness Churches;.
SANCTIFICATION (קָדוֹשׁ, H7705, ἁγιασμός, G40, santification, moral purity, sanctity; cf. Lat. sanctus facere, “to make holy”). One of the most important concepts in Biblical and historical theology, this term and its cognates appear more than a thousand times in the Scriptures. Sanctification may be defined as the process of acquiring sanctity or holiness as a result of association with deity. Its synonyms are consecration, dedication, holiness, and perfection.
In the OT
The basic Heb. word lying behind such terms as “sanctification,” “holiness,” “hallowed,” and “separation” is the root qadōsh. Its etymology is uncertain. Attempts to find its origin in Babylonian, Assyrian, and Arabic languages remain indecisive. The Sem. root, KDSH, means to “cut off” or to “separate.” The word KDSH appears in three discernible meanings:
Numerous passages speak of holiness or sanctification as linked with God’s presence, as at the burning bush (
The most basic meaning of “sanctification” is separation. In each of the thousand places where this term and its cognates appear in the canonical Scriptures, the meaning of separation is either explicit or implicit, and in no instance is this meaning excluded. Mt. Sinai (
a. Ceremonial. The objective of sanctification is purity, whether ritual or moral purity or both. The former is that normally required of priests and other officials in divine service (
It should be noted that the idea of moral purity or goodness is not inherent in the term or terms; the moral connotation comes rather from the God with whom the term is linked. In eleven OT usages the concept of sanctification is linked with amoral deities and shrines and has no moral content (e.g.
Concern for inward righteousness
In the canonical writings.
From an emphasis on ceremonial purity in priestly contexts, the moral meaning comes to be predominant in the later prophets and wise men. An analysis of the moral meaning of sanctification brings one to Isaiah’s vision which, as Procksch says, is “the central point of the entire theology of holiness” (TWNT). The two important declarations in Isaiah’s vision are (1) “iniquity (עָוֹן, H6411) removed” and (2) “sin (חַטָּאת, H2633) purged, covered,” reflecting an awareness of sin that is deeper than specific acts for which the removal of guilt is needed. It is rather the corrupt source from which sinful acts arise. The prophet therefore experiences not only pardon and the removal of guilt, but purging of the inner defilement at its source, hence lips “purged.”
The most explicit and detailed description of sanctification is to be found in
Influenced by a study of comparative religions, scholarship of an earlier day tended to give an exaggerated emphasis to this amoral, cultic aspect of the Hebraic concept. There is now an increasing recognition that the moral content is present throughout and to an increasing degree from the early prophets onward (
In the intertestamental writings.
In the lit. produced between the Testaments, thereflects a deep appreciation of the spiritual life. A much deeper awareness of the pervasiveness and subtlety of sin is seen in the thoughtful lines of 2 Baruch and 4 Esdras, but they may well be contemporary with the writings of the NT. An even more profound concern with sanctification and holy living is discernible in the scrolls produced by the residents of Qumran in the decades prior to John and Jesus. In several of their hymns, and esp. in the Manual of Discipline, the conviction is expressed that the Spirit of Truth will purge the believer’s heart from all impurity and make perfect his relationship with his God (IQS iv). The Qumran lit. is more optimistic with reference to sanctification than were the authors of 2 Baruch and 4 Esdras. The holy life envisioned therein is ascetic and legalistic in contrast to the assurance, freedom, and joyousness of the NT.
In the NT
Facets of sanctification.
Four clearly definable distinctions in the NT meaning of sanctification emerge.
When Jesus prayed, He acknowledged the holiness or sanctity of His Father (
The sanctification of the Son.
The Son was “sanctified” by the Father (
The sanctification of the believer
a. Positionally. Positional sanctification is also properly called status sanctification or cultic sanctification. What was the predominant meaning in the OT is retained, but to a lesser degree in several NT passages. The meaning of separation with reference to gifts to God is clear (
c. Entirely. Entire sanctification is the most debatable aspect of the subject. All major theological traditions agree with reference to sanctification up to this point. The Reformed traditions, Orthodox, and Catholic do not, however, find in Scripture or in experience provision for full deliverance from sin while “in the flesh.” This may be attributable in part to the influence of oriental dualism imported into Christian theology via Augustine who was influenced by a Manichaean philosophy before he became a Christian.
Those who find in Scripture and in grace provision for complete victory over sin prior to death are many in the Arminian, Pietist, Quaker, and Wesleyan traditions. Caspar Schwenk-feld, a contemporary of Luther, was among the earliest of the reformers to call for a “reformation of the Reformation” and to protest against a tendency to an accommodation of sin in some Catholic and Reformation theology.
The negative aspect: Paul, after reminding his readers that as “holy ones” (hagioi) they are temples of God (
The positive aspect is seen in the command to “perfect” or bring to completion the quality of holiness (hagiosune) which is now only potential. That this is a present option is apparent from the tense of the verbs and also from the closing words of the letter—“Be perfect” (KJV, καταρτίζεσθε).
Crisis or process?
The evidence from Scripture, reason, and experience leads to the conclusion that sanctification is both process and crisis. The process begins when one is “risen with Christ” in the new birth. Paul’s emphasis on faith blends well with this emphasis upon a stage in the Christian’s life when he recognizes his inner defilement, deliberately renounces a self-centeredness, and embraces by faith God’s provision in Christ for full deliverance and perfection in love (
“This conscious self-consecration to the indwelling Spirit...is uniformly represented as a single act...(
Actual or potential?
Sanctification, defined broadly as the work of God’s grace in man’s perfection in righteousness, begins when he becomes a believer and hence is “in Christ.” It continues progressively until death brings him into Christ’s presence unless he “does despite to the Spirit of grace.” It is only as one by dedication and faith realizes in actuality what is provided in the atonement that this grace is experienced; it does not follow as a matter of course, as the exhortations in the NT imply. Parallel to the work of sanctification is the infilling of thein the believer, perfection in love, having the “mind of Christ,” and “walking as he walked.”
J. B. Bartlet, “Sanctification,” HDB, IV (1909); R. S. Taylor, A Right Conception of Sin (1939); C. W. Brown, The Meaning of Sanctification (1945); G. C. Berkouwer, Faith and Sanctification (1952); C. T. Craig, “The Paradox of Holiness,” INT (1952); J. Wesley, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (1952), 1777; W. Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (1955), 1692; S. Neill, Christian Holiness (1960); K. Keiger, ed., Insights Into Holiness (1962); G. A. Turner, The Vision Which Transforms (1964); L. T. Corlett, “What is Sanctification?” Herald of Holiness, Sept. 1, 1965, 10ff.; A. A. Hoekema, “Barth on Sanctification,” The Banner, 22 October 1965, 16ff.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
I. THE FORMAL SENSE
1. In the
2. In the
II. THE ETHICAL SENSE
1. Transformation of Formal to Ethical Idea
2. Our Relation to God as Personal: New Testament Idea
3. Sanctification as God’s Gift
4. Questions of Time and Method
5. An Element in All Christian Life
6. Follows from Fellowship with God
7. Is It Instantaneous and Entire?
8. Sanctification as Man’s Task
The root is found in the Old Testament in the Hebrew verb qadhash, in the New Testament in the Greek verb hagoazo. The noun "sanctification" (hagiasmos) does not occur in the Old Testament and is found but 10 times in the New Testament, but the roots noted above appear in a group of important words which are of very frequent occurrence. These words are "holy," "hallow," "hallowed," "holiness," "consecrate," "saint," "sanctify," "sanctification." It must be borne in mind that these words are all translations of the same root, and that therefore no one of them can be treated adequately without reference to the others. All have undergone a certain development. Broadly stated, this has been from the formal, or ritual, to the ethical, and these different meanings must be carefully distinguished.
I. The Formal Sense.
By sanctification is ordinarily meant that hallowing of the Christian believer by which he is freed from sin and enabled to realize the will of God in his life. This is not, however, the first or common meaning in the Scriptures. To sanctify means commonly to make holy, that is, to separate from the world and consecrate to God.
1. In the Old Testament:
It is this formal usage without moral implication that explains such a passage as
2. In the New Testament:
In a few New Testament passages the Old Testament ritual sense reappears, as when Jesus speaks of the temple sanctifying the gold, and the altar the gift (
II. The Ethical Sense.
We have been considering so far what has been called the formal meaning of the word; but the chief interest of Christian thought lies in the ethical idea, sanctification considered as the active deed or process by which the life is made holy.
1. Transformation of Formal to Ethical Idea:
Our first question is, How does the idea of belonging to God become the idea of transformation of life and character? The change is, indeed, nothing less than a part of the whole movement for which the entire Scriptures stand as a monument. The ethical is not wanting at the beginning, but the supremacy of the moral and spiritual over against the formal, the ritual, the ceremonial, the national, is the clear direction in which the movement as a whole tends. Now the pivot of this movement is the conception of God. As the thought of God grows more ethical, more spiritual, it molds and changes all other conceptions. Thus what it means to belong to God (holiness, sanctification) depends upon the nature of the God to whom man belongs. The hierodules of Corinth are women of shame because of the nature of the goddess to whose temple they belong. The prophets caught a vision of Yahweh, not jealous for His prerogative, not craving the honor of punctilious and proper ceremonial, but with a gracious love for His people and a passion for righteousness. Their great message is: This now is Yahweh; hear what it means to belong to such a God and to serve Him. "What unto me is the multitude of your sacrifices? .... Wash you, make you clean; .... seek justice, relieve the oppressed" (
2. Our Relation to God as Personal: New Testament Idea:
3. Sanctification as God’s Gift:
4. Questions of Time and Method:
When we ask, however, when and how this work is wrought, there is no such clear answer. What we have is on the one hand uncompromising ideal and demand, and on the other absolute confidence in God. By adding to these two the evident fact that the Christian believers seen in the New Testament are far from the attainment of such Christian perfection, some writers have assumed to have the foundation here for the doctrine that the state of complete holiness of life is a special experience in the Christian life wrought in a definite moment of time. It is well to realize that no New Testament passages give a specific answer to these questions of time and method, and that our conclusions must be drawn from the general teaching of the New Testament as to the Christian life.
5. An Element in All Christian Life:
6. Follows from Fellowship with God:
The second general conclusion that we draw from the New Testament teaching as to the Christian life is this: the sanctification which is a part of all Christian living follows from the very nature of that life as fellowship with God. Fundamental here is the fact that the Christian life is personal, that nothing belongs in it which cannot be stated in personal terms. It is a life with God in which He graciously gives Himself to us, and which we live out with Him and with our brothers in the spirit of Christ, which is His Spirit. The two great facts as to this fellowship are, that it is God’s gift, and that its fruit is holiness. First, it is God’s gift. What God gives us is nothing less than Himself. The gift is not primarily forgiveness, nor victory over sin, nor peace of soul, nor hope of heaven. It is fellowship with Him, which includes all of these and without which none of these can be. Secondly, the fruit of this fellowship is holiness. The real hallowing of our life can come in no other way. For Christian holiness is personal, not something formal or ritual, and its source and power can be nothing lower than the personal. Such is the fellowship into which God graciously lifts the believer. Whatever its mystical aspects, that fellowship is not magical or sacramental. It is ethical through and through. Its condition on our side is ethical. For Christian faith is the moral surrender of our life to Him in whom truth and right come to us with authority to command. The meaning of that surrender is ethical; it is opening the life to definite moral realities and powers, to love, meekness, gentleness, humility, reverence, purity, the passion for righteousness, to that which words cannot analyze but which we know as the Spirit of Christ. Such a fellowship is the supreme moral force for the molding of life. An intimate human fellowship is an analogue of this, and we know with what power it works on life and character. It cannot, however, set forth either the intimacy or the power of this supreme and final relation where our Friend is not another but is our real self. So much we know: this fellowship means a new spirit in us, a renewed and daily renewing life.
7. Is It Instantaneous and Entire?:
The clear recognition of the personal and vital character of sanctification will help us with another problem. If the holy life be God’s requirement and at the same time His deed, why should not this sanctification be instantaneous and entire? And does not Paul imply this, not merely in his demands but in his prayer for the Thessalonians, that God may establish their hearts in holiness, that He may sanctify them wholly and preserve spirit and soul and body entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord
In answer to this we must first discriminate between the ideal and the empirical with Paul. Like John (1
8. Sanctification as Man’s Task:
We may sum up as follows: The word "sanctify" is used with two broad meanings:
(1) The first is to devote, to consecrate to God, to recognize as holy, that is, as belonging to God. This is the regular Old Testament usage and is most common in the New Testament. The prophets showed that this belonging to Yahweh demanded righteousness. The New Testament deepens this into a whole-hearted surrender to the fellowship of God and to the rule of His Spirit.
(2) Though the word itself appears in but few passages with this sense, the New Testament is full of the thought of the making holy of the Christian’s life by the Spirit of God in that fellowship into which God lifts us by His grace and in which He gives Himself to us. This sanctifying, or hallowing, is not mechanical or magical. It is wrought out by God’s Spirit in a daily fellowship to which man gives himself in aspiration and trust and obedience, receiving with open heart, living out in obedient life. It is not negative, the mere separation from sin, but the progressive hallowing of a life that grows constantly in capacity, as in character, into the stature of full manhood as it is in Christ. And from this its very nature it is not momentary, but the deed and the privilege of a whole life.
See also HOLY SPIRIT and the following article.
The popular and special works are usually too undiscriminating and unhistorical to be of value for the Biblical study. An exception is Beet, Holiness Symbolic and Real. Full Biblical material in Cremer, Biblical Theol. Lexicon, but treated from special points of view. See Systematic Theologies, Old Testament Theologies (compare especially Smend), and New Testament Theologies (compare especially Holtzmann).
Harris Franklin Rall
|| 1. Doctrine Stated
2. Objections Answered
3. Required for the Highest Success of the Preacher
5. Its Glorious Results
6. Wesley’s Personal Testimony
1. Doctrine Stated:
Christian perfection, through entire sanctification, by faith, here and now, was one of the doctrines by whichgave great offense to his clerical brethren in the Anglican church. From the beginning of his work in 1739, till 1760, he was formulating this doctrine. At the last date there suddenly arose a large number of witnesses among his followers. Many of these he questioned with Baconian skill, the result being a confirmation of his theories on various points.
Wesley’s perfection of love is not perfection of degree, but of kind. Pure love is perfect love. The gradual growth toward perfect purity of love is beautifully expressed in Monod’s hymn,
"O the bitter shame and sorrow!"
The first response to the Saviour’s call is,
"All of self, and none of Thee."
But after a view of Christ on the cross. the answer is faintly,
"Some of self, and some of Thee."
Then, after a period of growing love, the cry is,
"Less of self, and more of Thee."
After another period, the final cry is,
"None of self, and all of Thee!"
aspiration for pure love, without any selfishness.
The attainment of this grace is certified by the total cessation of all Servile fear (1
2. Objections Answered:
(1) Paul, in
(a) in 3:15, he declares that he is perfect;
(b) "made perfect" is a term, borrowed from the ancient games, signifying a finished course. This is one of the meanings of teleioo, as seen also in
(2) Paul says (
(a) If this includes Christians, it contradicts John himself in the very next verse, and in 3:9, sin," "Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no and
(b) Bishop Westcott says that the expression, "to have sin," is distinguished from "to sin," as the sinful principle is distinguished from the sinful act in itself. It includes the idea of personal guilt. Westcott asserts that John refers to the Gnostics, who taught that moral evil exists only in matter, and never touches spirit, which is always holy; and, therefore, though guilty of all manner of vice, their spirits had no need of atonement, because they were untouched by sin, which existed only in their bodies, as it does in all matter. When told that this made the body of Christ sinful, they denied the reality of His body, saying that it was only a phantom. Hence, in the very first verse of this Epistle, John writes evidently against the Gnostic error, quoting three of the five senses to prove the reality of Chrtst’s humanity. (By all means, see "," Cambridge Bible for Schools, etc., 17-21.)
3. Required for the Highest Success of the Preacher:
The relation of this doctrine to the Methodist Episcopal church in the United States is seen in the following questions, which have been affirmatively answered in public by all its preachers on their admission to the Conferences: "Are you going on to perfection?"; "Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?"; "Are you earnestly striving after it?" The hymns of the Wesleys, still universally sung, are filled with this doctrine, in which occur such expressions as:
"Take away our bent to sinning," ....
"Let us find that second rest," ....
"Make and keep me pure within," ....
"’Tis done! Thou dost this moment save,
With full salvation bless." ....
5. Its Glorious Results:
To the preaching of Christian perfection Wesley ascribed the success of his work in the conversion, religious training and intellectual education of the masses of Great Britain. It furnished him a multitude of consecrated workers, many of them lay preachers, who labored in nearly every hamlet, and who carried the gospel into all the British colonies, including America. It is declared by secular historians that this great evangelical movement, in which the doctrine of entire sanctification was so prominent, saved England from a disastrous revolution, like that which drenched France with the blood of its royal family and its nobility, in the last decade of the 18th century. It is certain that the great Christian and humanitarian work of, originally a Methodist, was inspired by this doctrine which he constantly preached. This enabled his followers in the early years of the to endure the persecutions which befell them at that time.
6. Wesley’s Personal Testimony:
On March 6, 1760, Wesley enters in his Journal the following testimony of one Elizabeth Longmore: "`I felt my soul was all love. I was so stayed on God as I never felt before, and knew that I loved Him with all my heart. .... And the witness that God had saved me from all my sins grew clearer every hour. .... I have never since found my heart wander from God.’ Now this is what I always did, and do now, mean by perfection. And this I believe many have attained, on the same evidence that I believe many are justified."
We have Wesley’s only recorded testimony to his own justification in these words (May 24, 1738): "I felt my heart strangely warmed .... and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins," etc.