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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Sanctification

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The meaning of ἁγιασμός in the NT is in conflict with its etymological form. The word (as also the verb ἁγιάζω) etymologically suggests a process, a gradual advance in moral attainment, an ethical emphasis. In the NT generally, however, the word expresses a state, a position of religious attainment, a religious emphasis. To ‘sanctify’ is to ‘make holy,’ and the word ‘holy’ essentially implies a certain relationship to God (see articles Saint, Holiness). Perfection of moral character is a derivative but necessary result of holiness, and not, strictly speaking, holiness itself. The ‘saint’ develops a certain type of character in accordance with certain inward moral demands that are essential to the preservation of the ‘holy’ relation to God. In the NT this God is the God and Father of Jesus Christ. ἅγιος being ‘that which belongs to God,’ ‘sanctify’ means ‘to make to belong to God,’ ‘to dedicate’ to God. The precise kind of relationship between God and the object ‘sanctified’ is determined by the nature and situation of the object. Thus in Hebrews, where the religious problem is focused in the question of providing a valid worship for those debarred from the Temple services, the ‘people’ are ‘sanctified’ through the blood of Christ, and thereby enabled to become a ‘worshipping’ people, standing in the relation of ‘worshippers’ to God, inasmuch as the sacrifice of Jesus was offered ‘outside the gate,’ i.e. outside the sacred enclosure of the Holy City (Hebrews 13:12). On the other hand, the barrier to the holy relationship may be a moral one, as in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. It is the removal of this barrier of guilt, or alienation from God, through the death of Jesus, that is emphasized in the striking words, καὶ ταῦτά τινες ἧτε ἀλλὰ ἀπελούσασθε, ἀλλὰ ἡγιάσθητε, ἀλλὰ ἐδικαιώθητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν. ἀπελούσασθε refers to Christian baptism, as implying penitence and faith on the part of the worshipper. The conjunction of ἡγιάσθητε and ἐδικαιώθητε, and above all the order in which they are mentioned, show that in Christian experience no real distinction in time can be drawn between justification and sanctification (cf. Hebrews 10:10, where ἡγιασμένοι clearly has affinity with Pauline justification). When the NT-St. Paul in particular-speaks of justification and sanctification, it really speaks of justified and sanctified men and women, and has little concern with the theological abstraction. Justification and sanctification are both ‘works of God’s free grace’ (Shorter Catechism, 1648). In both, God is the determining agent. The man who is ‘justified’ knows that God is not an enemy, but a friend. The ‘sanctified’ man knows also that he is now in a new relationship to God as son or child, and that in answer to the pardoning grace in justification a certain subjective attitude on his part must bring forth fruit in moral life. He must walk worthily of his vocation or standing before God. A good analogy with sanctification is patriotism, which is a social and political condition of individual life, in whose creation the individual has, strictly speaking, no part; which also carries with it certain practical duties that can be refused only at the cost of disloyalty to the State. Thus we are called on to ‘render unto God the things that are God’s,’ as to ‘Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.’ In other words, just as we are born members of a certain family, and citizens of a particular State, so as Christians we are ‘born again’ in Christian baptism into an obedience to the rule or Kingdom of God, and a responsibility for all the corresponding social duties that ought to be maintained as between man and man. The Christian is ‘a new creation in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). He lives in a new world, where there stands out sharply a distinction between things permanent and things transient, things seen and things unseen; where a new moral valuation is at work; where the humblest and most despised individual claims a new, loving interest as one for whom Christ died. In the experience of ‘conversion’ or ‘regeneration,’ symbolized in Christian baptism, lies the root-idea of sanctification. The ‘saint’ belongs to God, and therefore thinks of things and men as God thinks of them. The determining agent in sanctification everywhere, both in experience and in the conduct that follows from it, is God, as revealed in the Cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is quite true that, as we shall see later, sanctification is not incompatible with moral effort and daily renewal; indeed it implies them (2 Corinthians 4:10, Colossians 3:9 f., Ephesians 4:22 ff.). Yet in the act of sanctification, God has already exerted all His power, and the development of the Christian character is but the development of power already present in the individual ‘saint.’ God gives man a part in His own holiness, taking him out of the sphere of ungodliness, ‘the authority of darkness,’ and translating him into the sphere of His own purity, ‘the kingdom of the son of his love’ (Colossians 1:13).

For the sake of convenience, the NT doctrine of sanctification may be treated under two aspects: (1) sanctification as a correlate of justification; (2) sanctification and the Christian ethic. It is to be noted that these are but two aspects of the doctrine. Essentially, and especially in the minds of the NT writers, they are the same. Neither the question of a non-ethical religion nor that of a non-religious ethic would have entered into the minds of NT writers, save to be set aside. Reconciliation to God and love to men, which constitute the perfected experience of sanctification, in the two directions of religion and practical conduct, are both regarded as issuing from the same source, viz. the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, and the human response to it of faith which worketh by love (διʼ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη, Galatians 5:6). Sanctification on the human side is faith at work.

1. Sanctification as a correlate of justification.-Faith is a judgment of the whole personality that God means what He said and did in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is justification in the Pauline sense. Faith is also unswerving daily fidelity to such a judgment, to believe that God equally means us to become what we are when He raised Jesus from the dead. This ‘is the will of God, even your sanctification’ (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Justified by faith, we have peace with God. Our life is to be lived in the sphere of this gracious act of God; we are reconciled to God through the death of His Son, and, being reconciled, are saved by the life of Christ (Romans 5:11). Too much stress cannot be laid on the fact that in the NT doctrines both of justification and of sanctification the relationship is between living persons, and not between moral forces that germinate in a dead past. The Christian message is a gospel from a living Christ to living men. It requires to be daily uttered, and daily received.

The experience of guilt enters into the conception both of sanctification and of justification. Justification includes the idea of the willingness of God to remove it, and of its actual removal in an objective sense. It is the faith that God has, at infinite cost to Himself, taken back His erring child to His heart. There is always, however, a certain barrier to a complete response to this gracious act of God. Justification must be experienced not only as a sense of sonship, but as an actual force at work in our lives. As such, it is sanctification. The sense of guilt is the result not only of a judgment of God, but of an answering judgment of man. Guilt may be a barrier not only to the faith that God can justify us, but also to the faith that He can effect any change in us. In the OT all sin was ultimately regarded as an offence against God (Psalms 51:4), even when it meant only failure to comply with national custom, which was practically religion, associated as it was with Divine sanction. With the enrichment of the moral sense, the increasing moralization of the idea of God, and the growth of individual responsibility which culminated in the teaching of Jesus, guilt became in the NT that condition of heart and life produced by offences, conscious or unconscious, against the love of God. It is a burden which must be removed, a barrier to be broken down, if sanctification is to be realized in the individual experience, and man is to be at peace with God. All the NT writers are agreed in this, that they attribute the removal of guilt to the atoning death of Jesus, who is our ‘sanctification’ (1 Corinthians 1:30). They are agreed that the agent in sanctification is the Holy Spirit, but present certain differences in their application and statement of the doctrine.

(1) The Epistle to the Hebrews.-We may take the writer of this Epistle first, as his forms of thought have a closer connexion with the OT than either the Pauline or the Johannine. In Hebrews the ideas of purification, sanctification, and perfection (τελείωσις) are in close affinity to one another. Through the death of Christ the worshipper has the individual experiences of forgiveness, freedom from guilt, purification of conscience. Thus the ‘new and living way’ to God is open, and the believer’s will is bound to serve the living God (Hebrews 10:22). While St. Paul develops his doctrine of sanctification in opposition on the one hand to antinomian teaching, and on the other to Jewish legalism, the doctrine of Hebrews is rather developed in opposition to a ritualistic spirit of dependence on the ancient rites of cleansing from sin. His readers have difficulty in emancipating themselves, in their condition of excommunication, from the local and ceremonial associations of the ancient worship which mingled with their former religious habits. It is the business of this writer to exhibit the ineffectiveness of the ancient sacrifices to take away sin. His God is ‘a consuming fire’ (Hebrews 12:29); the word of God is ‘sharper than any two-edged sword,’ penetrating to the inmost recesses of the human conscience (Hebrews 4:12). Such a far-reaching and comprehensive burden of guilt can be removed only through a perfect sacrifice, the sacrifice of Him who is both priest and victim. His death is the new and living way. He is the great High Priest who alone has passed ‘through the heavens,’ the tractless regions that intervene between man and God. He and His worshippers are united, through their faith, in the bond of perfect human sympathy. He sanctifies them, and presents them to God. The sanctifier and the sanctified are sons of the one Father (Hebrews 2:11). The sacrifice of Jesus, therefore, in virtue of this essential unity, realized in the Incarnation, is effective for the purification of the human conscience, and in making men fit to stand in the presence of the Holy God. How the sacrifice of Jesus is thus effective does not enter into the mind of the writer. He simply applies the principle, accepted and experienced in the case of the OT sacrifices, to the death of Christ. For him, as for St. Paul, Jesus is alive in this particular relationship, in the midst of His Church, leader of their praise, prototype of their faith, united to them by ties of flesh and blood. According to the demands of the Old Covenant, the relationship with God implied in ‘holiness’ was restored by the blood of bulls and goats, but the demands of the New Covenant are infinitely more exacting. The sphere in which the new relationship of sanctity is realized is no longer the earthly tabernacle or temple, but a sphere in which the worship is spiritual, and the relationship real. The OT worship took place amid the ‘patterns’ of heavenly things. The NT worshipper is introduced to the ‘heavenly things themselves’ (Hebrews 9:23 ff.). The Incarnate Son, by His eternal sacrifice, has lifted humanity into the very presence of God Himself; and in the white light of that environment, with all its moral demands, the Christian life must be lived. The thought is nearly akin to John 4:24. We must pursue this holiness or sanctification (ἁγιασμός), without which no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). These words indicate the direct passage of the writer’s thought from the religious to the ethical, which will be dealt with later.

(2) The Pauline writings.-The doctrine of sanctification in St. Paul represents a somewhat earlier stage in apostolic thought. Both in St. Paul and in Hebrews the death of Jesus is that which establishes the new relationship between God and man (Ephesians 2:13-14). The unsanctified man is in a state of enmity towards God, and sanctification means peace with God. The mind of St. Paul always tends to isolate the Cross as an act of redemption. Both Hebrews and St. Paul teach that God sent His pre-existent Son in the flesh (Romans 8:3, Hebrews 10:5), but in St. Paul the Incarnation took place in order that on the Cross a curse might be pronounced upon sin. In both, Jesus is our representative, but in St. Paul He is regarded as dying the death that we deserved to die. Sin exhausted its power in His crucifixion, and was set aside as a beaten enemy in the supreme demonstration of the power of God in the resurrection of Jesus. God ‘highly exalted’ Him, and raised Him to His right hand. The epithet ‘Lord’ (κύριος) is Paul’s most characteristic description of the Risen Jesus. It carries with it the notion of authority rather than of sympathy, although the latter is by no means absent. The barrier of guilt is constituted for Paul by inability to keep the law of God, understood as a moral demand quite as penetrating and comprehensive as in Hebrews. This moral inability presupposes a certain ‘law’ warring in his members against the ‘law’ of God. If we substitute ‘authority’ for ‘law’ in St. Paul, much of the difficulty constituted by his apparently ambiguous use of the term νόμος disappears. Through the death of Jesus Paul is delivered from the ‘authority’ of sin, which is broken, and is made subject to the ‘constraint’ or ‘authority’ of the love of God manifested in Jesus Christ, the Κύριος. The acceptance by faith of this ‘authority’ of Jesus Christ, in response to His grace and love, is the condition of being ‘in Christ,’ which is the characteristic Pauline phrase for the state of sanctification. It is a relationship to God of ‘sonship,’ of perfect freedom. ‘The authority of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the authority of sin and of death’ (Romans 8:2). The Spirit that sanctifies is shed abroad in our hearts, and we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ This authority that so speaks in Jesus Christ is the authority and the power of the Creator. Even Nature shall yet be on our side. Romans 8:19 ff is not mere poetry. It is the utterance of a heart that looks out on a world both of men and of things that is in its misery far from God, and can yet see in it all the birth-pangs of a new creation (Romans 8:20-21). Amid the worst that men or things can accomplish, it is impossible to annul God’s loving choice of the believer in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39).

(3) The Johannine writings.-Much of the relevant matter in this connexion falls more properly to be treated under the article Holy Spirit. Here, however, it may be pointed out that the Johannine conception of sanctification has a strong affinity with the thought of Hebrews. In John 10:36 Jesus in His earthly life is said to be sanctified by the Father, i.e. set apart for the holy purpose of the redemption of men, and in John 17:19 Jesus sanctifies Himself in death for the sake of His disciples, who are also ‘sanctified in the truth’ by virtue of their abiding ‘in Him.’ As in Hebrews, the unity of Jesus and His disciples (not His immediate followers only) is a corollary of the Incarnation, but the bond is not conceived of in terms of human sympathy so much as in a certain semi-physical sense, due no doubt to the atmosphere of Hellenistic thought that surrounds the Johannine writings. The self-sanctification or consecration of Jesus, however, in John 17:19 is the same as in Hebrews 10:10. He is both Priest and Victim. In the OT when God ‘sanctifies’ Himself or His ‘great name’ (Ezekiel 36:23) it is equivalent to a display of His saving power on behalf of Israel as against their enemies. In Johannine thought the Cross is the supreme manifestation not only of Divine love, but of Divine power (John 12:31-32). The Risen and Crucified Jesus ‘draws all men unto himself.’ This is really the same as to ‘sanctify’ them. In accordance also with Johannine thought, sometimes the Spirit, the alter ego of Jesus, sometimes the Glorified Jesus, is the sanctifying agent. In experience both are the same; Jesus is our Life. Believers abide in Him. They carry within them a χρίσμα (1 John 2:20) or σπέρμα (1 John 3:9). What in St. Paul is called ‘adoption’ corresponds in St. John to ‘sanctification’ (1 John 3:1). The work of the Spirit is to beget ‘sons (τέκνα) of God.’

2. Sanctification and the Christian ethic.-It is extremely important that the NT teaching on the previous aspect of sanctification should be emphasized, in order that the inalienable connexion between the Christian religion and Christian morality should be preserved. In other words, the NT teaches everywhere that what a man believes has an all-determining effect on what he is and what he does. Every act of faith is in the NT an ethical force. The passages which contain ethical precepts (including the Sermon on the Mount) cannot be understood apart from the doctrinal teaching. All is ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν. ‘This is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith’ (1 John 5:4).

Is there, then, such a thing as progressive sanctification? Strictly speaking, the word ἁγιασμός, as we have seen, contains no such idea. It expresses a state of holiness, not a process of becoming holy. Any other interpretation would negative the NT idea of holiness itself. The primitive idea of holiness, indeed, still persists. The NT has deepened and moralized it, but has rejected decisively one aspect of it, viz. that there can be degrees or grades of holiness from the Divine point of view. The savage may take liberties with a certain tree or other natural object, and finds to his cost that he has unwittingly violated a holy place. He has interfered with the property of the god, and is taught by the consequences that a certain attitude and conduct are necessary if he is to continue to live in safety and security. The god has decreed, ‘Certain things are mine,’ and there are degrees by which one thing, place, or person is holier than another, with corresponding grades of penalties. In the NT things and places are seldom called holy except in a traditional sense. Only persons are holy, and no man has the right to say to another, ‘Stand thou on one side, for I am holier than thou.’ An equal degree of guilt belongs to every violation of what is God’s. ‘If any man destroyeth the temple of God, him shall God destroy … which temple ye are’ (1 Corinthians 3:17). On the one hand, through the influence of the prophets, first the nation and then the individual (as in Jeremiah) are regarded as ‘holy’ in the eyes of Jahweh, who, unlike other gods, has more than a mere proprietary interest in ‘His own.’ On the other hand, through the influence of the priestly caste, Jahweh’s service became more and more a matter of correct ritual and observance of certain rules, and the result is a Holy God afar off whose name dare not be mentioned, and who lives in a state of moral neutrality. The incarnation of Jesus Christ realized in perfection the prophetic teaching, and for ever made men aware that God is the Father, whose holiness is also love, and who reasserts His claim on each individual soul by an act of redemption. ‘We are bought with a price.’ NT ‘holiness’ is therefore a state of belonging to God, which depends not on a mere Divine fiat, but upon an act of salvation at the greatest possible cost to the Father. What God has once hallowed is always holy. We are holy by Divine choice, and there can be no degrees either in the Divine offer or in the human acceptance of salvation.

This condition, therefore, of absolute holiness demands on our part both faith and conduct. A certain ‘walk’ is demanded of us, if we are to maintain and affirm the new friendship with God. ‘Our citizenship is in heaven’ (Philippians 3:20), or, as Moffatt translates it, ‘we are a colony of heaven’ (The NT: a New Translation3, London, 1914), with all the obligations of loyalty and sacrifice that the mother-country lays upon us. In the NT the mother-country is just the Father’s heart and the Father’s presence. Our moral progress is not a growth into holiness out of a state of comparative unholiness. That would be to negative the Christian gospel. Rather it is a growth in holiness. The act that makes us holy is done once and for all.

On the ethical side, sanctification reveals itself chiefly as the basis of moral freedom. Freedom, creativeness, originality are the marks of the moral teaching of Jesus, and they are the marks of all true imitatio Christi. The Japanese artist, Yoshio Markino, has the following sentences: ‘Don’t imitate my article Don’t watch my hand or brush. Only feel what I am feeling. Communicate your spirits to the nature and find out everything yourselves. Judge your art with your own eyes, and judge your music with your ears’ (When I was a Child, London, 1912, p. 253). The expression is at times quaint, but the words are not only true in art, but supremely true of Christian ethics. Growth in holiness in the NT sense is to be free from all merely legal compulsion and to know only one constraint, the love of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14 ff.). We live no longer unto ourselves, or under the Law, but unto Him who for our sakes died and rose again. We have not even yet fully realized the extraordinary daring of the conception of Christian freedom developed by St. Paul, largely as the result of his own experience of a legalistic morality. There is not a word in the recorded teaching of Jesus that can be construed into the position that the Mosaic Law was temporary. Yet this may be said to be the pivot of St. Paul’s whole position. The liberty where-with Christ has made us free is not only a religious but an ethical liberty, not merely the removal of guilt but the setting free of the will. Only one who knew what sanctification is could have been bold enough to preach it. It is neither more nor less than the doctrine that all legal statutes are out of place in the Christian life. Our norm is neither the teaching nor the example of Jesus by themselves, but the experience of His work, and of His risen life. We have as much right to examine the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount under the illumination of the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier as any of the ethical passages in St. Paul or St. John. The extent of our obedience to them is determined not by the statutory form of the precepts themselves, but by communion with the living mind of Him who uttered them. Nor is this illumination a mere isolated inner light. It springs from the communion of ‘saints,’ a word always used in the plural in the NT (see article Saint). Christ in us, and dwelling in His Church by His Holy Spirit, has a right to be His own commentator and interpreter. To the sanctified man, who understands that the God who will not let him go is Love and Holiness and Justice, either precepts or principles by themselves, no matter from what source, are as flowers broken off at the root. ‘Precepts wither if they are alone,’ says even Seneca (Ep. xcv. 59).

This is dangerous doctrine, but all great doctrines are dangerous. Freewill, by the teaching of Scripture itself, was a very dangerous experiment. It is not surprising that St. Paul’s principle of freedom should not only have occasioned abuse, but also excited grave doubts in the minds of those who were morally in earnest. The existence of abuse is suggested in the question, ‘Shall we sin that grace may abound?’; but, in the fact that the question is a quotation, it is equally suggested that he had to develop his doctrine of sanctification, as he does in Romans 6, also in opposition to those who were seriously concerned about the interests of morality. It is impossible to escape the feeling that the return of the Galatians to the observance of days, months, seasons, years, and to the moral precepts involved in it, was really for safety, and as a result of moral earnestness. They might have said, equally with Festus, ‘Paul, thou art mad.’

If, then, the Pauline doctrine of sanctification is developed in opposition both to the morally lax and to the morally earnest, it is of deep interest to note the lines of his answer. It is typical of the NT ethic generally. He deals with the subject more than once-Romans 6 is perhaps the fullest answer he gives.

(1) He refuses to think in terms of abstractions or mere forces. His opponents were talking of ‘sin’ and ‘grace’ as though they were impersonal principles. To him, ‘sin’ is a personal power, the arch-demon; ‘grace’ is the grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He reminds them that they are baptized ‘into Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:3); with Him they died, and with Him they rise again. ‘If we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him’ (Romans 6:8). ‘Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11). In short, the ethical motive is an enriched and reinforced form of noblesse oblige. The noblesse is not only a state of ennoblement that carries with it duties, but One to whom we stand in deepest indebtedness for pardon and life, in whose fellowship we are raised to high rank and high responsibility. We sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus. Sin against grace is now the sin of those who have been adopted into the family of God. Our motive is a sense not only of honour, but above all of gratitude. The old bad habit of obedience to sin persists, but not in that direction urges our loyalty. Sanctification means the growth of grateful loyalty to Christ. We die to sin, and live to Christ. Forgiveness is needed and sought for unwilling obedience to an evil power that has now no dominion or authority over us. And at this point we may glance at the attitude of St. Paul to the Law. At one moment he seems utterly to depreciate it, at another he says that the Law is good, and holy, and righteous. It is an illustration of his idea of progress in sanctification. Obedience to law is good for those to whom God says only ‘Thou shalt’ or ‘Thou shalt not’; for ‘law’ to St. Paul is not what we would understand by ‘natural’ or ‘spiritual order’ of things. He can speak of the law of sin and the law of death, as well as of the law of God. ‘Law’ is God speaking in an authoritative voice, and while his use of it is not confined to the Mosaic Law, yet he regards the Mosaic Law as the most definite embodiment of the Divine authority. For the Christian, for those that are ‘sanctified,’ the ‘law’ of sin and death is done away altogether, and obedience to the law of God is merged in a higher and nobler loyalty to the God and Father of Jesus Christ, and above all in a sense of supreme indebtedness. We are ‘servants’ of God, but our reward cannot be called ‘wages.’ It is a ‘free gift’ (Romans 6:23). The progress is in the idea of God.

(2) St. Paul everywhere recognizes the need of strenuous moral effort on our part. In this regard, he is not alone among the NT writers. We find it equally in the Epistle to the Hebrews: ‘Follow (pursue) peace with all men, and holiness (ἁγιασμός), without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14). ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling’ (Philippians 2:12). In what does the effort primarily consist? It is in what might be called a persistent daily reaffirmation of the act of consecration: ‘Present your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification’ (Romans 6:19). Here again we shall misunderstand the meaning of εἰς ἁγιασμόν unless we remember that St. Paul is not really expressing his thought in abstract nouns like ‘righteousness,’ ‘sanctification.’ These are really personifications, like ‘sin’ or ‘lawlessness.’ ‘Sanctification’ here is really the timeless act of God, which is gradually realized in time. There is a moment, as we shall see later, when we are ‘wholly’ sanctified, when God has been able to work His complete will in us, and to this end (εἰς ἁγιασμόν) we must co-operate by renewed acts of consecration. The ritualistic idea is still in the background. In the OT, as the idea of sacrifice became spiritualized, ‘the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,’ and in the NT God is satisfied with no less than a constant and persistent offering of the whole personality-the σῶμα including the life-principle. ‘Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service’ (λογικὴ λατρεία, Romans 12:1; cf. R. Reitzenstein, Die hellenistischen Mysterienreligionen, Berlin, 1910, pp. 24, 91, 155).

Human co-operation, then, in the work of sanctification is strongly emphasized, if ‘the fruits of the Spirit’ are to be brought forth in human character. It is no doubt to St. Paul that we first owe the idea that the Holy Spirit is the factor not only in the Christian as a member of the community (a saint among saints), but in the individual Christian in his daily thought and life. We are exhorted to ‘walk by the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16). It has often been shown that St. Paul rescued the conception of ‘spiritual gifts’ as confined to extraordinary manifestations such as took place at Pentecost, or are associated with ordinary meetings for worship in the Apostolic Church, and enabled these gifts to include the ethical requirements of daily life (1 Corinthians 12-14). 1 Corinthians 13 is not merely a song in praise of love; it is a landmark in the history of the Christian ethic. The Spirit is a gift not only of emotion, but of motion, and furnishes the driving power for the ministry which includes all other ministries, the ministry of love. It is, in Bengel’s phrase, ‘via maxime vialis,’ a way that all may tread, in which even men incapable by temperament of great emotional disturbance may walk secure (cf. Denney, The Way Everlasting, London, 1911, p. 152 ff.). ‘It shall be called The way of holiness; … the way-faring men, yea fools, shall not err therein’ (Isaiah 35:8).

This ethical reference of the work of the Spirit is emphasized equally in nearly all the NT writers. We need mention only passages like Hebrews 12:10, where suffering is regarded as a Divine discipline, and intended to issue in participation in the Divine holiness: 1 Peter 1:15 f., ‘Ye shall be holy; for I am holy’; 2 Peter 1:4 ff.; and especially v. 9, where ethical failure is said to be due to ‘short-sightedness,’ imperfect vision of the ‘cleansing from old sins.’ In Revelation 22:11, ὁ ἅγιος ἁγιασθήτω ἔτι should probably be translated ‘Let the saint still act as a saint’ on the analogy of the preceding clauses.

(3) In the NT sanctification is not equivalent to moral perfection. ‘Holy and blameless’ (ἄμωμος) is an expression St. Paul uses elsewhere (Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 5:27, Colossians 1:22). He also speaks in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 of his readers being ‘sanctified wholly.’ It is evident that ‘blamelessness’ is not regarded as equivalent to holiness, and it is also noticeable that in the Thessalonians passage this condition of complete sanctification ensues at the Parousia (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:13). No doubt the controversy as to ‘progressive sanctification’ would have seemed to St. Paul unreal. We fall into the habit, of necessity, of drawing distinctions which never occurred to the NT writers. It is easily seen that there was no real place for the idea of moral progress in our sense of the word, so long as the Parousia was regarded as imminent. There can be little doubt, however, that the end became for him less near as time went on, and the idea of sanctification became more and more associated with moral progress, as a fruit of the Spirit’s continuous working. The Risen Christ, whom one day he hopes to see face to face, manifests Himself more and more as a present spiritual power in the man himself. The mind removes Him to a farther distance, but the heart draws Him nearer. ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:27) breathes the sense of moral imperfection, and at the same time the sense that ‘Christ … carries the man who clings to Him in faith through all the great crises which came to Him, on the path of His perfecting’ (H. A. A. Kennedy, Expositor’s Greek Testament , ‘Philippians,’ London, 1903, p. 455b. See also the exposition of Philippians 3:8 ff by R. Rainy, Expositor’s Bible, ‘Philippians,’ 1893, pp. 199-256). More and more, as St. Paul’s experience deepens, the work of the Spirit in sanctification is identified with the work of the Risen Christ. The sense of present fellowship with Him becomes more real, and has its corresponding ethical effect. ‘Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). There are certain exegetical difficulties connected with this passage which cannot be dealt with here. The Authorized Version rendering ‘beholding as in a mirror’ has been adopted, as best suiting the thought. ‘Glory’ is just that type of character and life which is fully manifested in Jesus, risen and reigning, and St. Paul’s present communion with the Saviour is the source of a daily moral progress. The thought is much the same as in 1 John 3:1-3. This cannot fairly, either in St. John or in St. Paul, be called mysticism. The ‘beholding’ is not immediate, but ‘as in a mirror,’ which, however obscure as an image, at least indicates a medium of communion, probably the Christian Church; and St. John speaks of a ‘hope’ which purifies, and of a moment yet to be realized when ‘we shall see him as he is.’ The Hellenic idea of metamorphosis is clearly present, but to what extent it colours St. Paul’s thought is disputable. The idea that the risen body of Jesus is a kind of semi-physical light substance which mingles with ours in this communion is certainly not present in Paul’s thought, notwithstanding that he may have robbed Hellenic mysticism of a word (μεταμορφούμεθα; cf. P. Kölbing, Die geistige Einwirkung der Person Jesu auf Paulus, Göttingen, 1906, p. 104 f.). The conception is, in any case, that progress is from within outwards (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23), and the forces that prevent the influx of the new life are broken and overcome one by one (Romans 8:13, 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:1, 2 Corinthians 9:10; 2Co_10:15, Philippians 1:9; Philippians 1:25, Colossians 1:10-11).

Literature.-Besides the works mentioned in the art see Literature under Saint; J. Denney, Expositor’s Greek Testament , ‘Romans,’ London, 1900 (esp. chs. 6-8); Sanday-Headlam, International Critical Commentary , ‘Romans’5, Edinburgh, 1902; J. A. Beet, Holiness, London, 1880; see also J. Vernon Bartlet, article ‘Sanctification,’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , and the Literature there appended.

R. H. Strachan.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Sanctification'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/s/sanctification.html. 1906-1918.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, August 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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