What is the doctrine of sanctification?
God makes many things holy. That is, God sets apart a variety of times, and places, objects, and activities.
Typically though, when we speak of the doctrine of sanctification, we're honing in on the fact that God sets apart men and women, human creatures, those who are made good by God, those who've fallen into sin, and those who are now remade and given again holiness as a gift by Jesus Christ.
When we speak of sanctification then, we're not primarily speaking of something to which we're called. We're not predominantly speaking of something which we do. Instead, we're speaking of an action of God, of a way in which the triune God, by Word and Spirit, intervenes, and engages, and acts for our good, that God steps into the breach and condescends into our very situation of plight, and suffering, and death, and sin—and he does so decisively.
He changes us.
He cleanses us from our sins and their guilt. He devotes us or sets us apart unto him and his purposes. He acts to change us.
Of course, as we read Scripture, we learn that we had long before been commanded to be set apart. We had long before been commanded to avoid sin and to devote ourselves to the Lord. The prophets will point out that this was never followed through on. We don't intuitively or naturally behave that way in any consistent fashion.
So, God has to offer not merely command, but promise—good gospel news—that he will step into the breach, that he will intervene, that he won't leave us to our sinful selves, but he will act decisively, so as to change and transform us.
This he does in the work of Jesus Christ.
Jesus not only is a substitute Jesus, not only is a sacrifice, but Jesus is one who pastors us, who heals us, who transforms and changes us by his indwelling Holy Spirit, by his word that comes to us, by the means of grace experienced amongst his body. He doesn't leave us alone, but now in his risen and exalted state, he continues to grace us, not merely that we'd be right, not merely that we'd be innocent, not merely that we'd be free from condemnation, but that we'd be renewed, that we'd be restored, that we'd be fully devoted to the ways of our Lord, that we'd be fully intent on his glory, not our own, that we would be fully aiming at the pursuit of his will and his kingdom, not our own.
Sanctification does involve duty and action. It does bring about real responsibility and human engagement.
But that always comes second, because at first and foremost, speaks of God's gospel work to make us holy again in Jesus Christ.
To learn more, see Michael Allen's lectures on the doctrine of sanctification. Click here to watch the first lecture FREE.
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