Series 3


by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: 1 Thessalonians 4: 1-12)

The prominence given in scripture to the doctrine of sanctification emphasises its importance, and in this study we need to begin by making two things clear. First, we must understand the meaning of the word; second, we must understand how the word is used, particularly in relation to believers.



The first and the root meaning of the word sanctify (and ‘holy’ and ‘saint’, for they all come from the same words in the Hebrew and the Greek), is to set apart to and for a sacred purpose. Thus, in Leviticus 21:8 we read that, because He is unique in His person and alone qualified for the whole work of redemption, Jesus sanctified Himself. In the Old Testament we read of days, places and things being sanctified – that is, set apart for a holy and a sacred purpose – look up Genesis 2:3; Exodus 29:43; 40:10-11.

But there is a further meaning in the use of the word sanctify. Because of the presence of sin, of evil, in man and in the world, the word also, when it refers to man, means not only separation TO a sacred and holy purpose, but separation FROM that which is evil, sinful and unclean. An illustration of this in the Old Testament is found in
2 Chronicles 29:5, and in the New Testament in 2 Corinthians 7:1.

The word sanctification therefore has in it a two-fold meaning: separation FROM sin and defilement, and dedication TO God – from and to! This brings us to the place where we must consider the use of the word sanctification in relation to believers.



The two ways in which scripture uses the word in reference to every believer is: first, that every believer is already fully and eternally sanctified because of his faith in and his union with the Lord Jesus Christ – look up Hebrews 10:10 and 14; and second, that every believer is to be sanctified – look up 1 Thessalonians 4:3 (and verses 1-12). To put it another way: every believer is already positionally sanctified, and nothing can be added to or taken away from this glorious fact. As Christians, saints, we are sanctified. But, experimentally we are not fully sanctified; this is a progressive work of God in our lives which will, or should go on changing us more and more into the likeness of Christ until we see Him and are then (and only then) “conformed” to His image (Romans 8:29); and “to present you before his glorious presence without fault’ (Jude 24); “without stain or wrinkle, or any other blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).



How is this experimental and progressive sanctification brought about? It is God’s work, but what are the means He uses? To answer these questions with different scriptural terminology, turn to Philippians 2:12 and 13: God works “in” us, but we have to work “out” what He works “in”! How?

  1. (1) He sanctifies us as we deliberately cleanse ourselves from sinful and doubtful things. The ground of all cleansing is the blood of Christ – look up 1 John 1:7; but in the matter of practical and experimental cleansing (or sanctification) we are called upon to act – as illustrated in 2 Chronicles 29:5,12,15-17; 2 Corinthians 6:14,15,17 and 7:1; Colossians 3:5-10 and 2 Timothy 2:19-22.
  1. (2) He sanctifies us as we unreservedly yield ourselves to Him. Compare Romans 12:1 and Romans 6:13 – our “bodies” are made up of many “members” – see 1 Corinthians 12:12.
  2. (3) He sanctifies us as we cultivate a life of communion with God in prayer. Look up Luke 11:1; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and 2 Peter 3:18.
  3. He sanctifies us as we live in daily obedience to His Word and to His Spirit. Compare John 15:3; 17:17; Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 3:16; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Corinthians 3:18.
  4. (4) He sanctifies us as we keep short accounts with God. That is, as we confess all sin immediately we are conscious of having committed it – look up Proverbs 28:13 and 1 John 1:9.
  5. (5) He sanctifies us as we trust Him in life’s disciplines. Look up Hebrews 12:10, and compare Job 23:10; James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 1:7 and Romans 8:28-29.
  1. (6) He sanctifies us as we live in the light of His coming. Look up James 5:7-9; 2 Peter 3:11-14; 1 John 2:28 and 3:1-3.

So, believer:

  1. You are already sanctified positionally due to your union with the Lord Jesus as your Saviour Hebrews 10:10 and 14.
  2. You are to be sanctified experimentally and progressively, and this gracious transformation will take place as you give heed to the “means” mentioned above! Now read 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.

Jesus, Master, whose I am,
Purchased Thine alone to be
By Thy blood, O spotless Lamb,
Shed so willingly for me;
Let my heart be all Thine own,
Let me live to Thee alone.