More Than Forgiveness… Change
The Difference Between Instantaneous And Progressive Sanctification
We cannot speak of sanctification without first identifying the precious blood of Jesus Christ as the sole agent through which sanctification is made possible. To fully grasp the unfathomable love flowing from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not humanly possible. We stand in awe, utterly amazed that we were granted access to the Savior’s life-giving blood for which we are completely undeserving. This precious and priceless blood has provided for us a new life and fellowship with the living God. Without the blood of Jesus we would have no way of escaping our sinful corruption that is worthy of eternal damnation (Heb 2:3).
The English words “sanctify” and “sanctification” are translated from the Greek words “hagiazō” and “hagiasmos,” respectively. Sanctification is the supernatural work of God that separates one from their sins while simultaneously dedicating one unto God. It is by and through the blood of Jesus that we are supernaturally washed, cleansed, and purified from all sin—sanctified. Sanctification is God’s work accomplished through the Holy Spirit. It takes place at conversion when we are born again. When we repent, all sin is instantly removed from our lives and we become God’s exclusive property, (1 Cor. 6:11, 19-20). We are washed clean and purified in the blood of Jesus. This is called instantaneous or positional sanctification.
Many of our older hymns proclaim the power of Jesus blood to cleanse our sin:
- Nothing But The Blood Of Jesus
- There Is Power In The Blood
- Oh The Blood Of Jesus
- Are You Washed In the Blood
- There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood
The need for sanctification and the impossible work it accomplishes can be understood in the following analogies.
The Egg And Yolk: Prior to scrambling an egg, the egg white and yolk are together but unscrambled. Anyone can easily separate the egg white from the yolk. However, once they are scrambled and cooked, it becomes impossible to separate the egg white from the yolk.
The Yeast And Dough: In a similar way the Bible analogizes yeast and dough, where the yeast (a single cell fungi that multiplies and reproduces) is mixed into the dough to make the dough rise as it ferments and is baked. The yeast (leaven) represents sin mixing into our lives. It only takes a little yeast (sin) to affect the entire lump of dough, (Gal. 5:9).
Before being born again our lives are a scrambled mess. We are infected with the yeast of sin. Sin is so ingrained in our hearts, souls and minds that we are truly incapable of separating ourselves from its contaminating and deadly presence—we are sinners through and through.
We understand that it is not humanly possible to remove the yeast from the baked bread or unscramble the egg white from the yolk. In a similar way it is not humanly possible for anyone to separate themselves from their sin. However, what is not humanly possible among mere mortals is spiritually and supernaturally possible through the blood of Jesus. In the invisible realm of spiritual realities the Holy Spirit washes us clean from all sin and separates us from our sin. We are cleansed to perfection, sin free or sanctified from all sin. The debilitating effects of sin clouding our vision and mind is removed. Even our conscience is cleansed from sin’s guilt (Heb. 10:22). This is why we sing this timeless truth:
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. (Robert Lowry 1876)
The supernatural freedom from sin brings about a new heart and mind created in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit, (2 Cor. 5:17). We are now sanctified from sin and dedicated to God, but there is more to understand about sanctification. We have only addressed the spiritual realm, there is a practical realm of spirituality that must be understood by every child of God.
Sanctification is more than a onetime event. Sanctification is also a progressive process involving the participation of a believer. In the Assemblies of God’s Statement of Fundamental Truths we read:
Sanctification is an act of separation from that which is evil, and of dedication unto God (Romans 12:1,2; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:12). Scriptures teach a life of “holiness without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). By the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to obey the command: “Be ye holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15,16).
Sanctification is realized in the believer by recognizing his identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, and by faith reckoning daily upon the fact of that union, and by offering every faculty continually to the dominion of the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:1-11,13; 8:1,2,13; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 2:12,13; 1 Peter 1:5).
Sanctification is more than an event, it is a continual process that governs our relationship with God. Choosing to sanctify (separate) ourselves from practicing sin is a spiritual commitment that every believer must make. The command, “Be ye holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16) must not be ignored by the believer. To be holy (Gr. “hagios”) means to live a pure, blameless and consecrated life. Without holy living we will never see God, (Heb. 12:14).
In Ephesians 4:17-32 we are instructed to “put off your old self” with its corrupt desires and behaviors and instead “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” This “new self” is the “born again” you that is alive on the inside and desires to be like God in “righteousness and holiness.” Holy living involves the separation and abandonment of all thoughts attitudes and practices that God declares wrong. This is what we call progressive sanctification.
God desires more from us and for us than a belief or experience. He is not a past event we reflect upon from time-to-time when our lives are troubled. God is all about a daily relationship. His desire is that we grow in His grace, knowledge and wisdom. That we learn of Him to the point we begin to adjust and control even our thoughts, making them obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). All this involves a conscious and deliberate desire to be like Him in every way, putting on the “new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” The process of progressive sanctification is active throughout our lives. As we grow in Christ we will soon discover that we are a work in progress and find ourselves falling short on many occasions. When this happens we must confess our sins and receive forgiveness.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
You may remember the story of Lot’s wife who was turned into a pillar of salt. As they fled the city she looked back upon her former life and home in Sodom. She lived in a place of wickedness, characterized by arrogance, gluttony, apathy, selfishness, pride and sexual perversion beyond imagination. As God’s judgment rained fire and brimstone upon the city and its reprobate inhabitants and while the angels were leading Lot’s family to safety, Lot’s wife’s heart turned back to long for the life she loved. God’s judgment immediately fell on her and she became a pillar of salt.
Lot’s wife serves as a timeless reminder that we Christians must not look back or turn back to the sinful and corrupt lives from which God rescued us. God separated (sanctified) Lot’s family from sinful Sodom unto himself. Unfortunately, Lot’s wife loved the sinful ways of Sodom she was leaving behind more than the God who was leading her out of her corrupt life.
Over the years we have witnessed many people pleading with God for forgiveness of sin, promising to turn from their lives of corruption. But these prayers, pledges and cries for forgiveness soon yielded back to the sinful ways of Sodom. Though they were sanctified by the precious blood of Jesus and tasted the gift of the Holy Spirit they refused to sanctify (separate) themselves unto the Lord and follow the Lord’s command, “Be ye holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). Consider the following:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb. 10:26-31)
Isn’t it time to turn your life over to Jesus?
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