THE SPIRIT OF HOLINESS; The Doctrine of the Trinity (19)


The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit and Holiness

Through Sanctification of the Spirit” 1st Thessalonians 2:13

One of the most fundamental truths that the Shorter Catechism, of the Westminster Standards, teaches us is that Sanctification differs from Justification and Adoption in that it is a work whereas the other two graces are acts. We are Justified and Adopted perfectly and completely in a moment of time whereas Sanctification is the work of a lifetime. It is also true that Justification and Adoption are also performed directly by God the Father at His bar of justice, whereas Sanctification is the direct work of the Holy Ghost. In this regard Sanctification is closely related to Regeneration. The Holy Spirit firstly regenerates the sinner, producing new life within the heart. In accomplishing this He comes and dwells within the heart. As the Indwelling Spirit He produces assurance and inspires prayer; but He is also, crucially, the Spirit of Holiness. The term sanctification means to be set apart for God. Sanctification is the ongoing process of dying unto sin and living unto righteousness, as the Shorter Catechism describes it so to be. This a continual ongoing work, an integral aspect of every Christian’s experience.

It is vital that we understand the role of the Spirit of God in Sanctification. This is first and foremost a spiritual work and is therefore a product of the Holy Ghost’s operations within the heart. The unconverted man cannot engage in sanctification because he does not possess the Holy Spirit. Therefore attempts to reform the sinner without emphasising the new birth will be bound to fail. It is equally vital for regenerate people to remember that sanctification is not a result of our works but is the work of the Spirit. People progressing in Sanctification are being changed in their hearts by the Holy Ghost into the likeness of Christ.

1: The Principle Behind Sanctification

The principle underlying sanctification is the holiness of God. It naturally follows that if our Heavenly Father is holy, then His creatures must have the principle of holiness within them. If the Holy Spirit is holy, as the 3rd Person of the Holy Trinity, then He will in turn be the author of holiness within the people of God. It would be absolutely incompatible with the nature of God for His people to continue in sin without a desire to be truly separated unto the Lord and apart from the spirit that exists in the world.

For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44-45)

While the demands of the Ceremonial Law are not binding upon the Church in this New Testament Age, the principle is the same. As God is a holy we are not to be defiled by the corruptions of this wicked world.

In 1st Peter 1:15-16 the Apostle brings this into the life and behaviour of the New Testament believer:

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1st Peter 1:15-16)

2: The Purpose in Sanctification

The God who chose us unto Eternal Life also for-ordained that we would live for Him in this wicked world. Therefore not to be engaged in this work of sanctification is to be without one of the distinct marks of the Christian, as defined by God’s purpose:

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” (Ephesians 1:4)

But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:” (2nd Thessalonians 2:13)

3: The Pictures of Sanctification

There are three New Testament pictures which assist us in understanding Sanctification and it’s process in our lives. It is significant that in each instance these pictures are arguments as to why the Christian should abstain from or repent from particular sins:

A Purifying the Bride

“Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word…” (Ephesians 5:25-26)

This picture of the Bride teaches us that Christ cleanses us, through the agency of the Spirit and the Word. Indeed the Spirit is the means that the Spirit employs in purifying us. The Christian is a person who exposes himself to the teaching of the Word which is the water cleansing our lives;

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17).

B The Household of God

“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2nd Timothy 2:20-21).

As those who are part of God’s Household we need to purge ourselves of everything that dishonours the Lord.  

C The Temple of the Holy Ghost

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (1st Corinthians 6:19-20)

This picture teaches us that Sanctification is a grace that morally affects the body. The body is indwelt by the Spirit of God, therefore, it ought not to be employed for sinful purposes; otherwise the Spirit is grieved. Likewise as the body is purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ it must be employed for the glory of God.

4: The Perfection in Sanctification

The Scriptures teach that perfectly sanctified people do not exist within the Church on earth. We are made painfully aware of the failings and inward corruptions of the people of God. The Apostle Paul is an excellent case study as his own testimony bears out:

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Romans 7:18)

A study of this passage shows us that this sense of failure and sin is part of the sanctifying influences of the Spirit as He gives the Christian a desire to deal with His sin by entering into the victory that is in Christ.

Sanctification will be complete for the body in the resurrection when we receive our glorified bodies:

That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:27)

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