As a part of our 2015 theme on FUNDAMENTALS OF FAITH, the Hickman Mills Church where I preach in Kansas City, MO, is working on reading though the Bible this year.
We’ve just finished Exodus and are moving into Leviticus. It’s easy to get bogged down in that section of Scripture. But in the midst of all of the statutes, ordinances and laws pertaining to the various offerings there is a message God is communicating to Israel.
Israel belonged to God. They were His people. They were to be different from heathen nations. They were to be separate. Set apart. And distinctive. They were to abstain from idolatry, immorality and iniquity.
One of the words used in Exodus and Leviticus to convey this concept is our word of the week “sanctify.”
The word “sanctify” means to be “ceremonially clean.” Consecrated. Dedicated. Sacred. The word is sometimes translated “holy,” or “hallowed.” Israel’s sanctification involved the tabernacle, their worship but also their daily lives. It spoke to the issue of the heart and their moral purity.
Because God is a holy God he desired that His people be holy. Pure. And sanctified. His plea to them was often found in these words “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy: for I am the Lord your God” (Lev 20:7).
Likewise in the New Testament, we see that God expects Christians to be sanctified. In fact, if we are Christians, God has already sanctified us as a part of his Church.
In Paul’s wonderful treatise on the Church, the bride of Christ, Paul admonishes us.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-28)
The New Testament word “sanctify” is akin to the word “holy.” Christians are to be consecrated to Christ. Dr. Thayer says it means “to be separate from things profane.” Sanctification is about our spiritual identity. Consider these few thoughts.
(1) Sanctification is based on God’s revealed Truth. In Jesus’ prayer prior to the cross, He prays for the apostles’ sanctification. And ours.
“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. (John 17:17-19)
(2) Sanctification requires spiritual cleansing and produces justification in Christ. When the Corinthians heard the gospel, believed and were baptized (Acts 18:8), Paul says they were sanctified.
“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:10)
(3) Sanctification is seated in the heart. Consecration is not a mere ceremonial observance of rites and rituals. It is inward. Peter put it this way.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. (1 Pet 3:15-67)
(4) Sanctification results in moral purity of life. It means to abstain from immorality regardless of how popular and pervasive it is our culture.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor” (1 Thess. 4:3)
Sanctification is a life-time challenge for all of us. As Ian W. Thomas put it: “To be in Christ — that is redemption; but for Christ to be in you — that is sanctification!”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman