Sanctification is the Greek word “hagiasmos” and literally means “separation unto God” or “to be set apart to God’. It is the same word used for “saint” and “holy”. Therefore, all believers are saints and all believers are holy. However, sanctification is in three stages for the believer and these stages must always be distinguished in order to accurately interpret the Word of God. The first is positional truth, the second is experiential truth and the third is ultimate truth. Each is a separate and a distinct stage in the life of the believer.
God the Holy Spirit has placed us into union with Jesus Christ at salvation. This is accomplished by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is neither seen nor felt. It is a fact stated in the Word of God for us to believe. We must always distinguish between the indwelling, the baptism and the filling of the Holy Spirit. These are all separate and distinct ministries of the Holy Spirit. Once again, none of these ministries is seen or felt. The indwelling is God the Holy Spirit permanently residing in the body of the believer. The baptism of God the Holy Spirit, as stated, is placing the believer into permanent union with Christ. And the filling of God the Holy Spirit is His control and guidance of the believer, which is temporary, depending on the volition (free-will) of the believer.
God’s own righteousness has been imputed (credited) to our account. (II Corinthians 5:21) This is the only way we can be set apart to God. We have been separated unto God by our faith in Jesus Christ. We have been given at least 33 spiritual assets, which includes being made the righteousness of God. This position in Christ sets up the potential for each believer to fulfill the Christian Way of Life.
Our position in Christ and our “walk” with Christ must always be distinguished in order to avoid confusion and inaccurate interpretation. When the Bible says that we are dead to sin this is positional truth. When the Bible says to walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust (desire) of the flesh (sin nature) it is not referring to positional truth, but to experiential truth.
Even though we possess the righteousness of God, we will not realize the full aspect of this until we receive a glorified body at the Rapture, which is ultimate sanctification. (I Corinthians 15:50-53) In the meantime, we still possess a sin nature, which tempts us to commit personal sins. It is our responsibility as Christians to learn and apply the Word of God and to control our sin nature. We can do this only through the power of the Holy Spirit.
There is a war being waged within every believer. It is a battle to see who will control your soul. Each of us holds the key - it is called volition or free will. God did not make us robots. He gave us the freedom of choice. Let’s take a brief look at the scripture that relates to this war in our souls, in Galatians 5:16-26.
In Greek the word for “walk” is “stoicheo”, which means to walk in a straight line or row. If we are “walking in the Spirit” our steps will align with His. In other words, we will allow the Holy Spirit to control “our steps.” Please remember that God is not an ogre waiting for us to fail so He can “zap” us. God loves us and wants only the best for us. Therefore, we should learn to love ourselves, which entails self-worth and self-respect. God in His grace is always there for us, even in times of our failure. Since God has compassion on us, we should have compassion on ourselves. Evaluate yourself, make the necessary corrections and move forward, one step at a time. But don’t spend time beating yourself up or condemning yourself because of some failure. (I John 1:6-10)
The desires of the flesh (sin nature) oppose the desires of God. They are contrary to one another. If you yield to one, it cancels the other. You are either 100% spiritual (controlled by the Holy Spirit) or you are 100% carnal (controlled by the sin nature). Remember, the Christian Way of Life is about making the right choices.
If you are allowing the Holy Spirit to lead (guide) you, you are not under the control of the law. But what law - the law of the flesh (sin nature)? What is the law of the flesh? - “If it feels good do it”.
Here we have a list of the works of the flesh. Let us remember that these verses are talking about believers. Both overt sins and mental attitude sins are mentioned.
Here we have a list of the works of the Holy Spirit, which can be produced in the life of the believer. Divine production is always a matter of right motivation, right power and right choices. All of these are produced by God the Holy Spirit, when He is allowed to control our thinking.
Positional sanctification is clearly stated here. The person who belongs to Christ has crucified the flesh (sin nature). However, the believer still possesses a sin nature and still sins. So, this is an obvious reference to positional truth and it is only potential experientially.
Here we see experiential sanctification and application. Since we are positionally “in Christ”, we are to strive to make our daily experience align with our position in Christ!
We still reside in this body while here on earth, but our true home is Heaven. We are just passing though this life, but our real citizenship is in Heaven. When Christ returns for us at the Rapture, we will realize ultimate sanctification. All the truth of our position in Christ and all the potential of experiential sanctification that the believer fulfilled (divine production) will be a reality when Christ returns for His church (believers of this age).
For the believer there is going to be a change. Each of us is going to receive a glorified body fashioned after Christ’s body. This will be an instantaneous change as we are being “caught up” to meet Christ in the air.
Ultimate sanctification will be a reality for all believers regardless of their spiritual status. Mature and immature believers will receive a glorified body and will spend all of eternity in perfect happiness. There will, however, be a loss of magnificent rewards and blessings for those that fail to execute the Christian Way of Life.
The Battle for Control
What do you think is the biggest hindrance to the execution of God’s purpose, plan and will for your life as a believer in Christ? Most Christians think it is Satan. Well they are partially correct and partially wrong. The biggest hindrance to your executing the Christian Way of Life is YOU!
Every believer has volition (the freedom of choice). Satan is the ruler of this World System and has an army of demons to do his bidding. Satan is neither omnipresent nor is he omniscient. Contrary to popular belief, Satan can be only one place at any given time and most of his time is spent in Heaven before the throne of God accusing believers of wrongdoing. However, we cannot ignore him because he is powerful and brilliant (much smarter than any human being). He uses his knowledge of mankind through years of observation to influence them to do both human good and evil. Satan’s demon army is at work continually leading unbelievers and believers astray. Though demons (including Satan) cannot indwell a believer, they can influence him through this corrupt world system and the sin nature. So every believer has a three-fold enemy that must be recognized and dealt with effectively: Satan, the World System and the Sin Nature. How you deal with each will determine your success as a Christian.
Handling Satan (and his demons) is simple. The Bible says that we are to flee from and resist him. We are never commanded to go on the offensive with him. Satan is much more powerful than human beings and has the ability to influence us into doing both human good and evil. Since the power of the Holy Spirit is much greater than Satan’s power, we must learn how to use that power to overcome Satan’s deceit and trickery. Remember that Satan and his demons disguise themselves as “angels of light” and “ministers of righteousness.” Satan is the greatest counterfeiter of truth that the world has ever known. He comes as a wolf in sheep’s clothing in order to devour us. As believers we must constantly be on guard against the subtleties of Satan’s program. He wants to deceive us into believing that God does not want the best for us and that his way is superior to God’s way. However, a brief study of God’s Word should be enough to convince anyone that Satan’s program leads only to destruction. For the unbeliever, following Satan’s program leads to eternal separation from God and for the believer, it leads to destruction of his spiritual life. (II Corinthians 11:3)
Handling the World System is another matter and can be successfully overcome only by a power greater than yourself. This power of course, is the power of God the Holy Spirit in control of your life. It is also a matter of spiritual growth and the utilization of the ten problem solving devices. Since it is your thinking that the world system attempts to influence, it your thinking that must be renovated by the Word of God. The Christian Way of Life is a life of thinking – thinking divine viewpoint instead of human viewpoint. The believer cannot accomplish this apart from a consistent life of study and application of Bible doctrine. A sermon or devotional occasionally will not get the job done. Study is hard work – work to which most believers are unwilling to commit themselves. (I Jn. 4:4)
In like manner, the sin nature can be controlled only by positive volition toward the filling (controlling) ministry of God the Holy Spirit. Study and application of Bible doctrine gives the believer the necessary tools to understand and use doctrinal rational to successfully make the right choice to allow the Holy Spirit to control his soul. ALL temptation comes from your sin nature, not directly from Satan. When a person sins it is because he wanted to sin – Satan didn’t make him do it – he chose to do it. This is why we are all accountable for our own sins, not someone else’s sins. It is sin that must be dealt with after salvation and God in His grace has given us a fantastic system of recovery. By simply naming, acknowledging or admitting our sins we are forgiven of all sins (known and unknown), restored to fellowship with God and filled with (controlled by) the Holy Spirit. (I John 1:5-10)
Success in the Christian life is not an accident and God does not have a “magic wand” that He waves every time you get in trouble or want something from Him. He does, however, have a system of grace that is above and beyond anything that the world or Satan has to offer. But God never forces His system on anyone, you and you alone must make the decision that you will learn this system and live within it.
God has set you apart in a permanent position that will never change regardless of you spiritual condition. You can also be set apart to God experientially by the use of God’s power system – the filling (control) of the Holy Spirit. And you will be set apart to God for all eternity when you receive your resurrection body at the Rapture.