“By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10, KJV 1900)
When I joined the military in 1974, I was set apart as an officer and soldier in the United States Army. Yet, I was still far from being able to serve in that capacity. I needed to attend the officer’s basic course for my branch assignment before I would know enough to lead a group of men in combat. Yet, when I arrived at my first assignment, I also learned that I did not know a lot about leading men in the actual combative scenario for which I was trained. So, we continued to train with our personnel in the field to hone our skills. In fact, this training and development as a soldier and an officer was something that a military officer must do throughout his entire career. In other words, while you are set apart as an officer and soldier when you are commissioned, you continuously grow in your capabilities to function as such throughout your career.
The sanctification of the believer has much similarity to this. The word, “sanctified” is the Greek hagiazo, which can be translated as to be made holy, or to be separated from sinful things and dedicated to God. The writer of Hebrews indicated that through the sacrifice of Jesus, we who believe have been sanctified once for all. In this sense, we have been sanctified. We have been made holy. Some refer to this aspect of sanctification as positional sanctification. It is the state in which every believer stands before God. It is not that we are holy in and of ourselves, but that Christ has made us holy and thus set us apart because He, Christ, is holy and our lives are hidden in Him.
Yet, this work of sanctification by which Christ has made us holy is only the beginning. For there is a practical side of this sanctification. The Scriptures also speak of a progressive aspect of sanctification. In fact, the writer of Hebrews goes on to speak about this just a few verses later. “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14, ESV) I used the ESV here because the participle hagiazo in this verse is in the present tense, which implies an ongoing work of sanctification rather than the one-time work referred to in verse 10 where the participle hagiazo is in the past tense.
The work of progressive sanctification is the practical outworking of our new position in Christ. It is what people see in our Christian walk. It is a vital ministry of the Holy Spirit, by which He continuously works to make us increasingly manifest the qualities of Christ in our lives. The work began at our salvation when we were positionally sanctified and it progressively continues throughout our lives until our mortal lives are over and we put on immortality. At that point our sanctification is complete.
In this life, we are to grow in this work of sanctification, which is wrought by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. People should be seeing in our lives a progressive transformation into Christ likeness. In this work, there is a unique partnership. The Holy spirit does the work, but we must yield and join with him in this work. Paul spoke of it this way.
“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12–13, KJV 1900)
We must seek holiness with a passion, but always realize the work is done only by the ministry of God’s Spirit at work in us.