The doctrine of sanctification is vital to the body of Christian theology, yet it is a subject that is greatly misunderstood by many in the Church. There are those in the Christian Church that see sanctification as Pie-in-the-sky, completely unattainable to anyone. They consider it impossible to walk in holiness. Others have a problem with it because it sounds very much like a ‘works gospel’, and indeed this is the charge generally levelled at promoters of sanctification by those of some denominations. In answering these and other objections it will be clear that, far from sanctification being based upon works, personal holiness is part of God’s gracious will for every Christian believer. Sinners saved by grace, yes, but it is God’s grace that draws us ever nearer the Lord and Saviour who redeemed us.
Misunderstanding of the doctrine of sanctification ranges from wilful ignorance to misrepresentation of the facts. It has either been downplayed or exaggerated in some camps. One question this paper will answer is, “Is sanctification imputed instantly at conversion or is it a lifelong process?” It is therefore important that we do not approach the subject from a traditional or denominational starting point, nor can we base our beliefs upon any preconceived ideas or the teachings of men, otherwise it is likely that we will gravitate towards one extreme or another. With an open Bible the student of Scripture should search for all possible light on this or any subject. Only honest investigation will bring us to our goal; then we will at least have a foundational knowledge of the issue.
Before we attempt to find out what the Holy Scriptures actually say concerning Biblical Sanctification and how it relates to everyday Christian experience, it is important that we understand what the various traditions (Wesleyan, Reformed, Charismatic, and Mystic) teach on the subject. The aim of this paper is not to argue against or promote any particular view. For most people interested in sanctification it is the outworking of personal holiness rather than the theological differences between the groups that is the main concern of their lives. Basically, as believers endeavouring to live up to the commitment made to Christ, we want to know how we can please God and walk victoriously instead of being beaten down continually by sin and temptation. A study of Biblical Sanctification will enable us to find practical answers to what it is, how it works, and how it can be translated into daily life in the twenty-first century.
Since there are no surplus words, terms, doctrines or teachings in Scripture, we must assume that Biblical Sanctification is an important element in the Christian life. It should be noted that this paper is not written to balance the differing theories, though there is an element of truth in all of them, since ‘balance’ sounds too much like compromise or spiritual correctness. It is therefore my concern to present Biblical Sanctification in a way that even the newly born child of God can understand. To come to the real and practical meaning of sanctification it is needful to emphasis and re-emphasis certain points. Therefore, each chapter will build upon the foundation laid down in the previous one.