Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth. - John xvii:17.
The term sanctify is frequently used in the Bible. It often means to set apart for a special purpose. Thus the "vessels of the sanctuary" were sanctified. Alienated from the common purposes to which vessels were appropriated, they were employed exclusively in the service of God. In the New Testament the terms sanctify, sanctification, etc., are often applied to believers. To them Jesus is said to be made "wisdom, righteousness, sanctijication and redemption." Paul said to the Thessalonians, "This is the will of God, even your sanctification;" and he prayed that they might be "sanctified wholly in body, soul and spirit." "Without sanctification no man shall see the Lord, or enjoy the bliss of heaven; for the heavenly inheritance is "among the sanctified."
I. What is implied in Christian sanctification? -
1. It implies crucifixion of sin. - It has its origin in that hatred of sin and love of holiness which
the process of regeneration creates. The holy principle implanted in those that are "born of God," is developed in the work of sanctification. The apostle Paul speaks of mortifying or putting to death the deeds of the body. Our sins are our enemies, and we must slay them before the Lord. "We must crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. Every unholy passion must be subdued and brought into subjection to Christ. Sin must not be permitted to have dominion over us - it must not be suffered to corrupt the life, nor to pollute the heart, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. An exterminating war must be waged against sin in all its forms. There must be no favorite sins. Wherever sin is sincerely hated, it is hated as sin. The hatred, therefore, extends to all sin. Crucifixion was a lingering death, and the crucifixion of sin may be a lingering process, but it must be gone through.
2. It implies the invigoration of the Christian graces. - It is a progressive work. To make it instantaneous is to confound it with regeneration. The Christian graces have their origin in the renovation of the heart; but they are susceptible of growth. While the work of sanctification goes on they are strengthened. Faith becomes stronger, love more ardent, zeal more intense, hope more vigorous, humility more profound, while patience has its perfect work. There is progress in the diviue life. There are attainments made in holiness. There are acquisitions in knowledge and spirituality.
3. It implies conformity to the moral image of God. - The command which comes from the highest heaven is, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." The eternal God here declares his holiness, and requires us to be like himself. Man never attains true dignity and glory till he aspires after assimilation to the God that made him. The elements of moral sublimity are involved in sanctification, for it contemplates the believer's conformity to the divine image. Entertaining this view, we see how Christianity ennobles and elevates its votaries. Holiness was personified in Christ. He was God manifested in the flesh. He is the believer's perfect exemplar. He is the sum and substance of moral excellency. Partial conformity to his moral image is partial sanctification; perfect conformity is perfect sanctification; for his character is the standard of perfection.
II. The instrumentality of divine truth in sanctification.
"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth." "Through thy truth," signifies by means of thy truth. The Holy Spirit, in sanctifying the people of God, does not employ error but truth. How important, then, is truth! all truth! Error in the moral is like poison in the physical system. Truth is to the spiritual what food is to the animal man. The influence of error is necessarily injurious.
But how is truth the means of sanctification?
1.The Word of God, which is truth, contains a most impressive account of the evil of sin. - The Bible is, in one sense, a history of sin. It tells us what sin is - a transgression of God's law, and therefore a contempt of infinite authority. It is a violation of infinite obligations. It is the treason of creatures against their Creator King. The Word of God tells us of his implacable antipathy to sin, the "abominable thing" which his "soul hateth." It informs us as to what sin has done. It dispossessed rebel angels of their thrones - expelled the first pair from Eden - inflicted misery and death on all the generations of men, and even crucified the Lord of Glory. A vivid perception of the evil of sin is essential to an adequate appreciation of the excellency of truth; while both the perception and the appreciation are necessary to the progress of sanctification. We can easily see, therefore, how sanctification is promoted by means of divine truth.
2. The Word of God directs to a proper exercise of the affections. - It presents the ever-living Jehovah as infinitely worthy of the supreme love of his creatures. Its great commandment is, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength." It pronounces everything worthless and vain in religion in the absence of love to God. The most highly valued gifts are, without it, as "sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."
The Bible refers to Jesus Christ as the incarnation of perfection, and requires all men to love
and honor the Son, even as they love and honor the Father. It refers to his amazing love displayed on Calvary, as the reason of reasons why we should love him; and makes its appeal to our imitative powers, by informing us that all holy beings admire and adore him. The "Word of God requires us to love those earthly objects which it is lawful to love, in strict subordination to our love of Jesus Christ. We are not permitted to love father, mother, brother, sister, wife, children, or life itself, as much as we love him. The affections are not only directed, but regulated in their exercise. Their love is bestowed with limitation on finite objects, and given without limitation to the Infinite One.
The Bible requires us to love all that is lovely, and to hate all that is hateful. It, therefore, directs to a proper exercise of the affections. But a proper exercise of the affections is essential to the sanctification of the heart. Indeed, sanctification may be said to consist in a worthy exercise of the affections. "We can, therefore, see how we are sanctified through the truth.
2. The Word of God presents the most powerful motives to prompt us to seek sanctification. - Among the motives, I may mention, without enlarging on them, -
The approbation of God, etc.
Our own peace and happiness, etc.
Our Christian usefulness, etc.
Our triumphant exit from time, etc.
Eternal glory in heaven, etc.
The crown of glory awaits the sanctified; the heavenly inheritance is reserved for the saints. How powerful these motives! The Word of God, which is truth, presents them, and therefore this truth is appropriately referred to in the text as the instrument of sanctification.
III. Evidences of the Progress of the Work of Sanctification
1. A deep sense of unworthiness. - The better Christians we become, the less we think of ourselves - the more unworthy do we appear. Why? Because we are more unworthy than those who have not these humiliating views of themselves? No; but more light shines into our hearts, and we make more discoveries. Job was rapidly making attainments in holiness when he said: "I abhor myself;" and Isaiah, when he exclaimed: "Woe is me," etc.; and Paul, when he wrote: "To me who am less than the least of all saints," etc.
2. An increasing hatred of sin. - Sanctification begins in hatred of sin, and it increases as hatred of sin increases. The most holy beings abhor sin most intensely. God is infinitely holy, and he hates sin with infinite detestation.
3. An increasing love of the Word of God, and a greater interest in his service. - Sanctification must inspire a love of the means by which it is, effected. This is plain. And those in whose hearts the sanctifying process is going on, love the throne of grace; they love the house of
God; they love his holy day; they appreciate fellowship with him; they enjoy the society of Christians, etc., etc. To them the yoke of Christ is easy, and his burden light. The service of God is not a task, but a pleasure, a delight.
4. Deadness to the world. - Those in whom the work of sanctification is making progress, live above the world. They are crucified to it by the cross of Christ. They practically regard the prohibition, "Be not conformed to this world." Well would it be for the interests of Christianity, if this evidence of sanctification was more common than it now is.
5. Dissatisfaction with present religious attainments. - This dissatisfaction leads to a determination to forget, like Paul, the things which are behind, and reach to those before, thus pressing to the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. When dissatisfaction with present religious attainments operates in this manner, it is an evidence that the work of sanctification is in a state of progress.
1. Christians, is the doctrine of progressive sanntification illustrated in you?
2. How great the value and the importance of divine truth? It is the means of sanctification.
3. The unsanctified can not be saved; for without holiness no man shall see the Lord.
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via Inter-Library Loan through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. - Jim Duvall]
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