The Sanctification of Belief

by | Jun 1, 2017

The Meaning “Sanctification”

Note: As with all of the proposed thinking found in this training as it relates to the PRINCIPLES and PURPOSE of TPM, we encourage you to embrace what you can and lay aside what you cannot.  The Body of Christ is very diverse in what she believes theologically. What we have proposed in the PRINCIPLES and PURPOSE of TPM is our best attempt to explaining what we have observed in this ministry.  Any comments you may have are always welcomed.

 

In the context of TPM, we sometimes use the term “sanctification.” Because this term is commonly used in many different theological camps, we need to clarify what is meant by this term in the TPM context. Our use of the word is not intended to take away from other uses of this word in other theological arenas, so there is no need for anyone to defend their understanding of the term or its use while in the context of this training.

The word translated as “sanctification” in the Greek New Testament is hagiasmos, meaning “holiness” or “a separation.” It is formed from the word hagios, which means holy. For example: hagios pneuma is Holy Spirit. In its most basic form, the word simply refers to setting something aside for a holy purpose or making something holy. We are employing this term in TPM to help describe the process of faith refinement or the purification of our belief, or our faith being made holy or pure.

In a more general theological arena, sanctification  generally refers to the completed accomplishment that God brought about for us through the atoning work of the cross. The writer of Hebrews says it clearly where it says, “…we have been sanctified [made holy] through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb. 10:10) The holiness described here has to do with the sanctification of the heart or inner man. We believe that Christ’s holiness was given to us and thereby, making us holy. As the Scriptures declare, even though we were once unholy and separated from the holiness of God,  we “…were washed, [and] …were sanctified, [and] …were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:11) This is the sanctification making the believer a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:1)

 

Not Becoming Something we are not, but Coming Into Awareness of What and Who we are

Hagios is sometimes translated as “saint” when referring to a believer in Christ. Actually, translating hagios with the English word  “saint” is an unfortunate translation since its true meaning is no longer used in modern English. For most people the word saint is descriptive of a state of being that they would never think that they could become themselves and only reserved for the “very spiritual.” The problem with this thinking is, if you possess Christ and His Spirit indwells you (Rom 8:9), then you are a “saint” or more accurately defined: you are a “holy one.”

When the Apostle Paul addressed the “saints at Corinth,” he was calling them “holy ones”—hagios. For indeed that is what they were even though they were acting in an unholy fashion. They were Holy Ones of God, who still were choosing to sin at times. Paul called them holy ones because he understood that their holiness was not determined by their behavior, but the provision of holiness that was granted them through Christ. If God sees us as holy, then that is what we are even if we believe otherwise. To the degree that our belief runs contrary to what is true, our practice and behavior will also be contrary to holiness. This is why we need our beliefs to be  sanctified—made pure and holy.

What we believe in our hearts has immense influence upon our reality and perspective. Not only do we feel what we believe, we also see what we believe. When we are able to truly see ourselves the way that God sees us, our reality will change to match His. Our lie-based beliefs darken the eyes of our hearts and blind us to the heavenly reality. Just because we cannot see something does not mean it is not so. Just because we do not believe we are perfect and holy in Christ does not invalidate the reality of it.

Too often we put great effort in trying to conform our behavior to the truth as opposed to the truth transforming us. Performing by trying to conform ourselves to the truth typically brings us some noble recognition. It projects an air of being “spiritual” and obedient. The self effort of conforming is a work of our own doing and nothing more than any unbeliever could also do if he wanted to. Being transformed by the truth is solely a work of God.

It actually takes great effort to choose to position ourselves to be transformed because it requires us to acknowledge what is hindering us from doing so. The position necessary to be transformed is one of humbling ourselves “…under the mighty hand of God…” (1 Pet. 5:6) and allowing Him to expose what we are keeping hidden. Mostly, we do not want to admit what we believe and stop blaming others for our pain and predicaments or let go of playing the victim’s role.

 

Is our holiness only a heavenly perspective?

I am aware that some people view the believer as still wicked in heart and only positionally “holy” because they believe that God only views them through the blood of Jesus. They would suggest that the blood was “covering” the sin and not actually removing it. John the Baptist was clear in his understanding of Jesus when he declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The writer of Hebrews confirmed this in stating, “…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God,… For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who ARE sanctified” (Heb. 10:10-14).

The Holy Spirit spoke through the prophet of old concerning the singleness of the heart of the believer when he said, “… I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” (Eze. 11:19)  If our “heart of stone” was not actually replaced with a “heart of flesh” when we came to believe, or even worse yet, if we have two opposing hearts, then how are we to hope for holiness? How do we overcome an evil heart? If we still possess a “heart of stone” our motivation will be to strive to try to become something that we are not —that is holy. However, if indeed, we have been given a new heart, and if we are “new creations” then our motivation will be to live out what we are as opposed to trying to become something we are not. The question this raises is, what keeps us from living out the reality of the truth of our new heart? Our reality is governed and dictated by what we believe. Our belief needs to be sanctified and made pure as the heart that we have been given.

The purpose of this article is not to argue a point of view, but rather to bring into the discussion the power that false belief wields over the one who believes it. If we believe that we are still worthless, wicked, sinful, tarnished, and only covered with the blood of Jesus, then we will spend much time and effort trying to overcome and do better. If we know with absolute certainty that the blood of Jesus took our sins away, sanctified us—made us holy—then we may learn to rest in His finished work.

When we know the truth of who we are, this realization frees us up to expend our energy on being who we are—His holiness—as opposed to trying to become something we are not. To the degree that we believe this truth with our hearts, the truth will transform us into His likeness. This is the reality of a renewed mind. Mind renewal produces transformation. “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom. 12:2).

Even though the Bible declares that we are complete in Christ, His righteous holy people made right with God, our experiential heart belief does not always agree with this. For most believers this truth is intellectually possessed and professed, but when it comes to living it out there is struggle. The sanctification of our heart belief is part of God’s process of renewing our minds so that our heart beliefs are pure and consistent with what the Bible says. This was actually one of Jesus’ last requests for us to the Father before Calvary, where He prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).

When we know truth experientially in our hearts, it brings about an inner sanctification that we can live out without struggle. If a person struggles to live out the truth, it is an indication of double mindedness, the presence of a lie-based heart belief. For example: he may believe in his mind that the Lord is His sole provider yet still worry over finances. Where this is the case, he needs the sanctification or purification of a core belief. A person may believe with his mind that he has been made perfect and holy through Christ and yet still feel shameful, unforgiven, and lacking. This, too, is double mindedness.

 

Sanctification of Beliefs Opens the Eyes of Our Hearts

So we see that in a more general theological arena, sanctification  generally refers to the completed accomplishment that God brought about for us through the atoning work of the cross. The writer of Hebrews says it clearly where it says, “…we have been sanctified [made holy] through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb. 10:10) The holiness described here has to do with the sanctification of the heart or inner man. We believe that Christ’s holiness was given to us and thereby, making us holy. As the Scriptures declare, even though we were once unholy and separated from the holiness of God,  we “…were washed, [and] …were sanctified, [and] …were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:11) This is the sanctification making the believer a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).

However, surely no one would suggest that when we were made holy in our inner man in Christ that all of our thinking and beliefs were also instantly made holy. It does not require much introspection for us to realize that our minds are in need of refinement even though we are made holy in Christ in our new hearts. When we came to Christ God indeed replaced our “hearts of stone” with new “hearts of flesh” (Ezk. 11:19). However, our lie-based beliefs we held prior to the cross remained relatively intact after our salvation. Our minds need to be renewed and our faith purified or made holy: sanctified. The refining (sanctification) of our faith is a life long journey.

In the context of this training we view the refining of our faith/belief (the Spirit replacing the lies we believe with His truth) as the ongoing work of the Spirit making our belief pure or sanctified. But even though we may used the term sanctification to describe the renewing of the mind, we in no way limit this term to this specific application.

Since not all that we believe is true, or pure, some of what we believe needs to be refined, purified, or made holy. The Bible refers to this process as the “refining of faith.” Thus, in the context of TPM, sanctification is understood to be the process of identifying the lies we believe, and allowing the Spirit to exchange those lies  for His truth, thereby, making our faith pure or holy.

God desires that the truth with which we intellectually agree be consistent with what we experientially believe in our hearts. Too often we believe the truth intellectually with our minds and yet the same truth does not feel or seem true in our hearts. This sanctification of belief is a lifelong journey with God.

We have been born again and granted a new heart or inner man (made holy/sanctified), but we also now need to be, “…renewed in the spirit of [our] mind[s]” (Eph. 4:23). When we came to Christ we “…put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph. 4:24). Although our inner man is already in right standing and “…holy before Him” (Eph. 1:4), our minds  are in the process of being renewed to match this reality.

Sanctification is a state of holy separation unto God: “You are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30, ESV). Though the sanctification mentioned in this verse is a once-for-ever setting apart of believers unto God that occurs in each person’s heart at the moment of salvation, this same sanctification needs to occur in what we believe. This mind renewal is a work God performs, and it is an intricate part of “…working out your salvation…” and connection with Christ (Phil. 2:12).

Whatever God has said about us is the truth and the only true reality. Just because something does not seem or even feel true, or even seem possible, does not mean that it is not true. What is real is the “unseen” and not what I think I see. So then as the Apostle Paul declared, “…we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).

If what we “see” and feel is contrary to what God says, it is not because God is wrong, but rather because we have a heart eyesight problem. We need the Spirit to “open the eyes of [our] heart” and grant us a “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph 1:17-18). Having our eyes opened to God’s reality is a work that He does and not an outcome of any effort on our part. When we are willing to bring into the light the lies we believe, the Lord of truth will reveal to us His perspective.

TPM is a means by which we can participate in the mind-renewing work that God is doing. Our role is to submit, stop resisting, and allow Him to expose what we wrongly believe. He is doing this through allowing us to suffer, face hardship, encounter troubles, and difficulties. Like a refiner’s fire, whatever is not pure gold will surface. So then we shall, “Humble [our] selves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift [us] up in due time. Cast all [our] anxiety on him because he cares for [us]” (1 Pet. 5:6-7).

 

[1] http://www.gotquestions.org/sanctification.html “What is sanctification? What is the definition of Christian sanctification?”

 

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