What Does the Bible Say About Sanctification? - Radical

What Does the Bible Say About Sanctification?

Our world is fixated on quick improvement and self-reliance. It’s easy to become discouraged when we don’t achieve our goals or measure up to standards set for us by God, ourselves, and others. Scripture offers an antidote to the believer’s discouraged heart, speaking to a long-term view of their growth in holiness. The Bible reminds Christians that sanctification is a gift and act of God’s grace, an ongoing process that results in progressive renewal and righteousness.

Sanctification is a Gift of God’s Grace

Scripture reminds us that sanctification is a gift of God’s grace to those he has called (Ephesians 1:5). Because of this, it comes to us, not because of our own effort or merit. 1 Corinthians 6:11 reminds us, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” The reality that our efforts and merit don’t earn sanctification should bring us before God with grateful acceptance and thanksgiving (1 Corinthians 1:30). 

Sanctification is an Act of God’s Grace

God is also the one sanctifying his people. Ezekiel 36:25–27 points to the work of God in the sanctification of his people: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” 

The reality that our efforts and merit don’t earn sanctification should bring us before God with grateful acceptance and thanksgiving.

Lest we think that our sanctification and its success rest in our own control, Scripture brings us to a posture of humility, recognizing that it’s “God who works in you…for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Out of humility and thankfulness to God, we should be responsive to his work and prompting in our hearts and lives. 

Sanctification is an Ongoing Process

Scripture helps us remember that sanctification is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Romans 8:30 says, “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” While Romans 8:30 never explicitly mentions sanctification, it happens between justification and glorification in the Christian life.

Justification is God pardoning our sins and accepting us as righteous. It is an immediate event at the time of a sinner’s repentance, and glorification, the final removal of sin, comes following the death of the believer. Between justification and glorification, we are learning, growing, and being transformed into the image of God, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, until we die. This ongoing process of sanctification encourages us to be patient and attentive to the work God is doing in our lives and hearts. 

The Result of Sanctification is Renewal and Righteousness

Scripture reminds us that the result of sanctification is renewal and righteousness. All people are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image of God (Psalm 139:14; Genesis 1:26–28). However, the elect are given a new name: “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). According to Paul, those who are a “new creation” in Christ experience a passing away of their old, sinful ways of life and begin to walk in “newness of life” (Romans 6:4). 

As we walk in this newness of life, we can trust that God will finish the work of change and transformation he began in us (Philippians 1:6). One evidence of change is our growth in righteousness, wherein we pursue holy, godly actions that align with God’s Word (2 Corinthians 7:1). While we still sin throughout our process of sanctification, one of its results is ongoing growth in godly living that aligns with Scripture. 

The world and culture we live in tempts us to become easily frustrated when progress isn’t quickly achieved. However, those who are God’s children are being sanctified day by day, an act and gift of God’s goodness and grace. As you look back on your growth, be encouraged by the evidence of renewal and righteousness in your life! God promises to continue his work of renewal until you reach your glorification.

As we faithfully run the race, we can be encouraged that God continues to sanctify us, shaping us to be his disciples. And as we acknowledge the work that Christ has done for and in us, we can share that hope and new life with others around us and across the globe.

Leah Jolly

Leah Jolly is pursuing her Master of Divinity through Calvin Theological Seminary. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband, Logan. She enjoys writing about the integration of Scripture with family relationships, adoption, daily habits, current events, and other prevalent issues.


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