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BAC Sermons

Sanctification, Sanctify


This noun and verb, derived from Lat. sanctus, 'holy', and facere, 'to make', translate Heb. qd¶ and Gk. hagiasmos, hagiazÙ.


The basic sense of the Heb. root qd¶ is variously given as (1) 'set apart', (2) 'brightness'. The former could underlie references to holiness or sanctification in terms of position, status, relationship, where the words are translated 'cut off', 'separated', 'set apart for exclusive use', 'dedicated' or 'consecrated', 'regarded as sacred or holy in contrast to common, profane or secular'. The latter could underlie those usages which relate to condition, state or process, leading on in the NT to the thought of an inward transformation gradually taking place, resulting in purity, moral rectitude, and holy, spiritual thoughts expressing themselves in an outward life of goodness and godliness. In this connection it should be noted that, while the verb 'sanctify' is used in the av of the OT, the noun 'holiness' is used rather than 'sanctification'.               

I. In the Old Testament

The two sets of meanings outlined above may be roughly designated the priestly and the prophetic, but they are not mutually exclusive. The primary reference of both is Godward.


A. God is depicted as holy in majesty, mysterious in his numinous otherness, loftily removed from man, sin and earth (cf. Ex. 3:5; Is. 6:3ff.).

The people are exhorted to regard the Lord of hosts as holy (Is. 8:13), and God says he will sanctify himself and be sanctified in or by them, i.e. recognized in his sovereign claims (similarly he will be glorified, i.e. his sublimity will be acknowledged through his people's attitude and relationship to him).


Any thing or person sanctified is recognized as set apart by God as well as by man (e.g. sabbath, Gn. 2:3; altar, Ex. 29:37; tabernacle, Ex. 29:44; garments, Lv. 8:30; fast, Joel 1:14; house, Lv. 27:14; field, Lv. 27:17; people, Ex. 19:14; congregation, Joel 2:16; priests, Ex. 28:41). This does not necessarily involve an inward change. The ceremonial ritual of the law made provision for the infringements of which the people of God, who were set apart by God to belong exclusively to him to be used as his instruments, were guilty.


B. While these were primarily external and ritual instances of sanctification, they were sometimes accompanied by the deeper, inward reality. God's exhortation, 'Be holy, for I am holy', required a moral and spiritual response from the people, a reflection of his moral excellences of righteousness, purity, hatred of moral evil, loving concern for the welfare of others in obedience to his will; for the Holy One of Israel was actively engaged for the good of his people (Ex. 19:4) as well as being separated from evil. His holiness was both transcendent and immanent (Dt. 4:7; Ps. 73:28), and theirs was to be correspondingly characterized. The prophets were alert to the dangers of a merely outward sanctification, and so they exhorted the people to reverence the Lord; they even went so far as to disparage the external, 'holy' observances when they were not accompanied by practical holiness (Is. 1:4, 11; 8:13). The children of Israel were derogating from the holiness of God by their unholy lives among the nations. They were failing to observe the law of holiness (Lv. 17-26) which combined admirably both the moral and ritual aspects.

II. In the New Testament     

There are six references to sanctification (hagiasmos) and another four instances in which the same word is translated 'holiness' in rsv. Five other Gk. terms are translated 'holiness' (hagiotÖs, hagiÙsynÖ, eusebeia, hosiotÖs, hieroprepÖs). As in the OT, we find a twofold usage of sanctification, but there are significant differences. The two synoptic usages of the verb 'sanctify' are ceremonial or ritual. Our Lord speaks of the Temple that sanctifies the gold and the altar that sanctifies the gift (Mt. 23:17, 19). Here the primary meaning is consecration; the gold and gift are dedicated, set apart, and reckoned as especially sacred and valuable by their relation to the already holy Temple and altar. In a parallel use of this concept, but one more exalted and more directly spiritual since it has to do with the personal realm, Christ sanctifies or consecrates himself for his sacrificial work, the Father sanctifies him, and he bids his followers 'hallow' (regard with sacred reverence, devote a unique position to) the Father (Jn. 10:36; 17:19; Mt. 6:9). A further extension of the thought comes in Christ's sanctifying of the people with his own blood (Heb. 13:12) and possibly in Jn. 17:17 the Father's sanctifying of the believers through the word of truth.


Concerning the latter and kindred texts the word 'possibly' is used advisedly because the idea of 'sanctification' seems here to widen its meaning in the direction of a moral and spiritual change. The Epistle to the Hebrews forms a bridge between the external and internal meanings of sanctification. Christ by his sacrifice sanctifies his brethren not only in the sense of setting them apart but also in that of equipping them for the worship and service of God. This he does by making propitiation for their sins (Heb. 2:17)and cleansing their consciences from dead works (Heb. 9:13ff.). This sanctification, however, is not conceived of primarily as a process but as an accomplished fact, for 'by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified' (Heb. 10:10, 14). At the same time the exhortation to grow in sanctification is not absent (cf. Heb. 12:14, where holiness is more of a state than a status).


While 'sanctification' in Hebrews is somewhat akin to 'justification' in such Epistles as Romans and Galatians, the distinction between the usages of 'sanctification' in these writings must not be overdrawn. Paul uses the term in two senses also. In some cases he regards it as a status conferred upon believers who are in Christ for sanctification as for justification. The derived word 'saint' refers primarily to their status in Christ ('sanctified in Christ Jesus', 1 Cor. 1:2; cf. 1 Pet. 1:2). A vicarious sanctification is the privilege of the non-Christian  partner and children when one parent is a believer; this again is status-sanctification (1 Cor. 7:14).


The second meaning of sanctification in Paul concerns the moral and spiritual transformation of the justified believer who is regenerated, given new life, by God. The will of God is our sanctification (1 Thes. 4:3), and to be sanctified wholly is to be conformed to the image of Christ and so to realize in experience what it is to be in the image of God. Christ is the content and norm of the sanctified life: it is his risen life that is reproduced in the believer as he grows in grace and reflects the glory of his Lord. In this progressive experience of liberation from the letter of the law, man's spirit is set free by the Lord the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17-18). The Holy Spirit is the operator in man's sanctification, but he works through the word of truth and the prayer of faith, and through the fellowship of believers (Eph. 5:26) as they test themselves in the light of the ideal of the love of the Spirit and the indispensability of holiness (Heb. 12:14). Faith, itself produced by the Spirit, lays hold of the sanctifying resources.


As justification implies deliverance from the penalty of sin, so sanctification implies deliverance from the pollutions, privations and potency of sin. As to the intensity and extensiveness and steps of this latter deliverance, however, there is much discussion. The prayer that God will sanctify the believers wholly so that their whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of Christ is followed by the assertion that 'He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it' (1 Thes. 5:23-24). This raises three important questions.


A. Will God do it all at once?

Does sanctification by faith mean that complete sanctification is received as a gift in the same manner as justification, so that the believer is instantaneously made holy and enters once for all into actual, practical holiness as a state? Some urge that in a crisis-experience, subsequent to conversion, the old man is crucified once for all, and the root of sin extracted or the principle of sin eradicated. Some go further and stress the need for the reception and the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit (notably the gift of tongues) as evidence of such a work of the Spirit. Others consider that NT teaching is definitely opposed to this view and that the very existence of the Epistles with their reasoned statements of doctrine, arguments, appeals and exhortations, contradicts it. See also below.


B. Will God do it all within the believer's lifetime?

Among both those who emphasize the crisis-character of the experience of sanctification and those who see it rather as a process are some who claim for themselves very high attainments of sanctified living. Underlining such injunctions as 'You, therefore, must be perfect' (Mt. 5:48) and not interpreting 'perfection' here as meaning 'maturity', they maintain that perfect love is achievable in this life. High claims in the direction of 'sinless perfection', however, usually minimize both the description of sin and the standard of moral living required. Sin is defined as 'the voluntary transgression of a known law' (Wesley) rather than as 'any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God' (Westminster Shorter Catechism), the latter being a definition which covers our sinful state and sins of omission as well as sins openly and deliberately committed. Others, agreeing that unbroken holiness and unblemished perfection may not be possible, claim that it is possible nevertheless to have the perfect possession of the perfect motive of love.


A minimizing of the standard occurs in C. G. Finney's claim that the Bible 'expressly limits obligation by ability'. 'The very language of the law', he writes, 'is such as to level its claims to the capacity of the subject however great or small that subject may be. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." Here then it is plain, that all the law demands, is the exercise of whatever strength we have, in the service of God. Now as entire sanctification consists in perfect obedience to the law of God, and as the law requires nothing more than the right use of whatever strength we have, it is, of course, forever settled, that a state of entire sanctification is attainable in this life, on the ground of natural ability' (Systematic Theology, 1851, p. 407). This is based on a lamentable misunderstanding of Dt. 6:5.


C. Will God do it all without the believer's activity?

 hose who minimize sin and the standard of holiness God requires are in danger of placing undue stress on human enterprise in sanctification. There is, however, an opposite extreme which lays the entire onus of sanctification on God. He is expected to produce a saint instantaneously, or gradually to infuse a Christian with grace or the Spirit. This is to reduce man to a mere robot with no moral fibre and thus virtually to produce an immoral sanctification{which is a contradiction in terms. Those who are concerned for the intrinsic character of human spirit deny such impersonal operations of the Holy Spirit. They are also dubious of the claims that the Spirit works directly upon the unconscious, rather than through the conscious processes of man's mind.


The believer is to have no illusions about the intensity of the struggle with sin (Rom. 7-8; Gal. 5), but should realize also that sanctification does not occur in instalments merely by his own endeavours to counteract his own evil tendencies. There is a progression of moral accomplishment but there is also a mysterious, sanctifying work within him. Moreover, it is not merely a synergism whereby the Spirit and the believer each contribute something. The action is attributable both to the Spirit and to the believer in the paradox of grace. God the Spirit works through the faithful recognition of the law of truth and the believer's response of love, and the net result is spiritual maturity expressed in the fulfilling of the law of love to one's neighbour. The consummation of sanctification to the believer who, by gracious faith in the work of Christ, by the Spirit 'purifies himself' (1 Jn. 3:3), is indicated by the assurance: 'we know that, when he appears, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is' (1 Jn. 3:2). (*Spirit, Holy; *Salvation.)

Bibliography. W. Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, 1692, reprinted 1955; J. Wesley, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, reprinted 1952; C. Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3, 1871-3; J. C. Ryle, Holiness, reprinted 1952; B. B. Warfield, Perfectionism, 2 vols., 1931; R. E. D. Clark, Conscious and Unconscious Sin, 1934; N. H. Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old  Testament, 1944; D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Christ our Sanctification, 1948; G. C. Berkouwer, Faith and Sanctification, 1952; W. E. Sangster, The Path to Perfection, 1957; J. Murray, 'Definitive Sanctification', CTJ 2, 1967, p. 5; K. F. W. Prior, The Way of Holiness, 1967.



17:13 "But now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy made full in themselves.

17:14 "I have given them Thy word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

17:15 "I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them 1from 2athe evil one.

17:16 "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

17:17 "Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.

17:18 "As Thou didst send Me into the world, bI also have sent them into the world.

17:19 "And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

17:20 "I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;

17:21 that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may 1believe that Thou didst send Me.


Their Future Glory


17:22 "And the aglory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one;

17:23 aI in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected 1in unity, that the world may 2know that bThou didst send Me, and didst clove them, even as Thou didst love Me.

17:24 "Father, 1I desire that athey also, whom Thou hast given Me, bbe with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My cglory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before dthe foundation of the world.




hágios [holy], hagiázÙ [to make holy, sanctify], hagiasmós [sanctification], hagiótÖs [sanctification], hagiÙsýnÖ [sanctification]


In biblical Greek the hag- family, which embraces the hagnós group, is most extensive and enjoys a very significant history.



A. In Greek and Hellenlstic Writings. The old Greek term hágos denotes an object of awe, the adjective hagçs means "clean," and the verb házÙ has the sense "to shrink from." hágios is used of sanctuaries ("sacred") and later of gods and religious practices, though it becomes common only in the Hellenistic period.

B. The Use of Holiness in the OT. Originally Canaanitic, the root qds has a basic cultic reference. The ground around the burning bush is holy (Ex. 3:5), as are Gilgal (Josh. 5:15), the temple (Is. 64:10), days (Is. 58:13), offerings (1 Sam. 21:5-7), and tithes (Dt. 26:13). The adjective may be applied to persons and even to God; this produces an ethical association. The verb is versatile, denoting the expressing of a state of holiness (Is. 5:16), or setting in a state of holiness (Ezek. 36:23), or declaring holy (Ex. 19:10), or entering a state of holiness (Josh. 3:5), or being dedicated.

C. The History of the Term in the OT.

1. Preprophetic Period. The word comes to be connected with God's name, which is the expression of his nature, and thus takes on a moral meaning (cf. Am. 4:2). Profaning God's name even cultically is a sin (cf. Lev. 20:3; Am. 2:7). The name, which cultic invocation acknowledges, gives holiness a personal dimension. But it also fuses it with divinity in contrast to creatureliness. God's holiness expresses his divine perfection. His self-revelation is his self-sanctification (Lev. 10:3 etc.). As God, however, dwells among his people through the covenant at Sinai (Ex. 24:4ff.), Israel is to be a people holy to him (Dt. 7:6). She must shun other cults and worship God alone (Dt. 6:4), allowing no place for pagan shrines and their cultic licentiousness (Dt. 23:18). Cultic purity demands personal purity. The ark as the place of God's presence fills the sanctuary with holiness; in connection with it God is called the "holy God" (1 Sam. 6:20). War and warriors are sanctified through the ark's presence (Num. 10:35-36), as is the camp (Dt. 23:15).


2. Prophetic Theology.

a. The prophet Hosea develops a contrast between the holy God and sinful humanity (cf. Hos. 11:9). Israel has followed pagan cults and thus come into collision with the holy God (14:1). But by destroying false holiness the holy God gives new life (14:8) in his inconceivable love; thus love is incorporated into the divine holiness even in its opposition to unholy human nature.


b. For Isaiah the holiness of God is his secret essence. This evokes holy awe (Is. 6), a sense of moral uncleanness which must be purged (6:7). God himself effects the atonement. Its goal is that the redeemed, too, will be holy (4:3). Though Israel is in herself unholy, God has bound himself to her. He may thus be called the "Holy One of Israel." His holiness consumes what is unholy, but in grace he establishes a remnant as his holy people.


c. In the later chapters of Isaiah the Holy One of Israel is more fully manifested as the God of redemption rather than judgment. God is incomparable (40:25). In his holiness lies his mystery (45:15). This mystery is redemption; hence salvation and holiness are now firmly related (45:18ff. etc.). God's holy ways differ from ours, but for this very reason his holiness issues in a new creation.


3. The Postexilic Period.

a. Two intermingling streams may be seen here, the priestly-cultic and the prophetic-ethical. The law enshrines the former; it endows priests and people with cultic holiness. The Psalms belong to this sphere, but show that it could include a strong spiritual element. Israel is holy because the Holy Spirit is present within her (cf. Ps. 51:11).


b. The apocryphal writings maintain the cultic tradition with frequent references to the holy city, temple, altar, sabbath, garments, candlestick, oil, swords, books, priesthood, people, and covenant. But God, heaven, the angels, and the Spirit are also holy. The LXX translators, in choosing the Gk. hágios for the Hebrew term, seem to have tried to give it a distinctive Hebrew nuance, e.g., by using tó hágion or tá hágia for the temple and avoiding hierón.


4. Philo and Josephus. Philo adopts the cultic usage of the OT but allegorizes it. In so doing he relates holiness to alien philosophical concepts, e.g., when he calls heaven (the macrocosm), or the mind (the microcosm), or the soul "holy" (largely in the sense of "lofty"). Josephus uses hágios sparingly (e.g., in describing the cultus), applying it most often to the temple (also the land). He adopts this course out of consideration for readers to whom hágios etc. must have sounded strange.

[D. Procksch, I, 88-97]


D. The Concept of Holiness in Rabbinic Judaism.

a. The rabbis follow OT usage in calling the temple, priests, sacrifices, etc. holy, but with no precise definition. Sometimes systematization is attempted. In a new use the hair of Nazirites and the body can be called holy. "To dedicate to oneself a wife" is a phrase for "to marry."


b. God is holy as Judge and King. But he is known as such by those who draw near in a trust sustained by fear. He is thus the Holy One in Sirach, Enoch, and later rabbinic texts. God's Spirit is also called holy, but above all his name, which led to the replacement of the proper name as well as to the expression "to hallow the name" with God or Israel as subject. Hallowing the name by keeping the law became a chief motive of ethical action.


c. Scripture is holy as God's word, especially the law, though the phrase "Holy Scripture" is infrequent. Reading Scripture is a sacred action. The scrolls, too, are sacred, and writing them is a holy task. The hands must be washed after touching the scrolls.


d. Those who keep the law, and the righteous of the OT, are also holy. Holiness consists negatively of separation, i.e., from the Gentiles, from sin, and especially from licentiousness, so that holy and chaste came to be largely synonymous.

[K. G. Kuhn, I, 97-100]


E. hágios in the NT.

l. The Holiness of God. On an OT basis, holiness is here seen to be God's innermost nature (Rev. 4:8). It embraces omnipotence, eternity, and glory, and evokes awe. In John, God is the holy Father (17:11). The holy God calls for holy people (1 Pet. 1:15-16). God's name, i.e., his revealed but distinct person, is to be hallowed (Mt. 6:9; Lk. 11:12).


2. Jesus Christ as hágios. Jesus is seldom called holy (cf. Mk. 1:24; Lk. 1:35; Jn. 6:69; Rev. 3:7; Acts 3:14). But the description is ancient and significant. In Luke it rests on the virgin birth and his being a bearer of the Spirit, confronting evil spirits and inaugurating the pneumatic age. He is confessed as the holy one in Jn. 6:69, sanctified by God and dispensing anointing with the Spirit. In Revelation he has the same predicates of holiness and truth as God. As the holy servant in Acts he has a cultic mission as the holy sacrifice offered vicariously for others. In Hebrews he is priest as well as victim, going into the antitype of the holy of holies for us and achieving our expiatory sanctification (hagiázein) (9:25ff.; 2:11; 9:13).


3. The Holy Spirit.

a. The Spirit's holiness is inseparable from Christ's.


b. The Spirit is active at the birth and especially the baptism of Christ, which initiates the age of the Spirit. After the resurrection Christ imparts the Spirit to the disciples (Pentecost). The Spirit is now manifest, so that resistance is unforgivable. Baptism is now in the Spirit's name as well as the Father's and the Son's.


c. Luke especially likes the phrase "holy Spirit" in both the definite and indefinite form. He wants to distinguish God's Spirit from other spirits and stresses the charismatic rather than the cultic element.


d. Paul has a more personal emphasis and maintains but spiritualizes the cultic aspect, e.g., the church or Christians as a holy temple indwelt by the Spirit (Eph. 2:21; 1 Cor. 6:19; cf. Rom. 15:16; 2 Cor. 13:13; 1 Th. 4:8). Baptism and the eucharist (1 Cor. 12:13) are signs of the cultic community denoting its fellowship with Christ's death and resurrection.


4. The Holiness of the ekklÖsía. Again on an OT basis, the Christian fellowship is holy as a temple of the Spirit centered on Christ as the holy servant. As a holy people, Christians are to be holy (1 Pet. 2:9; 1:16). They are sanctified by Christ (1 Cor. 1:2). In him Gentiles are now numbered among the saints (Eph. 2:19). The churches as well as the church are holy (1 Cor. 14:33). Holiness is by the calling of grace in Christ (Rom. 1:6; 1 Cor. 1:24; Phil. 1:1), not by nature. The holy people has a divine inheritance (Eph. 1:18; Col. 1:12; cf. Deuteronomy).


5. The Holy Life of Christians. Christians are to offer themselves as holy sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). As a result the cultic impinges on the ethical, and purity is stressed (cf. Mt. 5:8). The mutual service of love gives expression to this (Gal. 5:13; Rom. 15:25; 16:2). The holy kiss seals it (1 Cor. 16:20). Those sanctified in Christ sanctify their family circles (1 Cor. 7:14). Holiness here has a moral content and stands opposed to impurity, especially in Gentile sexuality (Acts 10:14; Eph. 5:5). Its cultic reference keeps it from being mere morality. Holiness in this sense is a principle of judgment (1 Cor. 6:2). Believers will judge_hence faith may itself be called holy (Jude 20).


6. The Ecclesia triumphans.

a. The holy angels belong to the church triumphant (Mk. 8:38 etc.); they will return with Christ (cf. 1 Th. 3:13, though this verse may refer to, or include, departed saints, cf. 2 Th. 1:10).


b. Christians also belong to it as the saints (Rev. 14:12; 17:6). The holy will be holy still (Rev. 22:11)_not self-sanctified, but sanctified by God. Holiness is a central determination of Christians as already they worship God, reconciled by Christ's holy offering and constituted the temples of the Holy Spirit.

hagiázÙ. This is mostly a biblical term and means "to consecrate" or "to sanctify." God is asked to sanctify his name (Mt. 6:9). Jesus sanctifies himself (Jn. 17:19) and his church (Eph. 5:26)_a divine work. The Father sanctifies Christ (Jn. 10:36; cf. 17:19) with a view to sanctifying the disciples (17:19). The latter takes place through Christ's reconciling work (Heb. 2:11; 10:10). For Paul we are thus "the sanctified" (1 Cor. 1:2), and this is a state (1 Cor. 6:11). The sanctified have an inheritance (Acts 20:32). They are to sanctify Christ in their hearts (1 Pet. 3:15), being holy in conduct as Christ makes them holy by indwelling them (1:16).

hagiasmós. Deriving from the verb, this term means "sanctifying." It is rare in the LXX and occurs in the NT only in the epistles. Only a holy person can "sanctify," so divine sanctifying precedes any process of sanctifying (cf. Rev. 22:11). It is God's will (1 Th. 4:3) and finds expression in life (4:4). The body must be yielded to sanctification (Rom. 6:19). Christ and the Spirit effect it (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Th. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2). It implies conduct in 1 Tim. 2:15 and is a moral goal in Heb. 12:14. It is thus the moral result of Christ's atoning work.

hagiótÖs. This word denotes "sanctification." It is an essential attribute of God that we are to share (Heb. 12:10; cf. 1 Pet. 1:15). In 2 Cor. 1:12 the link with "sincerity" causes difficulty if both refer to God; hence some prefer the reading "simplicity and sincerity," which would confine hagiótÖs to Hebrews.

hagiÙsýnÖ. This rare word denotes sanctifying as a quality. In the NT only Paul uses it (Rom. 1:4; 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Th. 3:13). In Rom. 1:4 it refers to a different principle of life from that of "the flesh" (v. 3), i.e., divine, not natural. In 2 Cor. 7:1 and 1 Th. 3:13 the divinely effected condition is to find completion in moral dedication in the form of purity.

[O. Procksch, I, 100-115]sanctification, "making holy" or "consecrating" a place, thing, or person to God. Since holiness is primarily the attribute of God, what is "sanctified" is removed from "profane" or "secular" use and reserved to the Lord. However, created beings never attain the unique holiness that distinguishes God. In the ot, rites such as sprinkling with blood sanctify places, objects, and persons. The people must consecrate themselves before they can approach the Lord (Exod. 19:22-24).


Religious purification may also be accomplished by sprinkling with water (Num. 19:9-22). As a "holy" day, the Sabbath is not to be profaned (Ezek. 20:12-24). Since the holiness or sanctity of God is to be reflected in the life of the people, obedience to the Torah is said to keep God's name "holy." Through the Torah, God "sanctifies" the people (Lev. 22:31-32). They are called to be "holy" just as God is "holy" (Lev. 19:2; 20:26; cf. also 1 Pet. 1:15-16, and the related call to manifest divine "perfection" in Matt. 5:48).


In postexilic times, the persistent sinfulness of the people led to the image of an eschatological purification of the people (Dan. 7:18-22; Ps. 34:10). God would "sanctify" them and in so doing "sanctify" his own "name," which had been profaned among the nations by Israel's sinfulness. Ezek. 36:22-27 describes this process in three steps: first, the people are purified from their old sinfulness and idolatry by being sprinkled with clear water; second, the Lord gives them a "new heart" (cf. Ezek. 11:19; Jer. 31:31-34); and, third, the Spirit of the Lord is put in the human heart. The result of this divine sanctification is a person freed from the "evil inclination" of the human heart and obedient to the will of God.


NT writers can speak of the eschatological sanctification as in the future (Matt. 6:9; "hallow" and "sanctify" are translations of the same Greek word) or as being accomplished for the Christian by the salvation received in Christ (2 Thess. 2:13). Christians, or their communities, are "sanctified" as temples of the Lord (1 Cor. 6:11, 20; Eph. 2:21; 1 Pet. 2:9). They have been "made holy" by anointing (1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 5:26; 1 John 2:20). They benefit from the "once for all" sacrifice of Christ, which is able to affect the inner reality of the person and not just the externals (Heb. 9:11-14). Therefore, Jesus' sacrifice was said to "sanctify" the Christian (Heb. 10:10; John 17:19). A person might be "consecrated" to a particular mission or service as a prophet (Jer. 1:5; Eccles. 49:7). The Father "consecrated" the Son, sending him to the world (John 10:36). Similarly, the Son "consecrates" the disciples who are to take up that mission in the world (John 17:17-18). However, "sanctification" is not merely a "passive gift." Christians must live out their lives in a holiness that reflects what they have received (Rom. 6:19; 1 Thess. 4:3, 4:7; 1 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 12:14). See also Holiness.