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What is Sanctification


While this lesson will review a few of the more intricate details of the doctrine of sanctification, it will be very important for you to be able to provide a simple statement that an average person can understand. 


Some people say that sanctification is, "The Holy Spirit empowering an individual to become a fully devoted follower of Christ." The Manual of the Church of the Nazarene has a bit more complex statement. 


"We believe that entire sanctification is that act of God, subsequent to regeneration, by which believers are made free from original sin, or depravity, and brought into a state of entire devotement to God, and the holy obedience of love made perfect."


In an effort to make this lesson as simple as possible we will look at the doctrine of sanctification from two points of view--God's part and our part.


Article X



God's Part


Sanctification is not the result of our own efforts. It is the work of God.  We are not made holy by our own merits or by our good deeds. Our good deeds flow out of God's gracious activity in our lives


1. God Transforms Our Will: When we first come to Christ we are set on the road to moral and spiritual wholeness.  However, at some point and time, we become aware that there is a greater need for more.  See Diagram While we have been forgiven of our sins, there is a need for God to deal with our "condition" of sin. We must move beyond the symptoms of sin and deal with the disease itself. [John A Knight] (Romans 6:11-13, Romans 8:1-4)  

For further study go to

Confront the Inner Conflict 

Dr. John A. Knight wrote: "Further, following their conversion, believers eventually come to a point of increasing awareness of a spirit that is unfriendly to godliness.  They are confronted with a strong propensity to self-sovereignty and the gratification of self-will."


The prophet Ezekiel put it well: "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..." (Ez 36:25-28 ESV) 


2. God Transforms us Into His Likeness: By the grace of God we are transformed into the likeness of Christ.


Dr. A. B.. Simpson stated that being sanctified means possessing the thoughts of Christ, the desires of Christ, the will of Christ, the faith of Christ, the purity of Christ, the love of Christ, the unselfishness of Christ, the single aim of Christ, the humility of Christ, the submission of Christ, the meekness of Christ, the zeal of Christ and the works of Christ manifest in our mortal flesh so that we shall say, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." (Galatians 2:19-21)


3. The Holy Spirit Fills Us:  Some say that when we are saved we get the Holy Spirit;  when we are sanctified the Holy Spirit gets us.  This statement is an attempt to explain the marvelous indwelling of the Holy Spirit that comes in this second work of grace. It also connects our act of surrender with His willingness take up residence in our lives. We sometimes refer to this as baptism with the Holy Spirit. (Ezekiel 36:25-27; Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:16-17; Acts 1:5; Acts 2:1-4; Acts 15:8-9)


4. We Experience Perfect Love: As long as one has ulterior motives it is impossible to genuinely love.  When God transforms our intentions and motivations, we are able to love Him completely. Suddenly the longing of our heart is to live in harmony and complete fellowship with God. Nazarenes often refer to this as "perfect love". (Deuteronomy 30:6; Matthew 5:43-48; 22:37-40; Romans 12:9-21; 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 13; Philippians 3:10-15; Hebrews 6:1; 1 John 4:17-18)


5. The Holy Spirit Empowers Us for Service: Sanctified believers no longer obey Christ under a spirit of compulsion.  When they surrender to God, following Him becomes their supreme and joyful desire. (Galatians 5:22-25) 


Our Part


Even though sanctification is not the result of our own efforts, we do need to make certain choices and practice discipline and obedience.  Before God can work there must be a "complete and consummate commitment of ourselves to the total will of God". (Hebrews 12:1-2)


1.Event and Process: We believe that the process of sanctification begins when we first come to Christ. It reaches a new depth when we surrender to Him and are filled with the Holy Spirit. However, the need to grow in Christ continues throughout our lifetime. (Philippians 3:11-13)


2. Pure Heart vs. Mature Character:  "We reject the notion that any deviation from the absolute law of God-any lack of conformity, and falling short.  The most saintly among us on occasion fall short.  The apostle Paul said, 'All have sinned (past tense) and do now (present tense) come short of the glory of God'. (Romans 3:23) This distinguishes sin from omission or error. We can be freed from sin in its primary sense, which involves a compliance of the will, and can be granted a "pure heart" in an "instant."  However, we are not freed instantly from mistakes, ignorance, poor judgement, and so on.  These are to be corrected or improved, and character is to be developed through 'growth in grace,' which also is effected by the grace of God." (John A. Knight)


3. Continue the Journey: "We believe that the grace of entire sanctification includes the divine impulse to grow in grace as a Christlike disciple. However, this impulse must be consciously nurtured, and careful attention given to the requisites and processes of spiritual development and improvement in Christlikeness of character and personality. Without such purposeful endeavor, one's witness may be impaired and the grace itself frustrated and ultimately lost." (Manual Church of the Nazarene) (Scripture References) 


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