“…chosen…according…by the sanctifying work of the Spirit….” (1 Peter 1:2, NASB95)
“To be sanctified means you are now set apart. You are special, because your life is reserved for God and His glory.” (Tony Evans, Theology You Can Count On, p. 240) As we read through the Bible we find the words “sanctify,” “sanctified,” “sanctifying,” and “sanctification.” Looking at them we get the initial idea that there is a process going on. “Sanctified” gives this the idea that something has already happened. It is a past tense already done thing. “Sanctify” gives us the idea that something needs to be done, and “sanctifying” points to the idea that it is being done. And then, “sanctification” steps back again to give us the idea of this whole thing with an end in mind or that the goal will be achieved. In this we see three tenses to the word—past, present, and future.
The Greek word translated “sanctify” is “hagiazo” and it means, as one dictionary put it, to separate from the profane and dedicate to God. It has the idea of changing purpose and establishing a new usage. It is the ultimate form of repurposing. God takes that which was lost in sin and without hope, and cleanses it, giving it new hope and purpose. The process He uses to do this is sanctification (hagiasmos) and the ones that He does this to are His chosen or “set apart” ones—His “hagios,” or holy ones. This is what the word “saint” means. It is not about achieving a special mark in life, but rather about having trusted in the Son of God who was marked, crucified, and resurrected for us. By faith in Christ we are saved and made according to His righteousness to be called saints.
This is how it started, but we all know that this is not the end. All believers live with the certain hope that they will one day enter the presence of God and be fully complete. In the meantime we each live with the tension of sin being present while being challenged to separate ourselves daily from it and dedicate ourselves fully to Him. “Salvation is progressive. You were saved when you put your faith in Christ. You are being saved today and every day as you walk with Him and grow in grace, and someday you will be saved when you step into God’s presence. Sanctification is the term the Bible uses for this progression that encompasses what it means to be totally saved.” (Evans, p. 782) Or, “”I was sanctified the moment I was saved, I am being sanctified today, and one day I will be fully sanctified.” I say that because sanctification refers to the three tenses of salvation: past, present, and future. It deals with the progress that God wants us to make in our Christian lives from the moment we trust Christ until we are with Him in heaven.” (Evans, p. 781)
We have been set apart, and we are to daily set ourselves apart from that which seeks to draw us and our attention away from God until such time that He brings us to Him and removes us permanently from all that is unholy. This is an impossible task for us apart from the work of the Spirit in us. We did not come to Christ on our own. Neither will we will break our own way into heaven, and in between we are not walk before Him that way either. Our hearts were softened and our eyes opened by the Spirit so that we could hear and believe, and the Spirit continues to work powerfully in us as we walk in that belief. “For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6, NASB95)
We will return to this subject numerous times in looking at 1 Peter, and looking at it extensively is not the goal for today. Instead, our focus is to be on the agent of this work who is the Spirit of God. We read in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NASB95) When we trusted in Christ for our salvation we were instantaneously set apart and sealed by the Holy Spirit. But more than that, we became indwelt by the Spirit as temples on our living God. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, NASB95)
“By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” … “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10, 14, NASB95)
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20, NASB95)
Being a Christian is a cooperative process of God’s Spirit working in us to enable us to live victoriously over sin and serve Him and our choosing daily to comply with God’s plan by setting aside that which is not of Him and doing that which He has chosen for us to do. We have been bought with a price and we are set apart to glorify God in our bodies. God gives us the ability to do this, but we are expected to take the active steps to do what He makes us able to do. “The Christian life is a walk, not a piggyback ride.” (Evans, p. 788)