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Sanctification is an ancient concept widespread among religions that refers to anything blessed or set apart for special purposes, from totem poles to temple vessels, to the change brought about in a human believer. The word sanctification (see -ification) refers to the act or process of making sacred or setting apart as special. To sanctify is literally “to set apart for special use or purpose,” figuratively “to make holy or sacred,” and etymologically from the Latin verb sanctificare which in turn is from sanctus “holy” and facere “to make.”




Roman Catholicism

According to the Catholic encyclopedia, “sanctity” differs for God, individual, and corporate body. For God, it is God's unique absolute moral perfection. For the individual, it is a close union with God and the resulting moral perfection. It is essentially of God, by a divine gift. For a society, it is the ability to produce and secure holiness in its members, who display a real, not merely nominal, holiness. The Church's holiness is beyond human power, beyond natural power.

Sanctity is regulated by standards. For example, according to the doctrine of the love of suffering, holiness must include this quality. It is not that pleasure were evil in itself, but that suffering purifies one's love of God. Those who attain holiness learn to rejoice in suffering. By it their love of God is freed from self-seeking. Their lives conform to their master.


Calvinist and Evangelical theologians, such as John Piper, interpret sanctification as the process of being made holy and therefore Christians must properly work to attain sanctification (as opposed to justification through Jesus' atonement). Ultimately, God motivates and accomplishes sanctification through this process.[1]

Eastern Orthodoxy

Orthodox Christianity teaches the doctrine of theosis, whereby humans take on divine properties. A key scripture supporting this is 2 Peter 1:4. In the fourth century, Athanasius taught that God became Man that Man might become God. [2] Essentially, Man does not become divine, but in Christ can partake of divine nature. This Church's version of salvation restores God's image in man. [3] One such theme is release from mortality caused by desires of the world. [4]


Martin Luther, the founder of Lutheranism, taught in his Large Catechism that Sanctification is only caused by the Holy Spirit through the powerful Word of God. The Holy Spirit uses churches to gather Christians together for the teaching and preaching of the Word of God.[5]


In the Church of England, English occurrences of the word appear five times in the Authorized King James Version of the New Testament (1 Corinthians 1:30, 1 Thessalonians 4:3,4, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2) translated from the Greek word αγιασμος ((hagiasmos) "purification,"[6] which is from the root hagios (άγιος) which means holy or sacred.[7] The thing or process which is sanctified can be called a Sacrament.


John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, taught what is known as entire sanctification in the Holiness movement churches, such as the Church of the Nazarene, the Salvation Army, etc., or Christian Perfection in "mainstream" Methodist denominations, such as the United Methodist Church, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, etc. This is the doctrine that by the power of God's sanctifying grace and attention upon the means of grace may cleanse a Christian of the corrupting influence of original sin in this life, though not every Christian may experience this. It is explained in depth in the Articles of Religion in the Book of Discipline of the Methodist Church.[8]

For mainstream Methodists, it is a life-long process of healing humanity's sin-distorted perspective and way of life. But for Holiness Wesleyans, entire sanctification comes in an instantaneous transformative moment. The understanding that holiness is relational is growing in the contemporary Holiness movement. In relational holiness, the core notion is love. Other notions of holiness, such as purity, being set apart, perfection, keeping rules, and total commitment, are seen as contributory notions of holiness that find their ultimate legitimacy when love is at their core (Thomas Jay Oord and Michael Lodahl). It is only as a believer is empowered to respond to the love of God that they begin to live a holy life. Their goal is to make God their one desire, yield their all to God, and let Christ be enthroned in their life.

Non-trinitarian interpretations

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sanctification is a process that makes its members holier. Dallin H. Oaks, an LDS General authority and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that trials and adversities can change who a member is into what God wants them “to become”, if they approach it with the right attitude.[9]

References and notes

  1. ^ John Piper: Sermon May 13, 1984 (Morning) Bethlehem Baptist Church "How the Spirit Sanctifies:Romans 15:14-21"
  2. ^ Athanasius: “On the Incarnation”, Crestwood: Saint Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1989. p.93
  3. ^ Robert V. Rakestraw: “On Becoming God: An Evangelical Doctrine of Theosis,” Journal of Evangelical Theological Society 40/2 (June 1997) 257-269
  4. ^ Veli-Matti Karkkainen: “One With God: Salvation as Deification and Justification,” Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2004. p.18
  5. ^ Lutheran Dogmaticians consider this the broad sense of sanctification. See Luther's Large Catechism, the Apostle's Creed, paragraph 53 and following
  6. ^ 38, Strong's Concordance
  7. ^ Verlyn D. Verbrugge, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 2000. p. 9.
  8. ^ The United Methodist Church: The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church - Of Sanctification
  9. ^ Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 32
Greathouse, Willam M. Wholeness in Christ. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1998
Grider, J. Kenneth. Entire Sanctification. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1980
Verbrugge, Verlyn D. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000

Further reading

  • Alexander, Donald L., ed. Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification. (ISBN 0-8308-1278-4)
  • Grider, J. Kenneth. A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology. Kansas City:Beacon Hill Press, 1994
  • Gundry, Stanley, ed. Five Views on Sanctification. (ISBN 0-310-21269-3)
  • Oord, Thomas Jay and Michael Lodahl, Relational Holiness: Responding to the Call of Love. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2004.
  • Tracy, Wes., Gary Cockerill, Donald Demaray, and Steve Harper. Reflecting God. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2000
  • Wesley, John. A Plain Account of Christian Perfection. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, reprinted 1968

See also

External links

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

involves more than a mere moral reformation of character, brought about by the power of the truth: it is the work of the Holy Spirit bringing the whole nature more and more under the influences of the new gracious principles implanted in the soul in regeneration. In other words, sanctification is the carrying on to perfection the work begun in regeneration, and it extends to the whole man (Rom 6:13; 2Cor 4:6; Col 3:10; 1 Jn 4:7; 1Cor 6:19). It is the special office of the Holy Spirit in the plan of redemption to carry on this work (1Cor 6:11; 2 Thes 2:13). Faith is instrumental in securing sanctification, inasmuch as it (1) secures union to Christ (Gal 2:20), and (2) brings the believer into living contact with the truth, whereby he is led to yield obedience "to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come."

Perfect sanctification is not attainable in this life (1 Kg 8:46; Prov 20:9; Eccl 7:20; James 3:2; 1 Jn 1:8). See Paul's account of himself in Rom 7:14-25; Phil 3:12-14; and 1 Tim 1:15; also the confessions of David (Ps 1912, 13; 51), of Moses (90:8), of Job (42:5, 6), and of Daniel (9:3-20). "The more holy a man is, the more humble, self-renouncing, self-abhorring, and the more sensitive to every sin he becomes, and the more closely he clings to Christ. The moral imperfections which cling to him he feels to be sins, which he laments and strives to overcome. Believers find that their life is a constant warfare, and they need to take the kingdom of heaven by storm, and watch while they pray. They are always subject to the constant chastisement of their Father's loving hand, which can only be designed to correct their imperfections and to confirm their graces. And it has been notoriously the fact that the best Christians have been those who have been the least prone to claim the attainment of perfection for themselves.", Hodge's Outlines.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Simple English

The word sanctification (see -ification) refers to the act of making holy or setting apart special. The word is used five times in the Authorized Version of the New Testament (1 Corinthians 1:30, 1 Thessalonians 4:3,4, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2).

To sanctify means “to set apart for special use or purpose,” and “to make holy or sacred,” and etymologically from the Latin verb sanctificare which in turn is from sanctus “holy” and facere “to make.”


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