By Dr. Hugh Skelton
"Sanctification to be a definite work of grace subsequent to salvation" (St. John 15:2, 17:16, 17; Ephesians 5:25-27;
1st John 1:9).
It is the purpose of this article to emphasize the Church's position on the doctrine of sanctification. We take the
stand that sanctification is a definite work of grace subsequent to salvation. We believe sanctification to be an
experience to be received and enjoyed.
Why is it that we allow ourselves a certain looseness and inaccuracy of statement in regard to the work of
sanctification? The plea is, "Why be so technical? We all mean the same although we may use different terms or
expressions to convey our thoughts." We do not allow ourselves a like looseness or inaccuracy of statement when
we speak of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, we believe Saints should not be deprived of the
benefits of sanctification because of obscurities and inaccuracies so prevalent in much of our teaching regarding
this work of grace. Though clearly stated in the Bible, no doctrine has suffered from misunderstanding and
misstatement more than the doctrine of sanctification. Because of this, we set forth the following consideration on
the doctrine of sanctification.
Firstly, the doctrine of sanctification must be rightly related to every other Bible doctrine. Disproportionate emphasis
on any one doctrine, or the habit of seeing all truth in the light of one line of Bible teaching, leads to serious error.
The doctrine of sanctification, like all other doctrines of the scriptures, represents and defines an exact field within
the purpose of God, and since it aims at definite ends, it suffers as much from overstatement as from
Secondly, the doctrine of sanctification in the light of human experience must be found in accord with the scriptures.
It is the function of the Bible to interpret experience, rather than the function of experience to interpret the Bible.
Therefore, an analysis of some personal experience must not be substituted for the teaching of the Word of God.
No human statement, no matter how exhaustive, could ever exactly describe the full measure of the divine reality of
Thirdly, the right understanding of the doctrine of sanctification depends upon the consideration of all the scriptures
bearing on this theme. The body of scripture presenting this doctrine is much more extensive than appears to the
one who reads only the English text. The same root Hebrew and Greek words which are translated "sanctify," with
their various forms, are also translated by two other English words, "holy" and "saint" with their various forms. It is
not our purpose in this article to expand on all these forms but to bring into focus the teaching on sanctification.
The word "sanctify" is used at least one hundred and six times in the Old Testament and thirty-one times in the New
Testament. It means to "set apart," or the "state of being set apart." Webster defines it thus: "The act of making
holy, the state of being thus purified or sanctified. To make holy, the state of being thus purified or sanctified. To
make free from sin." Thus, sanctification is the act of divine grace whereby we are made holy and set apart unto a
Sanctification is a supernatural work wrought in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is the Agent (Romans 15:16; 2
Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2). In the broad sense, sanctification includes all Christian experience from
justification to glorification, beginning with the New Birth and continuing in the Christian life until we meet the Lord
face to face. However, the word sanctification is also used in a narrow sense, referring to a CRISIS EXPERIENCE
FOLLOWING JUSTIFICATION AND REGENERATION. Justification is the legal aspect and regeneration the moral
and vital aspect of our salvation. At salvation we are both forgiven and born again. Yet salvation is just the
beginning of the Christian life. After this experience, we should grow in grace. This we must do by embracing the
doctrine of sanctification.
We believe sanctification to be more than a "religious luxury" or "fringe benefit." We believe that the Bible teaches
that this experience is necessary to victorious living in Christ and that it is that relationship with God into which men
enter by faith in Christ, (Acts 26:18; 1 Corinthians 6:11), and to which the sole title is the death of Christ (Ephesians
5:25; Colossians 1:22; Hebrews 10:10-29; 13:12).
Sanctification is also used in the New Testament regarding the separation of the believer from evil things and ways.
It is God's will for the believer (1 Thessalonians 4:3), and His purpose in calling him by the gospel, verse 7. It must
be learned from God, verse 4, as He teaches it by His Word (John 17:17, 19); and it must be pursued by the
believer, earnestly and undeviatingly (1 Tim 2:15; Hebrews 12:14). It cannot be transferred or imputed. It is an
individual's possession, as the result of obedience to the Word of God, and of following the example of Christ
(Matthew 11:29; John 13:15; Ephesians 4:20); in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13; Ephesians 3:16).
The verb "sanctify" is derived from two Latin verbs: sancio which means to "make holy," facio meaning "do." The
literal translation then would mean: I make holy and I do continue to make holy. So sanctification unmistakably
means to make holy as well as to set apart.
The cleansing elements are the Blood of Christ and the Word of God. The Blood is not directly necessary for us to
be "set apart," but it is directly necessary for us to be cleansed in a CRISIS OF DEFINITE EXPERIENCE AND TO
KEEP US HOLY. (Hebrews 13:12) " . . . that he might sanctify the people with his own blood." Again, "if the blood of
bulls and goats, and the. ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh," (not the
setting apart of the flesh, but the purifying of the flesh), "how much more shall the Blood of Christ, who through the
eternal spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge or cleanse, or sanctify your conscience from dead works to
serve the living God."
The Word is also a vital part of our sanctification. (John 17:17), "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."
The Word also washes us and cleanses us, as Christ said, "Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken
unto you." Through Christ, we are put to death on the cross, but by the Living Word we are alive unto God, God wills
to work in us bringing about our sanctification.
Returning to the thought of sanctification being a work of grace subsequent to salvation, John Wesley spoke of this
experience as a "second blessing or entire sanctification." "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly and I pray
God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful
is he that calleth you, who also will do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:23,24).
The word "wholly," in the original language, means complete or through and through. Entire sanctification completes
the work of cleansing, healing, and empowering through the work of the Spirit, and as a result of the faith of the
individual by the blood of the atonement. It is an instantaneous work of grace in the soul to which life was imparted
at regeneration. Through entire sanctification, we become complete in Him. It is true that there is a development or
growth in the experience, but not into the experience. Depraved inclination in the justified soul is not outgrown by
spiritual development, but killed by the power of the Holy Ghost, through a specified act of faith. The old man must
be crucified (Romans 6:6).
This experience cannot be entered by those who are yet in their sins. The seeker after Christian Holiness must know
clearly that he is a child of God. God calls sinners to repentance, whereas He calls believers to Holiness.
In summary, we understand that sanctification is the purpose of the Father, made possible by the sacrifice of the
Son, wrought in us by the agency of the Holy Ghost. That it is the will of God for believers, and can be received
when one recognizes the love of God, yields fully to Him by the aid of the Spirit, depends upon the efficiency of the
shed blood and believes without doubt the truth of God.
We believe that God is able, that God is willing, and that God does sanctify.
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