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Sanctification and Holiness (Part 1) – Theology Unplugged

Tim Kimberley: Well fellas it’s great to be back together again. And this week we’re talking about something that I think is probably something that hits us all in the very core of who we are. And it’s something that I don’t think we talk about that much in the church actually and that is sanctification or holiness.

Real spiritual growth is always growth downward.

Michael, do you talk about holiness and sanctification very often when you teach would you say?

Michael Patton: Well you know

Tim Kimberley: I’m puttin’ you on the spot here.

Michael Patton: No. From a theological perspective, you know, using those words to introduce sanctification/holiness I think is something maybe we don’t talk about in theory, the way we may here today as we go through different views of sanctification.

But I think whenever we’re talking about living the Christian life there is of course an assumption behind it of how much we can be, in this life, be Christ like, how holy we can be, how much, this side of heaven, how much we can be, like we will be, on the other side of heaven.

Sam Storms: Well Tim’s already there.

Michael Patton: Tim is.

Sam Storms: We’ve already conceded up front that the other three of us are still struggling. Tim has arrived.

Tim Kimberley: I didn’t want to say anything but, Thank you Sam.

JJ Seid: I bet you we already have some listeners that are already entering the fog because we’ve already talked about holiness and sanctification. Those are two bigs words and they’re used different ways in Scripture. So somebody help us out here because most people don’t realize that sanctification and holiness are sort of interchangeable terms. And two, there is positional holiness and then there’s progressive holiness and it’s really important that you know which one you’re talking about.

Tim Kimberley: Yea. Okay so I would give a very quick definition that I would give is that God is holy. Which means that he is pure and he is the only holy being, like truly holy being that we’ve ever seen. He’s perfectly holy but we are not and we never will be.

Now I’m showing my cards there a little bit but one of the things that’s very strange I would say and I’m going to use that word “strange” I think, very strange in a very humbling way, is that God wants us to look more like him. And he wants us to look like Jesus. And so when we believe, when we becomes believers, as we follow Jesus, we’re not merely following Jesus, he is, from the inside out, making us look more like his son. And I would say that is what’s called sanctification. And when you describe what’s happening, look that person is living in holiness in one sense.

JJ Seid: Well, and I like to, people say, “In what way and what part of your life?” I like to say, you know, progressively making us look more like him in what we think, say, do and desire. Kind of giving people a concrete illustration of the areas in which there’s change, and movement and progress. But there’s something else, our status, which isn’t related to those things. Somebody help me out here

Sam Storms: Well, let’s get back, you already drew the distinction that’s important. When people read their Bibles they’re going to come across this word, sanctification, in the New Testament. They need to understand that it’s used in two very clear senses. The word “sanctify” sometimes means “to set apart” or “to consecrate as unique.” God sanctifies us in the sense that he sets us apart unto himself. We become his possession. There’s actually a book written on sanctification called “Possessed by God.” This author actually argues that the primary meaning of sanctification in the New Testament is what JJ referred to as “positional.” It refers to our relationship with the Father that is unchanging. It doesn’t fluctuate, it doesn’t alter from day-to-day, it isn’t effected by whether we sin or whether we live in holiness. It means that we have been purchased, bought by God, set apart unto him, we are his unique possession, we belong to him, we’re possessed by him.

And then it’s used of course, in a few places, to refer to as you used the term “progressive” what we would kind of call an incremental, daily, transformation in what we desire, what we long for, what we hate, what we say, what we do, that we hope–by God’s grace–is more and more like how that was revealed in the life of Jesus.

Michael Patton: You know. Speaking of this in a couple ways. And I know we’re kind of shotgunning at the beginning to give people an idea of what we’re talking about and maybe we’ll further talk about in other broadcasts. But there’s a couple things that I have that are questions, very persona questions because whenever I think of sanctification the first person I go to is myself and you know, how sanctified am I and am I being sanctified.

Sam Storms: Are you asking us for an evaluation?

Michael Patton: No, no, no. Please this is not a counseling session.

Tim Kimberley: Also I think that there’s probably proving that you need more sanctification when you always think of yourself because you’re so selfish.

JJ Seid: Man Tim’s just taking shots.

Michael Patton: He is and I’m going to take some further shots at myself. At one time in my life I did feel like because of the things that I was doing, the things that I’d changed in my life, the outward appearance, that I had become, and very very important vestiges and sins that I’d gotten ride of in my early twenties, that I was really looking sanctified, that I was really feeling sanctified, that I felt like I was more like God, and I was holy. And, you know, that I was a pretty good chap and pretty close to what I was supposed to be.

But as I’ve grown in the Lord, I think, you know this is kind of a weird thing, as I’ve grown in the Lord I’ve felt less and less sanctified. Every year I don’t feel like I’m more sanctified than I was the year before even though in some ways I should, and in other ways it’s not as if there are vestiges that I am picking up. You start to feel the corruption more and more.

JJ Seid: I love J.I. Packer said, “Growth in the Christian life is growth downwards.” It was many years before I heard that but the minute I read it I said oh man that sounds right that makes sense.

Real spiritual growth is always growth downward, so to speak, into profounder humility, which in healthy souls will become more and more apparent as they age.[1]

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  1. Packer, J. I. (2014–01–31). Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging (Kindle Locations 570–571). Crossway. Kindle Edition.  ↩
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