2 March 2021
The above topic is one that many would prefer not to discuss, as there are many conflicting opinions and there may not be any satisfactory conclusions in many of these discussions. Nonetheless, this is taught and revealed in the Scripture and it is needful for us as believers to know the whole counsel of God as best as God enables.
First, let us look at some passages of Scripture which touch on this subject:
“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:13,24).
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight (Eph. 1:3-4).
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:12-13).
There are other passages but notice the relationship between predestination (election; chosen) and sanctification (holiness; blamelessness).
Sanctification is the work of God, changing the Christian’s nature to transform him into something which by nature he was not; it is the work of God’s free grace whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and enabled more and more to die unto sin and to live unto righteousness. (See 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Corin. 3:18)
In Philippians 2, Apostle Paul says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (vv 12-13). God is doing something supernatural in our lives; He is changing us into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ; it is the work of grace and of His indwelling Holy Spirit. This is sanctification viewed from the divine angle.
However, the other angle is to show it as the quality of a Christian’s life; termed ‘righteousness’ and ‘holiness’ in most instances. In this respect, we are talking about obedience to God, the effort and disciplined activity of doing His will.
Some look at this as a ‘resistance movement’ i.e. resistance to the ‘attractions’ and allurements of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and to the power of bad habits still unbroken. From another standpoint, this involves imitating our Lord and the discipline of pleasing God (1 Thess. 4:1).
Sanctification is a life, then, of obedience, of resisting sin, of imitating Jesus, and of fellowship with God as one seeks to please God in everything one does.
The two angles:
a) sanctification is a gift – God working in us to renew and transform us
b) sanctification is a task – the task of obedience, righteousness, and pleasing God
We must not lose sight of either one: if we think only of the task, we will become self-reliant legalists seeking to achieve righteousness inn our own strength; if we think only of the work of God in our lives, then the likelihood is that Satan will trick us into not making the necessary effort and not maintaining the discipline of righteousness, resulting in dishonouring the Lord by our slackness.
We now come to the relationship between sanctification and predestination, or election. Scripture reveals that salvation is through election. Our salvation results from God forming and putting into action a plan to save us. He has decided upon this plan unconditionally, that is, not waiting for us to deserve it, because if He had waited until we deserved it, He would have been waiting forever because none of us would have reached a stage of deserving it. Salvation is through God’s election.
But the Scripture also reveals that sanctification is a goal of God’s election or predestination. Sanctification is what God selected us for; ‘He chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight ‘ (Eph.1:4). God’s election issues in the work of inner renewal whereby our hearts are changed and we learn to love righteousness and the things that God loves. Election produces lives that have been changed – knowledge of God’s election produces new energy for holiness, motivated by gratitude and love. Faith, obedience and holiness are the fruits, effects and consequences of election.
In fact, sanctification is the only proof of one’s election (2 Pet.1:19). In other words, if there is no holiness to be seen, no practice of sanctification, no change in your nature, then there is no basis on which you have any right to suppose that you are one of God’s chosen people.
In summary, sanctification is a goal of God’s election, a fruit of God’s election, the only proof of God’s election, and the knowledge of election is a great spur to further advance in the way of holiness.
Unfortunately, some people suspect that the doctrine of predestination or election results in not promoting holiness but instead promotes carelessness. John Wesley was all his life convinced that this is so. Many since Wesley’s day have continued in this conviction by saying that the doctrine of election says that whether we are holy in life does not matter one way or the other. After all, there is no motivation for righteousness once you know you are elect. I trust that we have seen that this is certainly not so by examining what had been shared earlier on from the teachings of Scripture.