Let us begin with a bit of a word study. While there are those who consider use of such words as “sanctification” to be some sort of “Christianese” that should not be used by the person trying to reach the common man, the word does appear in Scripture, and it appeared to those who otherwise technically should not have easily understood what it meant. This must mean it has a fairly simple definition to suggest its use to the common people back in the days Scripture was written.
The Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary says this:
A primitive root; to be (causatively make, pronounce or observe as) clean (ceremonially or morally): – appoint, bid, consecrate, dedicate, defile, hallow, (be, keep) holy (-er, place), keep, prepare, proclaim, purify, sanctify (-ied one, self), X wholly.
The Strong’s Greek Dictionary says this:
From G40; to make holy, that is, (ceremonially) purify or consecrate; (mentally) to venerate: – hallow, be holy, sanctify.
As we can see above, in either the Greek or the Hebrew, this word is loaded with meaning.
Visiting google.ca, we see the common modern translation:
Set apart as or declare holy; consecrate.
Make legitimate or binding by religious sanction.
hallow – consecrate – dedicate – bless
The first mention we see in Scripture of the act of sanctification is at the very first official celebration of Passover:
Exodus 13:1-2 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.
As an act of gratitude and remembrance, every family was to sanctify their first-born child. As the definitions above state, this meant that every first-born child was now set apart for any purpose to which God might call them, at any time and for any reason.
This act of sanctification for God’s usage and purposes would continue through to the establishment of Tabernacle worship. The sanctification of the Tabernacle and priests for service is also the first place where we see the anointing oil in use. It is interesting to observe that not much further along in the sanctification of the Tabernacle that God says in Leviticus:
Leviticus 20:7 Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.
This time, the call to sanctification is not to the firstborn, nor is it to the Levitical priests. This time, the entire congregation of the people is being told to sanctify themselves and be holy as God is holy.
It is impossible to talk about sanctification without talking about holiness. The reason for this is that sanctification is the process of becoming holy. It is the process of being set apart from the world and from sin and set apart toward a holy God.
Looking at the various verses where this word is used brought up an unusual verse in Isaiah:
Isaiah 8:11-18 For the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, 12Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. 13Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. 16Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. 17And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. 18Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.
Matthew 21:43-44 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. 44And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
However, the focus here is on a phrase in verse 13 of Isaiah 8: “Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” Wow. . . What is God saying here?
God wants to be set apart as holy within our own thoughts and within our own hearts. When so many things grapple for our attention, our time, and our resources, God wants to be the consecrated One in our lives, the One who gets first priority. God wants to be the One who is revered, held in high esteem, honoured and loved above all else. We see this same thought from the Apostle Peter when he writes:
1 Peter 3:15-16 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
The first time we see this word used in the New Testament, we come across Christ praying in the Garden:
John 17:15-19 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
Here we see God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, setting Himself apart from the things of the world so that His disciples may be sanctified also. Here also, we see the first direct reference to sanctification through the Word of God. King David did not use the word sanctification, but he gave the exact same concept when he wrote in Psalm 119:
Psalm 119:9 BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
Because God’s Word is truth and because Christ has prayed that God would sanctify His people through His Truth, we have the Apostle Paul writing:
Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
The process of sanctification, that act of being set apart from the world and being made holy toward God, produces a transformation in how we think, how we speak, how we act, and where we go. Indeed, as we spend time in God’s Word, the way God thinks and acts begins to influence the way we think and act and we begin to change. It is said that a person takes on the characteristics of the five people they hang around the most. It is also said that a couple who has been married for a long time will not only begin to laugh and speak alike, but they almost begin to look alike too.
So it should be with the Bride of Christ and the Heavenly Bridegroom. Does she spend so much time with the Holy Spirit that she begins to act and talk like Jesus Christ? Does she spend so much time either in or pondering the Word of God that she begins to mimic how God does things simply by sheer association?
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