For many Christians sanctification is a difficult concept to comprehend (or at least to accept). I even know some faithful Christians who refuse to talk in terms of their present sainthood. To them we become saints only after we die. It is never my point to argue with a loving Christian brother. However, it is imperative that we "rightly divide the Word of Truth" (2 Tim 2:15) or else we simply make God in our own image and religion becomes what we want it to be. It will be our goal here to use the Scripture to define sanctification and to delineate it from salvation.

Sanctification is the process by which we "grow" as Christians. It begins at the point of our salvation but otherwise is unrelated to salvation. Salvation is instantaneous while sanctification is a continuum. Salvation is accomplished through the cross, which deals with our Sin (our nature or who we are). Sanctification is accomplished through the resurrection, which deals with our sins (what we do). You see, without the resurrection there would be no life to offer the new Christian. We could die to Sin but not be resurrected to a new life. That is one of the many reasons the resurrection is essential to our faith.

Now, let’s take a brief overview of the introduction of this idea of sanctification in the New Testament. In the first five chapters of Romans Paul introduced the "Gospel" with an apologetic discussion of justification by faith. He began by saying that all are accountable and eliminated any excuse the Gentile might have thought he had by way of ignorance of YHWH, explaining that God reveals Himself through His creation. He then soundly trounced the orthodox Jew for their dependence on the Law as a means of salvation. Paul made it clear that "…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and this included Jew and Gentile alike. Next, Paul proceeded to explain that even Abraham was saved by faith. (Romans 4:3-5 and 10-11) Chapter 5 is concluded with a defense of the legal appropriateness of one man’s death being sufficient as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. (Romans 5:17-19)

In the 6th chapter Paul introduces an idea so radical in nature that it changes the way Christians live their lives and so revolutionary that no one but a born again believer can even comprehend the scope of its meaning. This "new" concept is called sanctification. (Like all other Christian doctrine it has been well introduced in the Old Testament.) While salvation is instantaneous, sanctification is continuous throughout our earthly life. While salvation is totally dependent on the work of Christ, sanctification is dependent in part on our work. Salvation is dependent on the cross. Sanctification is dependent on the resurrection. Salvation is a gift. Sanctification is a reward. Salvation is all or none. Sanctification is graduated. Now, an explanation of sanctification by Paul was necessary because it was and is critical to understanding the Christian walk, but it was necessary here because Paul had just destroyed the reason the orthodox Jew had for obeying the Law. If salvation is not earned by obeying the Law and is simply a gift of God, then why in the world would anyone want to restrict their actions to the confines of the Law? The truth is that most would not. And so… Paul introduces the concept of sanctification and spends the next three chapters in his letter to the Romans discussing and explaining it.

Sanctification is just as important for us to understand as it was for the Romans, so we will take some time and try to explain it here. There are three points to my outline of sanctification. They are: 1) What it is, 2) How it works and 3) What it produces. We will look briefly at each.

What It Is

There are several words in the Hebrew and Greek that are translated into the English as sanctification. Most of these words can also be translated as holy for they have very similar meanings. There are several implied meanings in the scripture for sanctification but the most basic meaning is separation. More specifically it is to be separated for that purpose for which we were created. And since God is our Creator, then it is He who has determined our purpose.

How It Works

To understand how sanctification works we must first understand something of the purpose for which we were created. That means we need to understand how God designed us to function. In order to do this we will first take a "theological" overview of the way God intended for us to function and then we will take a more practical and diagrammatic look at how we are designed to function.

Theological Overview

The first and most difficult point for us to understand is that God intends for us to be perfect. Matthew 5:48 "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (KJV) This seems an impossible task so let’s look more closely and see what is meant. In the Bible the word perfect almost always means to be complete. So, for man to be perfect (or complete) he would have to be what God planned for the "finished product" to be. Now God’s original intent was for man to depend on Him for daily provisions -- food, fellowship, protection, etc. This, of course, would require faith—because if a person is to depend on someone else for provisions then that person must certainly trust the provider. It would also require self-denial, because to trust someone else to do things their way means that one will not do things his own way.

Now we must ask ourselves if this is this consistent with the Genesis account. Looking at the creation story, we see that God provided for man’s every need. He provided an idyllic garden in which to live. Therein were provisions for his daily sustenance. The animals were at peace with Adam. God even provided Adam with a woman for fellowship. And, perhaps most importantly, there was a unique fellowship between man and his Creator. They walked together and talked together in a very direct manner. But if God’s intentions were for man to trust and depend on Him, then something was lacking. The provisions were there for the taking -- unconditionally! This would not require of man any trust, or faith, and or true dependence. If, however, the provisions were conditional, then man would have to trust God to keep His part of the "bargain". For even if man kept his part of the conditions he could only trust that God would keep His part. Thus we have the basis of the Edenic Covenant. God created man and placed him in this perfect paradise - the Garden of Eden - with only one condition. That condition was, of course, that man could not eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—for in the day that he did so he would die. Now logic and reason would impel man to trust God because he literally did not "know" there was another choice. A loving and benevolent Creator had placed man in this perfect paradise and told him what to do. Man was created "perfect" -- utterly dependent upon God. Sin and disobedience had never entered his mind. Now Satan entered the scene. Notice that he was not introduced as a fiendish and diabolical foe but rather as the most beautiful and crafty ofGod’s creation. Forthwith, Satan introduced an option that required man to make a choice to trust and depend on his Creator! Satan (the father of lies) introduced the first lie. This lie confronted man with an option that he had never considered. The option was that God really could not be trusted, because eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil would not surely cause man to die but would make man like God! Then if man were like God he would not have to depend on God.

The original intent of the Creator was a beautiful and perfect picture of love. God would supply our needs and yes even more than our needs -- our heart’s desire if… if we would only depend on Him to provide what is best for us! But Adam bought the lie -- and from that moment forward man has pursued the "holy-grail of knowledge" as though it would give him power over his destiny. And we are still groping along -- feeding on the ever persistent lies of Satan and thinking (even believing) that each morsel of new knowledge puts us almost within reach of infinity. Satan is incredibly shrewd -- in fact he is the second most intelligent being in God’s created order. What he did in the Garden of Eden was pure genius. We should never think we can outsmart Satan.

Practically Speaking…

For me at least, it is easy to see how God planned for things to work out in the Garden of Eden. But what matters is how it works (or is supposed to work) for me in the here and now. To understand this we will take another look at the Trilogram presented in the discussion of salvation and expound on it.


Notice now that the center portion, which we have designated as the spirit is different from that of the unregenerate man. The spirit now has characteristics and features of its own. That is because the spirit of man has now been "quickened" by the resurrected Lord. Our spirit now has life because it has been rejoined to the Spirit of God. We have been "born again". This profoundly affects the way we function because since the spirit now is alive it can (at least possibly) influence the way we do things. Before we were reborn the spirit was without life and, therefore, could not possibly direct our activities. Looking at the soul you will notice that it is made up of four parts; the mind, emotion, personality and will. The mind, emotion and personality each have congruent parts in the spirit and can be influenced or directed by these corresponding spiritual counterparts. However, the will has no corresponding component in the spirit. In order for the spirit to control the soul the will has to be voluntarily submitted. That is what is meant by dying to self. That is the process of taking up our cross daily. (Luke 9:23 "And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." KJV) We have been given a free will, which God never intends to overrule. This privilege that God has given us is so precious and important to God’s original purpose that He will literally let us do anything we choose -- even if it hurts us or Him. He will let us eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil if we so choose (knowing the consequences). He will even (at utmost cost to Him) let us kill His only Son and step back and watch without intervening. It is my sincere conviction that failure to appreciate this undergirding tenet of our Christian faith (our free will) can lead to some fundamentally flawed theology. (I am not implying that acceptance of this dogma stands as a test of "true" Christian faith.) On the other hand, if we use this model as a guide to understanding the Christian walk we see that the only hindrance to being "perfect" is our own will. That is why it is so important to know the significance of the ordeal that Jesus went through in Gethsemane. It was there that Jesus fought His greatest battle (in my opinion) because it was there that Jesus made the ultimate commitment to do what He had come to do in the first place. Jesus did not come to show us what God could do walking the dusty roads of Galilee and draped in the garb of flesh. He came to show us what man could do walking the dusty roads of life when he is totally submitted to the Father. Jesus never did anything using His own power as God. Instead He always submitted Himself to the Father and let the Father do His will through the Son as He assumed the role of man.

John 5:19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. (KJV)

John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (KJV)

John 6:38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. (KJV)

What It Produces

Sanctification involves nothing more than being what God wants us to be -- submitted to His will so that He can make us what He wants, but will not do against our will. There are many things that God wants for us that we cannot even imagine. (1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. KJV) But there are several things that I know he wants for us now.

He wants us to love others

  • Deuteronomy 6:5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (KJV)
  • Matthew 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (KJV)
  • Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (KJV)

He wants us to be wise

  • Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. (KJV)

He wants us to be righteous

  • Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (KJV)
  • 1 Corinthians 15:34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. (KJV)
  • Ephesians 6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; (KJV)

He wants us to be meek

  • Zephaniah 2:3 Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger. (KJV)

He wants us to be gentle

  • Timothy 2:24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, (KJV)

He wants us to be patient (longsuffering)

  • 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (KJV)
  • James 1:4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (KJV)

He wants us to be merciful

  • Proverbs 3:3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: (KJV)
  • Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (KJV)

He wants us to forgive

  • Luke 17:4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. (KJV)

He wants us to be joyful

  • Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (KJV)

He wants us to be at peace

  • 2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. (KJV)

He wants us to have faith

  • Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (KJV)

There are certainly other characteristics that God wants for us but this list will suffice to demonstrate my point. It is this -- all of the above mentioned characteristics that God wants for us are characteristics of God Himself or characteristics that God promises to directly give us. Lets look…


  • 1 John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (KJV)


  • Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. (KJV)
  • James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (KJV)


  • Philippians 1:11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
  • Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: (KJV)
  • Romans 5:17-19 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (KJV)


  • Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (KJV)
  • 2 Corinthians 10:1 Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: (KJV)


  • 2 Corinthians 10:1 Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: (KJV)

Patience (Longserving)

  • 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (KJV)


  • Psalm 103:17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; (KJV)
  • Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, (KJV)


  • 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (KJV)
  • 1 John 2:12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. (KJV)


  • John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (KJV)
  • John 17:13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. (KJV)


  • 2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. (KJV)
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23 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. (KJV)


  • Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (KJV)

There is no characteristic that God desires for us, which does not have its origin in the very essence and character of God Himself.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, self-control: against such there is no law. (KJV-New Scofield)

James 1:17
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (KJV)

That is sanctification. That is holiness. That is perfection. That is being what God wants us to be. These characteristics are not attainable in and of ourselves because God made us such that we could not generate them in the flesh. (Romans 8:8 "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. " KJV) We must depend on God. We must seek His face. We must forsake our own efforts to achieve goodness because that is His plan.

*The Biblical basis of the Trilogram and its interdependent functioning will hopefully be the subject of a more detailed presentation in book form. The problem for now is that this subject matter "does not meet the editorial objectives" of four book publishers. If it has been of benefit to you, I am blessed.

Yours in Christ,
David A. Ball, MD