Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

40. WHAT ARE SANCTIFICATION AND GLORIFICATION?

Each person who responds to God’s grace (Titus 2:11) and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ (Rom 5:8; 1 John 2:2) by confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience instantly receives the great gift of salvation.  This gift includes but is not limited to the following:

 

  • Redemption (Rom 3:24; 8:23) - You are freed from the bondage of sin for the first time in your life.
  • Forgiveness (Mat 6:9-15; 1 John 1:8-10) – You are forgiven your sins by God.
  • Justification (Rom 3:21-26) – You are declared righteous by God; this legal declaration is valid because Christ died to pay the penalty for your sin and lived a life of perfect righteousness that can in turn be imputed to you.
  • Adoption (Rom 3:23; Gal 3:26; 1 John 3:2) – You are a joint heir with Jesus to the Kingdom of God.
  • Regeneration (John 3:1-21) - The Holy Spirit makes known to you the will of God and helps you discern truth from lie.  He occupies and purifies all the rooms of your heart into which He is invited.  For the first time in your life you are not a prisoner of sin.  You are free to pursue the path of righteousness.  This is the first day of your Christian life and you are a new creature in Christ.  This is the mechanism of your redemption.
  • Sanctification (Heb 6:1; 1 Pet 1:13-16) - You are led by the Holy Spirit along the path toward holiness; this is a lifetime journey.
  • Reconciliation (Eph 2:11-22) - You are reconciled with all other believers.
  • Unification (Eph 3:1-11) – You are united with all believers in the Church of Jesus Christ.
  • Glorification (Rom 8:30) – You will complete the journey along the path of sanctification when your mission in this life is done.

 

This section addresses the concepts of sanctification and glorification.

 

Sanctification is a journey along the road to holiness.  The journey begins with regeneration or initial sanctification which is the change God works in the soul when He brings it to life, when He raises it from the death of sin to a life of pursuing righteousness.  The journey ends, for the vast majority of us, at death when we enter into the presence of God and our souls are, at long last, glorified; we are set free from the influence of sin and enveloped by the holiness of God. 

But a question arises.  Is it possible, in this life, for a human being to enter into the earthly analog of glorification sometimes called entire sanctification?  How far can I travel along the road to holiness during my life on earth?  Can I achieve, at least for some interval of time:

  • Holiness in being and holiness in action
  • Purity of heart, will, intellect and action
  • Perfect love, integrity, righteousness, morality, ethics, and character

Can I at least allow the Holy Spirit to occupy and purify nearly every room of my heart?  Can my human will become at least somewhat aligned with the will of God?  Can my feeble intellect discern at least many important truths?  Will the Holy Spirit give me a boost toward the top?  Will He occasionally push me up so I can hang from the edge of the precipice?  Can I be holy, for a while, until I am, once again, weighed down by my own

  • Concupiscence
  • Bad judgment
  • Inconsistent will
  • Weariness caused by the constant struggle against temptation

causing me to lose my grip and fall from the heights?  Scripture suggests the possibility of, at least, hanging from the edge of the precipice for a time.

 

  • God would not command the impossible.  A mature, complete, continuing response to grace is enjoined repeatedly in Scripture (Ex 19:6; John 5:14; 2 Cor 7:1, 13:1; Heb 6:1, 12:14; 1 Pet 1:15-16).  God would not require holiness in this life (Deut 6:5; Luke 10:27; Rom 6:11) if it were intrinsically impossible.

 

  • God would not promise complete responsiveness to grace if it were intrinsically unattainable.  A complete and mature life of loving holiness is clearly promised in scripture (Deut 30:6; Psalm 119:1-3; Isa 1:18; Jer 33:8; Ezek 36:25; Mat 5:6; 1 Thes 5:23, 24; Heb 7:25; 1 John 1:7-9).

 

  • The apostles repeatedly prayed for the full and complete life of holiness and perfect love (John 17:20-23; 2 Cor 13:9-11; Eph 3:14-21; Col 4:12; Heb 13:20-21; 1 Pet 5:10).  Were they deluded?

 

  • Scripture identifies a few entirely sanctified persons (Gen 5:18-24; Gen 6:9; Job 1:8; Acts 11:24).  A single instance establishes attainability.

 

  • Certain texts that appear to argue for un-attainability can be explained on different grounds (Eccles 7:20; 2 Chron 6:36; Job 25:4; 1 John 1:8-10).

 

Can persons be easily identified who have been boosted up to entire sanctification (Christian Perfection) or have otherwise been given special empowerment by the Holy Spirit to a peerage above the ranks of the merely saved?  Can some duly elected board of examiners certify such individuals?  Some believe the gift of “tongues” is proof of a particular kind of empowerment.  Others review Scripture covering the twenty “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Rom 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:4-11; 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11) and conclude God:

  • Imparts a variety of gifts according to His divine grace (Eph 4:7,8).
  • Chooses these gifts at His own discretion and not according to our desire (1 Cor 12:11).
  • Wills every Christian exercise one or more spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:4-7).

Perhaps we need to look beyond denominational certifications, personal claims of holiness and personal displays of gifts to identify those who have been boosted up to entire sanctification or have otherwise been given special empowerment by the Holy Spirit to a peerage above the rank and file Christian.  Perhaps we should examine their fruit (Mat 7:16-20; Gal 5:22, 23).