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Holiness Position Paper

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Introduction & Definition:

To sanctify is to set apart for holy use, to separate out from the profane for the sacred (Hebrew, qadesh; Greek, hagiazo). As with justification, sanctification is the work of God. It is a work of grace based on the merit of Christ. Paul writes in Galatians 6:14, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Through the work of Christ, God separates the believer from sin for the purpose of holiness, which is accomplished as the believer follows after the Spirit putting to death the misdeeds of the body (See also Romans 6:22; 8:1-14).

The entire Christian life depends on the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "...from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth" (2 Thess. 2:13-14).

What then is involved in this sanctifying work of the Spirit in the believer? The full breadth of that work includes two dimensions. The first is initial sanctification that is positional in Christ and occurs when a person receives Jesus Christ as Savior. The second is the experiential dimension that is expected and commanded of Christians. For example, note Paul's words in Philippians 2:12, "...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling." The moment we accept Christ as Savior the believer dies to sin and becomes alive to holiness (Romans 6:2-4). Then Paul commands Christians to keep on counting themselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).

Holiness and sanctification must be translated into a some one's own life experience by the help of the Holy Spirit via the Word of God (John 17:17). This is that to which Paul refers when he writes to the Christians in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, "This is the will of God, even your sanctification." While this experiential dimension of sanctification begins at conversion, I believe, that substantial progress in holiness occurs when a believer deliberately makes a complete commitment to the Lord's control (Rom. 6:12,13; 12:1).

More often than not, I believe, it begins with a unyielding decision following salvation to make Christ Lord of every area of my life.

In Romans 6:11 Paul commands the Christians to count themselves dead repeatedly to sinning of all kinds and alive unto God every time they are tempted to sin. In Romans 12:2, believers are to stop letting this age conform them into its likeness and they are to continue letting the Lord transform their lives by the renewing of their minds. As Jesus stated in Matthew 16:24, they are to continue following and obeying Him and His teachings. The intent is that the longer we live this progressively holy life, the more our lives will become conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ, God's Son (Rom. 8:29).

Which I think begs the question - just how does sanctification and holiness occur in the life of a believer. Should I lean to the Calvinist side and assume there is nothing I can do, or should I lean towards the Armenian side and see that I do have a choice when it comes to Holiness?

I want to talk about what I believe are four basic 'hallmarks' regarding how I believe spiritual growth occurs in the believer, and I will conclude with what I believe is the ultimate sign of sanctification and holiness or spiritual growth in a follower of Jesus Christ.

Psychologists say that one of the primary causes of conflict in households involves arguments over what is generally called the division of labor -- which task belongs to which person? If the bed goes unmade, if the dishes go unwashed, if the diaper goes unchanged, who is responsible? Who is responsible for getting each job done?

Now, this seems like a pretty simple issue, but it's amazing the number of relationships that never achieve harmony concerning division of labor issues. Many households have never had a calm rational discussion about who is best equipped by giftedness and passion to take out the garbage and so on.

The result of this is lots of things don't get done because each person in the relationship thinks that the other one is really responsible. We all bring our preconceived ideas into relationships about who ought to do what.

According to my information the doctrine of sanctification and holiness is discussed more than 400 times in the Bible. That alone ought to convince us of its importance in our lives. This issue really tugs at the heart of what it is that we do once we become a Christian. Do I take the "pre-destination" point of view that God will change me if He wants to, or do I go to the other extreme that I must "work" my way towards sanctification and holiness?

As I stated in my introduction the word in Greek which gets translated "sanctification and holiness" is related to the word "holy" - "hagios." The ideal idea being that I would live a "holy" life as a Christian, do God's work and live in His power here on earth.

God's plan is for our fallen image to be restored to all its glory and beauty in God's image that human life should and will be as God intended it. Sanctification and holiness and spiritual growth must take place for God's children, it's not optional.

To put it simply, I believe for many Christians, there is confusion about the division of labor issue on this one as it relates to spiritual growth or sanctification and holiness. Is it God's job or is it mine? There are two extremes that we can look at in regard to this issue.

Some people take the position that spiritual growth and sanctification and holiness is solely the job of God. They say, "If I do anything at all, if I make any effort to be holy, its works-righteousness. It's legalism. I'm living in the flesh. I can't do anything at all." That's what this position says. And sometimes they cite certain verses to show that sanctification and holiness might be solely God's job.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, "May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit, soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do this."

Or they may cite other verses like Romans 7:18 (NIV) where Paul says, "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out."




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