T. Pierce Brown
Since Jesus prayed in John 17 for God to sanctify His disciples, the subject and the act must be important. We need to know both what sanctification is, and how it is to be achieved.
The word “sanctify” comes from the Greek “hagiazo,” and means “set apart.” It is translated “hallow” twice, and “sanctify” 26 times. The related word, “hagios,” is translated “holy” 161 times and “saint” 62 times.
If we read carefully every reference of the word and its cognates, we discover that the basic meaning has to do with position or function rather than quality. But there is a definite and important connection between “positional,” “qualitative” and “functional” sanctification that we need to understand. If the King of kings is coming to visit in your home and you have a special vessel that you set apart for his use, this is a “sanctified” vessel. This is “positional sanctification,” for it is set apart — put in a particular position for His use. But the fact that you set it apart for the King’s use would properly involve your consideration of its quality. It would be the best you have. If you were feeding him soup, you would not feed him from the bowl from which you fed the dog. Nor would you just give him an ordinary plate from which to eat it, nor a fork with which to eat it. You would give him the best bowl you had. So this “sanctification” would have to do not only with position — the fact that it was set apart only for His use. It would have to do with quality (the best you had) and function (that which would be most useful or appropriate for the task at hand).
So, although the word “sanctify” means “to set apart,” it necessarily implies, when it is used with reference to our relationship to God and Christ, personal purity, reverence, respect, dedication and functional usefulness. The Corinthians had “positional sanctification” (for they were called “saints”), but not qualitative or functional sanctification. That is, they did not act like saints.
Notice how sanctification is to be accomplished. “Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth” (John17:17). It would be sheer mockery to be set apart positionally (be saints – 1 Cor. 1:1) and not be set apart in terms of quality and function. Peter points this out in 1 Peter 1:15, “But as he who called you is holy, be ye holy in all manner of conversation — .” This means that your manner of life should conform, both qualitatively and functionally, to your position as a saint. So the second element involved in sanctification is purification, as Paul put it in 2 Tim. 2:21, “If a man therefore purge himself from these (things dishonorable), he will be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, meet for the Master’s use (quality), prepared unto every good work (function).”
This sanctification, which ultimately involves freedom from sin, purity of life, transformation of life, zeal for good works (Tit.2:14) is done by God’s Truth. There must first be love of truth else a person will suffer a strong delusion and be damned “because they received not the love of the truth” (2 Thess.2:10-12). Then if you love it, you will strive to learn what it is, as Jesus said in John 8:32, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” But there must be a strong faith in that truth, as Paul makes a connection between “sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thess.2:13).
Then there must be obedience to it. Not only does Romans 6:17 show that one is made free from sin when he obeys from the heart the truth, but Peter specifically says in 1 Peter 1:22, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth — .”
There are at least four important reasons Jesus wants us sanctified. 1. For our own sakes, He wants us separated from the world of sin. 2. For the glory of God, for it is not a glory to God when the vessels for His use are impure. 3. That we may function properly in His service and do the tasks He ordained for us. 4. Then, ultimately, that we may dwell with Him in the eternal glory of God (John17:24).
Will you help answer the prayer of Jesus, not only for unity of all believers, but for their sanctification, positionally, qualitatively and functionally? It is of little or no value to have unity if there is not sanctification in that unity.