Twelve Bible Dialogues
A Review of Twelve Basic Bible Doctrines
Harold P. Barker, with O. Lambert, C. A.
Miller, P. Brown,
Questions by E. C. Mais; Answers by H. P. Barker
THE importance of the subject we are about to consider may be gathered from the fact that so much is said about it in the Bible.
Sometimes men divide the truths of divine revelation into “essentials” and “non-essentials.” By these terms they mean truths that are essential to salvation and those that are not. But this is a very selfish way of looking at things. Surely the fact that God has made a communication to us regarding any subject shows that He considers the matter as essential to His own glory and to our blessing. We really cannot afford to be indifferent to any divine truth, whether or not we see its immediate bearing upon ourselves. Certainly sanctification is a subject that we cannot neglect without being great losers.
What is it to be sanctified?
The meaning of the word is, to be separated or set apart for a purpose. There is a verse in Psalm 4 which conveys the thought: “The Lord hath set apart him that is godly for Himself.”
It is important that we should bear this in mind, for many look on sanctification as a process of betterment by which people are gradually made holier, and fitted to dwell in heaven.
An examination of the passages of Scripture which speak of the subject will show the falsity of this idea. For example, in Deuteronomy 15:19 we find that young bullocks and sheep were sanctified. This certainly cannot mean that they were improved and made holier; it simply means that they were set apart for a purpose.
In Isaiah 66:17 wicked men are said to have sanctified themselves to do evil. That is, they set themselves apart for the accomplishment of their wicked purpose.
In John 17:19 the Lord Jesus says: “For their sakes I sanctify Myself.” It cannot possibly be that He needed to be improved and made holier, for He was ever perfect and spotlessly holy. But for the sake of “His own” He was about to separate Himself from earth, and the things into the midst of which He had come, and was going back to heaven. He would thus set Himself apart, to serve His people as their Advocate and Intercessor.
These passages clearly show the true meaning of sanctification.
Who are the people who are sanctified?
It is clear from the New Testament that all true believers in Christ are sanctified. With the forgiveness of sins goes “inheritance among them which are sanctified” (Acts 26:18).
Writing to the believers at
The word “saint” simply means a sanctified person; and this was the usual name by which all God’s people in those early days were known. They were called “disciples,” “brethren,” “Christians,” “friends,” “believers,” but the name most commonly used was “saints.” And this name was not applied merely to certain holy and devoted men, but to all true Christians.
Nowadays the word has well-nigh dropped out of use, and if we happen to speak of having been to see some of the “saints,” we are stared at as if we had been holding intercourse with the spirits of the dead! The truth is, that poor bedridden Elizabeth in the next street, is as much a saint as St. Peter himself; and old Thomas, who breaks stones by the road-side, has as much claim to the title as St. Paul the apostle.
Peter and Paul were not saints because of their zeal, and holiness, and devotion. They were saints because they were cleansed from their sins by Christ’s precious blood, and that is what has made every true believer a saint, or a “sanctified person.”
Are even those believers who are full of imperfections entitled to regard themselves as sanctified?
If only those who had got rid of their imperfections were sanctified, we should have to search a long time before we found them. Even the best amongst us is full of imperfection, and those who live in closest communion with God feel their own imperfections most.
But sanctification does not depend upon what we are in ourselves. Every Christian has what Scripture calls “the flesh” in him; and “the flesh,” whether in a saint or an unconverted sinner, is hopelessly, without remedy bad. It is evident, then, that what constitutes our sanctification is not an improvement of “the flesh.”
In 1 Corinthians 1:2 we see that it is in Christ Jesus that we are sanctified, not in ourselves. And in verse 30 of the same chapter we are told that Christ Jesus (not a holier or more perfect state) “is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification.”
Let me here explain that as Christians we must learn to think of ourselves in two entirely different ways. First as we actually are here in this world, with “the flesh” still in us, with temptations and trials around, and our bodies still bearing Adam’s likeness. As such, our history will end when we leave this world. Secondly as we are in Christ, standing in all the value of His finished work, and set before God to enjoy His favour, without a spot, or blemish, or imperfection. The latter is what we shall actually be when in heaven, but God sees us thus already in Christ, and faith reckons as he reckons.
As men in “the flesh,” children of Adam, God cannot derive pleasure from us. He has declared that man after that order will not do for Him. His purposes of grace and blessing must be secured in Another, even in Christ, and as newly created after Christ’s order, God can have pleasure in us. Hence it is that our sanctification (or being set apart for God’s pleasure) must be in Christ. No imperfections in us can possibly affect our position in Him, nor touch what we have in Him.
It may not be easy for souls to grasp this point all at once. But it is so important that I have dwelt upon it, and I ask for it the careful consideration of all present.
When is a believer sanctified?
Scripture speaks of our sanctification in connection with more than one period of time.
(1) Before the world was, in the mind and purpose of God.
(2) At the cross, when Jesus died, nineteen centuries ago.
(3) When, through the Holy Spirit, the gospel is brought home to us in power, and we receive it.
Let me use a homely illustration to show how this can be.
One Monday morning a lady is
doing some shopping
at one of the large stores on
On Tuesday the lady is again at the store. She asks for the hat, pays for it, and becomes its owner. It is now her hat, to do with it as she pleases. “Lay it on one side,” she says, “and I will send for it to-morrow.”
On Wednesday the lady sends her servant. The maid enters the store, states her errand, mentions her mistress’s name, and returns with the bag containing the hat.
Now let me ask you, When did the lady sanctify, or set apart, that hat for her own use?
On Monday, so far as her mind and purpose went; on Tuesday, in securing it by the payment of the price; on Wednesday, by sending her servant for it, by which means the hat was actually taken from the store to the lady’s house.
Now this illustration will at least serve to make it clear when we were sanctified or set apart by God for His own purposes.
First of all, long ago in the past eternity, God predestinated us to be His sons. He said as it were, “They shall be Mine for My heart to delight in and My hand to bless.” So in purpose God set us apart, or sanctified us, before the world began (see Rom. 8:29, 30; Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13).
Then, when Jesus died, the price of our redemption was paid. Every obstacle which sin had raised to our being God’s for all eternity was removed, and the way opened for the accomplishment of His gracious purpose. We were thus set apart by the payment of the heavy price by which He bought us and made us His (see 1 Cor. 6:20). So that besides being sanctified by God’s purpose and will, “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10).
Lastly, when, through the operation of the Holy Spirit, our hearts are opened to receive the gospel, we are actually and personally brought to Him. We are separated from our sins; we are no longer a part of this world that is hurrying on to judgment. We are effectually set apart for God. This aspect of our sanctification is referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2:13: “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto He called you by our gospel.”
Is there no such thing as a process of sanctification going on from day to day in the believer’s life?
Indeed there is. We have not yet touched upon this practical side of the subject, because I wanted everyone to be quite clear as to our being sanctified once for all by the purpose of God, the work of Christ, and the operation of the Holy Spirit.
But the practical aspect of sanctification is also of immense importance. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 the apostle prays that the God of peace may wholly sanctify the believers to whom he writes. What does he mean?
Let us revert once more to the illustration of the lady and her hat. After she has bought it, and the servant has fetched it, is that the end of its history? By no means. Now that it has actually become the lady’s property, it is from day to day set apart for her own use; that is, she wears it. No one else uses it. It is set apart for the sole use of its possessor.
Now God having purposed our blessing, and Christ having died to secure it, and the Holy Spirit having wrought in us effectually so that we have been brought to God—is that the end of the matter? Not at all. The Holy Spirit continues His work in us, detaching us more and more from the things of this world, separating us from the lusts of the flesh, the evil ways in which once we walked, in this way promoting our practical sanctification.
This is not brought to pass, mark, by the sinful nature within us being gradually rooted out, or the flesh improved, but by our being led into the blessed secret of liberty from the galling yoke of sin, victory over the power of evil within, and joy in the Holy Ghost. As our hearts get more and more attached to Christ, we turn with increased loathing from all that is of self, and the result is that in our walk and ways we are “holiness to the Lord,” truly separated unto Him.
What is it that God uses to promote our practical sanctification?
He may, and doubtless does, work by means of many things. The application of the truth to our souls is one of the most effectual means. When the Lord Jesus was praying for us, in John 17, He said: “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth.”
I trust all those who have so lately been converted will become diligent students of God’s Book. If you don’t feed on the sincere milk of the Word, your souls will starve. As you read, God will bless it to you, and it will have a separating or sanctifying effect upon you. As you become more familiar with its wonderful truths, you will the better discern what is of God and what is of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Many things in which you now see no harm will be exposed to you by the truth which you will learn, and in that way you will be separated from them. You will learn that your Lord and Saviour has no place on earth, He is rejected here, and has been driven away from the world. Tell me, won’t the thought of that separate you, heart and soul, from the scene where He was refused?
Another thing which God uses is the wrath and persecution of wicked men. We have an instance of this in John 9. The blind man had been healed by Jesus, and had boldly confessed His name. This was too much for the Jewish leaders. It was intolerable that a man should stand up for the One whom they hated. So after reviling the man who confessed Him, they cast him out.
Do you not think that their action would have a very powerful effect upon that man, detaching his heart from the system of things in the midst of which he had been brought up, and entwining his affections around Christ? I am sure that his excommunication by the religious leaders of his day greatly helped towards his sanctification.
“Blessed are ye,” said the Lord Jesus, “when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake” (Luke 6:22).
Why is it necessary for us to be sanctified?
In order that we might be practically suited for God’s purpose, and meet for the Master’s use. See what is said in 2 Timothy 2:21 about the vessel that is “sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”
Does not that strike a chord of desire within your heart, dear fellow-believer? Do you not ardently wish to be a vessel meet for the Master’s use? You may be one, but in order that you may be suited for His use, you must be practically separated from all that is not of Him, your heart weaned from the world, your soul emancipated from the bondage of sin and the flesh. In a word, you must be set apart, by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit in you, for Christ.
You were speaking just now about the means God uses for our practical sanctification. Is not affliction one of these?
Yes, God has to discipline us and pass us through tribulation, but it is always for our good, that what is of God in us may be developed, and that we may be increasingly suited for God’s pleasure.
The word “tribulation” comes to us from the Latin tribulum, which was a kind of triple flail with which the Romans used to thresh wheat. The tribulum separated the husk from the wheat, and that is what tribulation does for us. There is a great deal of “husk” about us which needs to be got rid of. Hence God’s discipline of His children. He purges us that we may bring forth more fruit.
Is not the hope of the Lord’s coming another means of practical sanctification?
Yes. We read that “every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).
It is easy to see how this is so. If we are expecting the Lord’s return at any moment we shall be careful about what we do and say. We shall not wish Him to come and find us reading doubtful books, or keeping bad company, or sitting in places of worldly amusement, or saying anything we would not like Him to hear. The thought of His coming, if kept before our minds, and cherished as a hope in our hearts, is bound to have a marked effect upon us, purifying us from what is not of Him, and sanctifying, or separating, us more and more to Himself.
Does the word “sanctify” in every case mean “separate”?
I do not say that the two words can always be used interchangeably, but generally speaking they can. Certainly the usual meaning of the word as employed in Scriptures is “set apart” for some divine purpose.But we are too apt to confine our thoughts of the matter to what we are sanctified FROM. It is a happy thing to understand somewhat of what we are sanctified FOR.
Twelve Bible Dialogues -
Harold P. Barker et al.
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