The justification of a believer during repentance should lead to a definite experience of sanctification in the lives of all Christians. The need for this experience is clearly stated in the Bible. When this need is properly understood, the solution of self-denial and filling with the Holy Spirit will be recognised and diligently sought after by more Christians.
Sanctification as a second work of grace after justification is an essential experience. A lack of this accounts for a life in which the old nature – although put off in principle – is not crucified in practice and the person therefore not yet filled with the Holy Spirit. In consequence, the works of the old nature (the flesh) will remain dominant in his life. They will manifest in dispositions such as selfishness, spiritual arrogance and feelings of superiority, materialism, love of the world, criticism and condemnation of other believers, a lack of spiritual fruit, wrong priorities, and an inconsistent spiritual life. The following are some of the clearest Biblical statements on the need for sanctification, focusing from different angles on the same problem and offering the same solution:
Self-consciousness in the disciples’ lives. The disciples showed a very real need to be filled with the Holy Spirit because they were full of themselves (Matt. 20:27-28; Luke 22:24-26). They wrongly presumed that they could remain true to Jesus in their own strength (Matt. 26:33-35).
The absence of spiritual fruit. A further indication of the need for sanctification is the absence of spiritual fruit in a person’s life. Such a person can be likened to a tree which is alive but not bearing any fruit, and therefore does not fulfil the expectations of its owner (Matt. 3:8; John 15:2).
The need for the power of the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus commanded the disciples not to start with their commission of evangelisation before they were endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49). That would be the much-needed spiritual equipment for their task (Acts 1:8).
New fillings. After the first experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit there often arises, as a result of crises in your life, a need for renewed fillings with the Holy Spirit in which the Lord touch, strengthen, encourage and equip you to meet new challenges (Acts 4:29-31; 13:50-52).
Victory over temptations. We are instructed to watch and to pray always. In this way we will continuously abide in Christ en He in us. We are challenged to live dedicated lives and to prevail over temptations and weaknesses (Matt. 26:41).
A new attitude to sin and righteousness. Sanctification demands a clear disposition against sin and in favour of God’s righteousness (Rom. 6:11,22). We must always guard against conformity to the world, but rather be holy and acceptable to God at all times (Rom. 12:1-2).
The paralysing effect of being fleshly. A carnal attitude has a paralysing effect on Christians by eliminating any possibility for spiritual growth (1 Cor. 3:1-3; Gal. 5:17). Without self-denial and the taking up of the cross people will not grow out of this state of carnality of their own accord.
The obstacle of the old man. The reason why Christians do not spontaneously grow up to spiritual maturity and victory over sin, is because of the obstacle of the old man – the Adamic nature which is inclined to sin and must first be mortified by crucifixion (Eph 4:22-24; Rom. 6:6).
The ongoing mortification of the carnal mind. The carnal mind is in enmity against God and cannot subject itself to the laws of God (Rom. 8:7). There is only one way out of this inner conflict and that is the crucifixion of the old, fleshly nature (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 6:14).
Spiritual immaturity. The phenomenon of spiritual immaturity among children of the Lord strongly emphasises the need for sanctification and growth. Without this, a person is unfit for service and lacks spiritual discernment (Eph. 4:13-14; Heb. 5:12–6:1).
The need for a second work of grace. The second work of grace is in connection with a holy life and follows on the first work of grace which refers to your initial cleansing during rebirth. Jesus Christ gave Himself to cleanse and sanctify you (Eph. 5:25-27).
The Spirit-controlled life. This life becomes a reality when we renounce all domination by sin and self-centredness in our lives and surrender our whole being, body soul and spirit, to the full control of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16).
Striving towards perfection. We are not perfect, but in a process of greater perfection. For this objective to be realised we need to consciously put off the old life, and striving daily to live a life conforming to that of the resurrected Lord Jesus (Phil. 3:7-12).
The Christ-like life. We are called to walk just like Jesus walked (1 John 2:26; 1 Pet. 2:21). We will only be able to follow in His footsteps if the Holy Spirit helps us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and to make no provision for the flesh to fulfil its lusts (Rom. 13:14).
A life according to heavenly principles. In the light of our heavenly citizenship (Phil. 3:20) we must live holy in this evil and sinful world (1 Thess. 2:10-12; Heb. 12:14). We must now be prepared to meet the Lord Jesus face to face (1 John 3:3).
A completely changed life. In a process of sanctification after our conversion we must proceed to put off all the remaining aspects of the old life, while putting on the new life to an ever-fuller extent. That is our clear calling (Col. 3:8-14).
The need for complete sanctification. After the initial cleansing of our sins during repentance we definitely still need to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to be sanctified completely (1 Thess. 5:23-24). We must be blameless in holiness before God (1 Thess. 3:13).
The abandoning of worldly desires. The grace of the Lord that was bestowed on us during justification, teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously and godly while always expecting the Second Coming of Christ (Titus 2:11-13).
Motivation for a holy life. Our motivation for holiness springs from the character and will of God Himself, who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Pet. 1:15; 1 Thess. 4:3,7-8). We have to lay aside all guile, hypocrisy, envy and evil speaking (1 Pet. 2:1-2).
The stumbling-block of the world. Compromise with the world and its evil lifestyles and institutions amounts to spiritual unfaithfulness to the Lord (Jas. 4:4). The world and its principles must be denied and we should only glory in the cross of Jesus Christ (Gal. 6:14).
The rule of victory over sin. The basic rule of the Christian’s life in this world is that he must remain faithful to the Lord by not sinning. If he does sin he becomes spiritually defiled. The sins of Christians can be forgiven but should rather be averted (1 John 2:1).
The works as a proof of faith. A surrender towards sanctification puts us in the right spiritual frame of mind to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. These works render proof of our faith in the Lord Jesus and are not optional extras in our lives – they are essential (Jas. 2:14,26).
More holiness. Sanctification is a dynamic process that needs to grow in its intensity and extent. We must continually grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18), and therefore also in the perfection of our holiness (2 Cor. 7:1; Rev. 22:11).
Perseverance in sound doctrine. Sanctification demands perseverance in the sound doctrine, as well as the correction of the compromisers, backsliders and false teachers (2 Tim. 4:2-5). Those who wandered from the truth should return to Christ and His Word (Jas. 5:19).
Continuous admonition against backsliding. Doctrinal error leads to spiritual backsliding and moral depravity. Some people yield to the temptations of Satan and lose their convictions and principles. We should guard against this process (Heb. 3:12-13; Gal. 6:1; 1 Cor. 10:12).
A high calling on earth and in heaven
Paul says that we have a high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:11). It is important that, as Christians, we observe our calling on earth and in heaven. Through a process of sanctification we must fulfil our commission on earth, while at the same time being prepared for the meeting with the heavenly Bridegroom. In the present dispensation we are witnesses for Christ in a world that lies in the sway of the wicked one. We are ambassadors for Christ in a foreign kingdom. As called saints we should be worthy representatives of the kingdom of heaven here on earth (Phil. 2:15).
Right through our earthly life and the performing of our task here, our heavenly destination should motivate us towards greater holiness. It should give us courage and perseverance while we are doing our work as strangers and sojourners in a wicked world (Phil. 3:20-21). We need to sanctify ourselves in preparation for a future heavenly existence in close association with the Lord Jesus. We will have the same resurrected body as His and live in His holy presence (1 John 3:2-3).
What inexpressible grace that the Holy Spirit was poured out to convict me of sin and to regenerate me, but also to fill and empower me to be an effective witness for Jesus in this dark world. I realise that the flesh must be crucified and always remain crucified so as not to regain its control over my life. I also realise that as a Spirit-filled Christian I still have human limitations and weaknesses, but I thank God that the Holy Spirit helps me in my weaknesses (Rom. 8:26). I am so privileged that the Holy Spirit helps met to put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness. I trust Him for a deeper work of grace and lay down my whole life on the altar to be sanctified and set apart in the service of the Lord.
1. Explain the second work of grace after conversion
2. What is big stumbling-block to being filled with the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians?
3. In which way is sanctification related to spiritual maturity and serving the Lord?
4. How does the Lord prepare us for heaven?
5. Explain our two callings.
Prof. Johan Malan