Wouldn't it be wonderful to be sinless after salvation? Unfortunately there are those who believe this is exactly what happens after they have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, with this belief deeply rooted in the word 'sanctification'. 'Sanctification' appears many times in the Bible and means 'to set apart', but it has become a word wrongly used to support sinless perfection, along with the removal of one's carnal nature. Scripture strongly contradicts this thinking.
The use of sanctified or sanctification does not always refer to sin, or to people for that matter. For example - God sanctified the 7th day, (Genesis 2:3). Other Bible verses reveal that material things were sanctified such as Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:23), the fields (Leviticus 27:22-23), and city gates (Nehemiah 3:1). Foods such as bread and meat (I Samuel 21:5/I Timothy 4:3-5) were sanctified as were Solomon's temple and furniture (II Chr. 7:16-20; 29:17-19). No sin or sin nature were involved with these inanimate objects. Yet these things were sanctified, 'set aside', for God's special use. The above verses plainly reveal that sanctification being exclusively connected to sin and sin's total removal is incorrect. Further proof of this is found in I Corinthians 7:14 where we see that an unsaved partner in marriage is sanctified. (Note: The unsaved spouse is 'set aside', not from sin, and not automatically saved, but put into a position to, along with the believer, enjoy God's blessings.)
So, how do we become spiritually sanctified? First we must be redeemed (saved) by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. "Forasmuch as you know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold?,,,but with the precious blood of Christ?" (I Peter 1:18-19) Jesus Christ paid the sin debt for all who will genuinely accept and believe in Him as their personal savior. (Psalm 103:12) "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9) At this point the believer is sanctified? 'set aside' for God's service. (I Thessalonians 4:1-8)
But sanctification is a work in progress. It allows us to have victory over sin but it doesn't make us sin free. Apostle Paul declared... "For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I." "Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing;" . In Romans 7:15-25 Apostle Paul speaks of sanctification and the struggles every true believer faces. Why else would the Bible instruct believers to put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17) if we weren't in constant battle with the foe - Satan - who tirelessly pounds us with sin and temptation. And despite those who declare sinless perfection, Scripture tells us otherwise! "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (I John 1:8) Being sanctified doesn't remove our sin nature, but it provides the strength to fight it.
After the Rapture occurs (I Thessalonians 4:13-17), every believer will stand at The Judgment (Bema) Seat of Christ. (II Corinthians 5:10) But why would a sinless believer need to stand before God in judgment? If sinless, there would be absolutely nothing to examine for one would have mastered purity of thought, gained total control over the tongue, and only the fruits of the Spirit would reside in their hearts. Who honestly can claim such feats of perfection? Not one person?"For there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not." (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
Understand?a believer's salvation has already been eternally secured through his/her sincere faith and trust in Jesus's death, burial and resurrection, and they will never be judged for their transgressions. (Hebrews 10:14) Therefore, the Judgment Seat of Christ is not a judgment of sin, but an evaluation of how we lived our lives for Him. Did we work to bring glory to the Lord or prestige to us? Or perhaps we knew what we should have done, but didn't. (Ignoring God's will.) "?to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James 4:17) As the Lord examines every believer's life, some will be rewarded for their faithfulness and Christian works. Others will lose their rewards because they allowed sinful flesh to interfere with their godly walk and spiritual growth. (I Corinthians 3:10-15) "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved?"
Through the Holy Spirit, God sanctifies every believer in Christ (II Thessalonians 2:13). But every believer still has the old sin nature and struggles daily with sin. Therefore, it is imperative to understand that sanctification does not bring about sinlessness. It does, however, buttress us to sin less!
Nancy Hamilton is an author of Christian books and a member of Souls Harbor Baptist Church. She can be reached at website wordsontheword.com and by e-mail at email@example.com. Thoughts of Faith is a weekly column written by various ministers and lay people. Those interested in scheduling a date for writing a Thoughts of Faith column should contact Christy Hudson at 376-5446 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if a Thoughts of Faith column is written at the writer's convenience and sent to The Times, it will run the first available date.