Matthew Henry's Commentary
It is the prayer of Christ for all that are His, that they may be sanctified. Samuel Rutherford the saintly Scottish Presbyterian divine, said:
Christ is more to be loved for giving us sanctification than justification, It is in some respects greater love in Him to sanctify than to justify, for He maketh us like Himself in His own essential portraiture and image in sanctification.
The words "sanctify" and "sanctification" are made from the Latin adjectives sanctus (meaning "holy") and the Latin verb facere (meaning, "to make") and the suffix ion, always meaning "the act of." So the root meaning of the word plainly means and signifies the act of making holy. Many more splendid authorities might be adduced, but these definitions from so many well known and accepted standards should suffice to convince any Christian of his privilege and high calling in the gospel.
"Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it' (Eph_5:25-26). " 'Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach" (Heb_13:12-13).
The Bible bears out Mr. Wesley in his definition of this term. Read Lev, Mat_20:7-8. There you find the human side coming first in its proper place in the seventh verse where God commands us to sanctify ourselves; consecrate or set ourselves apart to a holy purpose. In the eighth verse He declares "I am the Lord which sanctify you." "Again we say, You sanctify yourself [consecrate or set apart], and God will sanctify you. "Sanctify yourselves, therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the Lord your God. And ye shall keep my statutes and do them: I am the Lord which sanctify you" (Lev_20:7-8).
Keep in your mind the thought that there are two sides to this term sanctify. Here is where people fall into error. In this first sense Jesus said, "I sanctify myself that they also might be sanctified through the truth." He consecrates His life, and His own blood He shed on the cross that by this very act His disciples might be sanctified or cleansed by the blood; as the blood alone can cleanse. "And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1Jo_1:7).
Now we know that Jesus had no sin or carnality from which to be cleansed, for we are told in 1Jo_3:5, "In him is no sin." Hence there could be no need of cleansing in His case. Now the inquiry comes, in what sense did Jesus sanctify Himself?
"To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth" (Joh_18:37). "I lay down my life ... No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself" (Joh_10:17-18). Here is the voluntary act of Jesus; consecrating or sanctifying Himself to the death of the cross. I sanctify myself; devote myself; "To this end was I born." Not sanctify myself in the sense of cleanse but according to the primary meaning. I set myself apart to this holy purpose, that they might be sanctified or cleansed through the blood that is shed.
The term sanctify is used in both senses in the Bible "Sanctify ye a fast. call a solemn assembly" (Joe_1:14). Set apart a day of fasting. "Sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place" (2Ch_29:5). "And the priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it" (2Ch_26:16).
Here King Hezekiah commanded the priests to sanctify the house of the Lord, and they at once began the work of sanctifying the temple, and when the work was finished they brought in the report. "We have cleansed all the house of the Lord."
Beautiful type of holiness. "Your bodies are the temple of the Lord." Jesus, the great High Priest, will come in and cleanse this temple of all uncleanness if invited. Jesus sanctified Himself that you might be sanctified. The Jewish law with its ritual, could not sanctify; but the blood of Jesus can. "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself with. out spot to God [sanctified Himself, having no sin], purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb_9:13-14).
Opposer: But doesn't the Bible say that he that saith he liveth and sinneth not is a liar, and the truth is not in him?
Answer: No. But it does say, "Awake to righteousness, and sin not" (1Co_15:34). "These things write I unto you, that ye sin not" (1Jo_2:1). "He that saith, I know him and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1Jo_2:4). "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness, is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he can not sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil" (1Jo_3:6-10).
Opposer: In what are they manifest?
Answer: In the fact that the children of God don't sin and the children of the Devil do. "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith ... We know that whatsoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not" (1Jo_5:4-18).
Opposer: But you teach that a sanctified man can't sin, and is not even tempted.
Answer: We do not. Christ "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb_4:15). Sanctification does not destroy our free moral agency; we still have right of choice. We may commit sin any day that we choose, but we must first lay aside our Christianity before we sin; a no one can sin and yet be a Christian at the same time, any more than a man can steal and yet be honest.
"When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity ... he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered" (Eze_3:20).
"Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book" (Exo_32:33).
We believe that Christ is our example, and if we are Christians we are following in His footsteps.
"Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not" (1Pe_2:21-23).
"But I say unto you, resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Mat_5:39).
Opposer: I don't believe any one living can do that.
Answer: "Without me ye can do nothing" (Joh_15:5). "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phi_4:13). "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom_8:37) "Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked" (Eph_6:16).
Opposer: My soul is all right, but this old body sins.
Answer: "Every sin that a man doeth is without the body" (1Co_6:18). Sanctification preserves soul, spirit and body (1Th_5:23). "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Eze_18:4). "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2Co_7:1).
Opposer: But doesn't Paul say, "In my flesh dwelleth no good thing"?
Answer: "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you" (Rom_8:9) "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh" (Gal_5:24).
Opposer: This all sounds very nice, but I don't believe we can keep all the commandments.
Answer: "I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them" (Eze_36:27). "If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world can not receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (Joh_14:15-17). "Be filled with the Spirit" (Eph_5:18).
Opposer: What do you mean by the Spirit?
Answer: They were all filled with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
Opposer: But the Holy Ghost was for the apostles only.
Answer: "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Act_2:39).
Opposer: What promise?
Answer: "Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you" (Luk_24:49). "But wait for the promise of the Father, Which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost" (Act_1:4-5).
Opposer: But no one but the apostles ever received the Holy Ghost.
Answer: There were one hundred and twenty who received the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, many of whom were women (Act_1:14-15). The Samaritans received Him after conversion (Act_8:5-8, Act_8:12-17). Paul asked the Ephesian church, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" (Act_19:2). "What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?" which temple you are (1Co_6:19).
Opposer: You know that Peter says: "sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you" (1Pe_3:15).
Answer: Very well, brother, the very text you quote tells me that I must have the Lord God sanctified in my heart, not in my head, as some people think. The world is full of head religion, and everybody has their theory of sanctification, but we insist on a real heart experience as the Bible teaches. Paul says, "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col_1:27). "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith" (Eph_3:17). "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (Joh_14:23). "For he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you"( Joh_14:17).
Opposer: Yes; but all this about Christ in you has nothing to do with sanctification.
Answer: "The heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes" (Eze_36:23).
Christ will not dwell in an unclean temple. While here on earth, when he visited the temple He cast out the buyers and sellers, and all other uncleanness. So when He sends the Holy Ghost to represent Him, He must have a clean temple. "What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?" (1Co_6:19). "What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and 1 will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you" (2Co_6:16-17).
Holiness means well, whole, freedom from sinful affections. This was God's original purpose with man. "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy" (Eph_1:4).
Hence you see that holiness was ordered before the foundation of the world.
Again, Paul tells us that we are called to salvation from the beginning. God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit" (2Th_2:13).
My next reason is, God named the people and the way. Thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name" "and they shall call them, The holy people" (Isa_62:2 and Isa_62:12).
I have never heard of any people, way, or movement being called holy or holiness but second blessing people, and the modern holiness movement. Thus you see we are fulfilling prophecy to the letter. My next reason is, it is God's will that I be sanctified. "By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb_10:10).
"For this is the will of God, even your sanctification" (1Th_4:3).
If I could find one verse in the Bible that said in plain language, -- "This is the will of God that all be baptized by immersion," how quickly I could settle all controversy on the mode of baptism; or if I could find one verse that said plainly, "This is the will of God, that you have your babies sprinkled," how easy the question of infant baptism would be settled. But, brother, God doesn't talk thus plain about non-essentials -- but here is verse and chapter two times that it is God's will that you be sanctified. What will you do about it?
Not only is it God's will, but listen: God calls us to it. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness" (1Th_4:7).
Not only does He call you to holiness and provide for it in His will, but He commands holiness clear and plain.
"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy" (Lev_19:1-2).
This command given in the Old Testament to Israel, God's chosen people, is repeated by Peter to the church: His called out ones: "But as he which hath called you is holy. so he ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy: for I am holy" (1Pe_1:15-16)
Just as truly as God commands all men everywhere to repent, so He commands the church, God's true Israel, to be holy. Thank God, what He wills and calls and commands, He has provided for.
"Having made peace through the blood of his cross. by him to reconcile all things unto himself ... in the body of his flesh through death. to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight" (Col_1:20-22),
Opposer: But that means we will be presented holy and unblameable and unreproveable on the morning of the resurrection as all know that no one can live like that in this present evil world.
Answer: Paul said "Preach the word," so we will go to the Bible again. The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us [not unto resurrected beings], that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life" (Luk_1:73-75). Again, "That ye maybe blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom, ye shine as lights in the world" (Phi_2:15).
Again, "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work" (2Ti_2:21).
From the three texts above God teaches that we can live holy, after being made holy, all the days of our life, and shine for God in this crooked nation, and be ready to work for Him. In fact, sanctification is the all-qualifying endowment of power for service. God wants a clean heart filled with the Holy Ghost. A real Pentecostal experience with Pentecostal results following.
And then comes my next reason: It is holiness or hell.
Opposer: Now, come, don't preach me into hell, for you know I just can't believe in holiness at all.
Answer: "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb_12:14). Brother. I want to see Him, and have made up my mind to see Him even if it does take holiness to see Him. When Isaiah the prophet saw Him in a vision the seraphim were crying, "Holy! Holy! Holy!" and the young prophet did not have the blessing, and he cried., "Woe is me, for I am undone," and then flew the seraphim with the purifying fire that cleansed the prophet.
God is holy; angels are holy; heaven is holy; and all who enter His holy place must be holy beings. When I make this statement I am in harmony with all theology the world over; for even the Roman Catholics teach that if we are not made holy here we are to go to purgatory until we are entirely cleansed before we can enter heaven.
The same prayer is prayed at the baptism of infants, thus recognizing the presence of the old Adam, the carnal affections, in the infant and in the converted adult alike. There in infancy: still there after regeneration. Conversion does not remove it according to Methodist theology.
Opposer: I admit that none can enter heaven until they are sanctified. But I believe we are sanctified wholly in conversion.
Answer: No, brother, there is not a printed creed that teaches the complete cleansing of the heart from indwelling sin in conversion.
Opposer: But my preacher preaches that the "old man" is destroyed, and that we are sanctified wholly in conversion.
Answer: Let us examine your printed creed. Here is the prayer of a Methodist minister when the adult believer is baptized:
"O, merciful God, grant that the old Adam in this person may be so buried that the new man may be raised up in him. Grant that all carnal affections may die in him, and that all belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in him, Amen."
But the preacher recognizes the necessity of its removal, and thus prays for the old Adam, the carnal affections, to die and be buried in the person now being baptized. This prayer is in perfect harmony with Rom_6:6, "Knowing this. that our old man is crucified," and with Col, Rom_3:9 ''Put off the old man with his deeds."
The Cumberland Presbyterians say, in Art. 20 in their Confession of Faith,, that "the remains of this corrupt nature are felt by those who are regenerate."
The plan of salvation is not completed in us until we are saved from all sin, both outward and indwelling.
Opposer: But we can never be free from all this sin in the flesh as long as we are in the flesh.
Answer: "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh ... condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom_8:3) "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity" (Tit_2:14). "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1Jo_1:7). Notice this is the work of the Son of God through His blood, and this cleansing can take place now. "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness" (Rom_6:22).
Made free from sin now; have fruit unto holiness now. Thank God, we do not have to wait until death, but can be made free by the blood of the Son now. "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (Joh_8:36).
Opposer: Well, this all sounds very nice, yet I can't believe in your theory of sanctification.
Answer: "How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?" (Joh_5:44). "Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (Joh_12:42-43). "Perfect love casteth out fear" (1Jo_4:18).
Sanctify: 1. To make sacred or holy; to set apart to a holy, religious use; to consecrate by appropriate rites; to hallow. 2. To make free from sin; to cleanse from moral corruption and pollution; to purify.
Sanctification: The act of making holy; the state of being sanctified or made holy. Theological -- The act of God's grace by which the affections of men are purified or alienated from sin and the world and exalted to a supreme love to God. Also the state of being thus purified or sanctified.
Surely this is language that can be understood and is all desirable. "To set apart;" to "so consecrate;" "to make free from sin;" "affections purified;" "exalted to a supreme love to God."
Sanctify: To make holy or clean, either ceremonially or morally and spiritually; to purify or free from sin ... In Theology, the act of God's grace by which the affections of men are purified and the soul is cleansed from sin and consecrated to God ... Conformity of the heart and life to the will of God.
"The act of God's grace;" hence it can not be obtained by works or growth; a divine act; "cleansed from sin." Pardon and cleansing are not identical.
Sanctify: To make holy or sacred; to separate, set apart or appoint to a holy, sacred, or religious use. 2. To purify in order to prepare for divine service, and for partaking of holy things. 3. To purify from sin, to make holy.
"Set apart;" "to purify from sin," which is "to prepare for divine service." Should not all Christians desire and experience this preparation for service?
Sanctify: To make holy; rendered sacred or morally or spiritually pure; cleansed from sin ... Sanctification: Specifically in theology, the gracious work of the Holy Spirit whereby the believer is freed from sin and exalted to holiness of heart and life.
"Whereby the believer is freed from sin." According to this, sanctification is an experience for believers -- not for sinners. This would make sanctification a second experience. "The gracious work of the Holy Spirit" -- not of works, or growth, or death, or purgatory, but a work of God divinely inwrought by the Holy Spirit. We can never grow into something God must do for us.
Sanctify: To make holy or sacred; to consecrate or set apart; to purify from sin ... Sanctification: Technically, an operation of the Spirit of God (Rom_15:16; 2Th_2:13; 1Pe_1:2) on those who are already in Jesus, i. e., are united to Him by faith (1Co_1:2), by which they are rendered increasingly holy, dying to sin and living to God, to righteousness, and to holiness (Rom_6:6-11, Rom_6:13, Rom_6:19; 1Th_5:23; 1Pe_2:24).
Surely this is explicit enough. "An operation of the Spirit of God on those who are already in Jesus." An experience for "those who are already in Jesus." A second work, a divine work; consequently it must be obtained by faith (Act_26:18).
Thus we see that there is an agreement, even as Adam Clarke says in his commentary on Joh_17:17 :
The word has two meanings: 1. it signifies to consecrate, to separate from earth and common use and to devote or dedicate to God and His service. 2. It signifies to make holy or pure. The prayer of Christ may be understood in both of these senses.
Westminster Confession of Faith
They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new Spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection by His Word and His Spirit dwelling in them.
Here again it is recognized that sanctification is for such as "are effectually called and regenerated," and that it is accomplished "by His Word and His Spirit," and not by death or purgatory.
Sanctification. in the proper sense, is an instantaneous deliverance from all sin, and includes an instantaneous power then given always to cleave to God.
"An instantaneous deliverance from all sin" and not a protracted and tedious process of growth. There is a gradual approach to the blessing, so far as the human part of consecration, preparation, and faith is concerned, but the divine work of "deliverance from all sin" is instantaneous.