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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Powerful encouragement for spiritual growth

A friend noted that my previous post dealt with the past tense aspect of sanctification and alluded to the reality that there are past, present and future aspects to it. I am currently studying Heb. 10 in preparation for a sermon next week. The early parts of that chapter speak to each of these aspects of sanctification. (You can see a detailed definition of the term “sanctification” at the end of this post if you are interested.) The following verse alludes to at least two of the three aspects.

Hebrews 10:14 (ESV) 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

By a single offering Jesus has perfected for all time, that’s a finished and settled work. He identifies “those perfected for all time” as “those who are being sanctified.” The first action “perfected for all time,” is already completed, the second, “those who are being sanctified,” is clearly ongoing. However, Christ followers can take great comfort in that the outcome of their life is assured because it’s already completed, “he has perfected.” There is tremendous confidence in this. The outcome of the believer’s life is assured. This is the only real ground of hope that we could make any spiritual progress. Believers still have a responsibility to pursue spiritual growth. The promise that the job will be ultimately completed gives us confidence that we can make progress.

This is another place in scripture that cuts away at the thought with which many believers suffer that somehow they need to make themselves better or to perform better so that God will be more pleased with them. That’s not the way it works. Christ’s single sacrifice has perfected “those” for all time through a single act (his suffering on the cross) completed in the past that accomplished this purpose. In the sense of how God sees the believer, this perfecting work is completed already.

However, Jesus’ work does not result in immediate perfection in a believer’s life. A proper appreciation of these truths would never lead to the conclusion that “it doesn’t matter what I do now, sense I’m assured a happy ending.” No, or as Paul would say, “God forbid.” The more a genuine believer presses into these truths, the greater the longing created within him or her to grow in sanctification, to make spiritual progress, to grow in holiness. Perhaps it could even be said here, based on this text, that an evidence of genuineness in the faith is that this “being sanctified” is taking place. Spiritual growth in Christ is evidence that a person is truly in the faith. One way to detect spiritual growth is to see if there is growth in the fruit of the Holy Spirit, since only the Holy Spirit could produce those qualities listed in Gal. 5:22-23 love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

If you want to read more . . .

A key to understanding the above verse is to know what the word “sanctified” means. I’m pasting in two articles below copied from Logos.

A comprehensive definition of sanctification by the New Hampshire Baptist Confession (1833) states: “We believe that Sanctification is the process by which, according to the will of God, we are made partakers of his holiness; that it is a progressive work; that it is begun in regeneration; and that it is carried on in the hearts of believers by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, the Sealer and Comforter, in the continual use of the appointed means—especially the Word of God, self-examination, self-denial, watchfulness, and prayer” (Article X).[1]

Here follows the entry for the root word of the word translated “sanctified” in the Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. You may be put off by the Greek words, but I;m copying this in for the sake of those who might want to see the whole article. You don’t have to know Greek to understand what this says here, when you encounter a Greek word just skip over it, knowing that whatever follows it usually defines the term. 

ἁγιάζω hagiázō; fut. hagiásō, from hágios (40), holy. To make holy, sanctify.(I) To make clean, render pure.
(A) Particularly in Heb. 9:13.
(B) Metaphorically, to render clean in a moral sense, to purify, sanctify (Rom. 15:16, “being sanctified by the Holy Ghost,” meaning by the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit on the heart. See 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:26; 1 Thess. 5:23; 1 Tim. 4:5; Heb. 2:11; 10:10, 14, 29; 13:12; Rev. 22:11). Hoi hēgiasménoi, those who are sanctified, is a reference to Christians in general (Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Cor. 1:2; Jude 1:1). In 1 Cor. 7:14, the perf. tense hēgíastai, has been sanctified, refers to an unbelieving husband or wife who is sanctified by a believing spouse. The word “sanctification” here should not be construed to mean salvation. The unbelieving partner is set apart on account of the believing partner. The unbeliever comes under a special and direct spiritual influence and benefits from divine favor in the life of the believer. As long as there is contact, there is hope that the unbeliever will turn to faith in Jesus Christ. The point of the passage is that in such a marriage the believer is not defiled by the unbeliever, rather the unbeliever is sanctified by the believer.
(II) To consecrate, devote, set apart from a common to a sacred use since in the Jewish ritual, this was one great object of the purifications.
(A) Spoken of things (Matt. 23:17; 23:19; 2 Tim. 2:21; Sept.: Lev. 8:10f., 30).
(B) Spoken of persons, to consecrate as being set apart of God and sent by Him for the performance of His will (John 10:36, “whom the father hath sanctified, and sent into the world”; John 17:17, “Sanctify them through [or in the promulgation of] thy truth” [cf. John 17:18, 19]).
(III) To regard and venerate as holy, to hallow (Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:2; 1 Pet. 3:15; Sept.: Is. 8:13; 10:17; 29:23). Thus the verb hagiázō, to sanctify, when its object is something that is filthy or common, can only be accomplished by separation (aphorízō [873]) or withdrawal. It also refers to the withdrawal from fellowship with the world and selfishness by gaining fellowship with God.
Deriv.: hagiasmós (38), sanctification.
Ant.: koinóō (2840), to profane, call common or unclean; miaínō (3392), to stain, pollute; molúnō (3435), to besmear, defile; spilóō (4695), to make a stain or spot, defile; phtheírō (5351), to corrupt.[2]



[1] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1988), 1898.
[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament, electronic ed. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

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