Series: What We Believe: The Doctrine of the Church
If you will, may we read now our fourth article on salvation. Last Wednesday night we discussed the first part of that, the one on regeneration, which includes repentance and faith. Tonight we shall discuss justification, sanctification, and glorification.
So, sharing your Articles of Faith, the little white book, so that all of us can read it out loud, sharing it with all around you, let us all read out loud together the fourth article on salvation. Now let us begin:
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, sanctification, and glorification.
Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace. Repentance is a genuine returning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Savior.
Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer into a relationship of peace and favor with God.
Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual perfection through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.
Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.
So last Wednesday night we discussed salvation in its first part, regeneration, and we learned that regeneration is a term by which we refer to the remaking of a man’s spirit, the remaking of his heart. And we found that regeneration by the Holy Spirit is what God does for us in the new birth; and that’s what God does. And conversion is a word that we use to refer to what man does.
God regenerates us. I cannot regenerate myself. I cannot bring into the kingdom the smallest child. It is a work of God. God who made us must remake us. The Lord who gave us the spirit in the first place when we were born, must also give us a renewed spirit in our new birth. That’s God’s side, is regeneration, the making of a new man.
God doesn’t say to us, ”Get yourself born again,” for I can’t get myself born again. To be born again is something God must do. I never had anything to do with my first birth. It would sure be something if a guy could get himself born, wouldn’t it? The idea is unimaginable. It is unthinkable. It is ridiculous. When you are born the first time, you had nothing to do with it. When you are born the second time, that new birth is something that God does. But there is a man’s side of it also, and that side we call conversion. Conversion is a man turning.
In the story of Naaman that we used, when he was going home a leper, angry, rejecting the prophet’s word, why, through the instrumentality of a servant, who humbly said, ”My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great and mighty thing, wouldest thou not have done it? Much rather then when he saith, Wash and be clean?” [2 Kings 5:13] and Naaman turned. He pulled up those steeds that were driving that chariot and him furiously back to Damascus a leper, he turned those steeds and went down to the Jordan River, and he washed and was clean [2 Kings 5:14].
That’s man’s side, the turning; to look and live, to believe and be saved, to wash and be clean. This is man’s side. And there are two elements in that turning, that conversion we learned. One is repentance, that is a turning away from sin, and the other is faith, that is a turning to Christ [Acts 20:1]. And when we do those things, God regenerates us.
Now that was the lecture last Sunday night, I mean last Wednesday night. Tonight we’re going to speak of justification and sanctification and glorification. All of this – – even though it’s two lectures – – all of this is under one topic of our salvation. Our salvation includes regeneration, and we discussed that last Wednesday night; then, tonight, justification, sanctification and glorification.
Justification, dikao, justification is that judicial act of God whereby the sinner, on the basis of the merits of Christ’s death, is declared and received as righteous. Justification means ”to receive, to declare as righteous.” The sinner is no longer exposed to the penalty of the law but is pardoned. He is no longer outcast and condemned but is returned to favor as if he had never sinned.
Isn’t that an unusual thing, that God should receive us as though we had never done wrong? That is justification. Not that I have not done wrong, but that God receives me as though I have not done wrong. Now that’s what we’re going to discuss tonight, that thing that God does in receiving us and looking upon us as righteous.
In justification God accepts us, treats us, ideally, as sinless, as righteous. He sees us in Jesus, through Jesus, like Jesus. He accepts us as He accepts the person of our Lord. Jesus’ holy righteousness is imputed to us. It is placed to our account. God looks upon me, receives me, treats me, sees me, as He does the Lord Jesus Himself. The righteousness of our Lord and the holiness of our Lord is imputed to me, and I stand in the presence of God in the same way, treated favorably, loved and accepted, as though I were the Lord Himself. The righteousness and the holiness of Christ is imputed to me, given to me, placed on my account.
I have an illustration of that. When an agronomist, when an agriculturalist sees a small, white, almond-like thing rising from the ground, he calls it an oak. But this is not truth, in fact, when he says, ”That’s an oak.” It is ideal truth. The oak is a large tree with spreading branches, leaves, and acorns. But this tiny thing is barely an inch long. It’s a little tiny thing bursting from the ground. The agriculturalist sees it in the ideal of what it shall be; he imputes to it majesty, excellence, strength, glory that is to be hereafter. He calls it an oak. And that is an exact illustration of how God does us. He looks upon us ideally, in Christ, what we’re going to be someday; holy, pure, separate from sin, without spot or blemish, in the presence of His great glory. That is justification.
The only condition of justification is the sinner’s faith in and acceptance of Jesus, by which the life of the sinner is merged into the life of Christ. We are identified with Him. We are dead with Him, buried with Him, amalgamated with Him, identified with Him. The beautiful and meaningful passage of all passages of that is Galatians 2:20: ”For I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live I live by the faith of Christ, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” We are identified with our Lord.
Now, there are two elements in justification. One is the remission of punishment. Can a man sin and not be punished for it? Yes. That is the good news of the gospel. We are remised from the punishment of our sins. God acquits the sinner. God declares him righteous, not innocent, righteous. The demands of the law have been satisfied. The sinner is now free from its condemnation. He is a free man. He is pardoned. The sufferings and death of Christ have paid all his penalties. We are saved, we are spared, and we are safe in our Lord. The death of Christ is interposed between us and the penalty and punishment for our sins.
Now I’m going to take something out of Anselm. Anselm, A-n-s-e-l-m, Anselm was the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1100 AD The great prelate wrote a tract for the consolation of the dying who were alarmed on account of sin.
I so poignantly remember, Jess Cardwell, in a town where you lived and in the church where I ordained you as a deacon, in Muskogee, Oklahoma, in that church, there was a very fine woman. She was a cultured woman, a fine-looking woman. She was a full-blooded Cherokee. She had married an Anglo, and he had died. And in the providence of life, while I was pastor there, she became very ill, and finally the doctor said to her that she was to die. She called for me and I went to her beautiful home. And as I sat by the side of the bed where she lay dying, I asked her why she had called for me. And her answer was very simple. She said, ”I am dying and I don’t know what to do about my sins.”
She was a member of the church, and yet there had never been born in her thinking, she had never been introduced to the great truth of what becomes of us who are sinners in the hour of our death, and as we face the judgment bar of Almighty God. What about our sins when we die? That is why this great Archbishop wrote this tract for the consolation of the dying. Now I’m going to take a part of it. Listen: ”Question” – now this is Anselm’s tract –
Question: dost thou believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for thee?
And the dying man replies: I believe it.
Question: dost thou thank Him for His passion and death? Answer: I do thank Him.
Question: dost thou believe that thou canst not be saved except by His death?
Answer: I believe it.
Then Anselm addresses the dying man in the tract, and he says,
Come then, while life remaineth in thee. In His death alone, place thy whole trust. In naught else place thy trust. To His death commit thyself wholly. With His grace, cover thyself completely. And if the Lord thy God will judge thee, say, ”Lord, between Thy judgment and me, I present the death of our Lord Jesus Christ; no otherwise can I contend with Thee.” And if the Lord shall say that thou art a sinner, say thou, ”Lord, I interpose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my sins and Thee.” If the Lord say that thou hast deserved condemnation, say, ”Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my evil deserts and Thee; and His merits I offer for those which I ought to have and have not.” If the Lord say that He is wroth with thee, say, ”Lord, I oppose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between Thy wrath and me.” And when thou hast completed this, say again, ”Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between Thee and me.”
Isn’t that a magnificent thing? For the consolation of the dying, what do you do with your sins in death? You interpose the death of Christ between you and the judgment of God upon our sins. That is justification. It is the remission of our punishment. It is a full and gracious pardon.
Now I have a little discussion here about that. Is our pardon easy for God to do? By fiat, just by word, ”Let it be,” and it was. By fiat, by ”Let it be,” God created the worlds. By fiat, can God cleanse, and forgive, and pardon, and justify? Can He? The answer is ”No!” By fiat, God could create the worlds, just speak and the stars are in existence, just say the word and the planets are in their orbits. Just by saying, ”Let it be,” all creation is spread out before us in its vast infinitude [Genesis 1-2]. But can God forgive, pardon, justify, cleanse by fiat? No, He cannot!
If forgiveness seems easy to us, it is because we are indifferent to sin. Sin to us is a slight thing; therefore forgiveness seems easy to us. But if sin is a slight thing, then forgiveness is a slight thing. If sin is a slight thing, then He who wrought our redemption did a slight thing.
If a slave is sold on the auction block and he could be redeemed for fifteen cents, then a slight tip would buy the slave’s freedom. You could redeem him for fifteen cents. But that’s not true. Sin is a horrible thing. In God’s sight it is a horrendous thing, and its penalty is death [Ezekiel 18:4], universally applied! If sin is a horrible thing and the penalty is death, then deliverance, salvation, redemption, justification is a mighty thing! To deliver us from the penalty of our sins is the most mighty and momentous and meaningful thing God could ever do, and I include in that the flinging out of the worlds and the creation of the whole universe.
To the Holy One sin is abominable. And only Christ could deliver us. And He could only deliver us by the sufferings of His death [1 Peter 1:18-19]. God doesn’t pardon by ”Let it be pardoned,” God doesn’t cleanse by ”Let it be cleansed,” but God cleanses us by taking upon Himself our punishment, our penalty, our death; and He does that vicariously for us [Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21].
The stripes that should have fallen upon us, He bore. And the sufferings of death that we should have endured, He endured. And it is in His passion, His sacrifice, His atonement, His cross, His sufferings, that we find forgiveness and salvation. It is the mercy of God that saves us, that provides for our deliverance and salvation [Titus 3:5]. God does it in His gracious mercy. Why aren’t we all damned? Why aren’t we all in hell? Why don’t we all bear the penalty of our sins? It is because of the gracious mercy of God that He provides for us.
Look at this Psalm 130, the whole psalm. Let’s just take time to read it, Psalm 130.
Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice: let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
Now look at this verse: ”If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” If God were to charge us for our sins, how could any of us remain in the presence of His great glory?
But there is forgiveness with Thee,
I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in His word do I hope.
My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning,
Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.[Psalm 130:1-8]
Our salvation is provided for us by the mercies of God.
Let us turn, if you will, to Micah, Micah; Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, and Micah. Got it? Micah chapter 7, chapter 7, look at verse 18 and 19.
Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger forever, because He delighteth in mercy.
He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.[Micah 7:18-19]
Isn’t that a wonderful passage?
This is the craziest thing I ever saw. I want to find Jonah, and I – I thought it was after Obadiah, and it is. I want to illustrate this, the mercy of the Lord that saves us. Jonah came with a vengeance. If he was going to those heathen dogs, why, he was really going to deliver a message into which he could put his heart. God’s going to destroy the whole bunch. He’s going to burn them up with fire, going to put all of them in hell. Now, that pleased Jonah, if he was going to say anything to them at all, so he preached to them, ”Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed” [Jonah 3:4].
So after he preached, why, he got on a hill on the east side of the town to watch it burn up. That’s why if a man preaches on hell, he ought always to do it with a broken heart, not as though you triumphed in it. ”Man, aren’t we glad all these sinners are going to be damned?” And most of the times when you hear a sermon on hell you get that idea that the man preaches as though he’s delighted in it. But if a man preaches on damnation, he ought to preach with a broken heart. Now, Jonah, sitting on that hill, watching those Gentile dogs burn up – but what happened down there in Nineveh was, from the king, even to the beasts of burden, they covered themselves with sackcloth and ashes, and repented. And when Nineveh repented, when Nineveh turned, God turned, ”and He did it not”[Jonah 3:5-10].
All right, now you look at Jonah. It displeased Jonah exceedingly and he was very angry. And he said to the Lord,
O Lord, was this not my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled unto Tarshish; for I knew that Thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest Thee of the evil.
When somebody turns, He turns from the judgment that He says He will visit upon our sins. Now that is how we are saved. If God dealt with us after our deserts, we all would be condemned, and damned, and burn in hell forever. But God, in His great mercy, ”He is plenteous in mercy.” His name is Mercy, ”Jesus, moved with compassion,” is ever His enduring name [Matthew 4:14]. He looked down upon us, and in mercy He provided for our salvation, our justification, to receive us as righteous. And the mercy of God treats us and accepts us as sinless, and perfect, and righteous.
Now I want to show that to you in the Bible. Turn to Numbers 23:21, Numbers 23:21, Numbers 23:21. Haven’t you read in the Bible where Israel, the chosen people, are called ”a stiff-necked generation?” [Exodus 32:9]. They are hard. But look at Numbers 23:21, ”God hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel; the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a King is among them.” What do you think about that? ”God hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel”: and yet they’re the most stiff-necked and perverse people, God says, that ever lived.
Now, that’s the way God does. He looks upon us and receives us in mercy and in righteousness. Isn’t that the most marvelous thing you could ever think for?
I have another passage I want you to turn to. Turn to Zechariah, the prophet Zechariah, chapter 3, Zechariah chapter 3, Zechariah chapter 3:
And he showed me Joshua the high priest, standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.
And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the Angel.
And He answered and spake unto those that stood before Him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him He said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.
And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments, with beautiful garments. And the Angel of the Lord stood by, observing and commending everything that was done.[Zechariah 3:1-5]
Now, isn’t that an amazing thing? Joshua the high priest stands before the Lord with filthy garments. He’s a sinner just like us, and Satan says to the Lord God, ”Look at him, he’s a vile sinner! Look at him.” But the Lord God said,
Satan, I rebuke thee,This is a brand plucked out of the burning. This is a soul that I have saved. Now those filthy garments, take them away, and put on him beautiful garments, and put a mitre upon his head, put a crown upon his head.[Zechariah 3:2,4,5]
And he stood before God in those beautiful garments, with the fair, beautiful mitre upon his head. That’s the way God looked upon him. That’s the way God received him. And that’s the way God does with you.
Satan, who is the accuser of the brethren, he stands before God’s throne – – and he has access to heaven – – and he says, ”Look at that sinner there, you, and look at that sinner there, you.” And God says, ”I rebuke thee, Satan,” and God takes away our filthy garments and all our iniquities, and He looks upon us as though we had never sinned. That is justification, and that is the mercy of the Lord. God ever puts Himself between His people and those who would accuse them.
Can you believe that? You know, I study this and I prepare it and I write it down, and it’s from the Bible, and still it’s the most amazing thing, and I have a hard time, shall I say, believing it. I have a hard time realizing it. It’s just almost unthinkable, unimaginable that God should look upon us as though we were pure and spotless, without blemish, without sin [Ephesian 5:27], and in God’s sight we are accepted as righteous; we can do no wrong.
Did you ever see a parent who doted on his child, and no matter what the child did, he could do no wrong? Well, that’s exactly the way that God does us. In God’s sight, we can do just no wrong. We’re just acceptable in His presence.
All right, now that’s the first side of justification. Justification is first the remission of punishment: God accepts us and receives us as though we had never sinned. Now the other side of justification is restoration to divine favor.
God did condemn us, but He now acquits us. God did repel us, but He now admits us to favor. It is possible for us to be pardoned and to be taken into the household of God, the family of the Lord, like a pardoned criminal. Can you imagine a man out of the penitentiary? He comes here to church, and everybody says, ”Look at that fellow there; he’s an ex-convict.” And this guy says over here, ”You know, that guy over there, why, he is the vilest man; he has spent forty years in the state penitentiary.” And another one says, ”Not only that, but he spent ten years before that in the federal penitentiary. He’s a convict!”
Now, it is possible for a man to be pardoned, to serve out his sentence in the penitentiary and come back into the family and into the society in which he grew up, and everybody look on him as a convict, and we gather our skirts around us – ”He is a convict.” Now wouldn’t that be an awful way to live?
How do you think we’d enjoy heaven if, when we got there, everybody looked at us and said, ”Look at that vile sinner, look at that vile sinner, look at that vile sinner,” and they maybe had big placards up there on which were written all the sins of your life? How would you like to stand before that and let all the world read all about the sins of your life? It’d be real embarrassing, I imagine. Oh, you wouldn’t have a good time living in that kind of a world. But when God justifies us, He not only remises our punishment – we don’t die for our sins and we’re not punished for our sins – but we are not treated as a discharged criminal. We are received and treated as a son! We are brought back into the loving favor of God.
The number one illustration of that is Luke 15:22-24, the story of the prodigal son. ”Bring forth the best robe, and put on him, kill the fatted calf, put a ring on his finger, and let us all rejoice and be merry: for this my son was dead and is alive again, he is lost and is found.” In justification, in this restoration to divine favor, there is renewal of broken friendship and fellowship – that’s what you would call reconciliation – and there is renewal of family relations. We are taken back as a son into the family of God.
Now, I have a note here about Paul and James. Paul writes in Galatians 2:16 that we are justified by faith:
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Now we’re talking about justification. ”By the works of the law shall no man be received and looked upon as being righteous.” I don’t care how you work at it – in God’s sight you are never righteous. What did He call our righteousnesses? ”Our righteousnesses in His sight are as filthy rags” [Isaiah 64:6], and I’d hate to translate for you what that word in the Hebrew actually is, ”a filthy rag,” and I can’t say it in nice company. You come and see me privately and I’ll tell you what the Lord actually said. ”Our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”
Now, we are not justified by our works. We just cannot be thus justified, declared righteous. Well, that’s what Paul says. We are justified by faith [Romans 3:28; 5:1].
Now let’s turn over here to James. Let’s turn to the second chapter of James, and let’s read some of these verses. James chapter 2:14, ”What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” Verse 17: ”Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone [James 2:17].” Verse 20: ”Wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” [James 2:20]. Verse 24: ”Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” [James 2:24]. And verse 26: ”For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” [James 2:26].
Now there are those who purport to see a great denial, altercation, confrontation between what Paul says, that we’re justified by faith, and what James says, that we’re justified by works; so much so that Luther put the Book of James out of the Bible and called it an epistle of straw. Well, when you look at that very carefully, what Paul says, ”justified by faith,” and what James says, ”justified by works,” you will find that they’re talking about two different things.
When Paul will speak about justification by faith, he will speak of Abraham, who before the rite of circumcision was taken out under the sky, and when God made a promise to him, then, in the fifteenth chapter of Genesis it is written, ”And Abraham believed God, and his faith was counted for righteousness, put on the side of righteousness” [Genesis 15:6].
Now when James will speak about Abraham in this second chapter [James 2:21], he will use the twenty-second chapter of Genesis, where Abraham offers up Isaac in obedience to the command of God, and he uses that as justification by faith [Genesis 22:9-10]. Both would say, both Paul and James would say that we are justified only by such faith as makes us faithful, evidenced in good works. Now look at it. James is combating a mistaken notion of faith, not a mistaken notion of justification. By the word ”works,” Paul means ”works of the law.” By the word ”works,” James means ”works of faith.”
Now I’m going to illustrate that in a conversation between a patient and a physician. Faith is evidenced by works of trust and committal. Now, Christ is the Great Physician. All right, now follow it. The physician says to this man who is ill, ”If you wish to be cured, you must trust me.” The patient replies, ”I do trust you fully.”
But the physician continues, ”If you wish to be cured, you must take my medicine and do as I direct.” The patient objects, ”But I thought I was to be cured by trust in you? Why lay such stress on what I do?” The physician answers, ”You must show your trust in me by your actions. Trust in me without action as proof of trust amounts to nothing.”
Well, trust in the physician implies obedience. Hence, James says, ”Faith without works is dead” [James 2:26]. Jesus said, in John 14:15, ”If you love Me, keep My commandments.” In John 14:21, He said, ”He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me.” And in John 15:10, He says, ”If you keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love.”
So a man who says, ”I have committed my life to Christ, I trust in the Lord,” and he goes out here and he lives like the devil, James says he has no commitment. He has no trust, none at all. He hasn’t done anything about giving his heart to Jesus. But when a man goes out here and you look at him, he has a new life, a new way, a new attitude, a new spirit, a new vision, a new obedience, a new yieldedness, a new surrender – he is a born again child of God, and you see it in him! The faith is reflected in his words, in his speech, in his life, in his dreams, in his prayers, in his ideals. Now, both of those men, Paul and James, are talking about the same thing. The faith that justifies, the committal that saves is a committal that is evidenced in a love for Jesus: ”And if you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
O dear, dear, dear, dear, we must go along. Sanctification; this is something that we want to look at carefully, sanctification. Hagiazo, ”to sanctify,” means ”to set apart from common use.” Like a utensil: here’s a utensil that you use for just ordinary purposes, but this utensil you use just for something special. Hence, the word hagiazo came to be meaningful, meaning ”to hallow, to consecrate to religious service.” This we use just for the Lord.
I could imagine somebody, for example, using a cup, let’s say, just for ordinary use, just use it all the time at the house. But maybe you had a cup that you used just for the communion service, just for the taking of the Lord’s Supper. Now that would be hagiazo. That would be a consecration, a hallowedness. It would be a use out of common use.
Now that’s what the word hagiazo means. It means to set apart for a special purpose. Now, hagios, the substantive form of the verb, means ”hallowed, holy, consecrated.” Hoi hagioi are the saints; the ”holy ones,” actually. Ta hagia is the temple, the holy place. To hagion is the sanctuary. Hagia hagion is the Holy of Holies. Pneuma, spirit; hagion, holy; Pneuma Hagion is the Holy Spirit. So the word hagiazo means to set apart for special use, and hagios means something that is set apart for special use. And it came to mean something that is used just for God, consecrated to the Lord.
Now I want you to turn in your Bible to John 17, John 17 verses 17 and 19, John verse 17, John verse 17: 17. Speaking of the disciples, praying for the disciples, now, the Lord says, in verse 17, John 17:17, ”Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth. Hagiazo, set them apart, consecrate them, these disciples.”
All right, now look at verse 19: ”For their sakes I sanctify Myself, hagiazo.” Now could you say then that sanctification is the gradual overcoming of sin? Jesus says, ”For these disciples’ sakes, for our sakes, He sanctifies Himself.” Well, does Jesus progressively get away from sin? No, it has no meaning like that at all. So here’s what we must do. We must take that word hagiazo” and we must look at it in its full meaning, and as such it is applied in two different ways.
In this passage, in John 17:19, when Jesus says, ”For their sakes I sanctify Myself,” for Christ it was pure and entire self-consecration to God. It was His perfect submission to the Father’s will. All that it meant in suffering and death on the cross is in that word hagiazo. ”For their sakes, for our sakes, Christ sanctified Himself.” He consecrated Himself. He set Himself apart.
Now for the disciples, up here in verse 17, ”Sanctify them through Thy truth.” For the disciples, their setting apart for God was a long and gradual process. It was accomplished by conflicts, by the deeper sinking into the truth of God through blows of affliction, through the purifying force of the Spirit. In them it was sanctification as we usually use the word; the making of the disciples holy. So that with that explanation we’re going to use the word sanctification with regard to us.
In us sanctification is that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit by which the holy disposition imparted to us in regeneration is maintained and strengthened. You’ll find this in Philippians 1:6, and Ephesians 4:13-14, and 1 Peter 2:2, and 2 Peter 1:5-8, and in 2 Peter 3:18. Now we don’t have time to look at these. I have learned that when we look at the Scriptures for any length of time at all, our hour is gone. It’s almost gone now.
Well, let’s take just that one, 1 Peter 2:2, ”As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” When we are born into the kingdom, we’re born as children, little babes, and we’re expected to grow. Even in our regeneration there are evil tendencies in us. They remain in us. This old man, this old nature must be subdued.
That’s what Paul says in Romans 7:18-19. ”What I would do I do not do, and what I do not want to do I do do.” ”O wretched man that I am!” [Romans 7:24]. There are two opposing principles in the believer. There are two people on the inside of you. In Galatians 5:17, Paul says that ”The Spirit wars against the flesh, and the flesh wars against the Spirit.”
Here’s an illustration. An Indian received a gift of tobacco, and on the inside of it he found hidden a silver dollar. He brought the silver dollar back the next day, saying that good Indian had fought bad Indian all night long; one telling him to keep the dollar, the other telling him to return it. Now that is exactly we.
The great preacher Bourdaloue, B-o-u-r-d-a-l-o-u-e, he’s a great preacher. I don’t know French enough, Bourdaloue, well, anybody know French? How would you pronounce that? Bourdaloue? B-o-u-r-d-a-l-o-u-e. The great preacher Bourdaloue was speaking to King Louis XIV of France on Romans 7:18-19, ”What I want to do I don’t do, and what I don’t do, I do do,” and the king interrupted with a declaration: ”Ah, these two men, I know them well.”
Bourdaloue answered, ”It is one thing to know them, sire, but it is not enough. One of the two must perish.” And on the inside of all of us there are two people, two, and they struggle against one another, and one of them perishes. And that’s what sanctification is: the subduing of that evil nature on the inside of you.
So salvation is something past, It is a past fact: that’s what you call justification. Salvation is something present, It is a present fact, it is a process: it is sanctification. And salvation is a future fact, a future consummation: It is glorification.
There is a work of Christ that He effects for us. That’s reconciliation between us and God. We are ”at-one-ment, at-one-ment,” atonement; that’s a theological word concocted in the English language. ”At-one-ment” with God; Christ brought to us ”at-one-ment” with God. We are reconciled to God. He made atonement, at-one-ment for us. But there is a work of Christ in us that He effects in us, and that is called sanctification.
Now I have an illustration of that: a steamship at sea, the machinery is broken and it is drifting; it is lost, the steamship, but it is rescued and brought into the harbor for repairs. The repairs may take a long time. The ship is safe, but it is not sound.
Christ designs to make us safe, to justify us, to deliver us from the storms that would sink us: that is our justification. But Christ also designs to make us whole, to make us sound, to make us well: He intends to sanctify us. And that’s like the ship brought in from the sea. It is safe, it is in the harbor, it is docked, it is perfectly safe, no storm can get it now, but God doesn’t purpose just that we be safe in port. God purposes also to make us sound, to make us whole, to repair us, to make us beautiful, and fine, and gracious, and nice, and what you would call ”Christian.”
It is a work of God, sanctification, 1 Thessalonians 5:23. The agency to affect it is the indwelling Spirit of Christ, 2 Timothy 1:14. And full sanctification, both of the soul and of the body, is not complete until we enter the life to come. The soul at death, that’s the complete sanctification of the soul; and the body at the resurrection, when God raises our body from the dead, or when we’re raptured; Philippians 3:20-21, Colossians 3:4, Jude 24, and Revelation 14:5.
Now this final state of perfection is called glorification; glorification. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, it speaks of our glorification here. In 1 John 3:2, fully we are glorified there. In 2 Corinthians 4:17, the disciplines and conflicts here make for the greater weight of our glory there.
Let’s take time to take just that last one, 2 Corinthians 4:17, 2Corinthians 4:17, 2 Corinthians 4:17: ”For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” You think you’re having a hard time: ”Life is not easy for me. There are so many things that frustrate and despair.” And if you live long enough, if you live long enough, then you will hear the doctor say you have cancer of one of the glands – which is just like a death sentence, because when you have cancer in your glands it just spreads all over your body – or you have leukemia, or you have some dreadful thing like the hardening of the arteries, and you gradually forget even who you are, and you become like a baby and cannot even care for yourself. And if you live long enough, not only will that come to you, but you will be almost a stranger in the earth. Your family will all be gone if you live long enough, and all your friends will be gone if you live long enough, and you’ll be alone in this earth.
Well, you say, ”These things are so hard. These afflictions, they are so heavy, and the troubles we have are so grievous.” Well, the Bible turn of that is in altogether different way. ”I’m having a hard time. I’m suffering either in body or in my heart. I hurt. I am afflicted. It is difficult.” Now, you’ve heard it said, sorrow, hurt, trouble, affliction, will always do one of two things, always: it will embitter you, or it will so humble you, bow you, that it draws you close to God. Now, the Christian is the latter. ”For our light affliction,” that’s what he calls all the sorrows we could ever know in this world – and I want you to know, sometimes when I go see these people in the hospital, I sometimes wonder about Paul calling it ”a light affliction.”
You know, what I’m talking about is something like this: it’ll be in a child or it’ll be in a teenager. It could be anywhere along the years of life. The doctor says this one has leukemia, leukemia, which thus far is an incurable cancerous disease of the blood. All right, now, here’s what I’ve seen, and I’ve seen it, oh, I don’t know how many times. As leukemia destroys the red corpuscles and as it destroys the blood, the blood finally gets to where it’ll just go through any membrane in your body. It’ll go through the membranes in the nose. It’ll go through the membranes of the ears. It’ll go through the membranes of the eyes. It’ll go through the membranes of the lips and of the mouth. It’ll go through the membranes anywhere in your body. It just finally will go through anything. The pressure of the heart pumping the blood will finally just push it through any membrane in your body. And then, where that thing goes through, if it’s in your mouth, or on your lips, or your eyes, or ears, or throat, or anywhere, why, there is a cancerous sore. And I have seen children die like that. And finally, what happens is that their blood will gush through a membrane in the body, and they just then finally perish.
Now, I’m trying to illustrate here. Paul calls all of these afflictions of our life ”light.” They are light afflictions. Well, how can he do that? He does it because he says, ”they work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” [2 Corinthians 4:17]. The sufferings we know in this life discipline us. They bring us to God. They bow us in the presence of the Lord. They set our minds upon things above and not upon the things of the earth.
I’ve often said that were it not for trouble, and sickness, and death, men in the earth would absolutely forget God. They’d never call upon Him. But afflictions and troubles bring us close to Jesus, ”and worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Like this: haven’t you noticed how many times heaven is described in a negative sense? It is a place where there is no more death, no more tears, no more sorrow, and no more crying [Revelation 21:4].
What would that be to someone who had never cried? To say that God wipes away all the tears from our eyes, and there are no more tears: what would that be to somebody who had never wept? What would it be to say that heaven is a place where there is no more pain and no more sorrow to someone who had never suffered? And what would it be to say heaven is a place where there’s no more death to someone who had never seen their loved ones buried into the heart of the earth or who never faced death? These things all have a purpose in God for our perfection, and that ultimate perfection is called glorification.
Well, our time is far spent. Could I just close in a little summary? Our salvation means more than we think for. Oh, how much God has included in our regeneration, in our justification, in our sanctification, and finally in our glorification! And, our Lord, O that we might praise Thee and love Thee and serve Thee better for all Thou hast done for us. In Thy precious name, amen.
For more sermons by W.A Criswell, please visit www.wacriswell.com