Sin 20: Sanctification

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, July 29, 2022 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

The Christian life is a life that is always in process – a process that works a sinful heart of stone and into a heart of flesh. We call this process sanctification. This only happens with someone who has already been born again. This does not happen with someone who just says a prayer or someone who makes a profession of faith, but someone in whom the seed of rebirth has been planted, watered, and now has sprouted and grown.

Sanctification is the process of removing sin from one’s life. It is often an unpleasant experience as we go through it. It’s often painful, and we wonder why God puts us through this. But we scrub pots and floors and walls and laundry all the time to get the dirt and grime off them. What if that pot, that floor, that wall, that piece of clothing had feelings? Would they not feel pain too? But the pain would be worth it because the grime would be gone. The same is true for us. Every believer who has been through this sanctification process does not like going through it but always finds it worthwhile once it is done.

The Bible uses two main images to describe how sanctification works: a launderer’s soap and a refiner’s fire. The first image is what I just used above. A launderer’s soap is a scouring soap. It is mean to really dig into the dirt and grime to break up its bonds with the substance to water can wash it off. Let me emphasize this point more. The grease and grime that the fuller’s soap needs to cleanse is chemically bonded to the surface. It’s not like mere dirt or mud that a hose can simply wash off. You need the soap to break the chemical bonds.

The same is true for sin. It’s not just a “fall in the mud and get dirty” issue. It is bonded to you so strongly that the only way to get it off is through breaking those bonds. The only thing potent enough to break the bond of sin is the blood of Jesus Christ. Now, don’t hear what I am not saying. I am not saying that once we are born again then we are freed from sin. There is more to the image. The soap doesn’t just wash it off on its own. It requires scrubbing. When dealing with grime, you spray the cleaner on the area needing to be cleaned, let it sit for a while so the chemical reaction can do its thing, and then you have to scrub it and the scrubbing takes work. Likewise, God applies the blood of Jesus to our areas of life infected with sin and then He has to scrub us to get the sin out. How does He scrub us? With trials, tribulations, persecutions, difficulties, etc. People ask why God is so “cruel” to His own people; He is actually scrubbing them clean of their sin.

The other image used to describe sanctification is a refiner’s fire. There are two versions of this. In the first version, the goldsmith will take his raw material, place in in his pot or whatever he is using, and turn up the heat. The heat will melt the gold and leave the impurities on the top, because gold is one of the heaviest natural materials. The goldsmith scrapes off the impurities and then turns up the heat again. More impurities come up and are scraped off. Then more heat, and more heat, until all that is left is pure, unadulterated gold. The other version is the same idea only with silver. The silversmith does the same thing and knows when it is finished because he can see a reflection of his face in the pool of silver. I’ll dwell on this point next week in more detail.

I need to make this clear: sanctification is a process that will go on for the entirety of our earthly lives. As long as we live in this physical body that is tainted and corrupted by sin, we will always deal with our sinful nature and tendencies. Until that is finally dealt with, we will be warring against our sin. At the resurrection of our physical bodies, we will celebrate our final victory over sin.

I also need to make it clear that this is something we cannot do on our own. We can never overcome our own sin by our own efforts. This can only be done by the Holy Spirit’s work in us, though we still have a responsibility to submit to the process. Fighting the process is only going to produce more pain for us and make our lives even harder. The prayer of David was for God to wash him and cleanse him. David knew his sinful tendencies and his sinful nature and longed to be freed from that sin. It was attached to him, and he could not get rid of it. He needed help. He needed a Savior.

There are two equal and opposite heresies to the sanctification process. One is legalism and the other is antinomianism. In legalism, sanctification becomes about being morally perfect for the sake of being morally perfect. It is doing the law to make yourself clean and going through the rituals to get it all done yourself. Let me make this crystal clear: proclaiming God’s perfect standard as the ideal is NOT legalism. Proclaiming the goal and telling people they are wrong is not legalism. David Wilkerson said that the church is at the height of apostasy when we call “obedience” as legalism, and he’s right. The sanctification process is not legalism. But true legalism, the practice of doing good works to please God, is not sanctification either.

The other heresy is antinomianism, which basically makes everything a free-for-all, and we can do what we want and how we want to do it. We can believe the doctrines we like, and we can follow which teachers we want. Because we are all under the grace of God, we should all get along. That’s turning the grace of God into lawlessness. And I will argue that the ones who cry “legalism” the most are likely in this camp.

Sanctification is directly opposed to antinomianism, but it is also not legalism. It is the process of being rid of sin and being cleansed of sin. Salvation initially removes the penalty of sin from our record, then sanctification takes us through the process of being delivered from the power of sin. And then our final glorification will remove us from the very presence of sin. But there is more to what is happening in the sanctification process. It is not just deliverance from something (sin) but deliverance to something (Christ). That’s for next week.

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