I know, its been a while. Maybe in the coming year I will post a little more. So I am working on class notes for our next course at the Grace Bible Institute and this afternoon I was addressing the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, particularly his role in our sanctification. I have been thinking about this issue a lot lately and it was a nice divine coincidence that I needed to address a few things for class. I am open to any feedback.
The Holy Spirit who indwells, gifts and empowers believers also enables us to live the life that God calls us to live. We call this purifying work of the Holy Spirit sanctification. The term “sanctification,” both in its noun and verb form carries the sense of being “set apart” to some particular person, activity or thing. And the New Testament uses “sanctification” in terms of being “set apart” to God himself. Within the context of the New Testament, sanctification is positional, progressive, and perfect (final) depending on context.
In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul stresses a particular sanctifying work of the Spirit in our lives. Paul, after declaring a litany of sins, writes,
Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1 Cor 6:11)
We see the Holy Spirit at work in our sanctification, helping us to become more Christ-like. Now admittedly here Paul is talking about positional sanctification but it is still sanctification and we see the Holy Spirit’s role in our daily, progressive sanctification.
As for progressive sanctification, Grudem notes,
After the initial break with sin that the Holy Spirit brings about in our lives at conversion, he also produces in us growth in holiness of life. He brings forth the “fruit of the Spirit” within us (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” Gal. 5:22-23), those qualities that reflect the character of God (Systematic Theology, 640)
The change is progressive and is not completed in this life. During this life we are being changed but we are not completely changed. Paul notes in 2 Corinthians 3:18,
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
We are being transformed into the image or likeness which we see, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord. The glory of Christ is the standard to which we are called “to mirror,” so to speak. This change is one which is gradual. Paul uses the present passive form of the verb metamorphoō (μεταμοφόω) in the expression “we…are being transformed.” And yes, it is the term for which we get our English term metamorphosis.
A couple of important points:
- We are all (“But we all”) in this position of a slow, gradual change toward the glory of the Lord.
- Why would any of us think that we could achieve this standard so quickly in our current bodies?
- The passive verb stresses that this transformation is not done by us, it is God’s work.
- The present tense form portrays the action as in process. Don’t judge it with a daily snapshot.
Only at death will we finally put on immortality and be rid of the natural, sinful body (1 Cor 15:50-58). Until then we must accept that we are in this second stage of sanctification (progressive), and we must live with the tension that though we have already been justified, sanctified and glorified positionally, we must wait for our bodies to be transformed and sin to be eradicated from us. And if true, we must trust that God knows what he is doing with us. He has his reasons why, after he justifies us, he doesn’t eradicate sin from us immediately. We need not be too frustrated with how slow God is working on us: he has our sin covered. His Son paid for it all and now he is slowing transforming us. But it is only slow to us. From his vantage point, everything is going according to plan so that at death, our bodies will line up just fine with our position. Remember, the only way to be rid of sin now is to die!!