First of all, I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season, blessed by God’s presence. What an appropriate time to remember the real reason we have been called and to remind ourselves of the importance of sanctification—letting our actions show forth Christ. The “fruit of the Spirit” in our lives is proof that we are, indeed, Christians. As John 13:35 says, “They shall know we are Christians by our Love.”
Over the last few months, we have been discussing the complex subject of “salvation”—what it is, what it is comprised of and how it is accomplished. One of the first discussions we had was the difference between “justification” and “sanctification.” Justification means receiving God’s eternal Life in our spirits. It means accepting what Christ has already done for us on the Cross. He paid the price and because of that we have been declared justified and not guilty. Justification means we have passed from being separated from God to being united with Him. Thus, if we were to die at this point, we would definitely go to be with Lord and be guaranteed an entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven.
So, think of justification as the first step towards salvation—our spirit at this point is saved. However, our soul (our own thoughts, emotions and desires) is still the same as it was before we were “born again.” It has not been changed at all. This is where the next step of salvation comes in. It’s called “sanctification,” which simply means seeing the Life of God that was placed in our spirits and hearts when we were justified begin to come forth and actually transform our souls into the image of Christ—His thoughts becoming our thoughts, His Love, our love and His desires, ours, etc.
The word sanctification (Strong’s #38, hagiasmos) simply means “separated unto God.” It means to actually become clean, holy and righteous in all we think, say and do. Sanctification is simply the process by which God actually conforms us back into His image, so we don’t just “talk” about being Christians, we actually show forth Christ’s character. (Romans 8:29) 2 Thessalonians 2:13 tells us that God has chosen us “to salvation through sanctification.” In other words, sanctification of our soul is God’s will for every believer, however, it’s going to be our own moment-by-moment choice whether we allow Him to conform us into His image or not. (Ephesians 5:26)
Sanctification is the means God uses to make us partakers of His Life so that we can become those overcomers who inherit the Millennial Kingdom. Yes, the “ransom work” has already been finished (the external completeness, our justification), but the inward completeness must still be secured. Thus, there is a conditional aspect of sanctification. This will depend upon the willingness of the believer to die to self and be alive unto God. Sanctification, therefore, is the first step in the “ladder towards the kingdom:” Sanctification (being open and cleansed) leads to partaking of Christ’s Life (actually living His Life); partaking of Christ’s Life leads to overcoming; and, over-coming leads to inheriting and co-reigning with Christ.
Consequently, our fulfillment, our meaning and our significance in this life and the next all rest upon this important first step of sanctification. If we are not sanctified, we won’t be able to partake of Christ’s Life, which prevents us from overcoming, which in turn, will cause us to forfeit our “inheritance.” If we are not sanctified, nothing else will or can happen! In other words, it stops the whole cycle. The bottom line is: the measure of our usefulness to the Lord in the future kingdom will be found in the measure of our sanctification here and now.
God’s whole purpose in calling us is to place us back in the position for which we were originally created––to be a “joint-heirs” with Christ ruling and reigning with Him over the earth. (Genesis 1:26) Since this was not fulfilled at the beginning of time because of Adam and Eve’s sin, God has deter-mined to accomplish this purpose in the Millennium where man will finally occupy a regal position over a restored earth. (Acts 3:21)
Ruling and reigning with Christ is the mark or the goal of the high calling of Christ. Listen to Philippians 3:10-14 where Paul says, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death. If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are be-fore, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Incredible as it may seem, God seeks our fellowship, our communion and our love. He actually wants to dwell among us. We were created for His pleasure. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)
See CHART 4 - The Purpose of our Salvation
The purpose of our salvation, therefore, is not only an earthly mission (to be conformed into the “image of Christ” for a witness to others), but also to regain the blessings of a future heavenly and glorious kingdom. NOW is just the testing ground! Faithful, obedient and sanctified believers (the over-comers) who depend upon the Holy Spirit for everything will be qualified to inherit that kingdom. (Hebrews 10:23) Unfaithful, disobedient and unsanctified believers (the overtaken) will enter that kingdom, but forfeit the privilege of having levels of responsibility there.
The Role of the Holy Spirit
The role of the Holy Spirit is to help believers become sanctified and reach the goal of inheriting the kingdom. First of all, the Holy Spirit is sent to seal us, then to sanctify us and finally, to transform us into Christ’s image for our future inheritance. In other words, the Holy Spirit will provide the power that will enable us to become those partakers and those over-comers who produce “fruit.”
In the Bible, “fruit” is spoken of as actions, deeds or “good works” that are accomplished by the Spirit through us. “Fruits of righteousness” should be a natural outgrowth of receiving God’s eternal Life in our hearts. (James 2:14-18) The fruit of our Christian lives is what will be judged at the Bema Seat of Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) In other words, believers are saved with a view towards bringing forth “fruit” and this fruit is the “score card” by which we will inherit the kingdom or not.
Ephesians 2:10 tells us that bearing “fruit” was God’s plan all along. It says we were “created in Christ Jesus unto good works (to bear fruit), which God has ordained that we should walk in them.” (Titus 3:8) God’s will, then, is that we not only receive His Life in our spirits at our new birth, but that we also learn how to live His Life out in our souls so we might bear “fruit.”
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit”…“The fruit of the Spirit is Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 25)
To be continued next month: “How Secure is our Salvation?” This article has been excerpted in part from Chuck and Nan’s new book The Kingdom, Power and Glory. For more information on this and other King’s High Way products.