It is easier to define sanctification than to try and describe a sanctified person. Also, we must distinguish between God’s elective grace in sanctifying and man’s responsibility in living a “holy” life.
The word sanctify is also designated as saints and holy ones, when speaking of persons, and as hallowed or holy in reference to places or things. The basic meaning of sanctification is separation and mainly implies being set apart for God’s use or service. In this sense it is easy to see how persons, places, and things could be set apart or sanctified for God’s use.
The Holy Spirit is the agent or Person of God that separates an individual for God’s grace in salvation. II Thessalonians 2:13 states:
“But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”
Dr. Charles Baker in A Dispensational Theology calls this “positional sanctification”, and states that this is “an objective work of God, and not a subjective experience of the believer.” The great teaching behind all of this is that we see from God’s Word that no one can be saved or sanctified apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. There is another side or dimension to the study and understanding of sanctification. This involves the believer in being separate from evil ways and things. Certainly it is God’s will or desire that believers live a holy or separated life. However, He does not force this position. The Word of God plays the major role in our obtaining any degree of separation from the world. Our Lord prayed in John:
“Sanctify them through thy truth; Thy word is truth.” (John 17:17)
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words states: “This sanctification is God’s will for the believer, I Thessalonians 4:3, and His purpose in calling him by the gospel (verse 7) it must be learned from God as He teaches it by His Word, and it must be pursued by the believer, earnestly and undeviatingly.”
God calls upon the believer to pursue or strive to be separate from sin and the world of selfishness. For instance, in II Corinthians 7:1 we are admonished:
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
This not only shows us that “there is room for improvement” in all of us, but it is impossible to arrive at a place of “sinless perfection” where we cannot sin. Sanctification and “Maturity” go hand in hand. The more we grow in the Word, the closer we get to the Lord, and further away from the pollution of the world. We must think of how great God is, rather than how good we are. We now see that sanctification is both positional and experiential. God sanctifies all believers, makes them “saints” by His grace on the basis of the death of Christ. We cleanse ourselves from the defilement of the world as we yield ourselves to His Word and will. This is Sanctification that is Scriptural.