What is sanctification?


In sanctification, God makes sinners holy in heart and conduct so that they will demonstrate his goodness in their lives.

We’ve learned a lot of big words: justification, righteousness, adoption, election. But this next one is the longest of them all – sanctification! It’s a word worth learning because it’s a word that brings good news for you and me.

Back when we talked about the word “justification,” we learned that the “–ification” part of the word means “to make or transform into.” So if I said the word “sloth–ification,” you would know that word means “to be transformed into a sloth.” I’m not sure if that would be a good thing or a bad thing!

Like justification, sanctification is another word about God transforming us into something. It begins with “sanct,” which is part of a word from another language called Latin. That word is “sanctus,” and it means “holy, separated from sin.” When we put the two parts of this word together, we see that sanctification is really “holy–fication.” It’s where God transforms unholy sinners into people who are holy in their hearts and holy in their actions.

When we believe the good news, our sins are immediately forgiven. We are immediately adopted into God’s forever family. We are immediately justified. However, we aren’t immediately transformed from law-breaking sinners into completely holy law-followers. Still, the moment we put our faith in Jesus, something special does happen, the beginning of a change from the inside out.

In Acts 2:38, Peter tells us that, when we put our faith in Jesus, we “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” What does that mean? That the Holy Spirit of God comes to live inside of us! Amazing! 1 Thessalonians 5:23 explains what happens when the Holy Spirit makes his home with us. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.

Did you see a word in that verse that looks like “sanctification?” When we believe, God promises to “sanctify” us, to holy–fy us from the inside out. He promises to transform sinful rebels like us into people who faithfully follow the laws of our King. And he sends his Holy Spirit to live with us to get the job done! It’s not a quick process – in fact, it takes an entire lifetime and more! In our next question, we’ll talk about exactly what this process of holy-fying looks like.


+ If God promises to sanctify people who believe, what difference should there be between brand-new Christians and people who have been Christians for a long time?

+ Read Jesus’ words in John 17:17. What does this teach us about sanctification?


John 17:17; Eph. 2:10; 4:22-24; Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Thes. 5:23

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