The good news of the gospel is that God does not only justifies but He also sanctifies. God works to make His people holy. Sanctification flows from our union with Christ. It is God’s work. A Christian who claims to have not received sanctifying grace and have no sanctified life is a fraud.
There are people who go to the extreme in saying that we do not have to do anything in sanctification since God is working in us.
Ferguson rightly observes the phrase “the fruit of the Spirit” or the analogy of the vine and the branches (Gal 5:22; Jn 15:1-8) are taken to suggest that Christian graces grow effortlessly. Indeed, such teaching effort is sometimes seen as a hindrance to sanctification. Christians are exhorted rather to “let go, and let God have His wonderful way.”
He further notes that God gives increase in holiness by engaging our minds, wills, emotions and actions. We are involved in the process. That is why biblical teaching on sanctification appears in both the indicative (“I the Lord sanctify you”) and the imperative (“sanctify yourselves this day”).1
We are commanded to be holy and the Holy Spirit ensures that we will really be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, how can we grow in holiness? If the primary means of our salvation is the word received by faith and the efficacious work of the Spirit then obviously, it is the same in sanctification. The word is the principal means of sanctification. No one grows in sanctification apart from the word and the Spirit. If a man has no nutrients then he is malnourished, and it endangers his health. So it is with the saints. Without the Word, his soul is starving.
If you are hungry, you should not be forced to eat. But it puzzles me to hear that there are professing Christian who needed to be forced to go to God’s word. Do we have the same excitement in going to God’s word daily as we eat food daily for our sustenance?
Satan without and the remaining sins within hinder us to partake of God’s word. So we struggle daily. How about you? Do you struggle daily in reading God’s word? Or are you too busy that you do not even think of reading His word throughout the week except on Sundays where you are bid to open your bible and read it with the preacher? Do you delight in communing with your Redeemer, and knowing & seeking His will in His word?
Brethren, our growth in holiness depends on our intake of God’s word.
In 1 Peter 2:2. Peter writes, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation. In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul also commends the believers before God as they gladly received His word, when they received the word of God which they heard from them, they accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in them who believe.
So we are to …long for the pure milk of the word… and we must accept it as it performs its works in the saints towards sanctification.
The word of God actively works (Heb 4:12). We should always expose ourselves to the Word. Let us not neglect the welfare of our soul. In 2 Tim 3:14-4:1, Timothy learned from women (2 Tim 1:5) and the word is able to make us wise unto salvation. It is God-breathed, so we must abide and continue in it daily. If we firmly believe in the word, there is no reason for us not to meditate on it daily.
We must diligently give ourselves to the reading, meditation, and study of the Scriptures so that we may know the God of all sanctifying grace more and more. This is the primary means of sanctification.
In John 17:17, Jesus Christ in the High Priestly prayer asked His Father concerning the saints to sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. The truth sanctifies God’s people. How can we live a life pleasing to God? We grow in holiness and in the power of the Spirit. The word educates our conscience. It can be hardened so it must be instructed by the word of God daily.
There are other means of sanctification like worship, fellowship, prayer, discipline, providence ( trials and afflictions) & the sacraments. But they are all centered upon the word.
Let us not neglect the primary means of conformity to Jesus Christ, the word of God. The soul who has life will really crave the word of God. Do you crave God’s word daily?
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
1 Sinclair Ferguson, The Reformed View of Sanctification