A Consensus statement from Pentecostal, Charismatic and Historic Evangelicals
- Sanctification is the process by which every believer becomes more like Christ. At salvation the newly regenerate person is given the righteous standing of Christ (declared righteous by God -- 1 Corinthians. 6:11; Romans. 4:6) and in this sense is instantly sanctified (i.e., made acceptable or holy to God); this is often called positional sanctification. Thus, all true Christians, living as well as dead, are referred to as "saints" because they have been sanctified (1 Corinthians. 1:2). Sanctification is also progressive, manifesting more and more the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians. 5:22-23), and of the fragrance of Christ himself (2 Corinthians. 2:15-16). It involves daily life-style choices guided by obedience to God's Word and the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
- The pursuit of sanctification or holiness is a divine command -- not a human option. God told the Israelites, "Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy: for I am the Lord your God" (Lev. 20:7). Jesus instructed his disciples, "Therefore you shall be perfect [complete or whole] just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew. 5:48). In the Book of Hebrewswe are admonished "to pursue holiness without which no man will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). The primary motivation to pursue godliness [holiness] is gratitude to God and the desire to please Him, not merely the fear of negative consequences and punishment for sin. God disciplines all his children to accomplish their sanctification. This discipline is meant to produce a healthy sorrow for sin in their hearts, leading to repentance and restoration rather than despair. God is not a severe taskmaster waiting to pounce on believers the moment they sin, but a loving Father who reaches out to say, "Let me help you."
- The Holy Spirit, as the agent of sanctification, points not to himself but to Christ. Through the scriptures he reveals to us the person and work of Christ (John. 16:13-15), and as we focus on Christ the Spirit transforms us increasingly into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians. 3:18). The believer's attention is directed not to the Holy Spirit but to Jesus himself.
- The local church plays a key role in sanctification. Scripture knows nothing of an isolated model of sanctification which takes place apart from human relationships. We grow in Christlikeness within the Body of Christ, as part of the community of the faithful, and not in isolation (Ephesians. 3:16-18, 4:11-16).
- Christians are to live as pilgrims and strangers in society. However, though we are not to be conformed to this world neither are we to withdraw from it. We are "to be blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" (Philippians. 2:15).
- The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians. 5:22-23), i.e. supernatural love, deep-abiding joy, peace that passes understanding, superhuman patience, gentleness and goodness seldom seen in humans, divine faith and faithfulness, meekness that mirrors Christ's example, and self-control in a power-hungry world -- these are the evidences of a sanctified and holy life. Human efforts may try to imitate such virtues, but the stark contrast with the real fruit exposes the hypocrisy.
- Biblical sanctification stresses the grace of God. Though sin is tenacious in its impact upon us, we must realize that God's grace provides for deliverance from evil habits and the failures and foibles of our past. Those who promise total sanctification in this life often deny the reality of sin and call it something else. Others may explain sin away as a disease, teaching coping skills instead of the new life in Christ. Scripture teaches that we are no longer what we once were and therefore need no longer behave as we once did (Romans. 6:6; 2 Corinthians. 5:17; Ephesians. 4:22-24; Colossians. 3:9-10).
- Sanctification is not sinless perfection or entry into a state in which the believer can never again sin. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John. 1:8). Sanctification is neither legalism (working for divine approval) nor asceticism (refraining from certain activities to gain merit before God). There is no biblical basis for sanctification by works.
Conforming to man-made rules and interpretations without a motivating love and desire to please God, falls far short of the holiness God requires. Lip service and legalism, devoid of a sincere heart reaching toward God, are denounced by Jesus (Matthew. 15:8). On the other hand, withdrawing from the world in order to avoid sinning or losing one's sanctification is unscriptural.
Sanctification is not simply the keeping of spiritual disciplines (e.g., the number of chapters read, verses memorized, prayers recited, church services attended, fasting, etc.). Though spiritual disciplines can play an important part in Christian growth, such activities are not in themselves a measure of sanctification. Rituals, such as water baptism, communion or rededication, though having value in other directions, do not confer holiness upon a person. Loving God with all the heart, soul, strength and mind is the essential motivation that must lead to holiness Lk. 10:27).
Sanctification or holiness cannot be claimed simply because one has received a supernatural revelation, mystical insight, or spiritual gift. Paul said, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels...though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge...and have not (love), it profits me nothing" (1 Corinthians. 13:1-3). Without a divinely-given love for God and for others, such actions have no value, and certainly do not count for holiness. Jesus said, "If a man love me, he will keep my words" (John. 14:23). Obedience is an essential evidence of sanctification or holiness.
Service alone is not a proof of holiness. A sanctified life will produce Christian service, but one can perform service without necessarily living a sanctified life.
Neither the baptism in the Spirit nor what is called "a second work of grace" is evidence of sanctification. "So then, you will know them by their fruits" (Matthew. 7:20). That is the only true test.
Sanctification is not deification of the believer. Although 2 Peter 1:4 states that we are "made partakers of the divine nature" this does not mean that man becomes God. Rather, we forever remain creatures who are permitted by grace to reflect the character of God and thus enter into full fellowship with God (1 John. 1:3).
- There is a consummate beauty in true holiness (Pss. 29:2, 96:9). Human attempts to imitate the work of the Spirit can turn ugly at the slightest provocation and discredit the name of our Lord. The goal of sanctification is, after all, an intimate fellowship between man and the living God which grows out of restored relationships. Justification is holiness begun, sanctification is holiness increasing, and glorification is holiness completed. Each member of his church must live and worship the King of Kings in the beauty of holiness. Christ is coming for a glorious church without spot or wrinkle, "holy and without blemish" (Ephesians. 5:27). Even so, we pray, come Lord Jesus, to claim a bride without blemish!