Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. — Joh 17:17
Recorded in John 17 is the High-priestly prayer of Jesus. He prayed this prayer on this way to the garden of Gethsemane the night he was be betrayed, arrested, and forsaken.
John says that Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven and prayed that the disciples “may be one” (v11, 21), that they would be kept “from the evil” (v15) that is in the world, and that the Father would “sanctify them” (v17). Jesus not only prayed for the disciples, but he prayed “for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (v20).
What struck me as I read this prayer was that we are to be sanctified through the Word of God. This Greek word translated sanctify has two distinct meanings. One is to make holy or to purify (ceremonially or morally), and the other is to consecrate or dedicate.
We see the ceremonial aspect of purification in the temple that “sanctifieth the gold” (Mat 23:17). The moral aspect of purification is shown where Paul prayed that God would “sanctify… wholly” (1The 5:23) those of the Thessalonian congregation.
Consecration is shown where Peter tells those he is writing to consecrate or “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” (1Pet 3:15). We would also see this aspect where Jesus states that he consecrated himself for the sake of the disciples — “for their sakes I sanctify myself” (v19).
In the moral aspect of purification, there are two phases taught in the Wesleyan-Arminian view. One is a general progressive purification which is often referred to as growing in grace or sanctification. The other is referred to as entire sanctification, which is an instantaneous purification of the heart — “purifying their hearts by faith” (Act 15:9), and is also referred to as the “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Act 1:5) or “the promise of the Father” (Act 1:4).
Excluding the ceremonial and the instantaneous purification of heart, I would like to look at the two remaining meanings of the word sanctify — consecration and growth in grace, and how they are accomplished by the Word of God.
Consecration is to dedicate oneself entirely to the service of God with a single purpose to please Him; this dedication includes a person’s spirit, body, will, thoughts, words, desires, time, and actions, as well as material goods and money.
To grow in grace is to become more like Christ and to increase in the fruits of the Spirit; it is to mature in attitude, in spiritual understanding, and in wisdom.
Before we look at how to consecrate our lives and grow in grace, we need to examine our life to make sure we are in the faith. In order for anyone to consecrate themselves to God or to grow in grace, they must first be converted.
When, by grace with godly sorrow and repentance through faith, you believe in your heart (Rom 10:9) on the merits of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and ask God for forgiveness of sins, and believe by faith that God has forgiven you (1Joh 1:9; Act 4:12 1Pet 1:9), you are converted and have become a child of God.
When you are truly converted you will have the power of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 10:13; 2Pet 1:10; Jud 1:24) ruling in your life, giving you victory over committing sin (1Joh 2:3, 4).
If you are professing salvation but are having problems with a cycle of sinning and repenting, then you have not been set free. Bible salvation sets a person free from sinning (Rom 6:22). Getting free from sin is not a second work of grace, nor something that happens after you are saved. Being made free from sin (Rom 6:18) is what Bible salvation does for you.
By favoring one minister over another, some in the Corinthian congregation had allowed jealousy and strife to cause divisions. If the Word of God calls these “carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (1Cor 1:1) that are unable to bear meat, what does the Word have to say to those who willfully disobey.
Take, for example, someone that has just failed the grace of God and fell into willful sin. Even if they have repented, the Words speaks of them as less than a babe in Christ who is carnal and not able to bear meat.
They have lost their testimony, their faith has been damaged, and although Jesus will accept them back if they have godly sorrow and repent, they do not just pick up where they left off. In order for a Christian to consecrate themselves to God and start to grow in grace, they must be finished with the sinning business.
Consecration and growth in grace are both brought about by the Spirit of God applying the Word of God to our heart. In this Jesus said “Sanctify them through thy truth” — that is to say — bring them to an understanding through the Word of God where they will dedicate themselves entirely to God to become more like Christ and to increase in the fruit of the Spirit.
Consecration and growing in grace is not a one time thing. We must be active and diligent to increase the life of Christ in our experience from the time we are converted to the time we die or the Lord comes back.
With each phase in our temporal and spiritual life there will come a new set of trials. The tests of youth, marriage, parenting, Christian ministry, middle age, growing elderly, and dying all bring with them new trials, tests and temptations. For some of us, life will have some hard places, but the grace of God will be there to take us through.
In these changes of life there will be lots of room to grow in grace and many areas which we will need to consecrate to God.
When we begin this process of sanctification (consecration and growing in grace), one victory will lead us to another victory. The strength and faith we gain from each victory will empower us to be victorious in the next battle. The victorious Christian life is exciting, contagious, and full of joy and glory!
This sanctifying process is referred to by Paul as “the washing of water by the word” (Eph 5:26). Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified by the truth and noted that the truth was the Word of God. Here Paul brings in the concept that we are to be cleansed and washing by the Word of God.
“The Word of God is quick, and powerful… and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12). It is this “word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1The 2:13), bringing about this sanctifying change in your Christian life.
This process of sanctification by the Word is a faith-producing operation (Rom 10:17) of the Spirit of God that causes us to stand (2Cor 1:24), to quench all the fiery temptations of the enemy (Eph 6:16), and gives us victory over the world (1Joh 5:4).
This is the good news of the gospel. This is the message we are to bring to the apostate and lukewarm church. This is the path are we to lead our families into, to disciple new converts by, and by which we personally are to perfect holiness in fear of God.