Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 48. How Faith Sanctifies
Acts 26:17,18 I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
As we start to draw near to the end of this series we come to this word ‘sanctify’ which is rarely encountered in ordinary everyday life. We have touched on it previously but we now focus on it in our logical progression of following through from justification, considering righteousness and now the outworking of our salvation in the period between today and the day we pass on from this experience to go to heaven.
Let’s save time and define it from the outset. Sanctification is all about being separated off to God by being different, given over to Him. To sanctify someone means to set them apart by being different. As with many of these things it has a past, present and future application, and although our focus here will be different, we invite you to do your own study in Scripture on this in your own time.
First, we were sanctified when we were born again; we were made holy by the presence of the Holy Spirit coming into us, we were set part to God, different from the rest of sinful mankind. Yes it was that wonderful. We were forgiven, cleansed, adopted and empowered.
Second, we are being sanctified as we live out our lives and in many ways this is the one we need to give most thought to here because it is all about how we live out our lives being separated to God, and we will shortly consider the faith dimension.
Third, we will be utterly sanctified when we pass into heaven and into eternity and we will consider this in the last of these studies.
So let’s look at our starting verses above: “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (Acts 26:17,18) These were Jesus’ words to Paul on the road to Damascus, the ministry to which he was calling Paul. It was to call people to turn from one life to another, from a life in darkness with Satan, to the kingdom of God where they would receive forgiveness of sins because of what Jesus had done on the Cross, a people set apart to God by faith.
A word from Habakkuk appears more than once in the New Testament: “my righteous one will live by faith.” (Heb 10:38) It means we will receive that life by faith and we will live that life by faith. This life of sanctification and this process of sanctification are both received by faith. As we have seen before, it is when we hear God’s word to this effect and respond positively to it. That is faith. Faith starts us off and faith keeps us going.
But we have also seen that faith involves doing and so in a number of places in the New Testament we find instructions to be living in a particular way, and in each case it is a call to be sanctified and a call to be worked out by faith, For example, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Pet 5:8,9) It is a call to resist Satan’s wiles, his temptations and to remain pure. We play a part in the sanctification process as we exercise our will to DO what is right and reject what is wrong.
Paul also used this language in his teaching: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God;” (1 Thess 4:3-5) Notice again that in both these examples, the call to us is to be self-controlled, or to take control against Satan and against sin. That is the part we play in it.
Paul continued on, “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life,” (1 Thess 4:7) which sums up the life goals we now have or, to put it another way, “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.” (Titus 1:1) This sanctified life leads to godliness, becoming more God-like or more Christ-like (see 2 Cor 3:20). This is our calling, to be different, to be godly, to be different from the world and their abandoning of values. Instead we hold to God’s values.
Now Peter recognized that these lives were not always easy: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (1 Pet 1:6) i.e. we live in a Fallen World where things go wrong, people are nasty, and so on. But this doesn’t mean we just give up when it gets hard. Yes, there will be times when we are tired and weary and feel like giving up. There will be times when the enemy, in the form of Satan, his minions or other people, comes against us and seeks to sow fear or discouragement These are the tough times of life – and they are as real for the Christian as they are for anyone else – but, says Peter, “These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Pet 1:7)
These testing times are allowed by the Lord as part of that sanctification process and as we respond positively to them our faith will be revealed and be shown to be genuine and it will bring glory to Jesus, especially when he comes back and is revealed and all the angels will praise and worship him for what he has achieved through us. But Peter recognizes that that has not happened yet and so he adds, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” (1 Pet 1:8) There, we have gone the first circle – we’re back to believing in Jesus, even when we can’t see him and we live accordingly, and that is faith. And so he continues, “for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet 1:9) And so the wheel continues, so to speak, our faith brings the reality of our salvation and we are being changed more and more into the likeness of Jesus, and this is sanctification, a process that will continue as long as we live on this earth. Then it will be complete as we see him face to face. Hallelujah!