Three Stages of Sanctification

Posted: January 22, 2009 in Uncategorized

Wayne Grudem identifies three stages to sanctification (see yesterday’s post for his definition of the doctrine).  The beginning of this process occurs at regeneration (see earlier post on that topic as well).  To quote the Wondrous Wayne at length:

A definite moral change occurs in our lives at the point of regeneration, for Paul talks about the “washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).  Once we have been born again we cannot continue to sin as a habit or pattern of life (1 John 3:9), because the power of new spiritual life within us keeps us from yielding to a life of sin.

This initial moral change is the first stage of sanctification.  In this sense, there is some overlap between regeneration and sanctification, for this moral change is actually a part of regeneration.  But when we view it from the standpoint of moral change within us, we can also see it as the first stage in sanctification.  Paul looks back on a completed event when he says to the Corinthians, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).  Similarly, in Acts 20:32 Paul can refer to Christians as “all those who were sanctified.” 

This initial step in sanctification involves a definite break from the ruling power and love of sin, so that the believer is no longer ruled or dominated by sin and no longer loves to sin.  Paul says, “So you must also consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus…For sin will have no dominion over you (Rom. 6:11, 14).

Now, as Grudem the Great points out, one should not read this and feel as though they in no way shape or form fit this description and should therefore throw in the towel and just go party like its 1999.  Okay, he didn’t put it that way but you get the point.

Pastor Fred Craddock once said, “all of us have dark, unevangelized corners of our lives.”  Until Jesus returns, we will continue to sin.  Although sanctification begins at the point of regeneration, it is a process…a long, slow, painful one at that.  Eventually, over time, a Christian, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, should be able to master certain sins and/or decrease their practice of others, yet they will continue to struggle. 

As a pastor, I have had too many people believe that they were not saved because they still struggled with anger, lust, etc.   NEWSFLASH–you always will.  So, what’s the difference? You should have a different relationship with sin.

Once, you may have watched porn endlessly, drank until you puked every weekend and lusted endlessly for hot members of the opposite sex or for material goods, but now, while you still slip and fall on a regular basis, you are not proud of these acts as you once were.  In fact, you feel guilty.  You hate that you do them.  You don’t want to do them.  You struggle to stop.  This is part of sanctification. 

You will still sin (although this is not an excuse to do so) but you will regret it and seek to turn from it.  Thank God for this conviction!  You are being shaped into the image and likeness of King Jesus,

We will discuss the other two stages tomorrow. 

Until then, grace and peace.

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