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The Lie of Sanctification


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Sanctification is a widely accepted belief that bridges the gap between the biblical mandate for obedience to God and the practical application of living a Christian life as an "imperfect person." There are typically two different types of sanctification: progressive and positional.

Progressive sanctification is the process of becoming more holy, and according to some denominations of Christianity it is not fully achieved until after death. The foundation of this belief is the concept that no one can be perfect or completely stop sinning, so therefore progressive sanctification was conceptualized in order to explain how we are saved despite our imperfections.

However, while Paul does talk about being sanctified, this concept of progressive sanctification is not biblical. It is a lie that leads people to hell for the sake of lessening the necessity of true repentance for salvation through Jesus Christ.

Let me prove it to you by showing what the bible really says about being a Christian.


What the Bible Says about Being Christian

"Whoever is born of God doesn't commit sin, because his seed remains in him; and he can't sin, because he is born of God." (1 John 3:9 WEB)

"Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48 WEB)

"Sin no more, so that nothing worse happens to you." (John 5:14 WEB)

"We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:2 WEB)

In practice, being perfect and sinless does seem impossible to many. So what do people do? They develop a semi-biblical concept as a roundabout: sanctification.

However, consider what Jesus says about salvation, "How narrow is the gate, and restricted is the way that leads to life! Few are those who find it." (Matthew 7:14 WEB)

This is Jesus speaking. The same Jesus who died for us on the cross. The same Jesus whose sacrifice brings salvation to all who believe and repent.

If you think Jesus doesn't mean what it sounds like he means, then consider that immediately after making this statement about salvation, Jesus says:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will tell me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy by your name, by your name cast out demons, and by your name do many mighty works?' Then I will tell them, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.'" (Matthew 7:21-23 WEB)

Jesus is not speaking figuratively. Jesus is not teaching something cryptic or hard to understand. Jesus is tell us exactly how it is and how it will be.

Jesus never taught 'Believe in me and be saved.' Jesus taught, "Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17 WEB)

Jesus also taught in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) that the separation of the sheep and goats is determined by our actions.


Misunderstanding Salvation Through Belief

The idea that salvation is through belief-only comes from a misunderstanding of authors like Paul, who says, "that if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:9-10 WEB)

Paul is not making this statement as a summary of how to be saved.

In Romans 10, he is making the point that salvation is for everyone (not just the Jews) who will believe. The same Paul who makes this statement in Romans 10:9-10 has just spent the first 8 chapters of Romans talking about the important of repentance and not sinning, saying:

"Do you know this, O man who judges those who practice such things, and do the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his goodness, forbearance, and patience, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" (Romans 2:3-4 WEB)

"[God] who 'will render to every man according to his works:'...but to those who are self-seeking, and don't obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, will be wrath and indignation..." (Romans 2:6,8 WEB)

"Do we then make the law of no effect through faith? May it never be! No, we establish the law." (Romans 3:31 WEB)

"What will we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2 WEB)

"Therefore don't let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. Neither present your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." (Romans 6:12-13 WEB)

"Don't you know that to whom you present yourselves as servants to obedience, his servants you are whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?" (Romans 6:16 WEB)

Paul also writes in other letters about this subject, saying:

"Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything." (1 Corinthians 7:19 NRSV)

"They profess that they know God, but by their works they deny him..." (Titus 1:16 WEB)

Paul's primary argument in many of his letters is that obeying the Old Testament legal requirements (like circumcision or food laws) will not lead to salvation. Instead, salvation is through belief in God's messiah and obeying his commandments to not sin. This is why Paul and Peter both make statements about Jesus' sacrifice forgiving past sins.

"...whom God set forth to be an atoning sacrifice, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done before, in the forbearance of God..." (Romans 3:25 WEB)

"For he who lacks these things is blind, seeing only what is near, having forgotten the cleansing from his old sins." (2 Peter 1:9 WEB)

The assumption is that you stop sinning when you accept salvation, because repentance is necessary for salvation. Consider what Jesus says to believers:

"Remember therefore how you have received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If therefore you won't watch, I will come as a thief, and you won't know what hour I will come on you. Nevertheless you have a few names in Sardis that did not defile their garments. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will be arrayed like this in white garments, and I will in no way blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels." (Revelation 3:3-5 WEB)

"Defile their garments" or soiling their clothing is an idiom for sinning in the bible. Jesus is telling believers that if they do not repent, then they risk having their name removed from the book of life.

True repentance is necessary for salvation, because the truth is we show what we believe by what we do: "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself." (James 2:17 WEB)


Positional Sanctification in the Bible?

Progressive sanctification is not a biblical concept. However, Paul does talk about being sanctified in the past-tense, which is often called positional sanctification. Here is a verse often used to support this type of sanctification:

"Such were some of you, but you were washed. But you were sanctified. But you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:11 WEB)

This idea that our sanctification has already been accomplished means that all our sins have been forgiven all at once upon acceptance of salvation. Another scripture used to support this concept is:

"...by which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Hebrews 10:10 WEB)

However, the same author who makes this statement in Hebrews 10 proceeds to then immediately say, "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which will devour the adversaries...How much worse punishment, do you think, will he be judged worthy of, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:26-29 WEB)

Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 6:11 above, Paul is arguing with some of the Corinthian believers who are sinning, telling them to stop sinning (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). What Paul is really doing is warning them about falling into sin again. He is not trying to develop an entire theology of "being sanctified," but instead his goal is simply to say, "You have repented; Be careful you don't fall back into sin."

Therefore, neither of these scriptures used to support the concept of sanctification actually support it when read in context.

Furthermore, Jesus' words in Revelation make it clear that positional sanctification, as taught by some modern theologians, is also not biblical:

"Remember therefore how you have received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If therefore you won't watch, I will come as a thief, and you won't know what hour I will come on you. Nevertheless you have a few names in Sardis that did not defile their garments. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will be arrayed like this in white garments, and I will in no way blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels." (Revelation 3:3-5 WEB)

Positional sanctification is a fancy way of saying "Once saved, always saved," which is not biblical. As already noted, in this passage in Revelation, Jesus warns believers that they risk having their names removed from the book of life if they do not truly repent and stop sinning.

The authors of the Bible are not contradicting themselves. They are all very clear that repentance, as seen by no longer sinning, is necessary for salvation. Furthermore, salvation by obedience (biblical) is not the same thing as salvation by works (not-biblical).

The problem comes from many people misunderstand what these authors do and don't mean, because they are not reading scripture in context. To ensure you truly understand what an author is trying to communicate, scripture must be read within the context of the book or letter where it is found.

The entire letter of Romans can be read in only a few hours, depending on how fast you read. Some people can read the entire letter of Romans in under an hour. Other New Testament letters can definitely be read in a short period of time.

Reading the Bible in this manner can greatly improve your understanding of an author's message. Larger books in the Old Testament can be read in a few days by reading an hour or two each day.

Try it out sometime, especially with Romans. Also try to read the gospel of Matthew within a day or two. Your impression of Jesus will likely change dramatically, because the commonly perceived Gandhi-like Jesus is not the biblical Jesus.


Verse of the Week

"How narrow is the gate, and restricted is the way that leads to life! Few are those who find it." (Matthew 7:14 WEB)

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