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What is Sanctification?

What is Sanctification?

Jon Delger

Executive Pastor

Peace Church

Published On:

November 16, 2023

As you are studying the Bible, you will eventually come across some big words that you don’t use in everyday conversation… and sanctification is one of those words.


Short Answer: What is Sanctification?

Simply put, sanctification is the process of being made holy.

Some key passages include John 17:17; John 17:19; Ephesians 5:26; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 5:23.


When someone puts their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, they are justified (see article) or declared righteous. Jesus’ blood washes away their sin, they are saved, they are righteous from a legal standpoint. However… they are not righteous or holy from a day-to-day life standpoint. When someone puts their faith in Jesus they do not become instantly perfect, never sinning again. Instead, they begin a lifelong process of growing in likeness to Jesus. This process is what the Bible calls sanctification.


Longer Answer: What is Sanctification?

Although the definition above is the simplest answer, the Bible does use the word sanctification in a few different ways, which can cause some confusion. Let’s talk about the different ways the word is used in Scripture and then consider a couple other important points.


The word sanctification is a translation of the greek word hagiasmos, which can mean holiness or separation. Context is important when we consider the specific meaning of this word in different passages. One way the word sanctification is sometimes used is to refer to the holiness or righteousness or separation unto God we receive at salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30). This has sometimes been called positional or definitive sanctification. In essence, it is another way to refer to justification.


Another way the Bible uses this word (and I would consider this the main way), is to refer to the process of becoming more like Jesus (Romans 6:19). This has sometimes been called progressive or experiential sanctification. It is the lifelong process of growing in spiritual maturity, holiness, obedience to God, or Christ-likeness.


A final way the Bible uses the word is to refer to the completion of the sanctification process (1 Thessalonians 5:23). This is what could also be referred to as glorification (Romans 8:18, 30; 2 Corinthians 4:17). When a believer dies or when Christ returns, they are glorified. They are finally free from sin and now live in the full and glorious presence of God.


If we were to chart the life of Christians in terms of their battle with sin, it would look something like this…



We were dead in sin. Then when we put our faith in Jesus, we were justified. At this point we become spiritually alive and are declared righteous in God’s eyes. From this point forward, our entire life is a process of sanctification. It has ups and downs, but Lord willing, with an overall trajectory toward greater holiness. Finally, when we die or the Lord returns (whichever comes first), we are finally free from sin and entirely holy

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