“Terms In the NT the concept of holiness is presented primarily by the adjective Gk. hágios, “holy”; by the three related nouns indicating holiness, hagiasmós, hagiótēs, and hagiōsýnē; and by the verb, hagiázō, “make holy or sanctify.” Of the three
Thus hágios is the adjective applied to God, to the Spirit, and to Christ. In His intercessory
B. The Ethical Emphasis of the Gospels Although all of the above uses of hágios draw in some measure on the originally religious concept found at the root of OT usage, i.e., the concept of separation from the profane and of being set apart for the divine, the NT emphasis is clearly
Thus Jesus’ preaching issues a clear call to a decision for God, for the kingdom and against the world, that marks the basic fact of the separation of all those who belong to God from the profane, the sinful, and the demonic. The rich young man (Mt. 19:16–22 par) is told to sell all he has and to follow Christ; the disciples are admonished that those who give up
Jesus’ call to repentance and to new, inward obedience in the kingdom is specifically linked by Paul to the identity of believers as “saints” or “holy ones” (hágioi) who are called to be ethically set apart to God (1 Cor. 1:2). Paul’s conception of the life of those “called to be saints” rests on his theology of grace. The saints are called in the present life to be conformed to Christ by the work of the Spirit, and are, indeed, “predestined” by God “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). On this foundation of grace and divine calling, Christians are exhorted to an active life of Christ-like conduct (cf. Gal. 5:6; Phil. 2:5; Col. 3:1–4; 1 Thess. 5:10). Nonetheless, in every aspect of their ethical holiness or newfound righteousness Christians are to recognize that not they themselves, certainly not their own work or their own will, but God working in them is the source of their holiness or righteousness (Phil. 2:13).
are called to be ethically set apart to God (1 Cor. 1:2). Paul’s conception of the life of those “called to be saints” rests on his theology of grace. The saints are called in the present life to be conformed to Christ by the work of the Spirit, and are, indeed, “predestined” by God “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). On this foundation of grace and divine calling, Christians are exhorted to an active life of Christ-like conduct (cf. Gal. 5:6; Phil. 2:5; Col. 3:1–4; 1 Thess. 5:10). Nonetheless, in every aspect of their ethical holiness or newfound righteousness Christians are to recognize that not they themselves, certainly not their own work or their own will, but God working in them is the source of their holiness or righteousness (Phil. 2:13).
C. The Language of Progress in Sanctity Paul also joins the NT language of sanctification to a concept of progress or perfection in holiness. The initial renewal or hallowing of the individual in Christ, by the Spirit, which takes place following forgiveness of sins and justification sets believers apart even though sin and the struggle with sin continue to be a part of their lives. Thus Paul exhorts the Philippians to work out their own salvation (Phil. 2:12), and to move forward in holiness, upon the ground established for them in the grace of Christ, toward the goal of being utterly refashioned according to Christ’s image (Rom. 8:29). Paul seems to associate the passing away of imperfection with the final vision of God (1 Cor. 13:10–12) and to view the perfect conformity of believers to Christ as an eschatological event (15:42–50). In addition, when Paul speaks of becoming “perfect” (Gk. téleios), he most certainly does not mean an absolute perfection, like the divine perfection, but rather a maturity in faith (Phil. 3:15), which he himself has not yet attained (3:12). The word téleios itself indicates an orientation toward a goal. Christ’s own mandate to perfection, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48), echoes the future orientation of its OT analogues, Dt. 18:13 and Lev. 19:2.
Nonetheless, Paul did not intend by this language a progress of believers from unholiness to holiness. The imperfection of believers is an incompleteness of those who have already been set apart by grace through faith and who are regenerate. Their progress is, therefore, a progress in holiness: God has willed their sanctification and has “called” them “not … for uncleanness, but in holiness” (1 Thess. 4:3, 7). Indeed, God will sanctify them “wholly” and keep them “blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:23f) by increasing their love to one another and to all mankind (3:12f.). Paul also described the process of attainment of this holiness as a work both of the Spirit and of the individual believer. Sanctification occurs “in the Spirit” and as “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22–25), but it is also a self-cleansing and a self-consecration (cf. Rom. 12:1f.; 2 Cor. 7:1). Thus sanctification rests both upon the grace of God that begins and continues to work the good in the hearts of believers, and upon human purpose, in the Spirit, to
Whereas the Pauline language of sanctity and perfection points away from
A somewhat different perspective on sanctification can be drawn from 1 Peter and Hebrews. These writings emphasized the objective establishment of believers in holiness rather than the subjective form of the sanctified life. Peter views sanctification as a primary and immediate characteristic of the life into which Christians are drawn by the Spirit. This sanctity is profoundly related to the covenant sacrifice of Christ, specifically, the sprinkling of His blood (1 Pet. 1:2, 18f.). Believers are “sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1:2). Thus Peter views sanctification as the basis upon which believers move forth in obedience and receive forgiveness through Christ’s blood. Hebrews even more forcefully binds sanctification to the language of sacrifice and covenant. It presents sanctification as the objective consecration of believers effected in and through Christ’s sacrifice: “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (He. 10:10; cf. 9:13f.). Not only have believers been made holy by this sacrifice, they have also been “perfected for all time” (10:14).
The seeming tension between the ideas of progress in holiness and attainment of sinlessness found in Paul and John on the one side, and the teaching of an already accomplished sanctification found in 1 Peter and Hebrews on the other, finds theological resolution in the essentially gracious character of the work of salvation and in the eschatological character of the NT preaching. The objective fact of the separation of believers from the world on the basis of an inward, spiritual regeneration is the gracious gift of God in the work of salvation. In the “now” of the kingdom, the transformation of human nature has been accomplished from the divine side. Thus Paul can declare “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), placing sanctification in the same context of baptismal worship as regeneration and justification by faith. Here the meaning of sanctity is surely a combination of the original, religious or pre-ethical concept and its ethical result, inasmuch as believers are both consecrated to God in the moment of regeneration and justification without being made perfectly righteous, and also inwardly transformed so that righteousness and holiness may be perfected in them (cf. Rom. 6:19). This fundamental sanctity of believers can be traced back to its foundation in the eternal plan of God (cf. 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2).
In the eschatological “not yet” of the kingdom, however, the fact of the consecration of believers now points, through progress in holiness, toward the consummation of their transformation in Christ. The same Corinthians that Paul called “sanctified” (1 Cor. 6:11) he also encouraged to cleanse themselves “from every defilement of body and
Muller, R. A. (1979–1988). Sanctification. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 4, pp. 322–324). Wm. B. Eerdmans.
This is the basic Greek word for “holy.” The Septuagint regularly uses it to translate both קָדֹשׁ (qādōš, “holy”) and קֹדֶשׁ (qōdeš, “holiness”). It is by far the most common word in the NT to describe something as holy or set apart
In the NT, the plural of
ἁγιάζω (hagiazō). vb. to set apart, sanctify, consecrate, dedicate. To make something holy.
This verb is related to ἅγιος (
This is an abstract noun derived from the verb ἁγιάζω (hagiazō, “to set apart, sanctify”) and refers to the process or result of being sanctified (hagiazō). Paul states that believers are saved “by the sanctification (
ἁγιωσύνη (hagiōsynē). n. fem. holiness. The state of being holy.
In 2 Corinthians 7:1, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to cleanse themselves of all defilement, thus fulfilling holiness (hagiōsynē), i.e., becoming fully holy. Paul offers a prayer or “benediction” for the Thessalonian Christians, that God will cause them to abound
ἁγιότης (hagiotēs). n. fem. holiness. The state of being holy.
In the NT, this word appears only in Heb 12:10. The author states that God disciplines believers in order that they may share in his holiness (hagiotēs). As holiness is a core aspect of who God
In Acts 2:27 Peter quotes Psa 16:10 and applies the phrase “your Holy One (
The related adverb ὁσίως (hosiōs, “devoutly”), pertaining to being pleasing to God, is used in 1 Thess 2:10.”
Litwak, K. D. (2014). Sanctification. D. Mangum, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, & R. Hurst (Eds.), Lexham Theological Wordbook. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
“Fundamental to all NT theology is the shift in eschatological perspective brought about by the coming of Jesus Messiah, and the coming of the Holy Spirit. God has come amongst his people to reconcile them to himself and the future has already been set in motion, although the end has only just begun. Sanctification cannot be understood outside this framework.
The terminology of sanctification is rare in the gospels. In John, sanctification concerns relationship with the triune God on the one hand and mission on the other. Jesus is the one sanctified by the Father and sent into the world (10:36). If the disciples are to continue that mission, they too must be sanctified, i.e. brought into that intimate fellowship enjoyed by Father and Son (20:20–23). Jesus prays that the Father would sanctify the disciples in the truth (17:17). In order that they may be filled with God’s being and power, Jesus sanctifies himself (17:19) through his death, then sends the disciples into the world just as the Father had sent him (20:21–22), imparting to them the Holy Spirit.
The presence of the Holy Spirit is the key to Paul’s view of sanctification. Paul holds that sanctification is based on the historical reality of the atoning death of Christ which is brought to experiential reality by the Spirit (Gal. 3:2–5; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 1:13–14; Tit. 3:4–7). It partakes fully of the eschatological tension of salvation: ‘already’/
Paul’s main emphasis is ethical rather than cultic. He echoes Jesus’ own summation of God’s ethical requirements for the new people as given in the great commandments (Gal. 5:14; Rom. 13:8–10) and models them before his converts (1 Thes. 2:10; 3:12). He urges them to continue to work out these principles of wholehearted devotion to God and love of
But these are also wish-prayers which
The ethical thrust of sanctification continues in
Paul uses the terms ‘righteousness’ and ‘sanctification’ here in a way which shows their inseparability. Paul could not conceive of a person brought into a right relationship with God whose life would not issue in sanctification (6:22), i.e. in a life of holiness.
That Paul can speak of both aspects of sanctification is confirmed in 2 Cor. 7:1. Here, in language reminiscent of the OT cultic context of purity and holiness, he urges his alienated readers to ‘cleanse [y]ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect.’ His Christian readers are to purge themselves in every part, inwardly and outwardly (see Ps. 24:2–3, ‘clean hands and pure heart’), and live out the implications of their grace-given relationship to the holy God.
Were it not for the indwelling presence of the Spirit, all of this might seem to be mere wishful thinking. But Paul considers the sanctified life to be possible because of the indwelling presence of God’s empowering Spirit (2 Thes. 2:13). Indeed, he says, anyone who rejects this way of living, rejects God who gives his Holy Spirit to you (1 Thes. 4:8). It is the presence of the Spirit which enables the believer to live a life which is not according to the flesh (Gal. 5:16, 24; Rom. 8:5) although life is still lived in the flesh (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 8:11, 23). To be sure, the Spirit has not brought the fulness of the end but only its beginning, so the Spirit’s presence does not confer final perfection in the present age but rather leads to growing maturity in Christ, whereby Christians are ripened for their final transformation. ‘We are both already and not yet’ (Fee, p. 826).
The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews is in conscious dialogue with Judaism. For this writer, sanctification is the work of Christ, the eternal high priest (5:8–10; 7:23–25) and the sanctifier (2:11; 13:12) who, as the enthroned Lord, now exercises all the prerogatives of God (ch. 1). The means of sanctification is through the death of Christ, who through the shedding of his blood, established the new and better covenant relationship between God and humans (10:10, 14). This new sacrifice is efficacious because, in contrast to sacrifices under the old covenant which could purify the flesh and restore a defiled Israelite to the community (Nu. 19:9), the blood of Christ is able to deal with the inner condition of sinful people (9:13f.; 10:22).
The heart of the matter in Hebrews, therefore, is the new covenant relationship promised in the OT (Je. 31:31–34;
But Hebrews also applies the ‘already’/
In some ways, 1 Pet. provides a summary of the NT view of sanctification: it has to do with God’s choice (1:2; 2:9), the work of the Spirit in applying the benefits of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection (1:2–3), and lives lived in obedience to God’s call to holiness (1:14–15; 2:5) and love (1:22; 4:8). Sanctification, in sum, is essentially a relational reality, completed in Christ’s death on the cross, experienced through the indwelling Holy Spirit and brought to its final goal when we see God (Heb. 12:14; 1 Jn. 3:2–3).”
Brower, K. E. (1996). Sanctification, Sanctify. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., pp. 1058–1059). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.