You’ve heard about salvation, but how about sanctification? Apologist David Wheaton says sanctification is a critical concept to every believer, because it’s actually a part of the salvation process.

“There are three tenses of what we call salvation. There’s justification, the one-time-for-all declaration by God that you are forgiven and righteous, you’re saved from the penalty of sin. The second process, that takes place for the rest of our lives is sanctification, where you’re being saved from the power of sin. It is the pursuit after one has been justified. The final stage is glorification after you die as a believer, you’re safe from the presence of sin forever.”

“Sanctification is something that’s very under-discussed. I think it’s sometimes confused with doing good things, like reading the Bible, praying, or helping the least of these, evangelizing, discipling someone, going to church…I think those are the fruit of it, but that’s not how we are sanctified.”

“Sanctification comes from an intimate walk with God daily; it comes from the Holy Spirit’s work in our life. “

The Apostle Paul put it this way in the Scriptures:

“Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act, in order to fulfill His good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13

It’s the work of the Holy Spirit, which we cooperate with in order to grow closer to the image of Jesus. In other words, sanctification is what the Christian life is all about.

“We’re growing in holiness, becoming more like Christ. We’re dead to sin once we’re saved, we identify with Christ and His death to sin, and His victorious resurrection over sin. But we do see Paul struggling, in Romans 7, saying, ‘there is still something in me that wants not to do what God wants to do and it’s frustrating!’

“We don’t have two natures as a believer, we only have one new nature, but we still have this unredeemed flesh in us that has memories, wants, and desires that aren’t consistent with what God wants for us. But God gives us the power, the actual strength, the grace to be able to overcome this sinfulness.”

“We can’t become perfect, but we we have the ability to overcome the sinful tendencies that are still in us, and that comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. That is why the Holy Spirit is so key in our lives.”

Wheaton reminds us that the process of sanctification is slow and steady, and not without setbacks. The goal of the Christian life isn’t perfection, but progress.

 “It’s not going to be a 45 degree upward line on a graph. The believer may fall down, but he repents and he gets back up, and continues on the narrow way, again in the power of the Holy Spirit. This sanctification comes from meeting with God daily in His Word, hearing the Word preached from sound preachers, being with other believers who are going to foster this sanctification our lives.”

“It’s also staying away from things that will hinder sanctification: worldliness, sin, temptation, staying away from that.  So there are things we cling to, and there’s things we stay away from.  The important question is are you making progress?”


David Wheaton is an author, radio host, and former professional tennis player. He’s also the host of The Christian Worldview, a weekly, nationally-syndicated radio program that airs on 150 stations. In addition, David is a contributing columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and a sought-after speaker.

What is sanctification?

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