Yesterday my wife and I opened a checking and savings account at a local bank. To mark those accounts as ours, we both had to show proof of ID, proof of residence and we both had to sign and date several stacks of paper that basically declared who we were and that we were staking our claim that those accounts belonged to us and no one else. To use a theological term, those checking and savings accounts were sanctified to us and our presence there along with our signatures and proofs of identification made it clear beyond shadow of doubt.
When it comes to our standing in the family of God, we are sanctified by all three persons of the Trinity. “Sanctified” is a twenty-five-dollar theological term that means “set apart.” According to Scripture, we are sanctified by God the Father (Jude 1:1), sanctified in the Son (1 Corinthians 1:2), and sanctified through the Spirit (1 Peter 1:2). Sanctification is a significant part of our relationship to God. To put this in perspective, consider the baptism of Jesus Himself. Of course, Jesus was there, but so were the Father and the Spirit. The Father spoke His approval be declaring: “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased,” and the Spirit showed His approval by making Himself visible and “descending like a dove and [coming to rest] upon Him.” (See Matthew 3.) All three members of the Trinity were present to affirm the identity of Jesus and to confirm His role as Messiah. Just as Jesus’ baptism was a significant event, so is our sanctification.
Scripture teaches two kinds of sanctification. One is positional and the other is progressive. In the OT, the Levitical priests were sanctified, set apart, for service in the temple. They represented a tithe of the people, so to speak. Under OT law, the firstborn of any creature was to be sacrificed to God. To cover this requirement for the people of Israel, the Levites sacrificed themselves to the service of God. They were set aside, sanctified, to God. Positionally, they were the priesthood, and nothing could change that. Positionally, as believers, we are part of God’s family, set aside to Him. He has laid claim to us because of our faith in Christ and nothing can change that, not even us. So, even if we “mess up,” God still claims us as His own: “This is my beloved child in whom I am well-pleased.” How can He do that as messy as we are? Because His Spirit dwells in us crying “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15) and when He looks at us, He does not see our sin, He sees the righteousness of Christ because of our faith in Him.
Our spiritual growth is what theologians call “progressive sanctification.” This is us, by the grace of God, growing and maturing in Christ. Scripture tells us that we are to be followers of God as dear children (Ephesians 5:1). What are children famous for? Copying mommy and daddy. They play dress up to be like grown-ups, they clop around the house in Dad’s shoes and say, “Look! I’m daddy!” Jane and I have had four children together: one boy and three girls. Every last one of them went through that stage where they clopped around the house in my shoes. Nobody told them to do it. It was just something they did because they loved their Daddy. They wanted to follow in my footsteps. Were they perfect in their imitation of Daddy? Are we perfect in our imitation of our heavenly Daddy? No. But I will say this: Nothing warms a father’s heart more than to see his kids trying to be like him. God said, through the apostle John: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). That is progressive sanctification.
What both kinds of sanctification have in common is that they are both aimed at service. We are set aside to serve and worship God and our desire should be to serve and worship Him more every day. Progressive sanctification is positional sanctification fleshed out. Our efforts are far from perfect, but making the effort is a sure way to be pleasing to God. So, are we clopping around in Daddy’s shoes today?