Salvation: You were washed, You were sanctified
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul writes about the depravity of sin in his letter to the believers in Corinth. It is this depravity of sin reigned in this world and reigned within us. But for those of us that receive JC and the power of the HS, Paul says you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified. It’s true, this is the grace of God and salvation given to us through Jesus Christ. Now, understanding our salvation is an important part of our faith. That is why I want to speak about our salvation today.
The other day, I was speaking to an Academic Dean at a seminary, and theology professor, We had a nice discussion on various theological topics. One of the things that came up is how often the words we use to explain theology are confusing. What is more important than the words we use, it is the concepts behind them.
For example, today’s passage, we have the word Sanctification. The word itself can actually be kind off putting – like what is Sanctification? But more important than the vocabulary we use, we should try understand the concept.
That is why today, I want to go over a few things about salvation today with that in mind. In today’s passage, Paul says you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified. Last time, I already went through justification, particularly with substitutionary atonement. We could not stand before God because of sin, but through Jesus’ sacrifice, he paid the price for us and we were justified and could once again have a relationship with God.
Today, I hope we can reflect on two other things – Paul speaks about washing and sanctification. And what I hope we can do is not focus on the words, but understand theological concepts behind.
So when people thinking of this washing, they think of baptism and being born again – John 3:5. What does it mean to be “born again”? Christians often have this question. John 1:12-13 – So our first birth gave us physical life. Our new birth gives us spiritual membership into God’s family, it’s part of our salvation. How do we receive this new birth? This is having faith in Jesus Christ right? The new birth is faith in Jesus Christ.
People often think that being born again is a decision that we make, misunderstand this decision. Earlier I talked about words that confuse concept – the word “decision” in faith is one of those. Using the word decision in faith makes it appear as if I am doing something stubbornly holding on. But the Bible is pretty clear that salvation is a gift from above – Ephesians 2:8-9. The Bible says salvation is by grace through faith – faith is not from ourselves but gift God.
On the other hand, using the word decision in faith, often implies I did something and I’m stubbornly holding onto it – In other words, it’s a form of mental faith. For example, we just had World Series, Astros/Dodgers were both down to their last outs Games 2,5. You probably have fans biting their nails saying “Come on, I have faith their going to win”. In that case, it’s a mental belief and will for the team that you are a fan of, stubbornly hoping.
We cannot use this worldly definition of faith and apply it in Christianity. Our Christian faith, our faith in God is much more spiritual, not mental. In fact, if Christianity was just about mental faith, it would have fizzled out long ago. Mental faith in many cases is lukewarm, accepting Jesus as a great teacher in history. Mental faith is limited, if its just some acknowledgement that Jesus died on cross for sins world. If mental faith were contingent on our decision and stubborn will to adhere to that decision, then it would inevitably end in our sinful nature.
What I hope we can understand today, I’m not trying to downplay the decision in faith at all. At one point in time, each of us has to clearly say I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. But what I want to say is that the dynamic behind decision is much deeper than something mental.
This is the mysterious dynamic in our relationship with God that is unexplainable except in heaven. That somehow we clearly accept Jesus into our hearts, but that faith is given to us, as in Bible. A deep question that some people ask – can our Christian faith be freely chosen? I say, in our mysterious relationship with God, why can’t it be both freely chosen and given above?
Really, the fact that faith is given to us as a gift from above is really important for us to know. Because faith is something very deep when you think about it – there are so many things happening . Faith is our spirits turning away from sin, having our whole hearts trust in JC as our personal savior. That kind of faith is simply not possible when we talk about mental faith.
The kind of faith the Bible talks about is a gift from above, we receive this faith. Faith is how God works in our lives to open up our hearts to receive him. It’s so much more than just something happening in our minds. I keep saying it’s important to understand the concept than the words. It’s because when we know that faith is beyond our minds, we let go and receive his grace and become deeper in our relationship with.
Going back to understanding being washed, being born again – it’s the same way. Being born again is also a gift given to us from above. We can say that being born again is to have the Holy Spirit transform our hearts from indifference and hostility toward God to a love of God and a desire for righteousness and holiness.
Billy Graham said: The born-again Christian sees life not as a blurred, confused, meaningless mass, but as something planned and purposeful. So our spirits, our whole lives are completely reoriented from what it was before. That is not something you gain from mental faith, but faith that comes through grace. Being born again is something that happens to us from above. So here in today’s main passage, Paul says “You were washed” – it happens to us. Hope we can reflect on that well today.
How about sanctification? Paul also says “You were sanctified”. Sanctification is one of the most misunderstood aspects of our salvation. Like being born again and faith, sanctification is often viewed as something you do. That is why I want to look at sanctification more in today’s message.
First of all, what does this word mean? The definition of sanctification “to be set apart or made holy”. You’ll notice in various translations of the Bible, the word sanctification or sanctified comes out directly, but in other translation, it just says “to be set apart as holy”.
For example, Genesis 2:3, but in KJV it says “God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it”. In this case, God is making the seventh day holy like this. So while the word sanctification may come out just a few times in one translation, it comes out many, many more times in another translation.
The reason I’m saying this is because sanctification is really an important concept in the Bible. And by definition, sanctification is not something we do on our own, God sets us apart as holy. In Sanctification, we are set apart and made holy by God and the blood of Jesus – Hebrews 13:12.
So Sanctification has a very deep meaning in faith – there are many layers to it. We may not know all these layers until we go to heaven. But what is clear is that more than what we do for God, it’s what He does for us. Let’s look at a few of these layers.
On a surface, basic layer of Sanctification, is the definition – setting part as holy – from what? God is setting us apart as holy away from this world right? This is every Christian position, no matter what length of time being saved, how much or how little we know about the Bible, or how spiritual that person might be. By God’s grace, through faith in Jesus, we are set apart as holy from this world as sanctified. That is the most basic layer of sanctification.
If we take it a layer deeper than that, what is happening in our lives to be made holy? If you look at few verses after our main passage today – 1 Corinthians 6:19 – our bodies holy temples. So our bodies are full of sin and we constantly trying to cleanse it and be holy temple. And so being set apart, made as holy isn’t just something that happens all at once. There is something that God does for us that distinguishes us from the world as holy. But we still needs God’s grace in making us that holy person. How does that happen? This is the most misunderstood part of sanctification.
The reason why it’s misunderstood is because we often focus on our actions in being made holy. The Bible does talk about it – we must wash our robes in wine. We must avoid sin – Galatians 5:19-21, instead seek fruits of Spirit – Galatians 5:22-25. When it comes to this, there is our responsibility in avoiding sin and seeking the Spirit. The problem is when we focus Sanctification only on this.
When people first come to Church, we do Bible studies, see Christians doing good things. Some people are drawn to Christianity because of that, they think – wow, Christians are good people. And then they look to their Bible study teacher or pastor to teach them how to be good people. How can we be a good person living with good morals in our life? Some people even come into church already with good morals lives and think Church will help me reach an even higher level of goodness. And that fact is, many religions teach about how to be good moral person, and be even better.
But what really is unique about Christianity compared to all religions in the world? Good moral teachings are not the foundation of Christianity. They are there, but before we need a moral teacher, we need a Savior. Jesus is more that just a moral teacher, He died on the cross to save us from our sin. That is the amazing grace that he gives us.
So Sanctification, being made holy, we act as if it’s our own personal spiritual battle of flesh/spirit. But the Bible is clear that the battle against sin is not a battle that we can win. Paul speaks about this in Romans 7:14-25. We cannot win the battle against sin on our own, except by the grace of Jesus. Keep in mind, Romans is a deep explication on faith, so Justification already came in Romans 3, 4 and Romans 7 is talking about after that – so it’s clearly about Sanctification.
What we must know is that being made holy is beyond the spiritual battle we face between flesh/spirit. Sanctification is the gift of God in our lives. It’s something happening in our lives of faith that we cannot understand even with our own lives. We can do this or that in our battle of sin, that is our love and responsibility to seek God, not world. But in the end, how God sanctifies us is beyond comprehension of what we can see in our lives.
Lewis Shafer says: “Even if Sanctification were limited to the field of human experience, there would never be an experience that could be proven to be its perfect example, nor would any human statement of that experience exactly describe the full measure of the divine reality. It is the function of the Bible to interpret experience, rather than the function of experience to interpret the Bible. Every experience which is wrought of God will be found to be according to the Scriptures.”
So there is this mysterious dynamic in the Bible when it comes to sanctification. The life of faith, spiritual battle we face – we think it’s us, but it’s all God guiding our lives. Sanctification is God’s gift, guiding us when we don’t even really know what is happening.
There is a verse in Romans about this – Romans 8:26. When we don’t even know what to pray for, when we don’t know what is going on, God intercedes. We walk in our lives, battle with sin – but what we see in terms of the view of sanctification is nothing compared to what God is actually doing in our whole lives. This is really what God is doing in terms of making us holy.
So if God is making us holy, then there must be a perfect sanctification God desires for us. I think if I say perfect sanctification, some people might think its some perfect image of holiness. It’s like somehow, we will be this ideal image of faith and piety. The truth is, perfect sanctification will not be realized in our mortal body, unless perhaps Jesus returns. No, perfect sanctification is a goal that God has set for every believer.
I like this verse that really explains this well – Romans 8:23-25. In v23, we are waiting for our adoptions as sons, for Jesus to return. In the meantime, in this hope we were saved – part of salvation is this hope that we have. The perfection of sanctification is in the hope that we have for Jesus’ return to glory. Hope is that dream for heaven and God’s Kingdom here on earth.
Therefore, God’s perfect sanctification is for those that strive for the hope of the Kingdom. It’s for the ones who are doing carrying His mission, His ministry, His Will – in this hope, we were saved. How precious are the feet of those who bring good news? We may not be perfect in an idealistic sense, but for those who live in the hope, it’s in that hope there is this perfect sanctification.
Today, speaking about salvation, so many terms, born again, faith, sanctification, justification. More than trying to define words, I hope we can understand meaning behind them. I hope we can reflect on them and receive the grace that comes from God for our lives. Especially, coming away from this message, I wish you can hold onto the hope that God gives us. For in this hope we were saved, wish we can run towards the hope of God’s Kingdom.