“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified…” —1 Thessalonians 4:3
As a Christian, we are set apart for God, but for what purpose? This is where the sanctifying work of God comes in, and it is God’s will that we are being sanctified if we are to partake of His work in this world.
Being sanctified is not directly about conduct, doing, but about character, being. The quality and nature of our conduct grows out of the quality of our character. The word “sanctification” involves a simple idea, which is to set something apart for the purpose it was created. For example, to sanctify a pen is to write with it. That is the purpose for which the pen was made, but if we use it to stir our coffee, the pen is not being sanctified. When Paul states the will of God is our sanctification, it is to discover the purpose for which we were created and live accordingly.
In the New Testament, every Christian has been set apart to Christ “...to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit…” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). This makes possible that for which we were created in the first place—to be a physical and visible expression of the moral character of God. It is an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in which we are being increasingly conformed to the image of Christ. As our Christian lives progress, we will find our interests have changed from earthly pleasures to the things of God, and we will be seeking His righteousness to be expressed in our lives.
The ultimate description of God’s moral character is found in 1 John 4:8 & 16, which states “God is love.” Not only is God loving, He is love. It is not one of His attributes such as His omniscience or omnipotence, but is the very core and nature of His being. Having been created in His image, we should expect love to be an ultimate expression of His purpose for us, both in terms of our love for God and for one another. As there is no higher expression of God’s image in human experience than love, we can conclude that love is the highest expression of our sanctification. Everything that is the will of God for us grows out of love, because love is the practical expression of the righteousness of God, and this will be to the measure of our sanctification.
Indwelt by the love of God, we then share His love for the world and conversely, what grieves God grieves us. The process of sanctification is an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, aligning our hearts with God’s heart and preparing us for His work in this world.