The Simplicity of Sanctification

I have a tendency to complicate things, perhaps overcomplicate them, and definitely a tendency to overthink. Some call it paralysis by analysis and they’re not wrong. It’s akin to thinking yourself into a corner as a painter might paint himself in with no alternatives. Even after thinking and overthinking a particular issue, I can immediately be filled with regret once a decision is actually made. I don’t know what all this means, but I do know that as it relates to sanctification, it can have profoundly negative effects on how one works out their salvation with fear and trembling.

I suppose those who see similarities as I describe above, might also approach sanctification in a similar manner and over think it. Perhaps a scenario might be, in order to fight a particular desire or to address a particular entangling sin (Hebrews 12:1), we think about what needs to be done. Yes of course preach the gospel to yourself! Confess your sin to God and He will be faithful and just to forgive your sin! But we may also have a tendency to think if we just read our Bibles more, pray more, develop strategies for war like watching and praying, accountability, Scripture memorization, and on it goes. All of these things are well and good and yes, they do contribute to our sanctification. But for a mind that likes to overcomplicate or overthink things, it can also be frustrating.

In Peter’s first epistle, written under divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit no less, he describes what might very well be the simplest ‘formula’ for our sanctification. As he begins in identifying his audience, those of the Dispersion, Peter enters into a Trinitarian description of our salvation: Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father; in sanctification of the Spirit; for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling of His blood. This gospel rehearsal serves as a sort of thesis for the letter. He continues by saying that it is by God’s mercy that believers have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Not only that, but born again, being guarded by God’s power, for an eternal inheritance. Faith in God’s Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, has resulted in our salvation, the background which was just described and the future hope, our Lord’s return, which is to be anticipated. This salvation is that which the prophets wrote, not for their own good, but for the good of those who live post-resurrection and ascension. All of this indicates what God has done for His people in Christ and by His Spirit preparing us for the imperative or command that is to come.

This command begins with a therefore and the focus on the mind: preparing the mind for action (literally girding up the loins of the mind), being sober minded, and setting your hope on the grace that is to come in Christ Jesus. Preparing, Sober, and Setting. This is followed by a second command prohibiting them from being conformed to their former passions brought on by former ignorance, instead positively stated to be holy.
but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1: 15-16
Here is the simplicity of our sanctification summarized in two little words: be holy. This command is supported in three ways.

First, the command for believers to be holy is grounded in their calling from God. This of course is a reference to the divine calling of God’s effectual grace that is sent out to all of God’s elect according to His foreknowledge, as was already described for us in 1 Peter 1:1-3. Second, the command to be holy flows from the character, i.e. holiness, of the One who has done the calling. Because it is God Himself who has called us, and God Himself is holy, therefore we are to be holy. Why are we to be holy? Because the God who called us is holy, it’s that simple. Third, Peter supports his command with an appeal to the Old Testament, as it is written, and cites Leviticus 11:44 and the context of defilement from animals. Even there in it’s Old Covenant setting, the Lord God is establishing boundaries to separate and distinguish His people from the surrounding nations or cultures. There was to be something distinct and that distinction was simply put the holiness of God in the lives of His people. So too is the command for us today as we see it applied here by Peter to the people of the Dispersion and certainly retaining its force to God’s people in our day, be holy.

While those spiritual disciplines and habits mentioned briefly above may be beneficial in various ways and applications, the formula, if we may use that phrase, is simple: Be holy, because God is holy. For the renewed heart, from imperishable seed (1 Peter 1:23), this command is a command for gospel obedience. If you need a memory verse to help you in times of battling against sin or to call your mind to the Gospel, a pillow to rest on or an alert to wake up to, what simpler passage could there be: as he who called you is holy, you also be holy.

About the author

Christian saved by grace through faith.

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