To sanctify means to make holy, and thus the statement the progressive sanctification” refers to the process of becoming holy. In the Bible, it is used in referring to Christians who move further and further from evil and closer to God. It differs from justification in that justification is a one-time occurrence that causes an instant change towards God after witnessing his mighty works. On the other hand, sanctification is a gradual process that begins with justification and continues throughout a Christian’s life. The Bible illustrates the process of progressive sanctification as a three-stage process that entails adjusting moral values, staying in Jesus Christ and participating in his acts of holiness here on earth and finally Christ himself coming back for the believers and offering them new bodies before taking them to Heaven in a holy state.
The first part of sanctification occurs when one chooses to become a faithful Christian. Imagine a sinner who becomes sick, is diagnosed with an untreatable disease, and getting hospitalized, suddenly praying to God and getting healed. The individual automatically acknowledges God’s work and justifies his presence in the lives of Christians. It is in such situations that progressive sanctification begins(Snider, 2010). According to the book of (Romans 6:11), this is the point at which believers consider themselves dead to sin but alive to God. The stage is characterized by a reorientation of desires, dislike for evil doings, and love for righteousness (Barrick, 2010).
The second stage occurs between the justification point and the remainder of the believer’s lifetime. According to the book of 2 Corinthians (Wire, 2019), as individuals grow in faith, they gradually but steadily start adopting and participating in the life of Jesus on earth. For example, when sinners get converted into believers, they start listening to the word of God more, but as their faith grows, they become more prayerful and even preach and teach other people on the importance of holiness and calls them to join the kingdom of God.
A mature believer knows that his or her dependence upon the holy spirit does not happen abruptly but is as a result of gradual steps, renewed strength, and constant commitment. God does not give up on his goal of making man holy like Christ. He keeps preparing his people until the day he presents man as complete, perfect, and mature for Heaven.
Steps of Change
The world is full of evidence that God loves the man.
God promises to make men righteous and get into harmony with him if they repent. In (Acts 2: 37-38), Peter asks sinners to repent and be converted, and their sins would be washed away. Repentance involves seeing the sinfulness of sin and turning away from it. It is only by showing sorrow for sin and turning towards God, that the heart of men starts to discern the sacredness of God’s holy law(Newman et al., 2018). The light in the sinner illuminates the secret chamber of their souls and reveals the hidden things of darkness within them (John 1: 9). At this point, sinners are called to confess their sins before God. In (James 5:16), the apostle asks sinners to confess their sins to one another so that they may be healed.
Genuine faith in the promises of God
The next stage of changing towards Christ involves having faith and accepting God’s promises. According to (Jeremiah 29:13), God promises that whoever will search for him whole-heartedly will find him. After repenting, sinners are called upon to go to God, ask for cleansing, and be given a new heart. They have to believe that God will deliver the request since God promised (Fortin & White, 2017). In his mission on earth, Jesus taught that believers must believe to receive the gifts promised to them by God. While healing the paralytic man in Bethsaida, Jesus instructed him to rise, take his belongings and walk, and the sick man obeyed. He willed to walk, and he walked.
Following Christ with faithful obedience
The last stage of change involves following Christ with faithful obedience. In this stage, a convert starts to show not just occasional good deeds but develops a habit of teaching good actions and proclaiming moral, spiritual words. After repenting and believing in God’s promises, people are expected to obey God’s commandments and the teachings of Christ. The book of (2 Corinthians 5:17 ) teaches that a person who is in Christ is a new creature whose old habits are shed off, and all things become new. Converted individuals, therefore, adopt the lives of disciples by using words and actions that draw people towards God.
God continues to call people to change and reconcile with him to achieve eternity. The process of change however does not happen abruptly but through stages which began with repenting and acknowledging God’s presence in an individual’s life. After repentance it is required that humans believe that God will redeem from sin and trust in him and have a genuine faith that he will keep his promise. Lastly, God requires us to follow Christ’s teachings obediently.
Barrick, W. D. (2010). Sanctification: The work of the Holy Spirit and scripture. The Masters Seminary Journal, 21(2), 179-191.
Fesko, J. V. (2010). Sanctification and union with Christ: a Reformed perspective. Evangelical Quarterly, 82(3).
Fortin, D., & White, E. G. H. (2017). Ellen G. White’s Steps to Christ: Historical Introduction and Notes.
Newman, P. A., Fantus, S., Woodford, M. R., & Rwigema, M. J. (2018). “Pray that God will change you”: The religious social ecology of bias-based bullying targeting sexual and gender minority youth—A qualitative study of service providers and educators. Journal of Adolescent Research, 33(5), 523-548.
Snider, A. V. (2010). Sanctification and Justification: A Unity of Distinctions. Master’s Seminary Journal, 21, 159-78.Wire, A. C. (2019). 2 Corinthians. Liturgical Press.
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