When I teach Wesleyan theology, I usually ask how many people have heard a sermon on sanctification. I have rarely had a student raise their hand. The lack of preaching on sanctification, or holiness, may lead some to assume that the Bible doesn’t say much about the topic. But that is not the case!
Here are ten passages (in no particular order) from Scripture that relate to sanctification or holiness:
1. Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
2. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)
3. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
4. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (John 17:17-19)
5. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
6. Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is true worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
7. For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. (Titus 2:11-12)
8. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)
9. Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy. (Leviticus 20:7)
10. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
And a bonus passage that I couldn’t leave out:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:1-11)
This is by no means a comprehensive list. There are many more passages on holiness in Christian Scripture. But these passage say a lot about the importance of sanctification for Christianity.
Have you heard a someone preach on holiness, sanctification, or even entire sanctification? What is your favorite Scripture passage on sanctification? And by all means, include passages on sanctification that I left out in the comments below!
Thanks for this, Kevin. I agree, sanctification/holiness is a distinctive of our heritage (both as Methodists and Christians!) which we do not speak of nearly enough.
When people ask me how they can know what the will of God is for their life I lead them to my favorite passage:
“This is the will of God, your sanctification.” 1 Thess. 4:3
Lee Stevenson said:
When sanctification is preached and taught there is a vehement disagreement with the doctrine, “I can’t ever do that.” It’s largely ignored because, “I can’t do that.” Of course “I” can’t but the Holy Spirit in us can.
Thanks for keeping sanctification / holiness in front of us!
James McLawhorn said:
I suggest reading Francis Chan’s book “Forgotten God” for additional perspective on this topic. The Holy Spirit is God (a He not an it), and He has been largely ignored, if not forgotten by the church.
Kevin Watson said:
Thanks Chad, a great passage.
Lee, I agree. I am passionate about sanctification because I believe it is what God wants for his children. And if God wants it, God is able to make us holy.
Thanks for the suggestion James. I will check it out.
Andrew C. Thompson said:
Great post, and I have had much the same experience with groups both in a seminary context and in local churches. One of the ways you can get at this is also by charting out how the NT talks about grace as pardon and how it talks about grace as power (i.e., corresponding to justification and sanctification). People are often surprised at how much of the grace language in the NT is about power for transformation as opposed to just forgiveness for sin.
My favorite sanctification verse is 2 Corinthians 3:17-18–“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
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Kevin Watson said:
Thanks for your excellent addition regarding the NT view of grace, Andrew. When you are aware of the way the NT talks about grace as power, God’s desire to transform our lives seems to leap off of every page.
Thanks for lifting up 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, a beautiful passage.
Phil Lynch said:
Our raison d’etre, entire sanctification. Other than from my own lips years ago (using a coat hanger both disconnected and bent) no, I haven’t heard a sermon on it. But then I write new tunes for Wesleyan sanctification hymns, so I am an outlier. Oddly, I think I now do not believe in it literally, as an act of a theistic God; but as an ideal, which, when I hold it before myself in my mind, nevertheless acts to sanctify me.
Or theosify me as the Eastern fathers might have said. Unfortunately modern Methodism merely theossifies me! Punning with a theology prof. — not what I expected for a Saturday afternoon. Looking forward to your book on class meetings, btw, since a class would help sanctify me, for the good of other people.
Gregory Julian said:
Our father, who is in heaven
Sanctified be your name!
May your kingdom come;
May your will be done,
Just as it is in heaven,
So also upon the earth,
Our bread, which is from
The earth .
Give us day by day.
And forgive us our sins,
Just as we should forgive
And do not bring us to trial, Don’t forget this one.
Rather deliver us from evil,