Holiness and Sanctification

By: Eddie Estep, Kansas City (USA) District Superintendent

We believe that sanctification is the work of God which transforms believers into the likeness of Christ.  – Article 10, Manual, Church of the Nazarene

Sanctification—the act or process by which something or someone is made holy—begins when the human heart first responds to grace.

Because sin is two-fold in nature—referring to both what we do and who we are—God’s remedy is also two-fold in nature. In justification we are forgiven of the acts of sin we have committed. But even after being “born again,” the essence of sin remains. While what we’ve done has been forgiven, who we are now needs to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. Sanctification is the way God deals with the essence of sin within us—reformatting our “default setting” as it were.

The goal of sanctification is Christlikeness—our renewal in the image of God.  Wesley believed sanctifying grace to be God’s cure for the personal and shared ills of humanity.

A Coin with Two Sides

Sanctification can be seen as a coin with two sides—a positive side and a negative side. This is most clearly seen in Galatians 5. On the negative side, it is freedom from (removal of) inward sin. On the positive side, it is freedom for (renewal of) perfect love. Generally speaking, the American Holiness Movement has tended to polish the negative side of the coin, and Wesleyan theology has tended to polish the positive side. It takes both sides of the coin to understand the whole and reflect the full image of Jesus Christ.

Transforming Journey and Transforming Moment

I have found it most helpful to understand sanctification as a transforming journey (process) marked by transforming moments (crises).  H. Ray Dunning says sanctification is both a pilgrimage and an event, a quest and a gift. While sanctification cannot be reduced to a single moment in time, neither can the importance of such moments be dismissed. Wesley was able to keep a proper balance between the process and the moment, something his theological offspring sometimes find difficult to do.

Sanctification is a lifelong process (transforming journey) that includes a specific occasion (transforming moment) in which the process begins (initial sanctification) and a specific occasion in which one is filled with perfect love. To that moment Wesley gave the term entire sanctification. And to that term we will turn next.

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