Is sanctification essential for salvation?
Salvation is what God does for humanity. Based on His sovereign will, He reconciles those to be redeemed to Himself (Romans 5:6-11; Colossians 1:20-23; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
God’s saving plan is grace toward all those who receive Him with faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:15-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:9, 10; Romans 1:16, 17; Ephesians 2:8-10). The Word teaches us that salvation has three stages: justification, sanctification, and glorification (Romans 8:29, 30). Salvation is not complete without the complete plan; every part is essential. Thus, sanctification is indeed essential for salvation.
Sanctification may be the most challenging part of God’s plan for many to understand. Often believers can grasp quickly that justification and glorification are both works completely dependent upon God. But that the same is true of sanctification seems harder to accept. It may be because both justification and glorification appear to be implemented in a moment of time. Sanctification, on the other hand, is a process over a lifetime. All the time, it is God working in us.
It is helpful to note the same Greek word hagiasmos and its half-dozen related terms are often translated as “sanctification,” “holiness,” “purification,” “holy,” or “sanctify.” Something sanctified is purified, set apart, and made holy by God for a specific purpose. Objectively, God sets apart those chosen in the Son, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:9; Psalm 4:3). While the goal of one’s sanctification is the pursuit of holiness — that is, becoming Christlike — one’s objective holiness is found in Christ alone (Acts 26:18; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30; 6:11; Hebrews 10:10).
For some, to be holy as God is holy may be a challenge experienced as a felt human responsibility (1 Peter 1:14-16; Romans 12:2; 15:5, 6). But in that responsibility, how will attaining to God’s holiness be accomplished? The apostle Paul explains in Romans 7 and Galatians 5 about the frustration between the person’s flesh and their new spirit nature in Christ. The felt responsibility is the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in one’s conscience (Ephesians 1:13, 14). Only when the believer walks by the Spirit and not by the flesh do they achieve the goal of sanctification, growing more and more like Jesus. The flesh of man will need to be glorified to reach the holiness of our sinless Savior. Becoming like Christ can be and must be done, but only by the Spirit’s work in us.
The law, which is good, could not make us like Christ because the flesh is weak (Romans 7:7-12; 8:3). But the Holy Spirit can because He transforms the person, who will ultimately be glorified at Christ’s return (8:4; 13:14; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:4-7).
The believer’s participation is obeying the direction of the Holy Spirit versus following the desires of the flesh. Just as a person grows physically into maturity, so does one grow spiritually. It is the new spirit, the promise of God, that transforms the person. This work may not be completed until that day when the work is finished in glorification (Titus 2:11-14).
The truth is, one cannot receive salvation aside from being a new creation in Jesus Christ. Salvation means one has been justified, is being sanctified, and will be glorified. God’s finished work in salvation is a new creation in communion with God eternally.
— Elder Chip Hinds
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