14 January 2011

Question of the Week:
What does Sanctified Mean?

What did Jesus mean when He said He sanctified Himself?
~ Bud Ezekiel

This question comes from the following prayer of Jesus, immediately before His crucifixion:

"They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth."
~ John 17:16-19 (NKJV)

The word "sanctify" means to set apart as holy. Jesus was already absolutely holy before His crucifixion, so what could sanctify Him?

He appears to be referring to the sacrifice of Himself He is about to make, and how this affects us. When considering what the words may have meant to Jesus, these words can be applied to a Christian's day to day life.

In the Old Testament, some animals were set apart from the rest of the herd or flock for the purpose of being sacrificed to God. But if a priest rejected an animal as blemished, it would be used for other, non-sacred purposes. The set apart animal wasn't completely sacred, or sanctified, until the sacrifice was completed.

During Jesus' earthly ministry, He was completely set apart to do
His Father's work. If He had healed and driven out demons, preached repentance, revealed the Father to us, set a good example for us, and then returned to Heaven without dying on the cross, we would have surely judged His ministry excellent.

But His ministry would have served us for only this world.

Jesus went further. He also set Himself apart as a sacrifice for sin, and then perfected that sanctification with the completion of sacrifice. Jesus didn't simply come to make our lives better in this world. He laid down His life in payment for our sin so we could have the eternal life that begins in this world, bypasses all spiritual death, and continues into the next world.

We receive eternal life when we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and give ourselves to Him. Although salvation justifies us by changing our status before God from "sinner" to "righteous saint," the process of being set apart from the world—while at the same time being sent out into the world—continues with every choice we make. Even matters as simple as what to wear or eat provide opportunity to testify, "I live for this world," or, "I live for God."

Truth sanctifies us. Example: If I make lifestyle choices which indulge my desires, and I tell myself it doesn't matter, I believe a lie and live for this world. If I know the truth which says my body is set apart to God as His Holy Spirit's temple, and that knowledge prompts me to make healthy choices, then the truth sanctifies me.

Each sacrifice, however large or small, sanctifies us. The process of being increasingly set apart to God not only honors Him, but enables us to experience His presence and eternal life more fully.

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What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com.

© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
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  1. Great post. Now I will give better explanation when someone ask me this question.

  2. I'm blown away that by His death He sanctifies us, the most blemished ones.

    Blown away.
    ~ Wendy

  3. I had never thought of it this way. I like the thought of even little sacrifices counting for our sanctification.

  4. Natasa ~

    I'm encouraged to think that you find my explanation of sanctification worthy to pass along. : )

  5. Wendy ~

    I'm blown away by the fact that a God Who asks for unblemished offerings accepts as us as living sacrifices.

  6. T ~

    There's no such thing as too small a sacrifice. I love the heart of God expressed in Heb. 6:10.

  7. thank you for answering the question, Anne. thanks for the example you gave as well. really nailed it down for me. it really is a process.

  8. Bud ~

    We emerge from deep waters or intense fire, or we have moments of epiphiany, and we think we've arrived at a pinnacle. The only pinnacle is His presence.

  9. Annie,

    I admire your courage and wisdom to take on tough questions like this one. Surely the Lord has blessed you with this gift. I know you give Him all the glory as do I.

  10. Mary ~

    Thank you for the vote of confidence. I do indeed give God much glory for the gift of His Holy Spirit, and I try to rely as heavily as possible upon Him as I wade into these questions. Without Him, I would be a crazy person to attempt this. And for those without Him, I'm sure these answers do sound like insanity.