Sanctification, or in its verbal form, sanctify, literally means "to set apart" for special use or purpose, that is, to make holy or sacred. Therefore, sanctification refers to the state or process of being set apart, i.e. made holy. In systematic theology, the term often carries a technical meaning that differs from the biblical word group.^[1]^ Sanctification is regularly equated with the Christian life. In Wesleyan theology, it can refer to a moment of "Entire Sanctification," in which one reaches a state of Christian Perfection.


In Christianity, the term can be used to refer to objects which are set apart for special purposes, but the most common use within Christian theology is in reference to the change brought about by God in a believer, begun at the point of salvation or justification and continuing throughout the life of the believer. Many forms of Christianity believe that this process will only be completed in Heaven when believers are also glorified, but some believe that complete holiness is possible in this life.

In many branches of Christianity, inanimate objects as well as people can be sanctified. A notable instance is the process of transubstantiation, which in Roman Catholic doctrine means that the bread and wine of Communion are physically transformed into the flesh and blood (respectively) of Jesus. This act constitutes a kind of sanctification of the bread and wine.

The term has gathered special uses by the different denominations of Christianity. For Protestants, the concept of sanctification is tied closely to grace and the term is usually reserved for reference to people rather than objects. Following a particular reading of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, the word "sanctified" can be used as a shorthand for "born again" in the sense of "set apart by God." However, this usage is rare in churches of the Anglican communion and the Roman Catholic Church, where sanctification refers to the conveyance of blessing.

Progressive sanctification

"Indeed, the more sanctified the person is, the more conformed he is to the image of his Savior, the more he must recoil against every lack of conformity to the holiness of God. The deeper his apprehension of the majesty of God, the greater the intensity of his love to God, the more persistent his yearning for the attainment of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, the more conscious will he be of the gravity of the sin that remains and the more poignant will be his detestation of it....Was this not the effect in all the people of God as they came into closer proximity to the revelation of God’s holiness." -John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied

Definitive sanctification

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Biblical references

  • Leviticus 11:44 - "...Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. ..."
  • Matthew 5:48 - "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
  • Romans 6:22 - "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life."
  • 1 Corinthians 6:11 - "...But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
  • 2 Corinthians 3:18 - "And we all, with unveiled face, 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."
  • 2 Corinthians 7:1 - "...beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God."
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:3 - "For this is the will of God, your sanctification..."
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:7 - "For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness."
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23 - "Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
  • Hebrews 6:1 - "Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity..."
  • Hebrews 12:14 - "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord."
  • James 1:4 - "And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
  • 1 Peter 1:15-16 - "...but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy...'"
  • 1 John 4:18 - "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love."

See also


  1. D.A. Carson, "The Vindication of Imputation," in Justification: What's at Stake in the Current Debates, ed. Husbands and Treier (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004), 47-48.


External links