To sanctify something means to set it apart for a special purpose. Sanctification comes after you receive the gift of salvation from Christ. All believers enter this stage after they are born again as God’s children, and they remain there until they enter eternity in heaven. But how does sanctification work while we are on earth? We must answer this question to live set apart and experience God’s sanctifying work.
3 Stages of Salvation
Our salvation comes in 3 stages. The first two stages, justification, and sanctification, happen on earth, while the third stage, glorification, happens in heaven when we begin eternity with Jesus.
Justification comes when you receive Jesus, put your faith in Him, and receive forgiveness for your sins. When Jesus’ blood covers you, it’s as if you’ve never sinned in God’s eyes.
God freed you from sin and set you apart for His purpose. As a believer, you belong to the things of heaven, not the things of the world. We understand how sanctification works by reading about the faithful followers of Jesus recorded in the Bible and examining God’s work in their lives.
This final stage of our faith happens in eternity. We will stand before God and receive our heavenly bodies that will never become sick, old, or tired. We will never achieve perfect holiness on earth, so we need God to sanctify our hearts and minds daily.
What Does the Bible Say About Sanctification?
We must examine Scripture to answer the question, “How does sanctification work?” Sanctification is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ, being set apart, and being made holy as a believer full of the Holy Spirit. God created people to bear His image, and sanctification allows Him to mold our hearts, minds, and character to reflect more of Christ (Romans 8:29). Various verses in God’s Word show us how sanctification works to help believers grow in their faith.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
While the world tries to conform you to its image, God wants to conform you to His image! Sanctification is God's work to help us grow in maturity and holiness.
1 Corinthians 1:30-31
“But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, ’He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’”
Jesus offers us redemption and salvation; through Him, we experience righteousness and sanctification. We should recognize that we cannot do anything of eternal significance in our strength, so any victories we encounter are only because of God’s sanctifying work.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-4
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor.”
God’s will is for us to experience abundant life through freedom from sin. Sanctification works when we manage our bodies and minds in a way that honors God and communicates our status as believers to the world.
2 Thessalonians 2:13
“But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth…”
To sanctify something means to set it apart for a particular purpose. God has set believers apart for a specific purpose in His Kingdom. When we believe in the truth of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and put our faith in Him as our Savior, we give Him authority to sanctify us to become more like Him.
How Does Sanctification Work in a Believer’s Life?
Sanctification is an ongoing process that we will never complete this side of heaven. When you allow God to sanctify you, you will mature the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and find freedom from the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:24-26).
Peter compares our faith to gold in 1 Peter. In ancient times, gold was burned to refine and remove impurities. Only when the gold went through the fire could the goldsmith take it out and get a pure and beautiful product. Using this illustration, he tells believers to rejoice in trials because they reveal the genuineness of our faith.
“…that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”—1 Peter 1:7
Our sanctification is forged in the fire of life’s trials. Growth in your faith comes with some resistance. Satan does not want you to experience freedom from sin through God’s sanctifying work.
Peter tells us to rejoice when we find ourselves in the fire because we have a living hope in Christ. To the degree you depend on God is the degree you will live in the power of God. Sanctification is not easy and can feel uncomfortable, but in this stage, we learn to depend on God and trust Him to complete the work He started in us (Philippians 1:6).
How does sanctification work? It works when we remember that God sets us apart for a specific purpose, and we allow Him to refine our character to reflect more of Him.
In the fire of life’s trials, God is refining our faith so we can bring Jesus greater glory, which is the chief end of our purpose as believers. We bring God glory by obeying His Word and allowing Him to refine, grow, and strengthen our faith.
Which next steps should you take in your faith? Wherever you are on your faith journey, we are here for you. Whether you are seeking community, looking to serve, or searching for answers, we want to help you move forward.