The process of being made holy resulting in a changed life-style for the believer. The English word sanctification comes from the Latin santificatio, meaning the act/process of making holy, consecrated. In the Greek New Testament, the root hag- is the basis of hagiasmos, “holiness,” “consecration,” “sanctification”; hagiosyne, “holiness”; hagiotes, “holiness”; hagiazo “to sanctify,” “consecrate,” “treat as holy,” “purify”; and hagios, “holy,” “saint.” The root idea of the Greek stem is to stand in awe of something or someone. The New Testament usage is greatly dependent upon the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, for meaning. The hag- words in the Septuagint mostly translated the Hebrew qadosh, “separate, contrasting with the profane.” Thus, God is separate; things and people dedicated to Him and to His use are separate. The moral implications of this word came into focus with the prophets and became a major emphasis in the New Testament. See Holy.
Old Testament In Old Testament thought the focus of holiness (qadosh) is upon God. He is holy (Psalms 99:9); His name is holy (Psalms 99:3;
Psalms 111:9) and may not be profaned (Leviticus 20:3). Since God exists in the realm of the holy rather than the profane, all that pertains to Him must come into that same realm of holiness. This involves time, space, objects, and people.
Certain times are sanctified in that they are set apart especially to the Lord: the Sabbath (Genesis 2:3), the various festivals (Leviticus 23:4-44), the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:12). By strictly observing the regulations governing each, Israel sanctified (or treated as holy) these special times of the year. Also the land of Canaan (Exodus 15:13), as well as Jerusalem (Isaiah 11:9), was holy to the Lord and was not to be polluted by sinful conduct (Leviticus 18:27-28). The tabernacle/Temple and all the objects related to it were holy (Exodus 25:1—Numbers 10:1;
Ezekiel 40-48). The various gifts brought in worship were sanctified. These fall into three groupings: those whose sanctity was inherent (for example, firstborn males of female animals and human beings,
Exodus 13:2,Exodus 13:11-13;
Leviticus 27:26); objects whose sanctification was required (for example, tithes of crops and pure animals,
Deuteronomy 26:13); and gifts whose sanctification was voluntary (see partial list in
Leviticus 27:1). The dedication of these objects mostly occurred not at some ritual in the sanctuary but at a prior declaration of dedication (Judges 17:3;
Of course, the priests and Levites who functioned in the sanctuary, beginning with Aaron, were sanctified to the Lord by the anointing of oil (Exodus 30:30-32;
Exodus 40:12-15). Additionally, the Nazirite was consecrated (Numbers 6:8), although only for a specified period of time. Finally, the nation of Israel was sanctified to the Lord as a holy people (Exodus 19:6;
Deuteronomy 7:1;Deuteronomy 6:1;
Deuteronomy 14:2,Deuteronomy 14:21;
Deuteronomy 26:19). This holiness was closely identified with obedience to the Law of Holiness in
Leviticus 17-26, which includes both ritual and ethical commands. In the prophets especially, the ethical responsibility of being holy in conduct came to the forefront (Isaiah 5:1;
Sanctification in the New Testament The same range of meanings reflected by the Septuagint usage is preserved in the New Testament but with extension of meaning in certain cases. Objects may be made holy (Matthew 23:17,Matthew 23:19;
1 Timothy 4:5) or treated as holy (Matthew 6:9;
Luke 11:2), but, mostly, the word group stresses the personal dimension of holiness. Here, the two streams of Old Testament meaning are significant: the cultic and the ethical. Sanctification is vitally linked to the salvation experience and is concerned with the moral/spiritual obligations assumed in that experience. We were set apart to God in conversion, and we are living out that dedication to God in holiness.
The link of New Testament thought to Old Testament antecedents in the cultic aspect of sanctification is most clearly seen in Hebrews. Christ's crucifixion makes possible the moving of the sinner from the profane to the holy (that is, sanctifies, makes holy) so that the believer can become a part of the temple where God dwells and is worshiped (Hebrews 13:11-16;
Hebrews 10:10,Hebrews 10:14,Hebrews 10:29). Paul (Romans 15:16;
1 Corinthians 1:2;
1 Corinthians 6:11;
2 Thessalonians 2:13) and Peter (1 Peter 1:2) both affirmed the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion as a sanctification, a making the believer holy so as to come before God in acceptance. Especially in Paul, justification and sanctification are closely related concepts. See Justification.
Hebrews also emphasizes the ethical aspect of sanctification. Sanctification/holiness is to be pursued as an essential aspect of the believer's life (Hebrews 12:14); the blood of sanctification must not be defiled by sinful conduct (Hebrews 10:26-31). Paul stressed both the individual's commitment to holy living (Romans 6:19-22;
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8;
2 Corinthians 7:1) and the enabling power of God for it (1 Thessalonians 3:13;
1 Thessalonians 4:8). The summation of the ethical imperative is seen in Peter's use (1 Peter 1:15-16) of
Leviticus 20:7: “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” See Ethics; Hebrews; Salvation.
Lorin L. Cranford