Set Apart for God

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; now how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor” (1 These. 4:3,4).

1. Sanctified discernment

“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come… the spirit of the antichrist is already in the world” (1 John 2:18; 4:3).

We all know about the Holy Spirit’s work in the world to draw people to Jesus. And we are also aware of His work in our hearts–convicting, cleansing and perfecting us (John 16:8; 2 Cor. 7:1). The Holy Spirit is guiding us to God’s truth, and preparing our hearts for the coming of the Lord.

But there is another spirit at work in the world–the spirit of antichrist is preparing hearts for the antichrist’s arrival. Though we know the antichrist will come in the last days, the spirit of antichrist is already here, working to set up things for his kingdom by lying to and deceiving people. So when the antichrist makes his public appearance, millions will have already been prepared for him; he already has their hearts and minds (2 Thess. 2:1-12).

The true Messiah prophesied, “False messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. Watch out! I have warned you about this ahead of time!” (Mark 13:21-23)

2. Sanctified distinctiveness

Sanctify means to “separate.” This idea of separate is pervasive in the Bible. Significantly, the first employment of this word is found in the Creation account. God separates the light from the darkness–a symbolic foreshadowing of His plan to deliver His creatures from the domain of darkness. God separated Noah from the ungodly. He separated Abraham, his family and inheritance in Ur. He separated Israel from Egypt. The very word “church” means the “called out” ones–“come out from among them and be separate [2 Cor. 6:17].”

What does this mean, practically speaking, to you and me? Listen to the words of A.B. Simpson, in his book Wholly Sanctified.

“Sanctification means our voluntary separation from evil. It is not the extinction of evil. It is the putting off, the laying aside of evil by the detaching of ourselves from it and placing an impassable gulf between us and it. We are to separate ourselves not only from our past sins but from sin as a principle of life. We are not to try to improve and gradually ameliorate our unholy condition. We are to put off the old life, acting as if it were not longer our self, and separating from it as the wife is divorced from her husband [Rom. 7:1-4], and as the soul is separated from the body by death. We are to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin just as much as though we were no longer the same person, and the old heart was no longer that true self [Rom. 6:6-11].”

3. Sanctified dedication

Sanctification is not only a separation “from,” but a separation “to.”

I recently had breakfast with a friend who has just been promoted to a position of greater responsibility and opportunity (and prosperity)! He commented that he did not feel he deserved it. Of course, he is right! He does not deserve it, in the sense of God owing him something. The deserving one is God. God deserves it. God deserves the best of us. And when we are separated from our own purpose in order to serve Him, He is glorified. While my friend is benefiting from this promotion, it is ultimately God who is benefiting: He is at work in my friend’s life to expand His kingdom. “God is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond what you could ask or think, according to the power that works within you (Eph. 3:20)… because you are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that He prepared [for you] before the foundation of the world that you might walk in them (Eph.2:10).

The idea of sanctification is to be set apart for God’s intended purposes. (“My” sanctification is not about “me,” but about God accomplishing His purposes.) When God finds someone whose heart is wholly His, He is able to accomplish His will (“for the eyes of the Lord move to and fro that He make strongly support those whose heart is completely His” – 2 Chronicles 16:8). Sanctification means we offer ourselves to God for His absolute ownership, that He may possess us, and employ us for His purposes. It is for God’s purposes that the Bible appeals to us to walk in holiness, because “you are not your own; you are bought with a price and should glorify God in your body which is God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

When we are sanctified, God is glorified.

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:23,24).


Dr. Greg Burts co-taught the Treasures of Truth course and is the author of Strategic Biblical Counseling, and Are You Dying to Live the Abundant Life? This article is adapted from his blog:

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