The Divine Side of Sanctification

[In his popular book on Bible doctrine, Evans traces out the divine and human aspects of how believers are set apart from sin, unto God. Here is a brief outline of God’s initiative in this process.]

The Divine Side of Sanctification: The Work of the Triune God

1. God the Father sanctifies

1 Thessalonians 5:23,24 declares, “And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly” … “Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it” (R.V.). God’s work is here contrasted with human efforts to achieve the preceding injunctions.[1] Just as in Hebrews 12:2 and Philippians 1:6, the Beginner of faith is also the Finisher; so is it here–consequently the end and aim of every exhortation is but to strengthen faith in God who is able to accomplish these things for us.[2]

Of course there is a sense in which the believer is responsible for his progress in the Christian life (Phil. 3:12,13), yet it is nevertheless true that, after all, it is the divine grace which works all in him (Phil. 2:12,13).[3] We cannot purify ourselves, but we can yield to God and then the purity will come. The “God of peace,” He who reconciles us–is the One who sanctifies us. It is as if the apostle said: “God, by His mighty power will do for you what I, by my admonitions, and you by your own efforts, cannot do.” See also John 17:17: “Sanctify them through thy truth.” Christ addresses God as the One who is to sanctify the disciples.

2. Jesus Christ, the Son sanctifies

Hebrews 10:10 affirms, “By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”(R.V.). The death of Jesus Christ separates the believer from sin and the world, and sets him apart as redeemed and dedicated to the service of God. This same truth, namely, the sanctification of the Church as based on the sacrificial death of Christ, is set forth in Ephesians 5:25, –“Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that might sanctify it.” Christ is “made unto us … sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). See also Heb. 13:12, R.V.[4]

3. The Holy Spirit sanctifies

1 Peter l:2: states, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13 declares, “because God hath from the beginning chosen you through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” The Holy Spirit seals, attests, and confirms the work of grace … It is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus who gives us freedom from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2). He is called the Holy Spirit, not only because He is absolutely holy Himself, but also because He produces that quality of soul-character in the believer. The Spirit is the executive of the Godhead for this very purpose. It is the Spirit’s work to war against the lusts of the flesh and enable us to bring forth fruit unto holiness (Gal. 5:17-22).[5]

How wonderfully this truth is set forth in the contrast between the seventh and eighth chapters of Romans. Note the unsuccessful struggle of the former, and the victory of the latter. Note also that there is no mention of the Holy Spirit in the seventh, while He is mentioned about sixteen times in the eighth chapter. Herein lies the secret of failure and victory, sin and holiness.

[May we be encouraged by God’s faithfulness and fully cooperate with Him!]


William Evans, The Great Doctrines of the Bible, (Moody, 1974), 100,101.

Scriptures alluded to:

[1] “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thess. 5:16-22

[2] “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb. 12:2. “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil. 1:6

[3] “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” Phil. 3:12,13. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Phil. 2:12,13

[4] “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.” Heb. 13:12

[5] “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Gal. 5:17-23

For further study on Romans chs 7 and 8, see Robert Jones’ The Gospel for the Believer at / Classics

Scripture footnote quotes are from the NKJV.