I have been thinking about sanctification as of late and its implications in regards to assurance and security. This verse came to mind and I wanted to see if it was an instruction to strive for personal holiness or if it was informing us that we are holy in Christ. I always thought it was the first, because of many years in the Nazarene denomination. It turns out the answer is, “Yes.”
(NASB) 1 Peter 1:1,2 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
Let’s examine verse 2 a bit more closely. (NASB) 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
What is according to the foreknowledge of God the Father? God’s election of the saved people living scattered among the cities listed in verse 1. What work are we doing to be sanctified according to verse 2? I’ll wait here while you look… Back? It was a trick question. We aren’t doing the work. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us. The Greek word is, “ἁγιασμός” (hagiasmos) g0038; from 37; properly, purification, i.e. (the state) purity; concretely (by Hebraism) a purifier: — holiness, sanctification.
To what end are we elected by the Father, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit according to this verse? “…to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood…” Spending most of my life in the Nazarene Church, I understood that sanctification was something I did. I might be wrong here. This might not be their official doctrine. I’m just saying that this is what I thought. The emphasis on the monergistic origination of sanctification never came across. Still to this day, people insist that sanctification is synergistic. I would only agree with that in a broad practical sense, because at the end of the day God isn’t sanctifying a dog or a cat. He is sanctifying us, and part of that is our condition during the process. So we are involved in sanctification, because it is happening to us. We are actively participating in it, but it is not from us. We were incapable of sanctification let alone desiring it, before the work of the Holy Spirit.
I know many of you are out there right now screaming, “What about all the verses that instruct you to behave!?!” Well of course we should do what God wills, and refrain from what He has forbid. That is a no brainer. I am not saying we shouldn’t, but the fact that someone wants to and has the ability to, is proof that sanctification is supernaturally originated by God and not from within us.
So you’ve been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, in accord with the Father’s sovereign will in election, granted saving faith and repentance from God, and you have repented of your sins, and placed that faith in the atoning work of Christ on the cross, so that your sins were expiated, and His righteousness was imputed to you. Now we would say that you have been saved, or justified.
Follow along here on the ordo salutis (order of salvation) train. (concise version) 🙂 election, regeneration, justification, sanctification, glorification. So as you can see all of those things find their origination in God and they are worked on/in us by Him. If we think we are responsible for any of them, we are robbing God of His glory, being self-righteous, legalistic, and relying on our works in our man centered thinking.
This can lead to serious doubt. It can wreck our assurance and cause us to question our security, because when we sin, we ask, “Why do I keep doing this? Am I really saved? If I’m saved how can I fall to this sin over and over? I must be a false convert. I must be fooling myself. I’ve taken the 2 Cor 13:5 test and failed!” “…(NASB) 5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?..” Notice that last part, “Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” Have you noticed that Jesus Christ is in you!? It is as if Paul is yelling, “Come on people! Don’t you see what has been done to you, for you, and for the glory of God? Can’t you see the difference? unless you truly can’t.” When a Christian is doubting, and takes a look at his condition, it will be obvious that God has been at work renovating the sin wrecked ramshackle of a mess that they were. Unless of course you can’t see His work anywhere in your life.
So we can rest in secure in the knowledge that if God has saved us, we are secure in Him. When we fall because of our lack of strength, He keeps us with His infinite strength. What He has done to us, nobody and nothing, can undo.
Romans 8:26-39 (NASB) 26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
WE were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now that we understand what God has done to us in election, regeneration, and justification, we can see that He will sanctify us as well. Philippians 1:6 (NASB) “6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Think about a newborn baby in a crib, looking up at his parents. He doesn’t have to focus his attention on growing. He doesn’t have to even try to grow. Sure he grows, and is involved in the process, but his growth doesn’t come from him. It is God’s plan, and design, that the child grows according to. Imagine that baby saying to himself, “I need more milk to make me big and strong. Grow legs! Grow grow grow!!!” It is ridiculous, but that is the way many of us are as Christians.
We are focused too much on our own efforts and failures. When we do see growth we might even attribute it to our efforts. This robs God of His glory, and God will not be robbed. So in our self-righteousness, we sin against God and don’t even realize it. Then when we fail, we punish ourselves, as if that whipping we gave to ourselves could add to the perfect, gory, violent, painful, terrifying, work of our wonderful Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ… … Think about that. Let it soak in… How dare we? How dare we! You should be crying right now. I know it makes me want to cry, to think of how I would defile the work of Jesus with my self-righteousness.
Just like that baby, we will grow according to God’s plan, in His time, exactly by the trials He has for us, and in precisely the areas He has determined. Rest assured, if you are saved, you will be sanctified, because God wills it, and what He wills, He accomplishes, unless of course you think you can stop him…
1 Peter 1:12-21 (NASB) 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.
13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 (NASB) 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
So we will be holy, because God is holy. He is actively sanctifying us and we are living out that sanctifying work, in Christ, by the power of the Spirit, in the will of the Father. The answer to the question, “Is 1 Peter 1:16 Instructive or Informative?” is, yes. Go with God and peace be with you.