Christian Living

What Is Sanctification?

We Are Sanctified in Jesus and by the Holy Spirit

I don’t often use the word sanctification, but I should. It sounds too much like a theological construct that someone made up to explain God. Yet it’s in the Bible. So is sanctify. Therefore, it’s worthwhile for us to understand and embrace its meaning.

Let’s look at sanctification, the act of sanctifying. By definition, sanctify is to set apart, refine, or make holy. A related word is consecrate, which means to declare or set apart as sacred. Though they sound synonymous, and the dictionary uses one in the definition of the other, we need to make a distinction.


The word consecration appears a few times in the Old Testament, but it’s root word, consecrate, occurs many more times throughout the Bible, though mostly in the Old Testament.

The main context for consecrate is for people to set someone or something apart for God or for religious service. This includes consecrating priests, God’s people, clothes, offerings, bread, animals, the temple, and temple furnishings.


The word sanctification occurs less often and is not in all translations of the Bible. Sanctification—along with sanctify—is a New Testament word. Whereas consecration is something that God commands his people to do, sanctification is something that God does in us. He sets us apart and makes us holy. We can’t sanctify ourselves; God does.

The Amplified Bible explains sanctification as “being made holy and set apart for God’s purpose” (Romans 6:22). This is a most helpful illumination. Therefore, it’s a process of God making us—his children—right and therefore ready to carry out his intentions.

In Jesus and by the Holy Spirit

The Bible makes it clear that we are sanctified in Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:2) and by the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:16). Both occur in 1 Corinthians 6:11. To realize that sanctification comes through Jesus and by the Holy Spirit, it makes sense that the word only appears in the New Testament.

When we follow Jesus as his disciples, we are sanctified in him and by the Holy Spirit to be set apart and made holy for our Lord’s purpose.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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