17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.
Not too long ago (a few weeks, maybe) I learned what sanctification is and the importance of the sanctification process. I had heard the word before, understood partially its implication, and now understand its importance; I still wasn’t clear on its biblical source, however. Here it is! We not only read here about our own sanctification, but Christ’s sanctification and what it means for us. First, let’s look at some definitions. The original word translated into “sanctify” here is “hagiazo” which in Greek stands for being hallowed or made Holy. The religious definition refers to being purified (from sin) for God. An English definition alludes to consecration, purification, moral sanctity, etc. You know, all those big “churchy” words that we smile and nod and think to ourselves that it means something about Jesus but we don’t really know what it means because it is above our pay scale on the holy hierarchy (I’ll address the reason for my sarcasm shortly). “Word” here is still “logos,” the same term used to describe who Jesus is in the first verse of John’s book, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Now that we have the terms clarified, what does this part of Jesus’ prayer mean?
Jesus is the truth.
Jesus indicates that God’s Word (logos, also Jesus Himself) is the Truth. Remember He said this earlier in John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” God is “I am.” This is the inception of existence. In God it is the purity of all things, untainted. It is the Truth, God is the Truth, Jesus is the Truth, the Holy Spirit is the Truth.
Jesus sanctified Himself.
This is where we get “Jesus did what man could not.” It is what He came here for, to undo the grip sin had on mankind (Read Genesis 3 to see the full consequences of sin). Maybe that seemed a little too colloquial for you. Let’s look at it this way. The fall of man brought sin into the world. Since then, man has been trying to reconcile himself (this is why we all have an inward nature of understanding there is a difference between right and wrong). God then set up “The Law”: a list of rules that need to be met entirely, completely, and infinitely. It outlined what man must do to reconcile himself. God even set apart an entire nation, cleansed them from all defilement, gave them the skinny on how to live holy and without blemish, and they could not accomplish it. This is why Jesus came. This is why God came. (depending on your current theology, you may or may not agree that I just repeated the same sentence) How did Jesus sanctify Himself? He fulfilled The Law. He followed all the rules that mere man could not. I think it is important here not to mix the elements. Sin existed before The Law. All the Law did was merely outline what sin is and what holiness is. It is easy for us to look at the story in the Old Testament and think God is cruel for setting up a system that man could not fulfill. If there was no proof that we could not obtain holiness on our own, then the coming of Jesus would have been pointless. We would think that we could do it on our own. Sadly, many of us still think we can or have been taught other ways counter to this. We remain trapped and “slaves” as the Apostle Paul would say.
Jesus passed on His sanctification to us.
The good news is…yes the “Good News” is that Jesus not only fulfilled the Law, but He did it for us. “How can a loving God set up a system that we are undoubtedly destined to fail.” He set up a system that would not fail in Christ. God didn’t set up sin and the Law so we would fall on our faces; He set up the redemption of Jesus Christ so that we don’t. Sin was not created by God. The Law outlined what sin is. We get so caught up and ticked off halfway through the story that we fail to read the ending. Sometimes we make it to the ending and say, “that’s not true” then we go on trying to “be good” and continue failing at it and subsequently get angry at God for it! How insane is that?
I think what upsets me the most, has for a long time, and I am starting to understand it a little more lately is that we take this freedom, this sanctification, this purification and turn it back into some sort of honor system!!! Ladies and gentlemen…THIS is religion. I’ll expound on this more after this analogy. I heard a pastor once explain it relating to ski slopes in the winter Olympics not too long ago. Apparently there was this one hill that was too dangerous for even Olympic athletes to compete on. They had to keep lowering the start line for safety reasons (if anyone remembers what I’m talking about, feel free to drop a link). Anyway, the point of the pastor’s lesson was that the hill was impossible for men to traverse. Jesus, however, climbed the hill, ran the race, and finished it, earning the gold medal. Then, He gave us the medal and said, “Here, I won this for you. It is yours. Don’t try it because you cannot make it.” What do we do? We hang the medal on a pole at the bottom of the hill, then we climb the hill and try to do it anyway. Maybe we wear it as inspiration, “if He did it, then so can I!” Granted, I’m quite a competitive person. I’m starting to notice areas of my life where I do this too. Americans are quite prideful and competitive. Some may say, “It’s the American way! Survival of the fittest!” Unfortunately none of us are fit enough to survive sin without help. At it’s simplest, it’s a waste of time and effort; at it’s worst, it’s an exercise in futility, which will never be realized no matter how hard we try. I say all this to give you an example…
These past two weeks we have been studying the Sermon on the Mount. If you don’t quite recognize what I am talking about, it will be familiar to you once you start reading it; many of our common phrases in society come from it and we don’t even know it! It can be found in Mathew 5 through 7. What we learned about sanctification is that it is a three-prong process. We are “saved” when we believe that Christ has come to save us (ie we believe that He did it for us and we take the medal from Jesus’ outstretched arm). Next, we go through a sanctification process or cleansing process, which slowly works out all the junk in our life as we become more “Christlike” (we start to learn how to behave like Him, training to be like Him – think “I wanna be like Mike”). When we are completely sanctified is when we are united fully with Him in our resurrected bodies (upon reaching heaven we will finally be able to ski it ourselves but also fully realize and accept that we no longer have to because the hill doesn’t exist anymore). I know I just threw out a bunch of terms that might not quite make sense and I implore you to look into it if you want to know more. As always, feel free to discuss and ask, but the ultimate source of this info is in the bible.
In the Sermon on the Mount, we tend to look at the first 12 verses and think “this is my list of how to be Christlike.” Yet what we don’t realize is that these are attitudes. The “Beatitudes” are “The Beautiful Attitudes.” These are goals, yes, but they aren’t the means. For instance, how do you be poor in spirit? How do you become meek? These are not steps to take, but rather the ultimate realization of Christlikeness. These attitudes are changes of heart that happen as a result of the sanctification process. These are the things that we will be once we are fully sanctified.
In Jewish teaching and songs, there is a certain style that is often used. We see this throughout the Old Testament and even some teachings throughout the New (when Jews were the main audience). The rhythm is to first make your point and then follow it up with explanation. Here Jesus lays out the goal and then the means to the goal. The remaining portion of the sermon lays out how we achieve this sanctification. This isn’t how we become sanctified (receive the medal from Jesus) but rather how we undergo the sanctification process (train to be like Him). The process of us becoming Holy or sanctified is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is having the medal that guides us in this process. It is receiving His reward, His Spirit, God’s Spirit that we are empowered to accomplish the things outlined in this sermon.
This got in the face of all the supposed holy ones of the time because Jesus just laid out that we cannot do it of our own accord. Jesus came to explain that even if they think they are following all the rules, they are still missing the mark. This is exactly what they have been doing this whole time. This is why they were so ticked off at Him and continued to try to trip Him up throughout His ministry. This very teaching is the core of what He continued to teach until His ascension. The rest of the stories, parables, and accounts of His ministry are applications of this teaching. I plan on keeping this in mind as I continue my study throughout the bible.
Where are you at in this process? Have you received the medal? Have you even looked to Him for it? Maybe you keep searching in the wrong places for Him. Call out His name and ask Him where He is. He will answer. Are you going through the sanctification process? Have you taken a break because it is too hard? You have the ability in the Holy Spirit, you just have to exercise it. If you keep trying it on your own, you will continue to fail. Are you still trying to win the medal on your own? How many times must you crash and roll down the hill before you finally accept what has already been won for you?