Our Progressive Sanctification Journey

Written by M. Ashley Evans

September 24, 2019


“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, [weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:1-11


Our Sanctification is progressive, meaning our sanctification is worked out progressively, with ever-increasing holiness in the life of the believer by the work of the Holy Spirit. We have our Positional Sanctification, also known as our Justification; our Progressive Sanctification, or our Spiritual Maturity; and then we have our Perfect Sanctification or our Glorification. This is our journey of becoming perfectly holy. The Greek verb for “to sanctify” is Hagazio and the noun form “holy or saint” is Hagios. This is the continual work of salvation in the life of the believer that brings us to complete holiness.



Positional Sanctification


“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.” Romans 8:29


“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Romans 8:33


It is only by and through God alone that we can stand justified before Him. We are all born sinners, and our sin alienates us from our perfectly Holy God. One single sin is enough to make us guilty of God’s whole law. Since God’s law is a reflection of His perfect character, any sin is treason against Him. Treason is one of the most serious crimes in our country and used to be punishable by hanging. How much more so is treason against the Holy Creator of the Universe. He stands before us as our Judge and, being a just and holy judge, His judgment is perfect. We are guilty.


And since our crime is treason against our Holy and Eternal Creator, the only payment equal to the crime is an eternity in torment or payment made by an equally Holy and Eternal Person. So Christ took upon Himself our sins while on the cross. He bore the full wrath of God in our stead. Because of what Christ did, the penalty for our crime has been paid in full. God can now look upon us and see that our crime has been paid for.


We can stand before Him fully justified. God has declared that the requirements of perfect holiness that is required by His law are totally satisfied on our behalf, due to Christ’s imputed righteousness. When we become saved, immediately we are justified before God. At that moment we are no longer seen as the sinner, but as someone holy. We have been cleansed of our unrighteousness. Immediately, we have Positional Sanctification. Being sanctified means set apart for holy use. At the moment of salvation, we are united with Christ in His death and resurrection, and set apart from the world for God’s special use. We are no longer called a sinner, but a saint.


“Just as he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love.” Ephesians 1:4


“Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11


“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10


Progressive Sanctification


“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2


“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, it to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18


In the Greek the term “are being saved”,  as used in 1 Corinthians 1:18, is a Present Participle. It reflects an ongoing or progressive action. Though we are immediately viewed as holy at the moment of salvation, we are babies spiritually. Our bodies are still flesh, we live with the natural consequences of sin, and we are living in a world that has been corrupted by sin. We cannot be left as babies spiritually.


Thankfully, the Lord has provided the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to guide us to maturity through producing godliness. Our continual sanctification, or Progressive Sanctification, helps us to live out what we already are positionally in Christ. This is how we are free from the power of sin and are able to say “no” to temptation. The process of our Progressive Sanctification is only accomplished by the Holy Spirit. As we stumble in our walk, He will convict us to repent. He convicts us and then enables us to choose Holiness. So, while it is only by the Holy Spirit, it also requires joint participation on our part.


“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:14-16


Growing in spiritual maturity, or in our Progressive Sanctification, is full of conflict. We are at war with ourselves. Our flesh yearns to serve self and the devil while our hearts long for God. Also, we face spiritual warfare since we are now living opposed to Satan though still on this earth. But we should take heart for this inner conflict is evidence of Progressive Sanctification at work. This is a continuation of our salvation. We were saved at one point in time, and we are currently continually being saved. A believer is not promised a life of ease, but we are promised a life of struggles since we are united with Christ even in His Suffering. This Progressive Sanctification is a promise of perseverance. That we will continue being believers until the end. God will not start something in us if He wasn’t going to complete it. Scripture is clear, that our Progressive Sanctification is wholly dependent upon our union with Christ. Being unified with Christ is a two-sided coin. We have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit doing His part and we have our obedience on our part.


“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:8-11


“And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” Romans 8:17


“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6


“So then, my beloved, just 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 is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13


But you did not learn Christ in this way,  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Ephesians 4:20-24


“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 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. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.  So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8



Perfect Sanctification


“Much more than, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” Romans 5:9


We were saved at one point in time, we are continually being saved, and we will one day be ultimately saved. This is the entirety of our progressive sanctification. The goal of our sanctification journey is our Glorification or our Perfect Sanctification. This is the final stage of our journey. It is when we are ultimately made Holy. This occurs at the resurrection of the believer when Christ returns. At the resurrection of the believers, we will be made into the likeness of Christ – we will be given a new and perfect body and have a perfected soul. Christ will then present us to the Lord as completely holy.


“And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” Romans 8:23


“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14


Our Future Sanctification is a sure and trustworthy promise from God to complete the process that He has started in us. It is a promise to a perfect and redeemed body and a promise to our eternal inheritance as co-heirs with Christ. Our Glorification is a completion to the promise to save us from God’s eternal wrath. This is the promise that encourages the hearts of believers to “keep on keeping on” when trouble hits. Let us praise God for His mercy in providing for us such a gift of salvation.


“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on [a]so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12


“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23

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