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What the Bible Teaches about Sanctification

Matthew 21:12-17

Sometimes we find ourselves caught using terms that we really don’t understand but they are what are being used by the culture we find ourselves in, so we adopt them into our vocabulary without adopting them into our understanding. The opposite can also happen when it comes to certain words. Some words used in certain settings are no longer used and so they lose meaning or understanding by many who simply have never heard the word used. We can illustrate this from the common vernacular of the secular youth culture in their use of the word “tight.” Tight to me means restricting, binding, uncomfortable. But too many of another generation and cultural understanding tight means cool, nice, and stylish. The same word used by two different generations yet having two different meanings and used two different ways. In my generation the word was “groovy.” And you know what; the generation that precedes mine didn’t get that word either. Sometimes that happens in the church as well, but it comes from the idea that we assume everyone knows what words like salvation, new birth, and sanctification means but much of the time many in the church don’t really have a clear understanding of these words. Sanctification is one of those words that maybe gets thrown out occasionally, but too few understands what it means. It could be understood as transformation. So let’s look at it briefly and maybe this will inspire you to study the concept further in scripture.

What does sanctification mean? To set apart! Yes, that is what it means but what is the process for setting apart? The process is cleansing.

The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is to cleanse and set apart for God’s purpose. Matthew 21:12-17 is the best example of the cleansing process of God setting apart for His purpose.

Reflection Time: How has God’s cleansing process worked in your life? Can you look back and see those moments that God was cleansing you from something in your life?

Snap shots of Jesus that we are comfortable with and that we like to look at:

  • John 2 water into wine

  • John 4 the Samaritan women at the well

  • Luke 7 36-50 sinful woman anointing Jesus feet

  • Luke 15 lost coin, son, and sheep

  • John 11 Lazarus death

  • John 21 resurrected Christ

This Matthew 21:12-17 is a passage that teaches us about the cleanse aspect of God’s grace that we are not all that comfortable with because it has a violence to it.

This is a Jesus that is turning over tables, and chasing people who are there for wrong motives out. It shows us a more aggressive Jesus and we are not really used to seeing that snap shot.

What is he doing in this passage and why is he doing it? Well, to answer the first part of this question let’s look at another passage that gives us a scriptural precedence for this action of the Lord. Turn to 2 Chronicles 29.

In this passage Hezekiah is king following the reign of his father, Ahaz, whose rule was corrupt removing the worship of the Lord God of Israel from the temple and replacing it with Baal worship. Hezekiah restores worship to God, but to do so re-establishes the priesthood and charges them with sanctifying the temple.

Jesus is doing the exact same thing in the Matthew 21 text. And he does it to re-establish the true purpose of the temple.

1 Corinthians 3:16 reminds us that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. And just as Jesus cleansed the temple in Matthew 21 he will also cleanse the temple of our hearts where he dwells in us.

I truly see this as an act of God’s grace working in the cleansing process.

  1. Verse 12 the cleansing process brings about –Purity

  2. Verse 13 is the consecrating work which re-establishes – Purpose

  3. Verse 14 shows us that when the purpose of God is re-established his – Manifest Power is the result.

  4. And verse 15 shows us that the result of the Manifest power of God is – Praise

In God’s cleansing work in our lives there are and will be times when there will seem to be a violence to it that make us uncomfortable, but it is necessary to re-establish God’s purpose in us so that his power is manifest and the praise of those around us is the result.

Reflection Time: Can you think of any time in your life when God had to overturn some things to get rid of them? Did you see it as God’s grace at work at the time?

When I was a kid there were those times when she would call me in from playing outside. Back then we took a bath once a week whether we needed it or not. Anyway, mom would say, “I fixed you some bath water and there is a wash rag and a bar of soap go in and take a bath and wash, real good. Get behind your ears and wash your face. I’ll be in to check on you and you better be clean.” What my mother made provision for she required. There were a few times that when she came into inspect me and how I did washing, and I failed to pass inspection. Then, she would grab the soap and wash rag and scrub the dirt off me. It wasn’t pleasant, but when she was done I was clean.

The same is true of God, what he has made provision for he will require.

Some of us have a lot of “stuff” cluttering up our lives. It has taken away from the purposes of God for our lives. The purifying work of God in our lives is undertaken by the Holy Spirit out of love to re-establish his purpose in our lives.

God has given us His Word to sanctify us, John 17:17 reveals that God’s truth is sanctifying truth. It has cleansing power which transforms us into what we were truly meant to be through the power of God. So, now we are set apart for God’s purpose.

Reflection Time: How has God’s Word cleansed you? What has changed in your life because of the Word of God? How has God’s truth changed you? Do you feel as though He is transforming your life? In what ways?

The sanctifying process never stops because we are always being God’s instruments of salvation in the world and the world is a dirty place. Just like when I was a kid after I took a bath and was cleansed, the next day found me outside climbing trees and sweating playing ball and building forts and when I came into the house in the evening I carried all the dirt and mud that clung to me from playing outside. So too it is with us when we operate in a dirty world we drag in the dirt of the world. The dirt of the world can be an attitude, or language, or an action which the Holy Spirit must cleanse us from. Bathe in the Word and be clean!

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