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TEXT: I Corinthians 6:9-11
SUBJECT: Before and After #3: You were Sanctified
Today we come to part three in the series Before and After. You know what a 'before and after' picture is: on one side, there's a 98-pound weakling having sand kicked in his face and losing his girl to a 'real man'. On the other side, the skinny nerd has put on fifty pounds of muscle, punches the bully in the nose and wins back the girl who swoons at his manly physique.
Before and after.
Millions of boys sent away for the produce, and most of them didn't get the results they were hoping for. Of course they didn't, it was all advertising. God does not advertise: He promises, and for people stung by the guilt and pollution of sin, there is no better promise than this one: the Lord will change us from what we used to be to what He wants us to be.
The promise applies to every Christian. Like everyone else, you were born in sin and lived under its power for a very long time. But then something happened-God broke into your life, and you became-
A new creature in Christ.
What happened to you and me did not start with you and me. The Lord did the same thing for the Corinthians back in the middle of the First Century. At one time-Paul says-they were-
Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, revilers, extortioners, [and those who weren't these particular things, were some other kind, in a word, every last one of them was] unrighteous.
When they were this way, they would-
Not inherit the kingdom of God.
Not everyone agreed with Paul, of course, even then some said, 'You can have your cake and eat it too'-you can live any way you want and go to heaven when you die. Paul knew what they were saying and solemnly warned his friends-
Do not be deceived [by them].
To be saved from your sin, misery, and damnation, you've got to be-
Washed, sanctified, and justified, in the name of our Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
If left to ourselves, this is very bad news! You can't wash yourself clean with dirty water, and that's all we've got! Our best intentions are muddied with self-interest and wrong priorities.
Where does that leave us? Where we need to be: in the hands of God. What we need and cannot provide for ourselves, He gives us, and all by grace.
The grammar of v.11 is important. The passive voice is used, and this means, we did not wash ourselves, sanctify ourselves, or justify ourselves. We were washed, sanctified, and justified!
We cannot be thankful enough for what God has done for us, and if He hasn't done it for you yet, you cannot be hopeful enough! For the Lord loves mercy and has a special interest in washing, sanctifying, and justifying the most unlikely people. Paul himself was an unlikely candidate for God's mercy, what with having hated Jesus and tormenting His church for years, but he got it, and said he got it as a pattern to show people that's the Lord' mercy is for the worst people, up to and including-
The chief of sinners.
Last time, we looked at ourselves as being washed clean of our sins and made eligible for God's presence and service, and now we move on to a second word. We were-
FIRST SANCTIFIED THING
Unlike washed, sanctified is not a word we use every day, so before we use it today, let's be sure we know what we're talking about.
Sanctified means 'set aside'. Typically, in the Bible, it refers to a person or some other thing that is taken out of common use and devoted to God.
The first thing 'sanctified' by name is the Sabbath, Genesis 2:3-
Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
Whether anyone from Adam to Moses knew the day was set apart from others, we cannot say, but we can say the Lord told Moses it was, and this became a key part of life in Israel. Like us, Israel had a seven day week; six of the days were, let's say, 'ordinary'-spent working on the farm, cooking dinner, washing the clothes, and so on, but the Seventh Day was not ordinary. It stood out from the others, it was different, it was 'sanctified'. In a special way, it was a day for God.
The weekly Sabbath became a pattern for other Sabbaths. You can read about them in Leviticus 23 where you find the Passover, Pentecost, the Festival of Weeks, of Trumpets, of Booths, and the Day of Atonement. They're all sabbaths-not because they fall on Saturdays, but because they're set apart for God-they're sanctified days.
Days were not the only things sanctified in Israel, so were men. Israel itself was a sanctified people. The Lord created, ruled, and judged every nation, but only one He called-
A peculiar treasure above all people.to show forth my praise.
That was Israel. In this 'set aside' nation, there was a set aside clan: The Tribe of Levi. While the others farmed or ranched or mined the land, the Levites were given no land because they were chosen to take care of the Tabernacle (and later, the Temple). Their work was not only different from what the others did, it was a holier work, and with a special reward for faithfully doing it. While other Israelites inherited land, God said to this tribe-
I am your inheritance.
If all Israel was sanctified, and the Levites doubly so, there was one family in Levi even more sanctified: the priests. They got closer to the Lord's dwelling place than their cousins. And in that family of priests, one man got closer still: the High Priest, who, once a year, entered the Holy of Holies, and saw the glory of God as no other man could at the time.
In the early history of Israel, sanctification was (mostly) an official thing. The priesthood was not applied for; it was inherited. A lazy priest who told dirty jokes was more welcome in the Tabernacle than the holiest man from Judah. Of course, the priest's character should have matched his calling, but more often that not, it didn't.
The 'disconnect' between Israel's calling and character became a major theme of the prophets. Circumcision of the body-they kept saying-was not enough to set Israel aide from the pagans all around them. When circumcised men worshiped idols and beat their wives, ignored their children and forgot the needy, they became uncircumcised in effect. The sign of the Covenant became a mockery of it.
This was doubly true of Levites and priests who kept up their ceremonial washing, but came into the Temple with hearts full of filth and stinking decay!
The Old Covenant, with all it's laws of purity and ritual baths, has failed to sanctify God's people in any meaningful way.
A New Covenant is needed, enacted by a better priest, with a better blood poured onto a better altar. The better priest has come. He is Jesus of Nazareth, a man from the Tribe of Judah, and-you'd think-not qualified for the priesthood, whatever His character.
But didn't I just tell you? The Old Priesthood failed! The House of Aaron couldn't get the job done! We need a New Priest who springs from a better stock, what say-
A priest after the order of Melchizadek.
The blood He brings to God is cleaner than what can be had from the most perfect bull or goat or lamb or dove. It is His own blood, not a lamb that used to belong to Baruch Goldberg, but the Lamb of God, God's Lamb, in fact, God Himself, offering the only blood that can truly cover the sins of the world.
He offered that blood to God on a hill, but not Mount Moriah where the Temple stood back then; it was another hill, a stinking, disgraceful, obscene place called Mount Calvary by the Gentiles, and to the Jews, Golgotha, the place of the skull.
Jesus is the only truly sanctified Man, the Man who was totally, and all His life set apart for God and His service. And what a service He gave Him to do! To die in the place of sinners. He did this, in a real place and a real time. At Passover, about 30 AD, on a hill just outside the city gates of Jersusalem.
That afternoon He was buried in a rich man's grave, as unlikely as they seemed at the time. Early the next Sunday morning, the most sanctified man who ever lived became even more sanctified!
The only sinless Man became the first member of the New Humanity-a Man fully alive, alive with nothing less than the Life of God.
You want to know what 'sanctification' really means? You won't find it in a dictionary, a sermon, or a book of theology, however good they may be. It means Jesus Christ.
THE NEW HUMANITY
Only He deserves to be called 'a sanctified person', but He's not the only one to receive that name. Paul says the Corinthians-with all their faults-were sanctified. Did they have anything believers today don't have? Not a thing. All they had was Christ; they were joined to Him by faith, and His sanctification became theirs.
In 2:11, the author of Hebrews makes one of the Bible's most surprising claims (and there are a lot of them!)-
For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them, brethren.
Through faith (which means both belief and trust) we are one with Christ, and as set aside for God and He is!
This means we are eligible to serve God. Our sins are very many and very bad, but they have not banned us from God's Presence or excluded us from His service.
Should you be sorry for your sins? Of course you should! But not so sorry that you feel unloved by God or not wanted in His church or not needed in His service.
Let every Christian in this room be rid of the unneeded guilt and false sense of unworthiness, and let us daily become what we are-
Sanctified.in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
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