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TEXT: I Thessalonians 4:3
SUBJECT: Watson on Redemption Applied #5: Sanctification
Tonight, the Lord willing, we'll continue our study of Thomas Watson on the Application of Redemption. The term may sound difficult, but the doctrine is pretty simple. It means the experience of salvation. Thus far, we've looked at four parts of our redemption. They are faith, effectual calling, justification, and adoption.
In the Gospel, God calls sinners to salvation; we respond in faith (which is His gift); and through that faith, we are made acceptable to God and are brought into His family-becoming the younger brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now we move on to part five of our subject, and that is sanctification.
The word occurs quite often in the Bible, but what, exactly, does it mean? Watson leaves no doubt,
"The word sanctification signifies to consecrate
and set apart for a holy use: thus, they are
sanctified persons who are separated from
the world, and set apart for God's service".
It's hard to get much clearer than this: sanctification means separation from the world and devotion to God. In other words, holiness.
Both sides have to be taken seriously. The sanctified person is both separated and devoted-not one or the other. Watson says,
"Sanctification has a privative part, which lies
in the purging out of sins. [It] also has a
positive part, which is a renewing of our
minds. The priests in the Law were not only
washed in the great laver, but adorned with
glorious apparel, so sanctification not only
washes from sin, but adorns with purity".
In sanctification, therefore, we learn to "put on the whole armor of God"-and not just part of it. We take the commandments of the Bible seriously-and also the prohibitions! By God's grace, we try to
"Abhor that which is evil and
cleave to that which is good".
"Cease to do evil and
learn to do good".
We are always tempted to dispense with either the "don'ts" of the Bible or the "do's". When I was a boy, it was mostly the "do's" that were neglected; today, it is usually the "don'ts". But we cannot do either. Holiness is both positive and negative. It is doing good things and not doing bad things!
That's what sanctification is-holiness or separation from sin and devotion to the Lord.
Thomas Watson goes on to name seven qualities of sanctification. He says it is
"A supernatural thing, an intrinsic thing, an
extensive thing, an ardent thing, a beatufiful
thing, an abiding thing, and a progressive
He has a lot to say on all seven headings, but I'll be as brief here as possible.
Sanctification is a supernatural thing, because it is not a human work. Of course, we pray and read the Bible and stay away from bad things and strive for holiness, but the success we have is attributed to God. In I Corinthians 15:10, Paul said,
"I labored more abundantly than them all,
yet not I, but the grace of God that was in me".
Sanctification is an intrinsic thing because it affects-not only what we do, but what we are. In making us holy, the Spirit of God changes us from the inside out.
Sanctification is an extensive thing because it touches the whole person in every part of his life. It doesn't make him perfect anywhere, of course, but it affects his attitudes and thoughts and feelings and words and actions. It makes him a better person when he's with his family, at work, in church-or alone.
Sanctification is an ardent thing because it gives him a passion for holiness and a hatred of sin.
Sanctification is a beautiful thing because holiness is beautiful in itself and makes the believer look something like the Lord Jesus, Who is
"Fairer than ten thousands to my soul".
Sanctification is an abiding thing because it cannot be lost. Hypocrites can lose their outward holiness (and usually do), but true believers cannot return to their old ways-not fully or for long, at least.
Sanctification is a progressive thing because it grows over time. No one is perfect in this life. But if one is not growing, he is not saved! There is such a thing as backsliding and cold periods of little growth (or even regress), but still, the believer grows in grace-not as fast as he ought to, and not uniformly, but he still grows. Where there is no growth, there is no life!
We all agree that holiness is good. But is it necessary? It is. The Puritan says
"There is no going to heaven without sanctification.
Without holiness, no man will see the Lord, Heb.
12:14. Heaven is not like Noah's ark where clean
beasts and unclean entered. No unclean beast enters
the ark of heaven; for though God allows the wicked
to live for a while on earth, He will not permit heaven
to be pestered with such vermin".
We are not justified by holiness! It is by faith alone that the sinner comes to Christ-just as he is! But without holiness we are not justified. For holiness is the fruit of saving faith. If your faith does not produce holiness, you have no faith. The degree of holiness differs, of course, but there is holiness--real holiness-in every believer without exception.
Sanctification is not optional. You're either somewhat holy or somewhat lost.
When you think of the hindrances to holiness, you can become very, very discouraged. Satan is plotting against you every minute of every day. The world is against you, making sin seem normal and holiness seem weird. It smiles at wickedness and laughs at godliness; it promotes sinners and ignore or persecutes the servants of God. Your fellow Christians can even discourage you, as they set a bad example, don't pray for you, and so on. And, then, of course, we have the flesh. We're weak for holiness and not entirely weaned from sin. When you think of these things, you become depressed.
So let me give you something else to think about.
First of all, God has willed you to be holy. Watson says,
"It is the will of God that we should be holy".
Is that a true statement? It sure is. And not only His declared will, but also His will of purpose,
"He has chosen us before the foundation
of the world that we should be holy and
Satan, the world, and your own flesh are warring against your holiness, but not to worry! God is warring for it! And
"Greater is He that is in you
than he that is in the world".
In the second place, Jesus Christ has died to make you holy. Watson,
"Jesus Christ died for our sanctification. He
shed His blood to wash off our impurity. The
cross was both an altar and a bath tub. Christ
died, not only to save us from wrath, but from sin".
There is no potential in the cross. Jesus Christ did not die so that we might (or might not) be washed from our sins. He died to wash us from our sins. If He died for to do that, then, washed we must be. Titus 2:14,
"He gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us
from all iniquity and purify for Himself His own
peculiar people, zealous for good works".
To what the Puritan has said, I would add the work of the Holy Spirit. When we believed in Christ, the Spirit of God came into our souls. He's there to assure us of our salvation, of course, but that's not all. He's also there to make us holy! And make us holy, He will,
"He who has begun a good work in you
will perform it until the Day of JesusChrist".
When down about the power of the world and your own weakness; the cunning of Satan and your own folly, then remember-when it comes to holiness, you're not alone! The Trinity is with you. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are doing their work to make you holy. That gives hope and spurs you to optimistic effort.
You mean-even though God sanctifies us-we have to do something? That is precisely what I mean. God has appointed both the end (holiness) and also the means to achieve it. Looked at from our standpoint, the way to holiness is paved with four things,
"The word of God, prayer, fellowship, and faith".
He goes on to say,
"Be conversant in the Word of God. The Word
has a transforming power in it; it lightens
the mind and consecrates the heart".
The Word of God is able to make you holy.
"Sanctify them through Your truth-
the Lord prayed-Your Word is truth".
A hundred times you've heard me say, "Bible reading does you no good if all you're doing is running your eyes over the page". I take it back! Of course, you ought to read the Word carefully, but I have found that even sloppy or sleepy reading has often brought conviction and hope to my soul. Let me tell you a short story:
A few months ago I was feeling about as backslidden as I could be. I felt that way because I was backslidden. I hadn't done anything particularly wicked, but I had left a lot of good things undone. One night-about ten o'clock-I lay down in bed and though I had no taste for it, I thought I ought to read the Bible. My regular reading brought me to Jeremiah 4. Without any love or faith or special care, I read the first verse,
"if you will return to Me, O Israel,
return to Me".
Right then-I learned that the Lord is so merciful, that He would take backsliders back on very easy terms! If you want to return, return, He said. And I did. It was a time of great revival for me. I tell you this to help you read the Bible-even when you don't feel like it or haven't gotten anything out of it for a long time!
If you want to grow in holiness, read the Bible.
In the second place, pray.
"Pray for sanctification. Who can bring a
clean thing out of an unclean? God can do it!
Lay your heart before the Lord and say, `Lord,
My unsanctified heart pollutes everything it
Touches. I am not fit to live with such a heart
For I cannot honor You; or die with such a hear
For I cannot see You. O, create in me a new
Heart! O, Lord, consecrate my heart and make
It Your temple, and Your praises shall be sung
If you pray at all, I know you pray for other things. But, you know, you can pretty much get by without most of them. But you cannot get by without holiness! Pray for it. Pray fervently, pray sincerely, and pray without ceasing.
The third means of sanctification is godly fellowship,
"Associate with sanctified persons. They may
by their counsel, prayers, and holy example,
be a means to make you holy".
Watson could not be more right. If you feel drawn to ungodly persons-and frankly, enjoy their company more than the fellowship of God's people, just remember the warnings of the Bible,
"Be not deceived! Evil companions
corrupt good morals"
"A companion of fools will be destroyed".
If godly people are boring to you, just stay with them until they become interesting.
"He who walks with the wise
will himself be wise".
Read the Bible, pray, befriend God's people. There's one more thing you need if you're going to grow in holiness-and that's faith.
"Get faith in Christ's blood".
You may thing Watson put this in the wrong place. Of course faith justifies, but does it also make us holy? Sure it does! What, after all, enables you to confess your sins? It is faith that God will forgive you for Christ's sake! And what will make you more grateful to God than the death of Christ?
Think often on the blood of Christ shed for sinners and you'll grow in grace
Not everyone here is holy. Because not everyone is saved. You cannot grow in grace until you first receive God's grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you done that? If you haven't, you need to-right now! Because you cannot stay like you are. If you do not become holier, you'll become less holy and more used to your sin.
If you are holy-a little holy, at least-thank God for it! But don't leave it there. Pursue holiness in faith and hope and love.
And God be with you. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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