The Gospel of John: Sanctification!

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

The Word of God is filled with significant words. Particularly important are those words which specifically direct us to the doctrine of salvation. These words include regeneration, justification, propitiation, redemption, reconciliation, and adoption. Also included in this list is the word sanctification.

Sanctification is the devoting or setting apart of anything to the worship or service of God. It may include the separation of utensils, buildings, or places from everyday secular uses for exclusive dedication to holy or sacred use. It also includes the separation of individuals to the worship or service of God.

Jesus specifically spoke of sanctification in His High Priestly Prayer. He prayed to God the Father that He would sanctify the disciples. The verb sanctify (ἁγίασον; hagiason) means to make holy and to dedicate.

As one Bible dictionary explains “sanctification involves more than a mere moral reformation of character, brought about by the power of the truth: it is the work of the Holy Spirit bringing the whole nature more and more under the influences of the new gracious principles implanted in the soul in regeneration. In other words, sanctification is the carrying on to perfection the work begun in regeneration, and it extends to the whole man (Rom. 6:13; 2 Cor. 4:6; Col. 3:10; 1 John 4:7; 1 Cor. 6:19).”

How are the disciples of Jesus to be sanctified? Jesus said “in the truth.” Truth (ἀληθείᾳ; aletheia) is that information which corresponds to reality. Notice that Jesus did not pray “in truth” but rather “in the truth.” Jesus had a particular source of truth in mind.

Jesus identifies the truth He had in mind in His next statement: “your word is truth.” The Word of God is the truth which sanctifies the believer resulting in increasing holiness. More than containing God’s truth, God’s Word “is” truth. It presently and actively exists as the truth of God.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Sanctification. This verb also occurs in John’s Gospel at v. 19 and 10:36. The idea of sanctification is the setting apart of something for a particular use. Accordingly, believers are set apart to serve the Lord exclusively so that the believer desires to obey God’s commands and walk in holiness (Lev. 11:44–451 Pet. 1:16). Sanctification is accomplished by means of the truth, which is the revelation that the Son gave regarding all that the Father commanded him to communicate and is now contained in the Scriptures left by the apostles. Cf. Eph. 5:262 Thess. 2:13James 1:211 Pet. 1:22–23.

I Peter 1:14-16 says, As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

As Bible teacher Robert Rothwell concludes, “We are to pray for ourselves and for others that God would sanctify us in the truth of His Word (v. 17). God sets us apart from the world by making us more like Him, and He makes us more like Him by transforming us according to the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1–2). As we read Scripture, hear Scripture preached, study Scripture, and meditate on Scripture’s precepts, we learn to think God’s thoughts after Him. We begin to reflect His character more and more. We are equipped to go into the world as Jesus did, proclaiming the truth without compromise and calling people to repentance and faith.”

May each of us continue in this journey of sanctification, to the glory and praise of God (2 Peter 3:18).

May biblical truth and God’s grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!


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