Biblical Perfection and Sanctification
January 23rd, 1983 @ 8:15 AM
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
BIBLICAL PERFECTION AND SANCTIFICATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
1-23-83 8:15 a.m.
And God bless the great throngs who are listening to this hour on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and I am the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Biblical Doctrine of Perfection and Sanctification. I have been told that a class for the unemployed that meets each evening at 5:30 until 6:45 in Ralph Baker Hall, this evening at 5:30, that that class is well attended. Zig Ziglar, who teaches the auditorium class here at 9:30, teaches that class at 5:30. And as a part of that class, each one attending fills out a resume, and the appeal is made to all of you who listen on radio and to the great throng in God’s sanctuary this morning, if you have a place for somebody to work, call the church. And these people are being prepared to be a good workman for you. So you call the church if you have a place for somebody to work, and we will send you somebody good.
About two weeks ago, I did something that I never had done before: I preached an exegetical sermon. A homily, a homiletical sermon is where you take the Scripture verse by verse, and you follow it down, and comment on it homiletically; a homily, verse by verse. An expositional sermon is one very typically that I will preach tonight, taking a section of the Bible and expounding what it says. The title of the sermon tonight at seven o’clock is The Agony and the Ecstasy – The Cross and The Crown; and it is an exposition of the central verses in the first chapter of 1 Peter. That will be an exposition tonight. This morning I am going to try again to see how God blesses it in an exegesis. An exegesis is taking the inspired, infallible Word and seeing what God has said in that inspired Word. If you do not believe in the inspiration and the infallibility and the inerrancy of the Scriptures, an exegesis would be impossible; but it is certainly possible for me. I believe in the Holy Spirit breath in choosing the words that we find in the Hebrew Old Testament and in the Greek New Testament; these words are chosen of God, they are inspired of the Lord. And if I can understand the Word, I can begin to comprehend the mind and meaning of our Lord. So we are going to try again, to see if God blesses it: an exegetical message on biblical perfection and sanctification. And I can make a summary judgment of it for me, after working on it for days and days and preparing the message, when I get through reviewing it, reworking it, re-studying it, I always come to the close with the exclamation in my heart, "How could such a thing be? It is too good, literally, to be true!"
The background text will be 1 Thessalonians 5, verse 23; 1 Thessalonians 5:23:
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Faithful is He that calleth you, who will also do it.
biblical perfection and sanctification.
"And the very God," autos ho theos, "God Himself," eirene, "The God of peace," the opposite of strife, used to refer to the soul’s reconciliation to God, "peace." And that’s a beautiful word, i-r-e-n-e, irene, the word for "peace"; a glorious name for a girl, Irene. Hagiazo, "sanctify you, set you apart for God, make you His own," holoteleis, "completely," pneuma psuche – you would in English pronounce it "psyche" – soma. He believes in a trichotomy: body, soul, and spirit. Sometimes the Bible will refer to us as a dichotomy: soul and body. You’ll find that referred to in [Matthew 10:28] and 1 Corinthians 5:3; body, corporeality, and soul, spiritual body. But sometimes the Bible refers to us as a trichotomy: we are body, and soul, and spirit. The difference is the soma, the body is the corporeality, this physical frame; psyche, psuche in Greek is the sentient being of feeling and emotion and mind and understanding; and pneuma, spirit, is the man that can know God. Animals can’t be sensitive to God – we can, that’s the pneuma. So the Bible referred to the pneumatikos man in 1 Corinthians 2:12 and 15; the spirit-man that knows God. It will refer to the psuchikos man, the sentient man, the understanding man, 1 Corinthians 2:14 and 1 Corinthians 15:44-46. And the Bible will refer to the somatikos man, the body man, the corporeal man in 1 Timothy 4:8.
Now he says this trichotomy of us, he prays, will be preserved: tereo, "to watch over carefully, to guard," blamelessly, amemptos, that is, without censure, without condemnation. On some of the sepulchral inscriptions of the tombs in Thessalonica, you’ll find that word amemptos; it is a word referring not to sinlessness, but "without censure, without blame." In Luke 1:6, "Zechariah and Elizabeth observed the law amemptos, blamelessly." In Philippians 2:15, "We are to be amemptos and harmless." In 1 Thessalonians 2:10, "Ye are witnesses how amemptos, how blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you."
And then he prays that God will preserve us amemptos, "until the parousia." There are two words in the Bible so much used to refer to the second coming of our Lord: one is apokalupsis, that’s the unveiling of our Lord, the revelation of our Lord; and the other is this word parousia, which literally means "a being alongside," referring to the presence of our Lord when He comes.
Now, our common idea of perfect is sinlessness; that’s what we think of. He’s perfect, he’s sinless. And our common idea of sanctification is that it refers to a progressive getting rid of sin until we are sanctified, until we are sinless. But when we have that interpretation of perfection and sanctification, immediately we fall into great difficulty. In John 17:19, the passage you just read, our Lord prayed, "For their sakes I hagiazo, I sanctify Myself." Well, our Lord was sinless, yet He says, "For their sakes I sanctify Myself." In 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul writes, "That we might katartizÃ³, that we might perfect that which is lacking in your faith." So what does "perfect," "perfection" mean in the Bible, and what does "sanctifiction," "sanctify" mean in the Bible? How are those words used?
Now, there are three main ideas in the biblical presentation of perfection and sanctification. And the first one is found in this verb used in 1 Thessalonians 3:10, "That we might perfect that which is lacking in your faith, katartizÃ³." Kata is an intensive, and artios refers to "lacking in nothing, complete." So the one who is katartizÃ³ is complete; he is fitted. KatartizÃ³ refers to refit, to repair, to restore, to perfect, to complete. And the basic idea in the word is one of equipment, to be completely equipped, all details in order. A house is katartizÃ³ if it is completely equipped: it has a kitchen, it has a dining room, it has a bathroom, it has all the accouterments. Somebody is katartizÃ³, a man is katartizÃ³ if he’s equipped for his work. And a Christian is katartizÃ³ if he is equipped for the work of God. And that is one of the meanings of "perfection": not that we are sinless, but that we are equipped for our work of serving the Lord.
A second idea in this word "perfection," "sanctification," is represented in the word teleios, which is used over and over again in the Bible; and it is always translated "perfect," except in Hebrews 5:13 and 1 Corinthians 14:20. For example, in Matthew 19:21 the Lord says to that rich young ruler, "If thou wilt be teleios, perfect, sell what you have, give it away: and come follow Me." In 1Corinthians 13:10, "When that which is teleios is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." In Philippians 3:12, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already teleios; but I press toward the mark…Let us therefore as many as be teleios, be thus minded…" In Hebrews 2:10, "For it became Him, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation teleios through suffering." Here again you come to the Lord Jesus Christ in that passage in the high priestly prayer, in the seventeenth chapter of John: the Lord says, "Wherefore I sanctify Myself for their sakes." He is certainly not getting rid of sin in His life; and here it says that He was "teleios through suffering." And then again, in Hebrews 5:8, "Though a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things He suffered; and being made teleios, perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him." And in James 1:4 he writes, "But let patience have her teleios work, that ye may be teleios and entire, wanting in nothing." So the word teleios, translated "perfect" in the Bible, has no meaning of sinlessness at all; it means "arriving at the goal for which we were made, intended, created; we are fully developed and complete; we are teleios." I’ve often used the illustration a man is a teleios of a child; that’s what he’s supposed to be; he’s grown. And an oak, a great oak is a teleios of an acorn; that’s what his purpose is, and when it’s complete, that’s what it is; it’s an oak. And the oak is the teleios of that acorn.
So this is seen in the two instances where teleios is not translated "perfect." In 1 Corinthians 14:20, Paul writes, "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be ye teleios," and the King James Version translates it "men": "be ye full grown." And the other exception where teleios is not translated "perfect" is in Hebrews 5:, "For everyone that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe"; and some people stay babes all their lives, they never understand the Bible, nor do they try. But we are trying. "But strong meat belongs to them that are teleios," and it’s translated in the King James Version "full age." So teleios refers to the one who is mature and complete and has reached the goal for which he was created and intended.
Now we’re finding what the Bible says about perfection and sanctification, and the first thing we learned was that katartizÃ³ refers to one who is fully equipped; and second we learned that teleios refers to one who is fully developed, he’s come of age, he’s mature. Now there is one other biblical meaning of perfection and sanctification, and that refers to one who is set aside for the use of God, hagiazo. Hagiazo means and is translated "to sanctify, to make holy, to be saintly"; the Hebrew word is kadosh, and they mean exactly alike, Hebrew and Greek. In the English language we have many words that try to convey that idea of sanctity, of holiness, and they all come from the same root word. Sometimes we use the word "holy, holiness, hallowed," sometimes "consecrate, consecration," sometimes "sanctify, sanctification, saint"; but they all come from the same root word. First, in Hebrew: kadosh refers to something that is separated for God – it is placed at the disposal and the use of God – that is holy, that is sanctified, that is consecrated, that belongs to God. It may refer to days, it may refer to seasons, it may refer to places, it may refer to objects, it may refer to persons.
For example, in Exodus 13:2, "Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb, both of man and of beast: it is Mine." That is, it belongs to God; it is sanctified. In Exodus [28:41], "Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, thou shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto Me in the priest’s office." They are sanctified because they’re set aside for God. In Exodus 29:36, "Thou shalt cleanse the altar and anoint it, to sanctify it"; this altar belongs to God. In Leviticus 8:10, "And Moses took the anointing oil, and anointed the tabernacle and all that was therein, and sanctified them"; he set them aside for the use of God. In Jeremiah 1:5, God says to him, "Before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." Kadosh, "sanctify," in the Old Testament means "to set aside for the use of God."
Now in the New Testament, hagiazo means exactly the same thing: to be set apart from common use and to be consecrated to the service of the Lord. That’s what Jesus said in the high priestly prayer, in John 17:19, "For their sakes, I sanctify Myself, I set Myself apart for them, to be a blessing to them, to save them." In no sense does it have any sense of sin or progressive getting rid of sin. In John 10:36, our Lord said, "Him whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world," God set Him apart for the purpose that He came into the world. So the meaning of 1 Thessalonians 4:3, "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification," that is, God has called you and set you apart for Him.
Now, sanctify, consecrate means to set apart for God. You belong to God, you’re to be used of the Lord, you’re His workman, He has equipped you to serve Him; that is consecration and sanctification. For example, somebody could come to the temple and place a gift on the altar, let’s say a gold coin. And he places his gold coin on the altar in the temple. It is thereby sanctified; it is thereby consecrated. It hasn’t changed at all; it’s still a gold coin, but its use has changed. It is now for the use of God. I sometimes think of this Arlington General Motors plant out there: it was made so that in a time of war, immediately the assembly line could be changed for the purposes of the defense of our nation, to make guns or tanks or whatever the government chooses. It is sanctified; it is set apart for the use of the government. Same thing about a businessman; he’s out here working in the business world and the nation is in war. And they call him and he puts on a uniform; he is set apart for the work of our country. Now that’s the way God means in the use of the word hagiazo or kadosh: we are set aside, we are sanctified for the work of God.
Now, that is very plainly seen in the Bible. That saint sanctified, consecrate, refers to those who are set aside for God. In 2 Peter 1:21, listen: "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." Now these men are called "holy"; the Bible calls them holy, I just read it, 2 Peter 1:21. They are holy men of God; that’s what the Bible calls them. Now, are they sinless? What would you think about Moses who wrote the Pentateuch? He was a murderer. What do you think about David who wrote most of the Psalms? He was a murderer and an adulterer and a thousand other things, a man of blood and of violence. So much so that Nathan said, "God says you cannot build the temple" [2 Corinthians 7:5]. What do you think about Jonah? There was everything wrong with Jonah. Yet God says these men are holy. What does He mean by that? He means that "they are set apart for the work whereunto I have called them" [Acts 13:2], and even though they are broken or feeble or sinful instruments, yet God uses them.
Now the same thing is found in the use of the word hagiazo in the New Testament. Now you look at 1 Corinthians 1:1 and 2, "Paul, to the church at Corinth, those people there, sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints"; that’s what Paul uses, the words he uses in addressing the church at Corinth. Now are they sinless, these who are sanctified and these who are saintly? Now look at the church at Corinth: 1 Corinthians 1:11, he refers to "the contentions among you." Now look in chapter 3, verse 3: "Ye are carnal: for there is among you envying and strife and divisions." And look at  Corinthians 5:1, "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the heathen, namely, that one should have his father’s wife." We’d call that incest. Now in [1 Corinthians] 11:20 and 21, "When you come together to eat the Lord’s Supper, one is hungry and another is methuei, intoxicated, drunk!" Now these are the saints who are sanctified in Corinth. Now in [14:23], "If therefore the church be come together, and all speak with tongues, will they not say that ye are mad?" That’s what I’d say too: you’ve lost your mind, "In the church I’d rather speak five words with my understanding than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue" [1 Corinthians 14:19]. Yet they’re all saints, they’re all sanctified; the Bible says so. That is, they belong to Christ; they are set apart for Him. And however weak and foible and filled with lack and shortcoming they are, they are still God’s; they belong to Him, and they are set aside and set apart for the work of our Lord.
Now, I have to close. The work of the sanctification in our experience of sanctification is as follows. Number one: it is a work of God. Sanctification is a work of God; it is attributed to God. It is something that God has done for him. First Thessalonians 5:23, "The very," our text, "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly." And 2 Thessalonians 2:13, "God hath from the beginning chosen you," en hagiasmos pneumatos, "in sanctification of the Spirit: whereunto He called you by His gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." As the priest is separated by the Lord for the work of the ministry, as the offering is hallowed for the use of God, so the believer is set apart, he is sanctified; he is consecrated for the work of God.
This is a beautiful verse in Psalm 4:3, "The Lord hath set apart him that is chasid, chasid, him that He favors," translated in the King James Version, "godly for Himself." God has set apart these for Himself. They are sanctified, they’re hallowed, they’ consecrated, they’re saintly, they belong to God; God has chosen them and set them apart for Himself.
Now, the sanctification, the setting apart is wrought by the Holy Spirit. That’s what the Holy Spirit does with us: He sanctifies us, He sets us apart, He calls us. It’s a work of the Holy Spirit. To begin with, we’re reborn or born again, by the Holy Spirit. John 3:7, Jesus said to that learned Nicodemus, "Don not marvel or stumble that I said to you, you must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and you hear the sound thereof, you can’t tell where it comes from, or where it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." It’s a work of the Holy Spirit of God. And the Holy Spirit of God takes us out of the world – we don’t belong to the world any longer – and places us in the body of Christ. First Corinthians 12:13, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." In regeneration when a man is saved, the Holy Spirit takes him out of the world, and out of sin and death, and all of the things that compromise us in this life. He takes us out of that, and He places us in the body of our Lord. We become members of the body of Christ. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:1, "Ye who were dead in trespasses and in sins; but God has quickened you, the Holy Spirit has raised you to a new life in Christ." And we’re taken out of our position in the old Adamic nature, and we’re taken out of our living in the world, and we are placed in the body of Christ; we belong to Him.
Just as the hand of our Lord in the days of His flesh belonged to Him, and His feet were belonging to Him, and His head, and His heart, and His eyes, and His ears, they are a part of Christ, we are just like that: we belong to Christ; we are a part of our Lord. We belong to the body of our Lord. Baptism is a picture of that: we are dead and buried, dead to the world, and we are alive and sensitive to the will of Christ for us; we belong to Him! We are baptized into the body of Christ! We are placed into the body of Christ! We are sanctified, we are consecrated; we don’t belong to the world anymore, we are dead to the world. We are alive to God, and we belong to the body of our Lord.
God makes us therein and thereby temples of the Holy Spirit. He lives in us. First Corinthians 6:19, "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you." Now this body temple is sinful and dying, but God has made a great thing, He has made a great promise, He has done a marvelous, marvelous thing for us: the Holy Spirit of God is in us, and that is the earnest that as our spirits are redeemed, so our body shall be redeemed also. It is the Holy Spirit’s temple; it is the house of the Lord. Ephesians 1: [13-14], "After ye believed, ye were sealed with the Spirit of promise, which is the earnest, the down payment, the promise of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession. By the Holy Spirit of God ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." What does it mean there, that the Holy Spirit of God is in us as the earnest and the seal of the whole purchased possession? That is this: that when Jesus died on the cross, He not only redeemed our souls, our spirits, but He also redeemed our bodies, both.
Any time anybody speaks to you about the physical aspects of the Christian faith, such as the Lord ate with them, and such as we believe the resurrection of the dead, and such as we’re going to break bread and drink the cup in heaven, and such as we’re going to have a body, and such as we’re going to see Jesus as He is, and we’re going to live in heaven, anybody that says that’s just physical, that’s Bible! That’s the revelation of God! "The whole purchase possession"; and I suppose that means all creation. There’s going to be a new creation; that’s the part of the purchase possession in Christ! There’s going to be new bodies! We are, this physical frame is a part of the redemption of Christ, the whole purchased possession, as well as my heart and my spirit. I don’t know how people somehow think we are too physical in our religion; but it’s just God. God made this world; He must like it. God invented eating; He must like it. God invented these bodies; He must like them. And the redemption refers to the recreation of everything God has made that has fallen. That refers to the world; it’s going to be remade. That refers to my heart and spirit; that’s being remade. And it refers to my physical frame; that is going to be remade. The redemption of the whole purchased possession, all of me, not just my heart or my spirit or my soul, but my physical frame also; that is going to be redeemed, and this is the house in which the Holy Spirit lives [1 Corinthians 3:16], and that’s the earnest, that’s the promise that we have that God’s going to do it all.
The ultimate redemption of the whole purchased possession is our final perfection and our final sanctification, which will happen at the second coming of Christ. I haven’t time to read it, wish I had hours for our study together – but every chapter in 1 Thessalonians closes with that glorious promise of the coming of our Lord. Isn’t that unusual? All five chapters close with that glorious promise of our Lord. The fourth chapter closes with that marvelous revelation of the resurrection rapture of God’s saints, when Jesus comes [1 Thessalonians 4:13-17], as 1 Corinthians 15:51 says, "We shall all be changed." That’s what he means when he says God Himself, God the very God, preserved your whole spirit, soul, and body, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that called you, who will also do it" [1 Thessalonians 5:23-24]. May I close?
It is a marvelous word that Paul writes in Philippians 3:20, "For our politeuma" – man, what a wonderful word that is – "For our politeuma," our commonwealth, our citizenship, our kingdom, and our life, and our hope, and our all in all, "is in heaven"; not here, it’s in heaven, "from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our tapeinosis soma," our abased, depressed, the King James Version says, "vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body." We are sinfully imperfect in this body. We’re constantly falling short. We are constantly and every day coming to God confessing our sins. But the Spirit of God is in us. God has set us apart for Himself. And some glorious, marvelous day, as we have experienced the redemption and the sanctification of our souls and our spirits, some day we shall also experience the redemption of our bodies. And then we shall be whole and complete; we shall be kadosh, we shall be teleios, we shall be hagiazo, we shall be completely perfect, sanctified, redeemed, all of us, every part of us, every faculty of us. My mind, and my heart, and my soul, and the house in which I live, all of it remade in the likeness of our glorious Lord.
Well, you can see what I mean when I say I have gone through this I don’t know how many times, and every time I go through it, preparing the message this morning, I think, "Could such a thing be? It’s too good to be true?" I just think, "Lord, Lord, how could such a thing ever come to pass?" But that is the Bible; that’s the Word of God. And every syllable of it He says, "I will at the parousia," at the apokalupsis, "I will bring to pass" [1 Thessalonians 5:24]. Man, hold my hand while I shout! While we praise God and rejoice in His marvelous goodnesses to us!
We’re going to sing us a song of appeal. And while we sing it, a family, a couple, just you, come, and a thousand times welcome. While we stand and while we sing. While we stand, while we sing, "This is God’s time and God’s day for me, and I’m coming. I’m on the way. The Spirit has spoken to my heart, and I’m coming today," while we sing, while we make appeal.
PERFECTION AND SANCTIFICATION
ho theos – God Himself
– peace, opposite of strife
– to set apart for God, for His use, service
– we are soma, body; psuche, soul; pneuma, spirit(1 Corinthians 2:13-15, 15:44, 46, 1 Timothy 4:8)
– to watch over carefully, to guard; be preserved
– without censure, without condemnation(Luke
1:6, Philippians 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 2:10)
1. Apokalupsis –
an unveiling, a manifestation (Revelation 1:1)
II. Our common idea of perfection and
in getting rid of sin until we are sinless, perfect, sanctified
we stumble into difficulty (John 17:19, 1
III. Three main ideas in the Bible about
perfection and sanctification
– to be completely equipped, to be ready for the work
– much used and always translated "perfect", except twice(Matthew 19:21, 1 Corinthians 13:10, Philippians
3:12-15, Hebrews 2:10, 5:8-9, James 1:4)
means sinless; always refers to an arrival at the goal, purpose
Seen in the two instances where it is not translated "perfect", but "mature,
full age"(1 Corinthians 14:20, Hebrews 5:13-14)
– refers to our being set apart for God; to sanctify, make holy
into English in many words, all from same root
– Hebrew, means to separate from worldly use for work of God
May refer to days, seasons, places, objects, persons(Exodus 13:2, 28:41, 29:36, Leviticus 8:10, Jeremiah 1:5)
God has called, sanctified us(John 10:36, 17:19,
1 Thessalonians 4:3)
D. So the saints, set
apart, belonging to God, sanctified
sinless – refers to God’s use of us (2 Peter
1:21, 1 Corinthians 1:1-2, 11, 3:3, 5:1, 11:20-21, 14:19, 23)
IV. The work of sanctification
God does(1 Thessalonians 5:23, 2 Thessalonians
2:13-14, Psalm 4:3)
by Holy Spirit(John 3:7-8, 1 Corinthians
6:19-20, 12:13, Ephesians 2:1-6)
are made a temple for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit(1 Corinthians 6:19, Ephesians 1:12-14)
Ultimate redemption of the whole purchased possession(1 Thessalonians 1:10, 2:19, 3:12-13, 4:13-18, 5:23-24, 1 Corinthians
15:51, Philippians 3:20-21)