Positional Sanctification

The apostle Paul refers to positional sanctification when he greets the church in Corinth. “To the church in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy” (1 Cor. 1:2). Additionally the apostle wrote, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). The status of those who have been sanctified is also prominent in the book of Hebrews, where Jesus is portrayed as the great High Priest. Through His priestly ministry, “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10; see also Heb. 10:29; 13:12).

As an apostle and missionary to the Gentiles, Paul was commissioned by God, “To open their eyes and turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive the forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me [God]” (Acts 26:18). Every believer has been forgiven and rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of God (Col. 1:13). Safely in the hands of their Heavenly Father, sinners become saints, failures become victories, and the common is made holy.

Just as the past tense reality of salvation is the basis for the present tense working out of our salvation, so also is our position in Christ the basis for our growth in Christ. At salvation the believer is set apart or separated unto God and thus participates in God’s holiness. Notice how Peter shows this cause and effect relationship: “His divine power has [past tense] given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given [past tense] us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desire” (2 Pet. 1:3,4).

Positional sanctification does not mean that believers are sinless and perfect. Our positional holiness is based on the fact that we are new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). By faith we are joined to Christ and we share in all that Christ is, including His holiness. “It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is our righteousness, holiness, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Positional sanctification means that we are spiritually alive in Christ. We have been brought into fellowship with a holy God. As sinners we couldn’t do that. But by faith in Christ, who sacrificed Himself to cleanse us of all our sins, we are joined to Him and have been invited into the “holy of holies” of heaven to have fellowship with God. It is from this lofty position in Christ that we grow in grace.

Dr. Neil

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