The word means “set apart.” When God saves someone, he is set apart for God as one of His people. He becomes a “saint” (set apart one). But sanctification in that sense is immediate, and once-and-for-all. There is, however, another sense to sanctification that we usually think of when we speak about it. It is that sense that I wish to discuss.
Sanctification is an on-going process in which one becomes more and more like Christ by putting off the old patterns that he has brought into the new life as a Christian, and in their place, putting on the new ways that God has commanded.
No one can do this in his own strength. According to Philippians 2:13, God gives believers the desire and the ability to do those things that please Him. It’s kind of like the little kid who wants to give his daddy a present for his birthday, and asks dad for some money to do so. He then uses the money to select and purchase that item and give it to dad as a present. God provides what it takes to please Him. But we must make the effort to do whatever it is that it takes to do so when we do it. It is not an either/or operation to please God. We must do those things that please Him—not apart from, but, by His strength.
Strangely, there are, today, those who believe that if we do anything to please God, we are acting by “the arm of flesh.” By that they mean we are doing something solely in our own strength. But, by making it an either/or matter, we upset the biblical balance of loving obedience and strengthening grace. We must remember that our Lord said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Moreover, the “Great Commission” ends by urging the apostles to teach converts to “observe” (that is, do) whatsoever I have commanded you.” Let’s get rid of this confusion in the church by going back to the Bible rather than following our own best ideas!