The Sanctifying Ministry of the Spirit
June 11, 2015 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Life In the Spirit, Part 5
Sinclair Ferguson says: “The heart and soul of the Spirit’s ministry is to sustain us ‘in Christ’” (The Holy Spirit, p. 100). The ministry of the Spirit does not add anything to what we have in Christ, nor does the Spirit compete with or replace Christ. The Spirit unites us to Christ and sustains us in that all-satisfying, all-sufficient relationship.
Last week we looked at the Spirit’s specific ministry of illumination, which is the Spirit’s work of opening our minds and hearts to see the beauty and goodness of Christ in all of Scripture and invigorating our minds and hearts to delight in Christ more and more.
Let’s consider the Spirit’s ministry of sanctification. Sanctification is a biblical word that speaks about the process of becoming more and more holy. What role does the Spirit play in this process and how is sanctification connected with our being in Christ? Sanctification is the necessary process of the Holy Spirit making us more and more like Christ. Let’s break down this definition.
1. Salvation includes not only a “not guilty” verdict for our sin, but also release from the slavery to sin. This is what Paul unpacks so effectively in Romans 6. By God’s grace, we are justified (declared “not guilty”) by faith alone. The Holy Spirit works this faith in us (giving us a new heart to receive and rest in Christ alone for salvation). Paul explains in Romans 6, though, that this grace also sets us free from the dominion of sin. Sanctification, the fight against sin to become more holy, is a necessary part of salvation. One is not saved without any progression in sanctification (cf. Hebrews 12:14).
2. The process of sanctification is one of putting off and putting on, empowered by the Spirit. Paul speaks about this reality in a variety of ways. In Romans 8 he talks about living according to the flesh versus living and being led by the Spirit (8:12-14). In Galatians 5, Paul speaks about either walking by the Spirit or gratifying the desires of the flesh (5:16-23). In Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3, Paul says that we have put off the old self and put on the new self (Col. 3:9-10) and then he commands that we put off the old self and put on the new (Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:8, 12). The sanctifying work of the Spirit is never finished in this earthly life. We’ll look more closely next week at how the Spirit empowers this putting off and putting on.
3. The goal of the process is conformity to Christ (Rom. 8:29). Since we have been adopted into the family (Rom. 8:15-17), God is conforming us into the image of the family (“You shall be holy, for I am holy.” Lev. 19:2; 1 Pet. 1:15-16). Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that this process of being transformed into the image of Christ is the work of the Spirit. This holiness and conformity to Christ is the completion of our salvation (otherwise known as glorification). Through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, we are brought closer and closer to that ultimate goal. In this our joy is maximized. Therefore Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Phil. 3:12).
Let us “strive for the holiness (or sanctification) without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). More next week on how the Spirit empowers our sanctification.