Building Blocks of the Christian Faith


The -tions (phonetically, the -shuns) of the Christian life are a good theological study. The first -shun we experience is salvation, although, on the divine timescale, election comes first. In the previous issue of YPS, Jack Hay explained separation. This time, we are going to think about sanctification. Whereas separation focuses on what we should be removed from, sanctification focuses on who we should be attracted to.

We will consider two different aspects of sanctification in this article:

  1. positional sanctification – what God has made me to be
  2. practical sanctification – what I must become for God

Positional Sanctification

When Paul writes letters to groups of Christians, he often reminds them that they are ‘called saints’, e.g., Rom. 1. 7; 1 Cor. 1. 2. This is how God refers to His people in the Bible, ‘Gather my saints together unto me’, Ps. 50. 5. Saints are not colourful pictures in stained glass windows; they are God’s people in general. All true believers are saints. Literally, a saint is a holy person, i.e., someone who is marked out by God, set apart for God. When God saved us, He made us different to everyone else. ‘The Lord has set apart the godly man for himself’, Ps. 4. 3 NASB.

One delightful KJV description of believers that always makes me chuckle is ‘peculiar people’, 1 Pet. 2. 9. Peter claims the same designation for Christians as God used for His people Israel in the Old Testament, Deut. 14. 2. Other translations render this along the lines of ‘a people for His own possession’, e.g., JND, NASB. The key idea is that we are God’s own, special, treasured, people. We belong uniquely and entirely to Him. This is the concept of positional sanctification. We are God’s, because He has made us His own by a sovereign act of grace.

Practical Sanctification

Peter quotes another Old Testament verse that was originally God’s command to Israel, ‘Be ye holy, for I am holy’, 1 Pet. 1. 16; Lev. 11. 44. This is practical sanctification. In view of what God has done for us and how God sees us, a certain standard of behaviour is expected of us. We must walk in a way that is compatible with our God-given character, Eph. 2. 10. In response to God’s grace, we should dedicate our lives to Him. This is the force of Paul’s logical argument to the Romans, Rom. 12. 1-2. When we think of God’s mercies, we should present our bodies as ‘a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God’.

Christians who are practically sanctified will want to live in purity, and engage in regular confession and intimate communion with their Lord. Such people are ‘meet for the master’s use’, 2 Tim. 2. 21, ready for a work He has for them to do.

Old Testament Examples

There are two examples of Bible characters, one to demonstrate each aspect of sanctification. Both men were at home in God’s house: Aaron and Samuel.

Aaron was the first high priest of Israel. He was directly nominated for this position by Jehovah Himself. God called Aaron to be a priest, in a similar way that He calls us to be saints. Aaron was holy by virtue of his divinely appointed position. He wore a golden badge on his hat, engraved with the phrase, ‘Holiness to the Lord’, Exod. 28. 36, as a visible reminder of his positional sanctification.

Samuel was a man of God. He was not from the Levite tribe and did not serve as a priest. However, he was given by God to Hannah and given back by Hannah to service in God’s house, 1 Sam. 1. 27-28. This is practical sanctification. Samuel did not need to be in the tabernacle at Shiloh, but he was offered voluntarily to God’s service. First, the dedication was his mother’s decision, but, as he grew to maturity, he maintained that same commitment his mother had made, and continued to serve the Lord faithfully, 1 Sam. 7. 15. Samuel’s life is a great example of practical sanctification. He was close to God, and always ready to receive a word ‘in his ear’ from heaven, 1 Sam. 9. 15.

Personal Challenge

There are two sides to salvation. We initially chose to trust God, but, as we continue to grow as Christians, we realize that the first choice was His, not ours. In the same way, there are two sides to sanctification. God has made us His (positionally); now we need to live this out in our daily experience (practically). ‘This is the will of God, even your sanctification’, 1 Thess. 4. 3. I am always challenged by the words of Frances Ridley Havergal’s hymn:

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated Lord to Thee
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

Further Reading

  • E. L. Lovering, Sanctification in Treasury of Bible Doctrine (J. Heading, C. E. Hocking, eds). Precious Seed Publications, 1977.
  • G. E. Harpur, The Christian Path in The Faith, A Symposium of Bible Doctrine (F. A. Tatford, ed). John Ritchie, 1999.
  • W. W. Wiersbe, Key words of the Christian Life, chapter on Sanctification. Baker, 2002.
  • P. Coulson, Great Truths of the Bible, chapter on Sanctification. John Ritchie, 2004.


In Jeremy Singer’s article he states that ‘Samuel was not from the Levite tribe and did not serve as a priest’. My question is, ‘Was Samuel a priest? Are Shemuel (a variation of Samuel) and Elkanah of 1 Chron.6. 33, 34 the same people as in 1 Samuel? Did he act as a priest in 1 Samuel 7? Does 1 Samuel 2. 18 help here?’ It would be good to get your feedback in writing or through our Facebook page.