Essential Truths of the Christian Faith
The Holy Spirit as Sanctifier
God calls every person to mirror
and reflect His holy character: “As He who
called you is holy, you also be
holy in all your conduct, because it is
written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Peter 1:15-16). Our problem is that in
ourselves we are not holy; we are
unholy. Yet the Bible refers to us as
“saints.” The term saint means “one who is holy.” Since holiness is not found
in ourselves, we must be made holy. The
One who works to make us holy, to
conform us to the image of Christ, is the
Holy Spirit. As the Third Person of
the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is no more
holy than the Father and the Son. Yet
we do not speak of the Holy Father, the
Holy Son, and the Holy Spirit. That
the Spirit of God is called the Holy
Spirit is not so much because of His
person (which is indeed holy) but
because of His work, to make us holy.
It is the special work of the Holy
Spirit to make us saints. He consecrates
us. The Holy Spirit fulfills the
role of the sanctifier. To be sanctified is
to be made holy, or righteous.
Sanctification is a process that begins the
moment we become Christians. The
process continues until death when the
believer is made finally, fully, and
The Reformed faith is distinctive in its emphasis
on the working of the Holy
Spirit alone in regeneration. We do not assist the Holy Spirit in our rebirth.
We reject outright any notion of cooperative
effort in the rebirth of the
believer. Sanctification, however, is a
different matter. Our sanctification
is a cooperative venture. We must work
with the Holy Spirit to grow in
sanctification. The apostle Paul expressed
this idea in his letter to the
church at Phillipi:
beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only,
but now much
more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and
it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good
The call to cooperation is one that involves work.
We are to work in earnest.
To work with fear and trembling does not suggest a
spirit of terror but of
reverence coupled with effort. We are consoled by the
knowledge that we are
not left to do this work alone or by our own efforts.
God is working within us
to accomplish our sanctification.
Spirit indwells the believer, working to bring about a more righteous
and heart. We must be careful, however, not to confuse the indwelling
with any deification of the individual. The Spirit is in the believer
works with the believer, but does not become the believer. The Spirit
to produce sanctified human beings, not deified creatures. When the
indwells us, He does not become human and we do not become gods. The
Spirit does not destroy our personal identities as human beings. In
sanctification we are to become godlike in character, but not in
God calls us to reflect His holiness.
To become holy
requires that we receive holiness from outside of ourselves.
Spirit is called holy because of His work as our
Sanctification is a lifelong process.
Sanctification is a cooperative work, involving both the believer and the Holy
The indwelling Holy Spirit does not work to deify us.