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What God has begun in regeneration He will work to continue without interruption throughout the believer’s life.

"For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6, NET).

If you put your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, God has already begun His work of perfecting you. He will not stop until He has accomplished His goal in you. It is true that God has perfected forever the believer by His faith in Christ, but it is also equally true that the believer is far from being perfect in daily life and practice (Phil. 3:12-15). The practical work of being perfected is always before the believer in this life. He is to hunger for righteousness and hate sin.

“We believe that Sanctification is the process by which according to the will of God, we are made partakers of His holiness; that it is a progressive work; that it is begun in regeneration, and that it is carried on in the hearts of believers by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, the Sealer and Comforter, in the continual use of the appointed means—especially the Word of God, self-examination, self-denial, watchfulness and prayer” (New Hampshire Baptist Confession, 1833, Article x).

Progressive, practical, experiential sanctification begins when we are born again and placed “in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17; John 3:5, 8).

Progressive sanctification is a daily dealing with our sins and growth in holiness. This progressive sanctification will culminate in perfect sanctification when we see Jesus and become eternally like Him. Growth in holiness should follow conversion (Eph. 1:4; Phil. 3:12).

The Christian life begins with regeneration whereby the Holy Spirit implants spiritual life in the believer. Sanctification begins at that same moment of the new birth and God progressively separates the new believer from sin unto Himself. He transforms the whole life toward holiness and purity.

This process of sanctification never ends during this earthly life. It will be consummated in glorification when the believer through the death and resurrection or at the Rapture stands in the presence of the Lord God conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Believers have been “set apart,” sanctified, once-for-all by the perfect offering of Christ’s body for our sins. All believers are sanctified positionally. It is our new standing with God as Christians. Our standing is what God has done for us in Christ. Progressive sanctification, on the other hand, refers to sanctification as experienced in the daily life of the believer. Daily victory over sin is itself a separation unto God and is therefore sanctification. This should be an ever-increasing growth experience.

It involves our availability to the Holy Spirit, our separation from sin, and our growth in the likeness of Christ. Every Christian is a sanctified person, belonging to Christ, and therefore should keep from immorality (1 Cor. 6:13-14; 2 Cor. 7:1). We are involved in a lifetime struggle against sin and a moment-by-moment submission to the Holy Spirit for victory.

Romans 12:1 admonishes the believer to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” It is a choice we make as believers. No one else can make that choice for us. It is self-determined and is repeated often. We are to “reckon” or “consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11). Based upon that truth “do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts” (Rom. 6:12). “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). The principle is clearly stated in Rom. 6:22, “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit (lit. fruit), resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.”

In Romans 6:5-23 the apostle Paul stresses the right attitudes for sanctification. They are to reckon on Christ, yield to righteousness and obedient faithfully serve Him. “Now God has set you free from sin and made you His slaves.”

The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God in the prevention of sin in the Christian’s life. The Psalmist testified, “Thy Word I have treasured in my heart that I might not sin against Thee” (Psalm 119:11).

The intercessory ministry of our great high priest in heaven who shepherds His sheep keeps us from sin (Rom. 8:34). Christ “intercedes for us.” The writer of Hebrews writes, “He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Rom. 7:25).

The Holy Spirit indwells the believer for the purpose of enabling us to overcome sin and conform us to the likeness of Christ. When we “walk by the Spirit” we do not carry out the deeds of the flesh, but produce “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16, 22).

God has made full provision when the Christian does sin. God has provided cleansing and forgiveness through the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ (1 John 1:6-10). Our fallen nature is ever prone to sin (Rom. 7:21; 2 Cor. 4:7; 1 John 1:8).

The Scriptures do not promise eradication of our fallen nature. However, the Holy Spirit gives us moment by moment victory through His indwelling presence (Gal. 5:16-23). The believer is to be under the control of the Spirit and to walk accordingly (Eph. 5:18; Gal. 5:16).

Our sanctification is a growing sense of how sinful we really are, so we will constantly turn to and depend upon Christ for our every need.

Not only is there the negative side of sanctification in removing sin, there is also our growth in Christ-likeness. The apostle Peter wrote, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). We are to be “conformed to the image” of Christ (Rom. 8:29). As we behold the glory of the risen Christ we are being “changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Progressive sanctification sets us more and more apart from “the world, the flesh and the devil,” and makes us more and more like our risen Lord in character.

It is only as we “abide in Him” that we grow in Christian maturity. The end result of a life fully yielded to God is eternal life.

The Holy Spirit applies to believers at their conversion what Christ accomplished with His death and resurrection (Eph. 2:4-7). The same atoning sacrifice of Christ that obtained our forgiveness also accomplished our sanctification.

The sanctified life is a life of personal fellowship with the Father in Christ (Gal. 2:20). It is a life of Sonship, of love, of trust (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). God graciously gives Himself to us. The Christian life is an intimate personal relation with Him.

The fruit of such a life is holiness. If you are living a sinful life, your conduct is inconsistent with any Christian profession you may have.

Sanctification includes all of life. "We are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:15).

The mature Christian knows that he is always in Romans 7 apart from the Holy Spirit. Our dependence upon the Holy Spirit is not something that is attained once for all, but is the result of a daily struggle and a constantly renewed commitment.

God will not give up on His goal of making you become like Christ. He will not give up on you until the day He presents you complete, perfect, and mature to the Father in heaven.

Key Scriptures

Philippians 1:6; 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 7:1; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 6:13-14; Romans 6:11-14; 7:1-25; 1 John 1:8-2:2; Galatians 5:16-23; Galatians 2:20

Abiding Principles and Practical Applications

1. God always finishes what He begins. He will not give up on us until the day He presents us complete in Christ.

2. God began a good work in you when you were born again.

3. Progressive sanctification is a daily dealing with our sins and growth in holiness.

4. The Holy Spirit indwells us with the purpose of enabling us to overcome sin and conform us to the likeness of Christ.


For Further Study

The Christian's Progressive Sanctification 
Sanctification in Christ
Progressive Sanctification 

Our Absolute and Progressive Sanctification 
2 Corinthians 3:16-18 Transformed from Glory to Glory
Sanctification Place Growth
The Bible and our Sanctification 
Progressive Growth - Sanctification 
Our Old Carnal Sinful Nature 
Everything in Christ 
Ephesians 2:10 God's Masterpiece 
Philippians 2:12-18 Work out Your Salvation 
Philippians 1:6 Believer's Perseverance Eternal Security in Jesus 
Romans 6:1-14 Free at Last
Romans 7:14-8:4 A Saint's Struggle with Sin 
Indwelling Sin 






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Unless otherwise noted "Scripture quotations taken from the NASB." "Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE" © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://www.bible.org/. All rights reserved.

Wil is a graduate of William Carey University, B. A.; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Th. M.; and Azusa Pacific University, M. A. He has pastored in Panama, Ecuador and the U. S, and served for over 20 years as missionary in Ecuador and Honduras. He had a daily expository Bible teaching ministry head in over 100 countries from 1972-2005. He continues to seek opportunities to be personally involved in world missions. Wil and his wife Ann have three grown daughters. He currently serves as a Baptist pastor and teaches seminary extension courses in Ecuador.


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