"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word." (John 17:16‑20)
Many Christians appear to think that sanctification is an act which must be performed, once and for all like consecration at the time one gives one’s heart to the Lord, having arrived at an appreciation of God’s workings and desires. Sanctification like consecration, however, is a continuous and progressive work, difficult to maintain and requiring every effort if one would be an overcomer indeed. How important then to be mindful of the fact that it is a continuous, progressive work. Jesus did not say I have sanctified myself as though it were in the past, rather that "I sanctify myself," showing He was ever mindful of the matter.
Jesus Christ’s suffering in prophecy
Before passing on to a consideration of our subject in detail, what condition was it that led up to that utterance of Jesus as recorded by John? The Jews did not understand the coming of the Messiah from God’s viewpoint at all, although his word provided them with every evidence concerning that great event. They only had time and thought for their own viewpoint on the matter. Their view was that whoever should be their Messiah would give them freedom from their oppressors and power over the nations of the earth.
Yet all their prophecies and holy writ spoke to them to the contrary. In Isaiah 53 we see from the following verses, which Jesus applied to Himself, how He knew the suffering which was required of Him: "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." (vv.3‑5) And so much more, so clearly stated in that prophecy.
Jesus in all this rightly divided the Word of Truth. Thus He appreciated that Isaiah 53 referred to His walk of humiliation here below at that first coming. Knowing how well Psalm 16:10 applied to Him: "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption"; He spoke of His resurrection. Many and definite are the prophecies concerning our Lord’s first advent. And He knew by His utterances that Isaiah 35 referred to the Millennial Age to come.
To Do His Father’s will
Coming to Earth, Jesus said: "I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me" (John 5:30) and again: "for I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." (John 6:38) And the doing of His Father’s will brought Him, as it brings every true follower of His, into conflict with the world and the religious representatives of the day. Jesus sanctified Himself to His Father from Jordan to Calvary. He completely did His Father’s will; He pushed against the forces of evil in the world and reproved them.
Jesus’ words on His suffering and sanctification
Of His suffering and death, He said: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son..." (John 3:14‑16) As well as those words of Luke 22:15: "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer" showing how real and intense a thing, this suffering was to Jesus. He felt for them, as He feels for us, as He desires more and more that we should so do as He did, sanctify ourselves to His Father’s will. "For their sakes I sanctify myself." And whilst His reference to suffering in Luke 22:15 which has just been quoted refers to His final sacrifice, one understands full well that His whole life was a life of suffering.
It becomes clear as we consider the pattern of Jesus’ life that unless we are sanctified ourselves, we could not suffer as He did, for righteousness’ sake. The world suffers terribly in so many instances, but in sin and ignorance and generally in perplexity or meaningless experiences.
Our Lord’s words whilst showing how fully He was acquainted with the fact that His followers would suffer, show also this need for sanctification. "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matt.5:10) "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?" (Matt.20:22) "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." (John 16:2) "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." (Matt.10:22)
So it can surely be seen in all this, the need for sanctification, the setting of ourselves apart, making ourselves holy, vessels clean and fit for the Lord’s service. However, by acting foolishly Christians can bring persecution upon themselves, which of course is not a sweet savour to our Father and has nothing to do with suffering for righteousness’ sake.
In the world not of it
Thus the issue is clear, and the incumbency is upon every one who is pleased to consider they are members of the little flock to see to it that whilst they are in the world, they are not of it. Therein lies the force of our Lord’s words in John 17:16‑17 "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."
The types then which God prepared and provided for their instruction were lost and wasted upon the Jews. Let them not be wasted now. In Leviticus 8 there is a picture most intense in its illustration concerning both the consecration and sanctification of the church class in God.
Those who took part, Aaron and his sons, the High Priest and the under priests, were drawn from among the Levites, that is, the tribe which God had set apart or sanctified to Himself. They had no part or lot in the Land. They were dependent upon God through the other tribes for sustenance. That is clear from Num.18:20 and Deut.10:9 and other places where "the LORD spake unto Aaron, ‘Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel."; "Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, according as the LORD thy God promised him."
Our Lord is the great anti‑typical High Priest and His true followers are the under Priests. Reverting to the picture in Lev.8, it shows that Aaron and his sons were to abide in the Tabernacle for seven days for their consecration and surely that is a picture of the complete life of sanctification to God. A picture of complete overcoming, abiding under the shadow of the Almighty. It is not a picture of idleness or complacency or being shut away from the world.
Our possessions in His service
Those who are striving to be in this latter category, as under priests, need to see to it that they never boast of earthly possessions. Far better that we realise our dependence on God day in and day out, and year in and year out. And if indeed He sees fit to bless any with earthly possessions, possessions honestly come by, and on which our Father can look with pleasure, it is strictly incumbent on each one that such possessions be first and foremost used in His service, and, in the service of the Lord’s true followers.
We can accept that position as under priests or reject it, but it is one of the first requirements of any who would be sanctified unto the Lord. This is really a most important point and unless we are in earnest regarding the principle involved, irrespective of whether we have possessions or not, we never sanctify ourselves at all, that is we never do our part towards it.
Each child of God desirous of so drawing close to Him, entirely and forever sanctified to Him, will be fully aware of their acceptance by God. He leaves no doubt in the minds of any of His Children. The operation of the holy spirit within will fully testify to the acceptance by God of any individual.
Regarding Jesus the great High Priest, the Word tells us: "the common people heard him gladly." (Mark 12:37) Then to the followers He said: "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt.5:14‑16) Such is the position of those who truly sanctify themselves and are sanctified to God.
Next time–Pt.2 Sanctification in the pictures, patterns, allegories and types in scripture