The Christian life is defined in many ways. How you would explain the difference between a Christian life and non-Christian life? Both sorts of people have jobs. Both have the capacity to do good in their communities. Both sorts go on vacations, pursue education, seek after job promotions, and the like. There are many areas of commonality between believers and non-believers. But one area that is wholly unique to believers that truly sets them apart from non-believers is the indwelling presence of God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes and dwells within believers in a unique way. He enters into our world and transforms the spiritual tombs of our heart into temples of the Most High God (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19).
The Spirit of God Himself, though invisible, demonstrates Himself in visible ways; namely, our lives. He transforms the Christians from the inside out. He rewires our minds (cf. Colossians 1:9-10). He rewires our hearts (cf. 1 Peter 1:8). He gives us a new love for things we once despised. He teaches us to despise wicked things which we used to love cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). In short, He enters into our lives like a whirlwind and nothing can remain where it was found. Perhaps this is why the Day of Pentecost witnessed the Holy Spirit blowing through like a violent wind, and even Christ Himself likened the Spirit to the wind (cf. John 3:8; Acts 2:1-4).
In 1 Peter 1:2, we learn about this sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. There we read of “the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling in his blood.” (1 Peter 1:2 ESV) The Apostle Paul also highlights this cleansing or consecrating role of the Spirit in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 saying, “God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” (ESV) The Spirit Himself comes to wash us from the inside out. He is the One who does it. But how does He accomplish this goal?
Sanctification, or the process by which a believer is made holy, has two aspects to it. The first aspect of sanctification is its definitive nature. Sanctification is a definitive act of God established in the believer’s past whereby the profane is made holy. The word “profane” comes to us from the Latin profanus meaning literally “that which is outside the temple”. Theologian John Murray helps elucidate this aspect well. Murray wrote, “the language of sanctification is used with reference to some decisive action that occurs at the inception of the Christian life . . . There is a once-for-all definitive and irreversible breach with the realm in which sin reigns in and unto death.” The defense of this definitive aspect can be found all throughout Scripture, but one helpful place for our study is to look at Paul’s explanation of the Christian life from Romans 6.
Of all the chapters of the Bible, no chapter is as clear on the nature of sanctification as Romans 6. There we see the great parallel between ourselves and Christ. Paul begins by anticipating objections to his exposition on our salvation by faith alone in Christ. He anticipates the same sorts of arguments that came against the Reformers in the Protestant Reformation. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” (Romans 6:1 ESV) Believers can never be indifferent towards sin. Why? Paul answers, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2 ESV)
Our old life before Christ doesn’t exist anymore. Now, this is very hard for us to believe because we can may remember life before Christ. We may have photographic evidence of our shameful past. But none of that gets the last word; Christ declaration of Absolution does. We have “been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13 ESV)
When we believed in Christ, when we were baptized in Him by the Spirit, everything we used to be died. Our former marriage to Satan, sin, and death was undone and now we have been brought to our faithful bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 7:1-3; cf. Ephesians 5:22-27). Paul writes, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” (Romans 7:4 ESV)
The Holy Spirit comes then to lead us and make us fruitful. We who were once barren, deserts have been remade as gardens like that of Eden. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” (Romans 6:22 ESV) God is transforming us every day so that we look more and more like Christ.