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Can We Be Perfectly Sanctified in Christ

I have gotten a few comments from readers on the subject of our relationship with Christ while on this earth. There are those who believe that mankind can be “fully sanctified” or have “perfect unity” with the Trinity on this side of the grave. It is my view that we will not achieve that goal until Heaven. 

Further, salvation is an event in the life of the Christian when one accepts Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord (Romans 10:9-10). Sanctification, on the other hand, is a life-long process (sometimes better referred to as “progressive sanctification”) of learning who God is and what He expects of us as we prepare to spend eternity with Him.

Definitions from Webster

  • Sanctify – To set apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use, to free from sin.
  • Perfect – Being entirely without fault or defect.
  • Unity – The quality or state of being made one.

The case for “fully sanctified” or “perfect unity”

If sanctification is a process, the question becomes, is there an endpoint? Can one reach a place where we are “fully sanctified” and in “perfect unity” with God? Again, there are some who believe a Christian can be so close to the Lord, in such intimate alignment with Jesus, that they are in perfect unity with Him and therefore their sanctification becomes complete while on earth. 

Three of the Biblical verses used to promote this theology are…

  • Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 
  • Hebrews 10:10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

These verses are used to suggest that when God (actually the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit) comes to live within us, we will be in perfect unity with Christ. Their argument continues that without that full sanctification, the believer is left impotent, unfulfilled, and unable to experience the full extent of God’s love. Often, but not always, this theology is tied closely to Pentecostal views on the “Second Blessing of the Holy Spirit’” which is an event separate from Salvation. In the extreme there are those who reject the salvation of believers who have not experienced this secondary infusion of the Holy Spirit.

Challenging the verses above as proof-text for this theology, I would offer the following:

Gal. 2:20 is just an acknowledgement that the Trinity, through the Holy Spirit, comes to live in every born-again Christian as our Counselor (John 14:26). It does not speak to an endpoint of perfect unity.

Hebrews 10:10 represents the promise or covenant made by God to man that we will be fully and perfectly aligned with His will. However, that point will come once we cross over from physical death to eternal life, as believers. Just a few verses later (Heb. 10:14, the Bible uses the phrase “being sanctified” as a way of confirming that it is a continuing process throughout our lives on earth.

Finally, 1 Thes. 5:23 refers to the sacrifice of Christ for our sins to be “kept blameless” until the Lord returns to resurrect all believers at the end of the age. The context of this text is not while we are alive today, but more in line with Phil. 1:6, in order to “bring it to completion [on] the day of Jesus Christ”.

The case for “sanctification” as a lifelong process that will never reach either unity or perfection in this life.

In my view, one can never be in “perfect unity” and still have a sin nature. To reject a belief that mankind no longer has a continuing sin nature after salvation is an entirely different subject, briefly, but effectively challenged by simply observing the daily behavior of man, and, Scripturally, by studying Paul’s lament in Rom. 7:7-25. 

One cannot have a sin nature (… Bible verses that challenge Christians to resist sin include – Rom. 3:10, Gal. 5:16-17, Eph. 4:30, 1 Thes. 5:19) AND have “perfect unity” with anyone, much less God, in my view. This is true whether one believes in a single indwelling of the Holy Spirit or an additional “second blessing” by the same Spirit.

The Danger in Believing One is Fully Sanctified 

Salvation and sanctification are amazing gifts from God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit. The danger in assuming one can reach an endpoint in this life include: 

  • The sin of pride can take over one’s life, looking down on those who are not “fully sanctified”. 
  • The belief that one no longer commits sin, regardless of their thoughts or actions, and,
  • A danger that our relationship with God is so close that theology rooted in the Bible can be ignored over ones “feelings” about who God is and what He expects of us. 

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Jeff Hilles | BCWorldveiw.org, a 501(c)3 Nonprofit

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