Sanctification or Setting Apart to God: 1

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1 Peter 1
There is something very sweet in the certainty with which the apostle Peter presents to us the truths contained in this Epistle. There is neither hesitation nor uncertainty. The word speaks of things received, of a certainty for those to whom it is addressed. Their faith was tried, but the thing was certain. The apostle speaks here of an inexhaustible fund of truths which belonged to him; and it is not as one groping in the dark that he speaks of it. These things are too important to be left in doubt; they deserve all our attention: our hearts need it. It is not the unregenerate heart that loves the Lord Jesus. One may be brave and all that, and think that if one's conduct is good, the result in heaven will be accordingly; but therein is no love for the Lord Jesus. And this is the badge of the Christian.
The apostle says in the eighth verse, “Whom (Christ) not having seen, ye love; on whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Now, there is no such thing as that without regeneration, which is a new life that has interests, and affections-quite a new world; and without this there is no Christian, because there is not Christ.
We will now see the two principles laid down in this chapter, and in the work here attributed to the Holy Spirit.
God finds the soul in a certain position, in certain relations, and removes it to place it in quite a new state; and this separation is according to the power of the resurrection of Christ.
The apostle speaks to the Jews of the dispersion (that is, to those of whom it is spoken in John vii. 35, those dispersed among the Greeks) in these words. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” &c. He addressed himself to the dispersion, to Jews now converted to Christianity, to those who are elect according to the foreknowledge of God, through the sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, grace and peace, &c. He says this because he is speaking of another election than that of the Jewish people. The Jewish nation was elected after another manner. Here he writes, as we said, to Jews who had believed on the Lord Jesus; so that sanctification in them was not sanctification of a nation by outward means, but by the Holy Spirit, Who separated the souls from among the Jews to belong to God, and to form a part of the present dispensation of grace. It was not with them as with the ancient Jews, who were separated from the Egyptians by the Red Sea. They were separated by the sanctification effected by the Holy Spirit. Observe particularly this word “sanctification “: the first idea is separation for God, not only from evil, but a setting apart for God Who sanctifies.
This is what God does in those whom He calls, finding souls lying in evil. John says on this subject, in his First Epistle, (chap. v. 1.9), “We are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness;” and it is very precious to have things clearly stated. “We are of God": it is not merely that we should conduct ourselves aright; doubtless, that is well. But the great difference is, that we are of God, and that “the whole world lieth in wickedness.” Does this mean that we are always as we should be? No: but we are of God. One is not all one would desire to be: that will come to pass only in heaven, for only there will God make us conformed to the image of His beloved Son.
But this is what God has done: He has separated us to Himself, as a man who hews stones out of a quarry. The stone is hewn out of the quarry and set apart, destined to be cut and fashioned, in order to be placed in the appointed building. And God detaches a soul from the quarry of this world to separate it for Himself. I say not but there is much to do; for a rough stone cut out of a quarry requires often considerable labor before it is placed in the building for which it is destined. Even so God separates, prepares, and fashions this soul to introduce it into His spiritual building. There are many useless matters to take off; but God acts every day in His grace. Howsoever, this soul is sanctified, set apart for God, from the moment it is taken out of the quarry of this world.
The apostle speaks here of sanctification before he mentions obedience and the blood of Jesus Christ. We are sanctified to these two things (ver. 2): “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” He takes us out of the quarry of this world to place us under the efficacy of the blood of Christ. The stone is entirely His and adapted to His purpose. Although He has yet to work upon it, the question is not of what He does each day, but generally of the appropriation to the end God has proposed to Himself. It is the Holy Spirit Who acts in the soul and appropriates it to Himself. It may previously have been very honorable, or very wicked in its conduct; this makes no difference: only it will be more grateful, if it feels itself more evil. But as to the former condition, that matters little: one belongs now to God.
To what does God destine this soul? To obedience. Up to this period what has it done but its own will? It has followed its own way, no matter what appearances may have been, more or less good, more or less bad; it is all one. The character may have been weak, or more or less fiery, until, as with Paul, the Lord arrested him on his road. Now behold this soul, hitherto filled with its own will, set apart for obedience.
Paul had been very learned in what concerned the religion of his fathers; he had sat at the feet of Gamaliel. He honestly believed that he had done the will of God, but there was nothing of the kind. He followed his own will, according to the direction impressed by the tradition of the fathers. Never, till the moment that Jesus stopped him on the way to Damascus, had he said, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”
Thus, whatever may have been the conduct of a soul before this setting apart, nothing of all before has made it do the will of God. But the aim of the life of a soul sanctified, set apart, is to do the will of God. It may fail.; but that is its aim. Jesus said, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.” He had no need of sanctification, in one sense, because He was holy; but the aim of His whole life was obedience. Here am I “to do thy will, O God.” He took the form of a servant, made in the likeness of men, and He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He existed only for God; the principle of His life was obedience. He was come to do nothing but His Father's will.
As soon as a soul is sanctified, it is sanctified unto obedience; and this is manifested by the spirit of dependence which has done with its own will. It says, “What must I do?” It may fail through weakness in many respects; but that is its aim.
As to the second thing, we are sanctified to enjoy the sprinkling of blood. The soul, thus placed under the influence of the blood of Christ, is thereby completely cleansed. The blood of the Son of God cleanses us from all sin; it is by the efficacy of His blood that we are separated from this world.
The question here is not of bulls and goats which could not sanctify the conscience of him who did the service, but of the blood of Christ, Who by the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God. It is the blood which purifies the conscience. (To be continued, D.V.)