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This term is from qadesh, ἁγιάζω “to set apart to sacred purposes, consecrate.” It has various applications in the Old Testament as to days: God sanctified the seventh day on which He rested; it was afterward to be kept holy by the Israelites (Gen. 2:33And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Genesis 2:3); Ex. 20:88Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8)). As to persons, the whole of the Israelites were sanctified to God (Ex. 19:10,1410And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, (Exodus 19:10)
14And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes. (Exodus 19:14)
). The firstborn were further sanctified to God, to be redeemed by the Levites (Ex. 13:22Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine. (Exodus 13:2)). The priests and Levites were sanctified to the service of God. As to the place and vessels of divine service, the tabernacle and temple, and all the vessels used therein, were devoted to sacred use in the worship of God (Ex. 30:2929And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy. (Exodus 30:29)). We have thus what was suitable in view of God: there was also what was obligatory on the part of those that approached.
In the New Testament sanctification has many applications.
1. The thought is twice expressed by the Lord Jesus as to Himself. He spoke of Himself as one “whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world” (John 10:3636Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? (John 10:36)). He was set apart by the Father for the accomplishment of the purposes of His will. In His prayer for His disciples in John 17 the Lord also says, “For their sakes I sanctify myself.” He set Himself apart in heaven from rights that belonged to Him as man, that His own might be sanctified by the truth. He was sanctified on earth for the Father, He has sanctified Himself in heaven for the saints.
2. Believers are said to be “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Rom. 15:1616That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. (Romans 15:16); 1 Cor. 1:22Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2); Heb. 10:1010By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)). They are thus saints, “sanctified ones” before God, apart from the life of flesh, a class of persons set apart to God for priestly service (Acts 20:3232And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. (Acts 20:32); Acts 26:1818To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:18); Rom. 1:77To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7); etc.). In this there is no progress; in effect it implies the most intimate identification with Christ. Such are His brethren. “He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one” (Heb. 2:1111For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, (Hebrews 2:11)): the sanctified are “perfected forever” by one offering (Heb. 10:1414For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)).
4. Sanctification appears to refer to change of association, for the possibility is contemplated of some who had been sanctified treading under foot the Son of God, and treating the blood of the covenant as an unholy or common thing, thus becoming apostates from Christ, and departing from the association in which they had been sanctified (Heb. 10:2929Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:29)).
5. In the existing mixed and corrupt state of Christendom (viewed as a great house, in which are vessels, some to honor and some to dishonor), the obligation to sanctification from evil within the sphere of profession has become obligatory in order that a man may be “a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim. 2:2121If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. (2 Timothy 2:21)).
6. An unbelieving husband or wife is said to be sanctified in the believing partner, and their children are holy (ἅγιος). They can thus dwell together in peace, instead of having to separate from an unbelieving partner, as in Old Testament times (1 Cor. 7:1414For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. (1 Corinthians 7:14); compare Ezra 9-10).
7. Food is “sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” Hence “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4-54For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:4‑5)). This is altogether opposed to restrictions prescribed by the law, or which man may impose on the use of what God in His goodness has created for man’s use.