Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sanctified from what? Sanctified for what?

I have been thinking about sanctification lately. As is my custom, I've been asking "grammatical" questions of our talk of sanctification.

First of all, if sanctification in its most basic sense means "to set apart" or "to separate," then sanctification must necessarily be "from" something. To be sanctified is to be set apart "from" x, y or z.

But once the preposition "from" is introduced, the question of what we are sanctified "for" must also be addressed. We are not only set apart "from" x, y or z, but also set apart "for" a, b or c.

What is of interest to me is how our understanding of that from which we are sanctified necessarily conditions our understanding of that for which we are sanctified.

For instance, if we are sanctified from ordinariness, then we are sanctified for usefulness. I am drawing here on the metaphor of ancient worship, whereby certain objects were "set apart" for use in sacred spaces. Something which is ordinary (e.g., goat), is set apart for a special use in worship (e.g., sacrifice). In a similar way, Christians are sanctified by the Spirit from their ordinariness to be used by God, in his service and for his glory. The risk in this language is to treat sanctification as some kind of priveledged status or sanctified persons as utterly cut off from the secular world. But the basic idea is a right one that has a place in an acccount of sanctification.

But we can and should go further. If we are sanctified from sin, then we are sanctified for righteousness. Of course, here we run into the issue of how to define sin. We can speak of both sin as nature and sin as acts. If we think of sin in terms of our sinful nature, then our sanctification means our being set apart for a righteous nature. Whether this means we are given a brand new nature or that the sinful aspects of our good nature are cleansed will depend on how we understand the effects of sin on our created human nature. If we think of sin in terms of our sinful acts, then our sanctification means our being set apart for righteous acts. Whether this means obedience to law or having right intentions will depend on how we understand what makes an act sinful. Of course, talk of nature and actions cannot be wholly separated. But it can be seen from the above how the understanding of that from which we are sanctified necessarily conditions our understanding of that for which we are sanctified.

Any thoughts?
Do you agree that the "from" of sanctification conditions the "for" of sanctification?
What are some other things from which we are sanctified?
What are some other things for which we are sanctified?
Is there a tendency to separate the "from" and the "for" of sanctification?
Why is this?
What happens when we do this?
Can you think of any "froms" in our talk of sanctification that need to be filled out by a "for"? Any "fors" that need to be connected with a "from"?
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1 comment:

Scott Hendricks said...

While several contrasts could be drawn, the main one that comes to mind is that we are "made partakers of the divine nature." We have been rescued from the dominion of darkness, and transferred to the kingdom of God's beloved Son Jesus. God is now for us, even though we used to be his enemies. If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come. The contrast I'm trying to draw is between belonging to ourselves and our own selfish desires, or belonging to the devil, and belonging to God. We have been made holy to, in, and for God. As creatures, this is very important in fulfilling God's purpose for us, since we were made in God's image. So holiness here is a matter of belonging to, being in, on the side of, and being like the loving, unselfish, triune God.