#4 THE SANCTIFYING WORK OF THE SPIRIT

As we have seen previously, Peter refers to Christians as ‘chosen’. He then explains the ‘where from’ and the ‘how’ and the ‘what for’ of this ‘chosen’.

Where did this choice come from? It is ‘according to the foreknowledge of God the Father’.

How did this choice become effective? It was implemented ‘through the sanctifying work of the Spirit’.

What is the purpose/result of this choice? It is ‘for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.

Notice that all three members of the Trinity are involved in this ‘chosen’ – God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Christ, the Son.

It is clear from Peter’s statement that neither God’s election/choice nor Christ’s saving death are effective for an individual human being unless the Holy Spirit of God proactively does something to that individual: Individuals are ‘chosen ... through the sanctifying work of the Spirit’ [1Peter 1:2].

Before we look at what this means, let us consider a few other scripture texts:

Paul says in 2Thessalonians 2:13: ‘... God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.’

Paul also said ‘... you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God’ [1Corinthians 6:11].

In both of these Paul understands a sanctifying work of the Spirit that is an initial and essential part of salvation.

Jesus also stressed the necessity of an initial work of the Spirit, without which we cannot be saved:

He said: ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again ... no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit ... you must be born again’ and then referred to those who are ‘born of the Spirit’ [John 3:3,5-8].

So essential is this that Jesus said that unless it happens we ‘cannot see the kingdom of God’ and ‘cannot enter the kingdom of God’. That is, it is simply not possible for us to understand the truth about Christ and his kingdom, or to enter that kingdom, unless the Holy Spirit of God does this initial work in us.

Clearly, a work of the Spirit upon us is necessary to make the Father’s choice of us and the Son’s death for us effective.

How does a choice made by God before time began, actually become real for us in time?

How does the death of Christ in Jerusalem AD33 become effective for us in the 21st century wherever we happen to live?

Neither of these is automatically applied to anyone. Both become real for us personally through ‘the sanctifying work of the Spirit’.

To sanctify, to make holy, means to set apart for God, and for God’s unique use and purpose. Thus, the Holy Spirit, acting in unison with the eternal choice of God and the time/space death of Christ, breaks into the spiritual ignorance, blindness and deadness of our lives. He brings us out of death and into life with God. He brings us out of our blind ignorance into the truth of God. He brings us out of our identification with ‘the world’ and into the kingdom of God.

By his regenerating work the Holy Spirit thus sets us apart for God: once we were ‘ordinary’ – just another sinful human being separated forever from God and hostile to God, but now we are the children of God. Once we belonged to God’s enemy: now we belong to God.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2017