Paul defines sanctification as a ‘good work’. We can think about it in three ways: commencement, continuation and completion. Today, we will focus on how sanctification begins.
In what ways is sanctification a good work at its beginning? Many things happen to a person when he believes and usually he only appreciates most of them when he looks back from a position of understanding, when he has matured in biblical knowledge and experience.
One way in which the work was good at its beginning is that it was life-giving. The individual was dead in trespasses and sins, but the Holy Spirit planted new life in his heart and he became alive. He breathed a new atmosphere, lived in a new world, and discovered he was a new man. The law of God is now written on his heart and mind, and he desires to obey the Lord out of love.
A second way in which it was good at its beginning is that it was liberating. Up till then, he had existed under the power of sin, controlled by the devil. He was in chains, a prisoner and a slave. But the Holy Spirit, in setting him apart to God, liberated him from spiritual slavery.
Believers often find this to be a difficult concept to grasp because they judge their state by their experience and then search the Bible for similar experiences. It is better, and a sign of spiritual maturity, to read their experience in light of the Bible rather than read the Bible in light of their experience. Paul says that, as far as believers are concerned, ‘sin shall not have dominion over you’ (Rom 6:14). This does not mean that sin will not bother them. But it is no longer their master.