It’s one of those words that could best be described as “Christianese.” A word that has meaning in the church, and very little outside of it. It’s a word you often see in scripture, and one that you might hear thrown around in Sunday messages.
But what does it mean? Essentially, it has two meanings. It means “to be made separate for God’s purposes.” And it means “to be made pure.”
We see both of these ideas here. Jesus prayed for his disciples,
They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (16-19)
Let’s take a look at verse 19 first. Jesus said that he sanctified himself that his disciples (and us, for that matter) would be sanctified too. In other words, he set himself apart for the Father’s purposes by coming to this earth and going to the cross. By doing so, he has sanctified us, both in the sense of purifying us of our sins, and also of making it possible for us to become truly his.
Now we are no longer truly of this world, though we are in it. Our way of thinking, the way that we live is completely different from the way the world thinks and lives. That’s why they can no longer understand us, and some even hate us.
But each day, we are being sanctified. Through God’s word, he shows us what is sinful in his sight, and he causes us to hate such things. And when we sin, his Word causes us to mourn over our sins and repent. In that way, he is constantly purifying us. But through his Word, he also shows us day by day what he wants of us. He shows us how we are to live our lives and fulfill the purposes of his kingdom. And as we read and live these things, we become set apart for his purposes each day.
So in one sense we have been sanctified, having our sins cleansed because of the blood Jesus shed on the cross. And in another, we are constantly being sanctified day by day.
And since Jesus prays for this in our lives, let it be our prayer too.
Lord Jesus, please sanctify me through and through each day. Make me more like you, hating sin, and seeking to join the Father in his work every day. Lord, where I fall, please forgive me and pick me up. Purify me, and make me yours each day. In Jesus name, amen.