The Blessing of the Spirit’s Sanctification

Summertime generates dieting ads, body-building programs, and an intense focus on our physical bodies. Most of my friends have a love-hate relationship with their bodies, and, as you can see, I also view my body as something separate from the rest of me (or else I wouldn’t talk about having a relationship with it). “Body dissatisfaction and overvaluing body image in defining one’s self-worth are risk factors making some people more susceptible to developing an eating disorder than others. People experiencing body dissatisfaction can become fixated on trying to change their body shape, which can lead to unhealthy practices with food, exercise, or supplements. Over time, these practices do not achieve desired results and often create a trap leading to intense feelings of disappointment, shame, guilt and, ultimately, increase the risk of developing an eating disorder.” (1) I think we all agree that there are better ways to spend our summer than being obsessed with worrying about our bodies. Of course, we maintain them with good diets, exercise, medication, or surgery as needed. And here I am preaching to myself. Scripture declares, “The God of peace himself [will] sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) Spirit, soul, and body represent the entirety of human nature. It seems unlikely that this is a tripartite division of human nature into body, soul, and spirit, where ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’ would refer to different parts; more likely Paul is simply using several terms for emphasis.” (2) God made us in his image (Genesis 1:27), and he is one being, without any separation of “parts,” so we are each one being, created by the Lord to be more than a person—to be his holy temple. We are justified, washed, sanctified, joined to God, to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. But do we remember, rejoice, and renew our blessing of the indwelling Spirit’s power for our ongoing spiritual maturity?

God’s Temple

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?…God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God…he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him…Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:11, 17, 19-20) If you read the entire passage from 1 Corinthians 6, you will notice that the central idea here is to “not be dominated by anything” physical, especially food or sexuality (1 Cor. 6:12) Paul urges his readers to have a correct, biblical view of being “joined” to God, being “one spirit” with him. “The Greek word here for union means literally ‘glued,’ signifying the closest of ties, which results in complete union, or fusion…It brings into sharp contrast the Christian concept of holiness with that of pagan Corinth, where in the temple of Aphrodite prostitutes were priestesses.” (3) “Sanctification, says the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q.35), is ‘the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness’…In regeneration, God implants desires that were not there before: desire for God, for holiness, and for the hallowing and glorifying of God’s name in this world; desire to pray, worship, love, serve, honor, and please God; desire to show love and bring benefit to others. In sanctification, the Holy Spirit’ works in you to will and to act’ according to God’s purpose.” (4) What a blessing to see God’s glory now through the Spirit, and to be transformed continually rather than remain as we are.

From Glory to Glory

In 2 Corinthians 3:16 and 18, Paul writes, “When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” “When any person is converted to God, then the veil of ignorance is taken away. The condition of those who enjoy and believe the gospel is happy, for the heart is set at liberty to run the ways of God’s commandments. They have light, and with open face they behold the glory of the Lord. Christians should prize and improve these privileges. We should not rest contented without knowing the transforming power of the gospel, by the working of the Spirit, bringing us to seek to be like the temper and tendency of the glorious gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and into union with Him. We behold Christ, as in the glass of his word; and as the reflection from a mirror causes the face to shine, the faces of Christians shine also.” (5) “Now the efficient cause of all this, ‘is the Spirit of the Lord.’ It is he that takes off the veil from the heart, that we may, with open face unveiled, behold all this glory; it is he that regenerates, stamps the image of Christ, and conforms the soul to his likeness; it is he that gradually carries on the work of grace upon the soul, increases faith, enlarges the views of the glory of Christ, and the spiritual light, knowledge, and experience of the saints, and will perfect all that which concerns them; will quicken their mortal bodies, and make them like to Christ; and will for ever rest as a spirit of glory on them, both in soul and body.” (6) Having been set apart, washed, and sanctified, we are one with God, and our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who ensures our blessed, ongoing spiritual maturity.

Personal Deliverance and Victories Through the Spirit

The other morning while I was doing my stretches, I remembered two un-Christian comments I made to staff members at physical therapy several years ago. I could see the people, hear their instructions, and painfully recall precisely what I said. I know I asked God for forgiveness after the two incidents and also asked for theirs. But I guess my confession and repentance weren’t complete because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I was grateful for holy conviction, so I confessed and repented sincerely of a cold, mean, selfish heart with people trying to help me. Then I thought about including this account here as an illustration for sanctification. But I forgot, until this morning, when I’m sure the Spirit moved me to share with you, having been blessed by his help. “Moral renovation, whereby we are increasingly changed from what we once were, flows from the agency of the indwelling Holy Spirit…Regeneration is birth; sanctification is growth. Paul’s use of glory in 2 Corinthians 3:18 shows that for him sanctification of character is glorification begun. Then the physical transformation that gives us a body like Christ’s, one that will match our totally transformed character and be a perfect means of expressing it, will be glorification completed (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Cor. 15:49-53)…God’s method of sanctification is neither activism (self-reliant activity) nor apathy (God-reliant passivity), but God-dependent effort…To clarify the relationship between the law and sin, Paul analyzes in a personal and dramatic way the sense of impotence for complete law-keeping, and the enslavement to behavior one dislikes, that the Spirit-flesh tension produces (Rom. 7:14-25). This conflict and frustration will be with Christians as long as they are in the body. Yet by watching and praying against temptation, and cultivating opposite virtues, they may through the Spirit’s help “mortify” (i.e., drain the life out of, weaken as a means of killing) particular bad habits, and in that sense more and more die unto sin. They will experience many particular deliverances and victories in their unending battle with sin, while never being exposed to temptations that are impossible to resist.” (7) I am grateful for the irresistible, convicting work of the Holy Spirit, considering how much and frequently I am tempted to resist God’s commands. Perhaps you, like me, have moments when you are doubtful about being God’s temple where his Spirit wants to dwell and stay. Maybe you, like me, feel unworthy, unsuitable, and unqualified for his presence. My body is not pretty, not particularly healthy, and certainly not holy. But Christ is beautiful, worthy, suitable, and the only qualified Savior who gives us our Comforter. How can we deny Christ what he desires? Instead, let’s rejoice in the Spirit’s work and, as a result, give him influence and power to have the blessing of Christ-likeness. “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:14)

Related Scripture: Exodus 34:29-35; Ezekiel 39:29; Psalms 4:3; Acts 20:32; Romans 8:12-16; 15:15-16; Galatians 2:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; 2:19-21; 1 Peter 1:1-2, 18-21.


  2. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  3. Zondervan Bible Commentary, F. F. Bruce General Editor, 1 Corinthians 6:12-13, One-Volume Illustrated Digital Edition.
  4. Packer, J. I., Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (pp. 169-170),  Tyndale House Publishers, Kindle Edition.
  5. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, 2 Corinthians 3:18, 
  6. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, 2 Corinthians 3:18, 
  7. Packer, J. I.. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (pp. 169-170). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

July 14, 2022

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