The purification and sanctification of the church
When we become Christians, we receive the Holy Spirit as a gift and then the process of sanctification starts. We are positionally set apart by God for holy purposes (Romans 1:1), but our natures still need to change. We need to be purified. To belong to God means you belong to the Holy One, the One without any moral corruption, without fault or sin or unrighteousness. We, on the other hand, are not holy in ourselves, we are defiled in our thinking, and we have corrupted ourselves. We need constant cleansing and purification to have communion with God and maintain fellowship with God.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3 ESV)
Everyone who is born again of the Spirit has a desire to be holy as God is holy. However, we see unholiness and sin in ourselves daily. If a person does not desire holiness in his or her life and has no desire to be clean and pure, we can ask: has such a person really received the Holy Spirit as a gift? How can a person receive the Holy Spirit and not desire holiness? It does not make sense. How can a person who has received a stomach not want to eat? How can a person who has been given eyes not want to see beauty? How can a person who has received a talent to play the piano, not develop it? God created us for Himself and if we want to spend time with God, we must desire to have His mind, His desires, dreams, purposes, righteousness and His holiness. Therefore, the Bible tells us, everyone who hopes for glory in heaven, purifies himself as God is pure. The church needs to be purified, it needs more holiness, and it needs sanctification. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 tells us, “This is the will of God, your sanctification, that you should abstain from sexual immorality.” Hebrews 12:14 tells us that without holiness no one will see God. God called us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16).
So, what does it mean to be pure and holy? Biblically, it means to be separated from the world. It doesn’t mean one lives separated from the world in the sense that you live alone on a mountain or an island or in the woods for the rest of your life. Rather, it means that you live and think and behave differently from unbelievers and people that belong to the world. Jesus prayed for the church, asking not that God would take them out of the world, but rather that He would keep them from the evil one and that He would sanctify them through His word (John 17:15-19). God wants us to live in the world and make a difference in the world without being contaminated by the world. We are like doctors living in a hospital. There are many sick people in a hospital, and they have many kinds of diseases. Some diseases are more serious than others; some are in the intensive wards. Some are on the brink of dying and the doctors and nurses are there to treat and diagnose and heal the patients with whatever knowledge and medicine and equipment they have. In the same way, Christians are in this sick world of sin. The people of the world are dying; they have spiritual diseases, diseases such as pride, anxiety, greed, lust, selfishness, vanity, hatred, jealousy, drunkenness, addiction to substances, being lovers of self, etc. Some are on the brink of destroying themselves. And we, the Christians, have received the cure for our spiritual diseases; they are the blood of Jesus and the word of God. We have the medicine; we have different treatments for these diseases. We find them all in the word of God and in the Person of Christ. The art of life is to maintain our spiritual health within this sin-sick world!
We know that it is only the blood of Jesus Christ that can cleanse us from our sicknesses. Real Christians have experienced this cleansing, this healing, when they confessed their sins and believed in the power of the blood of Christ. They have experienced the healing power of the gospel and it is incumbent on those who have experienced this to prescribe this medicine to the spiritually sick and to apply the word of God to the cancer of sin.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7-9 ESV)
The purpose of the gospel and of evangelism is to be thoroughly cleansed of our sins, and thoroughly purified from our unrighteousness so that we can have communion with God from day to day. Without sanctification taking place and the blood of Christ being applied to our hearts through the Holy Spirit, we lose our communion with God. We evangelize and make God known so people can experience the satisfaction of sanctification, of being set apart for God, of becoming purified, and more and more like Christ. Jesus said to His disciples, “you are clean through the word that I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). When we meditate on the word of God day and night, when we read, and believe, and ponder, and obey the word of God, we are washed, and purified. This then, is why we evangelize, so that others can become pure and experience God, and see God.
Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God (Matthew 5:8)
At the cross of Golgotha, the blood of Christ was shed for us, not only to justify us (Romans 5:8), and to forgive us our sin; not only to reconcile us to God, but to cleanse (1 John 1:7) and purify and sanctify us (Hebrews 13:18): so that we maintain fellowship with Christ! Let us draw near to God in humility and He will draw near to us (James 4:5-8).