“To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s.”
A young lawyer, an infidel, boasted that he was going west to locate someplace where there were no churches, no Sunday schools, and no Bibles. Before the year was over, he wrote to a classmate, a young minister, begging him to come out and start a church.
“Be sure to bring plenty of Bibles,” he urged. “I have become convinced that a place without Christians or Sunday schools and churches and Bibles is too much like hell for any living man to stay in.”
He was right. What a hell Corinth would have become without the church of God, which is at Corinth. Imperfect church, yes, but absolutely necessary for the survival of all. Supported in spite of its imperfections and worked for its perfection through your own holiness in life.
To demonstrate what he meant by the word, “church”, in 1 Corinthians 1:2, Paul adds “To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus called to be saints. With all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s,”
In addressing this letter to the church of God, which is at Corinth, Paul uses the Greek dative “tē ekklesia,” – “to the church.”
In the second part of the verse he uses the same dative case, but this time with a plural participle used as an adjectival noun: “stous agiasménous” – “To the sanctified ones.”
The church means people who are sanctified, not a building set apart for worship, necessary though that may be.
Now, what does “sanctified” mean? It comes from the verb “hagiazó,” – “to sanctify.” The participle noun “ágios,” means “holy” or “saint”. The basic meaning of the word is to separate. When we say,“Holy is the name of God,” we mean that it is a name that stands apart from all others. A place is holy when it is set apart for a particular sacred use. A city such as Jerusalem is holy when it is set apart for the worship of God. A person is holy when he is separated from the spirit of worldliness and is set apart for God.
Now let us consider two Greek words that can be translated “holy” or “sacred”.
- “Ágios,” which is used here in 1 Corinthians 1:2 and
- “Hieros,” as in 2 Timothy 3:15 and 1 Corinthians 9:13. “Hieros,” is the adjective from which we get “hiereus,” – “priest.” The English word “hierarchy” is also derived from it, meaning leadership. The set apart ones are also the mighty ones.
The New Testament would call a thing holy “Hieros,” which was in itself spotlessly clean like the holy Scriptures.
But “Ágios,”, which we render “holy,” or “saint,” or “set apart,” is something or somebody that is now offered to God regardless of what may have been its own nature or past history.
Such were the Corinthian Christians. In themselves, they were anything but saintly. Their background was evil and sinful. But they were sanctified by Christ when they received Him into their hearts. Their sanctification was a snatching away from sin, a purification, and a setting apart unto God. It had nothing to do with their merit. You must remember that.
“Agiasménous,” That’s the word we find in 1 Corinthians 1:2, is a participle. “Agiasménous,” this Greek word, “to be sanctified or saints,” is a participle in the perfect tense, which tells us that a certain act has been completed in the past. The results of which are continuing.
Furthermore, it is in the passive voice indicating that this act of sanctification is due to an outside agent. We cannot sanctify ourselves and neither could the Corinthians. They were sanctified at a certain time in their lives by the Lord Jesus Christ and set apart to Him.
Paul applies the concept of sanctification passively like justification indicating that God is its author. “Sanctification” Kettel’s Dictionary of the New Testament is not moral action on the part of man, but a divinely effected state. In such that is to say thieves, coveters, drunkards, revilers, extortioners, were some of you. “But ye”, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:10-11, “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified.” There’s the word again, “ēgiasthēte,” the same word. “But ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
Paul wanted these Corinthian believers to realize their position in Christ despite their many imperfections. They were purified from sin and hence lived no more in sin, but unto Christ. This did not mean inherent “once for all” sinlessness. There is constant growth to be obtained in the Christian life. Our perfection is in Christ, but never in ourselves. That is why the same apostle who called the Corinthian Christians “sanctified” called upon the same Christians to perfect this holiness.
In 2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul wrote, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
“Thus, God does His work through Christ to cleanse, by the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.“ Hebrews 10:10.
He sets us apart. We live no more in the sphere of the devil and the world. We are in the sphere of Christ, sanctified in Christ Jesus. Paul does not say “sanctified by Christ,” but “sanctified in Christ.” This you must be very careful to understand. “In Christ” is not emphasizing the agent of our sanctification so much as our position as believers. His whole epistle stresses the realization of our responsibility being in Christ, imperfect though the Christians were, they were still in Christ. Just as those in the physical world are possessed to various degrees of maturity, so are those in Christ.
Now observe again in the second verse of 2 Corinthians 1 that Christ comes before Jesus. Correctly translated “in not Jesus Christ,” but “in Christ Jesus.” Why? Christ refers to the divine nature of our Lord. And it refers to the redemptive element of the Lord. Before His historic manifestation as the human Jesus. As man the Lord cannot give you a new nature and set you apart from the Lord while you are still in the world. As the expected anointed one, Christ, the eternal Word who became flesh, He surely can change you. Redeem you. Convert you. Sanctify you.
But there is also a work of sanctification for the believer to do. He too is to act redemptively to others in introducing them to the Lord Jesus Christ. The believing spouse is urged by Paul to dwell with the unbelieving spouse and children in the hope and observe the word Paul is using in 1 Corinthians 7:14, “In the hope of sanctifying them.”
Here, to sanctify means “to bring them to the place where the believer is in Christ.” The Bible speaks of the beauty of hope in this. Sometimes however, what is called holiness by man is not really beautiful The Pharisees in our Lord’s day thought themselves holy. They were very exact in keeping the law, but their lives were anything but beautiful. They offered long prayers and spent much time in the synagogue. But they were mean, selfish, backbiting, critical, dishonest in their lives.
True saintliness is beautiful.