It was the intent of God that the Hebrews, redeemed and delivered from Egypt, and brought to the inheritance promised Abraham, would live as a sanctified example for other nations. The Hebrew word qadash (Strong’s #6942) translated as sanctified means to be consecrated, dedicated, holy and pure. Moses and Joshua, as types of Christ, gave repeated warnings that the ways of heathens would be a snare if Israel failed to remain separate. Yet these warnings were ignored. In the four centuries after Joshua’s death covered in the book of Judges, there was recurring neglect of God’s decrees and worship of false gods that resulted in punishment. God raised thirteen Spirit-filled persons who, in times of national emergencies, led people to repentance as judges and brought renewed peace and divine favor again to the land. Then Israel chose to be ruled by a king like other nations instead of remaining a theocracy ruled by God. In time, Israel fell into bondage under foreign nations as people shunned the advice of prophets sent by God to warn of the consequences for not living in obedience to His ways.
The history of Israel as redeemed people has been given us as an example from which to learn, lest we repeat their failings and fall from our secure position in Christ (1 Corinthians 10:11,12). False teachings called “doctrines of devils” by Paul started entering the church in the first century. Jude (v.4) describes that often called ‘cheap grace’ or ‘eternal security’ being taught by “ungodly men” who had entered the Church without notice to transfer the OT meaning of grace (Hebrew chen) as unmerited favor into NT teaching about grace as described in Ephesians 2:8. This is dealt with in detail in a lesson on Grace on the website. In brief, grace in the NT is translated from Greek (charis) to mean God’s divine influence on the heart that is reflected in life. No mention whatever is made in Strong’s Concordance #5485 regarding unmerited favor as the meaning for grace in the NT. Yet this unbiblical teaching is epidemic today. Jude says ungodly men taught grace as a covering for sin implying no consequences, a heresy that continues in teaching known as ‘eternal security.’
The idea ‘Jesus did it all at Calvary’ so further sanctification isn’t needed once a person has been saved is a plague infesting the Church. Teachings of Jesus and the apostles tell a completely different story. Salvation but opens the door for a relationship with Christ through the indwelling of His Spirit so a process of sanctification can proceed. And an essential element in that process is understanding that we’re called to not only believe in Christ but to suffer as well as live sacrificial lives for His sake.
“For to you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Philippians 1:29
In answer to those who preach prosperity, Jesus warns that it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24). Yet many televangelists and pastors of megachurches live in extravagant luxury. And many if not most professing Christians fellowship with nonbelievers if not being lukewarm themselves, exactly as did the Israelites in OT times by failing to separate from heathen neighbors as God had repeatedly emphasized.
Sanctification was God’s will for the Israelites as it is for us today. We’re to live differently than nonbelieving people. Sanctification is absolutely required for believers in Christ, for without holiness, “no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Under the new covenant we are to be sanctified in spirit, soul and body (1 Thess 5:23), and none of such takes place without conscious and deliberate cooperation with the inner work of Holy Spirit:
“For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body you shall live” (Romans 8:13).
Sanctification is never automatic, or takes place without our participation. Paul is saying that a born again believer must cooperate with being led into ever-increasing holiness by the Spirit of God whose help we must utterly depend upon. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God” (8:14). The process called sanctification is both a work of God and a work of His people for the will of God to be accomplished. This was to have been true for Israel in OT times just as under the new covenant. In principle, they were told the same thing as the apostle writes to the Church: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12,13).
We participate in the Spirit’s sanctifying work by ceasing evil (Romans 6:1,2), purifying ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit (2 Corinthians 7:1), and keeping ourselves from being polluted by the world (James 1:27; Romans 12:1,2; Colossians 3:5; James 4:8). This requires us to devote ourselves to prayer (Colossians 4:2, to have love for righteousness and hate for wickedness (Hebrews 1:9), to obey God’s word (John 17:17), to submit to discipline without complaint (Hebrews 12:5-11). and stay filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Only in this way will our lifestyles become such as sets us apart from the world to the praise of God’s glory.
Sanctification is presented in scripture as having two faces so to speak. It is pictured as a definitive act by which one is set free from Satan’s bondage and makes a clean break from sin in order to live for God. “Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). “God,….even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ….and has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6). “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth, for you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2,3).
On the other hand, sanctification is described as a life-long process by which we find ourselves continually putting to death misdeeds of the flesh (Romans 8:1-17). and are being transformed into the likeness of Christ by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). It requires constantly putting off the ways of the old man, and allowing Holy Spirit to put on a totally new man “which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). This requires believers to present themselves to God as living sacrifices so as to receive the grace and enabling power to live as is pleasing to God: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).
It was a failure of the Israelites to submit in this latter manner which led to disastrous consequences for the OT Israelites, and is the very same failure which can lead us to destruction under the new covenant. We are given the example of Israel crossing the Jordan and facing the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of Jericho. Yet they were victorious as long as they obeyed the LORD’s directions. It is a lovely template for our lives today. But when they compromised the command of God to destroy inhabitants of the land and not adopt the ways of those living about them, there were serious consequences. And after coming to Christ, one must destroy those aspects of a carnal nature that compromise the perfecting of holiness in the fear of the Lord, lest we too find ourselves on a path which lead to apostasy and inevitable condemnation.
It is prayerfully hoped this limited study on the harmony of scripture will serve to help understand that God does not change: “For I am the LORD. I change not” (Malachi 3:6). I know too many who, because of unbiblical teaching, are convinced that the God of the OT has changed His ways because of what took place at Calvary. But God has not changed. The ministry of the Spirit described by Paul under the new covenant provides the means by which sanctification can become reality in those born again by grace through faith. Great confusion has resulted from not being taught that grace in the OT (Hebrew chen) meaning unmerited favor isn’t the same as grace in the NT (Greek charis) which means God’s divine influence on the heart which is to become reflected in one’s life. Indeed, there is no mention of unmerited favor whatsoever in the Strong’s Concordance translation of the Greek charis (2010 edition).
Deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt through the leadership of Moses was totally unmerited apart from God’s covenant with Abraham. Israel had become a worshipper of idols as were the Egyptians. Godly sorrow bringing repentance that leads to salvation under the new covenant was not required of the Israelites (2 Corinthians 7:10). Yet on departure from Egypt, the Hebrews were under grace and redeemed as well as free of physical disease. They simply had been required to meet the conditions of the Passover feast and feast of Unleavened Bread as given Moses by the LORD, including remaining in their houses under the covering of the blood on doors until morning so as to not lose their protection. But with most, God eventually was not pleased and they suffered affliction and destruction leading to dispersion to other nations and life in captivity.
The Greek NT definition of grace described in writings of the apostle Paul is far from that of unmerited favor. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ: who gave Himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity; and purify to Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:11-14). The charis grace of the NT is divine influence on the heart by work of Holy Spirit which is to become reflected in a person’s life.
Paul is telling us God’s divine influence of a heart not only produces conviction of sin and godly sorrow bringing repentance which leads to the gift of faith required for salvation (Ephesians 2:8). Grace is involved in sanctification, teaching us to live soberly, righteously and godly in a world characterized by ungodliness and worldly lusts. My earnest prayer is that clarification of the meaning of grace will help to not receive God’s grace in vain, but encourage us to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Paul’s saying the fate of the Israelites in the OT is an example to be taken seriously needs to be heeded. God doesn’t change as to demand for holiness. The idea of ‘eternal security’ that grace is a covering for sin so there are no consequences is, and always has been, heresy birthed in the heart of Satan. Jude, a brother of James and half-brother of Jesus, writes in his brief letter that changing grace to covering for sin is taught by “ungodly men” who have crept into the Church without notice.
Indeed we even find harmony of passages in the OT and NT concerning names being blotted from God’s book of life which absolutely refute heresy known as eternal security. For example, when Moses was on the mountain with God and the people rebelled by worshipping the golden calf and behaving shamelessly, God commanded that those who participated be put to death with the sword (Exodus 32: 27). Then the LORD said to Moses in regard to those who sinned in such a detestable way, “Whosoever has sinned against Me, him will I blot out of My book” (32:33). And remember these were a redeemed people under grace as discussed earlier.
Likewise in the NT, we find reference by Jesus to names being blotted out from the book of life. In His letter to the church in Sardis, Jesus admonishes them that their works are not complete and some need to be strengthen which are “ready to die” (Revelation 3:2). Jesus commends a few who “have not defiled their garments” and says “they are worthy,” implying they have been continuously faithful to the ways of God (3:4). Then Jesus adds regarding those who have defiled garments but repented and overcame their iniquity, “I will not blot out his name out of the book of life” (3:5). And here again, this is written to a redeemed people under grace, not about the lose or unsaved.
Let us not fail to take notice of what the scriptures are telling those who come to Christ by grace through faith. Each of us will reap what we sow. Saying a ‘sinner’s prayer’ and being told a first class ticket to heaven is assured is nothing but ‘cheap grace’ promoted by the most ungodly men. All who profess Jesus Christ are far better served by heeding the words of Paul to the church in Galatia: “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap destruction; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Galatians 6:7,8).