1 Corinthians 1:2 – “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”
When you think of yourself, do you think of yourself as sanctified? When you consider the journey that you are on in this life, do you think that you are sanctified or that you are being sanctified? There is a difference. “Being sanctified” speaks to an ongoing process that you are on in becoming more holy. Thinking of yourself as sanctified and not “being sanctified” implies that there is a past tense to your sanctification. Paul addresses those in Corinth as those who are sanctified. In fact, he even calls them saints. The Greek word for saints is agios, which also means “holy.” If you know anything about the Corinthians, you know that they seemed to be anything but holy. Sexual perversion and selfish ambition was rampant within the church, so how does Paul consider them saints?
The word sanctification speaks to the process by which we become holy. Before sanctification takes place in our life, God does something else. In the process of being saved, we are declared innocent; we are justified. There are many legal ideas associated with the idea of being justified. Being justified means standing before a judge and him saying he believes we are innocent. Justification is not the act of being forgiven, but of being declared innocent by the Holy Judge.
How in the world can we be declared innocent by the Holy Judge? Second Corinthians 5:21 helps us understand this incredible concept. Paul says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” He who “knew no sin” is referring to Christ. God the Father placed our sin on Jesus Christ and in turn, God the Father places the righteousness of God on us. God’s righteousness is behavior that is morally right. So we are washed clean of our filthy sin, and we are covered with Christ’s “behavior that is morally right.” The reality of our life before God then is that when the Father sees us, he doesn’t see our past sins, he sees Christ’s righteousness. It is purely because of Christ’s righteousness given to us that we can be declared innocent before God, and therefore holy.
If we are in Christ, we are holy in God’s eyes. We are saved from our sin, and we are declared right and holy before God. That is how we can be considered saints. Yet, if you move and breathe, you fully understand sin’s power in this world. Struggling with sin as saints is something that happens for followers of Christ every day. Though we are considered holy by God, we are also growing in practical holiness. We are in the process of being more and more conformed to the image of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul describes the fact that this is an ongoing process when he says that we “who with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”
Praise God for his justifying and sanctifying work! Praise God that he sees us and sees Christ! As we consider who we are now in Christ, let us strive with all that we are to live as we are, and not who we were! And let us pursue Christ so that we might be conformed to His image day by day.