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Doctrine of Sanctification: Definitive Sanctification

March 20, 2022 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: Romans 6


So intimate is the union between Christ and his people, that they were partakers with him in [his death and resurrection], and therefore died to sin, rose with Christ in the power of his resurrection, and have their fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life

… the decisive and definitive breach with sin that occurs at the inception of Christian life is one necessitated by the fact that the death of Christ was decisive and definitive.

It is just because we cannot allow for any reversal or repetition of Christ’s death on the tree that we cannot allow for any compromise on the doctrine that every believer has died to sin and no longer lives under its dominion. Sin no longer lords it over him. To equivocate here is to assail the definitiveness of Christ’s death.

Likewise, the decisive and definitive entrance upon newness of life in the case of every believer is required by the fact that the resurrection of Christ was decisive and definitive.

As we cannot allow for any reversal or repetition of the resurrection, so we cannot allow for any compromise on the doctrine that every believer is a new man, that the old man has been crucified, that the body of sin has been destroyed, and that, as a new man in Christ Jesus, he serves God in the newness which is none other than that of the Holy Spirit of whom he has become the habitation and his body the temple.

- John Murray

Scripture (Romans 6)

Last week we looked at the doctrine of adoption.

We learned that, like justification, adoption is a legal declaration.

Though similar is some respects, Justification and Adoption are separate events resulting in different results.

Justification is the declaration that one is just and freed from the wrath of God on the basis of Christ’s righteousness applied by faith in Christ.

Adoption is the declaration that the person justified is legally a child of God, a member of the family of God, having all rights and privileges of such standing, applied by faith in Christ.

Next, in our Confession, we are going to look at the Doctrine of Sanctification.



In general, sanctification is thought of as only an ongoing process.

But today, we are going to discuss a different part of sanctification – definitive sanctification.

As we have learned, regeneration, conversion, justification, and adoption are all one-point-in-time-events that are never to be repeated.

We would describe each of these as a definitive act.

Definitive sanctification refers to the definite, single point in time

We will see how this is represented in the New Testament and then explore the impact this has upon our new life as Christians.

Scripture – Sanctified / Made Holy

The New Testament often represents the Christian

  • as one who has been sanctified
  • as one who has been definitively constituted as holy

These three verses reflect the sanctified state in the “perfect passive” tense, indicating an action that has occurred in the past upon the subject yet has its effect now, in the present => hagiazo

  • Acts-20:32
  • Acts-26:18
  • 1 Cor-01:2

The next verses speak about sanctification in the “aorist passive” tense. This reflects an occurrence of an action without reference to time.

  • 1 Cor-06:11
  • Eph-05:26

Additional evidence for God’s definitive sanctification:

  • Rom 6:2,6: God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin (aorist), live any longer therein?

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified (aorist), with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

  • Rom-6:18: Being then made free (aorist) from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
  • Rom 7:4–6: Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead (aorist) to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered (aorist) from the law, that being dead (aorist) wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
  • 1 Peter-2:24: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead (aorist) to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed (aorist).

Definitive Sanctification

These verses teach definitive sanctification:

  • there is a real and decisive break between slavery in and liberation from sin for the Christian.
  • there is a discrete and radical difference between the Christian's existence before faith and after
  • the moment he trusts in Christ
    • Acts-26:18 — “those having been sanctified by faith which is in me”
    • He died to sin, and he has been liberated from sin.

The Scriptures speak of every Christian

  • as a “saint”
  • as a “holy one” (ὁ ἅγιος, _ho hagios)
  • Eph-01:1 - to the saints which are at Ephesus
  • Phil-01:1 - to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi
  • Col-01:2 - to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colossae

There is a once-for-all definitive and irreversible breach with the realm in which sin reigns in and unto death.

There is absolute differentiation

  • in respect of every criterion by which moral and spiritual life is to be assessed
  • in respect of the power and service of sin
  • in respect of everyone who has come under the control of the provisions of grace.

The Christian’s Breach with Sin

Definitive sanctification is presented as being rooted in a real spiritual union with Christ.

This spiritual union is to be considered as actual and real - such that the union is not to be considered as a positional union but one that exists in reality.

This means, once justified, the believer:

  • is a partaker of the death and resurrection of Christ
  • and their resulting breach with sin is just as real and certain and definitive as the death and resurrection of Christ.

The basis of definitive sanctification is the real spiritual union with Christ

  • in His death
  • in His burial
  • in His resurrection
    • 2 Cor 5:14–15
    • Rom 6:1–14

Romans 6

Section One: verses 1-7

You’ve died to sin; how can you go on living in it?

  • We cannot go on sinning because we are united to Christ.
  • We cannot sin, as we did before, because we are united to Christ
  • His death is parallel to our dying to sin.
  • His resurrection is parallel to our rising and walking in newness of life.
  • Being united in the death of Christ doesn't mean physical death.
  • Being united in the death of Christ means we cease in the dominance and bondage of sin
    • we are no longer under the dominion of sin
    • we have been released from that
    • we have been released from what is called the death of sin
    • we are dead to sin
      • dead to the guilt of sin upon us
      • dead to the punishment of sin
      • dead to the bondage of sin.

So no, we cannot go on sinning as those who are under bondage to sin.

  • When the grace of God comes upon us it breaks the bondage of sin
  • When the grace of God comes upon us, it causes us to walk in the newness of life.
  • Christ is raised from the dead, and so we are raised from dead works, to serve the living God.

Paul “coins” a new word here → “co-crucified” or “with crucified”

  • It is as if we are co-crucified with Christ, so to speak
    • that the body of sin might be destroyed
    • that henceforth we should not serve sin.

When we say, “I’m sinning more so that grace may abound” …

  • it is not grace, that is the absence of grace.
  • the Christian is dead, is freed from sin.

Section Two: verses 8-14

You are dead to sin with Christ and alive unto God through Christ.

  • There is no excuse for our sin as redeemed people.
    • We have new resources
    • We are a new creature.
    • We walk in newness of life.
    • We must not therefore have a flippant attitude toward sin.
  • What is the standard?
    • The standard is perfection.
  • What is our aim then?
    • Nothing short of perfection.

“Half-obedience”, “Pick-and-choose obedience” can lead to apostacy as in King Saul.

  • He encouraged himself that he had obeyed when he had not.

We have been delivered unto righteousness

  • Now we now must yield our bodies as members to be given unto righteousness, and holiness and never sin.
  • Now we must never rest in a sin that we've committed, as if I couldn't help myself.
    • Because what we're saying at that point is, God was not strong enough.
    • We are new creatures.

Every Christian is actually brought to this saving union the moment he becomes a partaker of Christ through faith.

In other words

  • Not only is the Christian accounted by God as righteous vis-à-vis the law
  • He is also constituted holy by God vis-à-vis the power and mastery of sin.
  • It is not simply positional holiness that is envisioned by definitive sanctification
  • it is a real breach with the reign/ mastery of sin
    • which is created by the Christian’s actual spiritual union with Christ in his death and resurrection
    • which is as decisive and definite as are Christ’s death and resurrection.


In summary, definitive sanctification represents

  • that single point in time,
    • by virtue of His union with Christ
    • the Christian is immediately and irreversibly severed from dominion and slavery to sin.
    • the Christian is truly and certainly a saint
    • the Christian has entered into a new relationship with God.

What definitive sanctification does not mean?

This does not mean that the Christian is completely free from sin.

Definitive sanctification is only the separation from sin's dominion whereby

  • he becomes a slave to Christ
  • he begins walking in newness of life
  • he begins putting to death the remaining embers of sin in him.

This does not mean that the Christian is completely free from sin.

  • the Christian actually achieves, personally and existentially, sinless perfection the moment he trusts Christ
    • this would leave no room for progressive sanctification.

The full and complete and entire sanctification awaits the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

  • 1 Thess-05:23

The Christian who says he has no sin is deceiving himself and the truth is not in him

  • 1 John-1:8

What definitive sanctification does mean?

The doctrine of definitive sanctification does mean:

  • The moment he becomes a Christian, by virtue of his union with Christ
    • he is instantly constituted a “saint”
    • he enters into a new relationship with respect to the former reign of sin in his life and with God himself
    • he ceases to be a slave to sin
    • he becomes a servant of Christ and of God.

The Christian is to take this breach with sin, by his union with Christ

  • as seriously as God does
  • is to stop “presenting the members of his body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness” and start “presenting himself to God as one alive from the dead, and his members as instruments [or servants] of righteousness to God”
    Romans 6:13,19


What is the fruit then in the Christian life?

  • It is unto holiness
  • It is to the end of everlasting life.

The principle of Christ's resurrection and life teaches

  • To live as those who are yet under. sin and bondage is incongruent
    • because of whom we are in Christ
    • because of being united to Christ
    • because of being united with His death

We are not under sin’s bondage

  • We are united to Him in the likeness of His resurrection

The principles of death, and sin and bondage all go together

The principles of life, liberty, and holiness. all go together.

We are to consider ourselves:

  • to be alive from the dead
  • to be victorious over sin in Christ
  • to not yield our bodies as members to sin unto unrighteousness.

We are to yield ourselves:

  • Unto God
  • To the fruit of holiness and righteousness
  • To anticipate the full redemption to come later at the resurrection


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