Whenever you want to know the meaning of biblical terms, you must search the Scriptures to see how God uses those terms in his Word. The word "sanctify" is used in three distinct ways in the Bible.

                THE FIRST, PRIMARY MEANING OF THE WORD "SANCTIFY" IS "TO SET APART". Sanctification is taking something that is common and ordinary and setting it apart, or separating it, for God's service alone. The Bible provides us with many examples of this. The seventh day was set apart for God (Gen. 2:3). The day was not changed in any way at all. It was simply set apart from the other days of the week and separated as the Sabbath day, for the service of God alone. The firstborn of the families of Israel were set apart for God (Ex. 13:2). The tabernacle, the altar, and the priesthood were sanctified unto the Lord, set apart for his use alone (Ex. 29:44). It is in this sense that our Lord Jesus Christ says that he was sanctified (John 10:36). He was set apart from all other men to do the will of God, by God his Father. And in this sense our Savior sanctified himself to the work of redemption. When anything, or anyone, is sanctified, set apart for God, it is for God's service alone and is under God's protection.

Secondly, as the word "sanctify" is used in the Scriptures, IT MEANS TO REGARD TO TREAT, AND TO DECLARE A PERSON OR THING AS HOLY. For example, God himself is frequently said to be sanctified by his people. We do not make God more holy. And we do not separate God unto himself. But we do regard him as being holy, treat him as One who is holy, and declare that he is holy. This is what God requires of us. "Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your dread, and let him be your fear" (Isa. 8:13). Nadab and Abihu were consumed by the Lord when they offered strange fire, because they did not reverence God's holiness. God said, "I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me" (Lev. 10:3) Moses' sin in smiting the Rock the second time was just this: "Ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the Children of Israel" (Num. 20:12). We have a more familiar illustration in what we call, "The Lord's Prayer". Our Savior taught us to pray, "Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name" (Matt. 6:9). The word "hallowed" is simply another word for "sanctified''. Our Lord is teaching us that the object of our prayers must be the glory of God. When we pray, this must be our desire: "Father, let thy name be reverenced and adored throughout the whole earth. Let all men regard thy name as a holy and sacred thing." By this second usage of the word "sanctify", we see that when a person is sanctified by God he is regarded by God as one who is holy, declared to be holy, and treated as one who is holy.

                Thirdly, as the word "sanctify" is used in Scripture, IT MEANS TO ACTUALLY PURIFY SOMETHING AND MAKE IT HOLY. This is an actual change in the nature of things. The thing sanctified is not only set apart and declared to be holy, it is actually made holy. In the Old Testament, the ceremonial cleansings of the people pictured this aspect of sanctification. When God was about to come down and give the law at Sinai, he required the children of Israel to make themselves holy (They took a bath.) (Ex. 19:10-11). When Israel was about to cross the Jordan, God first required them to be purified (Jos. 3:5). Until they were purified they could not enter into the land of promise.

                Do you see the meanings of the words "sanctify" and "sanctification", as they are used in Holy Scripture? To sanctify is (1) TO SET APART FOR GOD, (2) TO REGARD, TO TREAT, AND TO DECLARE AS HOLY, and (3) TO PURIFY AND MAKE HOLY. This is the way God has sanctified his people. The Lord set us apart and separated us to himself in ETERNAL ELECTION. Through the redemptive work of Christ accomplished at Calvary, God regards us as holy, declares that we are holy, and treats us as holy people in ABSOLUTE JUSTIFICATION. And in the new birth the Holy Spirit actually imparts a holy nature to us, purifying us and making us holy in DIVINE REGENERATION.