How does the Holy Spirit sanctify human beings?

A Series on What is Sanctification: Part 4

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Author's Bias | Interpretation: conservative | Inclination: dispensational | Seminary: none

In contrast to the Old Testament where God designates time, space, objects and people as holy, the New Testament places a more personal focus of holiness: on Jesus Christ and the people whom the Holy Spirit is bestowed.

The book of Hebrews uses the Greek verb "hagiazō," which means to "make holy, consecrate", or "sanctify," to depict Jesus Christ as the Old Testament High Priest involved with the Levitical sacrificial laws.

Jesus Christ is the High Priest, who enters the Holy of Holies and sanctifies His people (Heb 13:12; 2:11) by making the ultimate and absolute sacrifice (Heb 9:13-14; 10:10, 14).

Continuing this imagery of Levitical worship practices and as the result of being perfectly sanctified and free of the guilt of sin, Believers now have access to the Holy of Holies and can come into the presence of God (Heb 10:19-20).

This Old Testament imagery of gaining access to the Holy of Holies becomes a reality with the fulfillment of the New Covenant. Because the Believer has been sanctified, the Spirit of God can now indwell the Believer just as the Spirit of God indwelt the Holy of Holies (Ex 25:21-22; Lev 16:2; Num 7:89)!! The Believer is metaphorically the Temple of the living God (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19-20) and should live a life befitting as a holy vessel (1 Thess 4:3-7).

This is the very concept that the apostle Paul speaks of to the Corinthians:

"Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, 'I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. "Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,' says the Lord. 'And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,' Says the Lord Almighty." (2 Cor 6:14-18)

Paul is exhorting Believers to sanctification: separate yourselves from your former pagan way of life, because you are now holy, devoted and dedicated to God (1 Cor 3:16-17). A reference to Leviticus 26:11-12 places an emphasis of God's promise, "I will be their God, and they will be My people."

Thus the gift of the Holy Spirit, as God promised in the New Covenant (Isa 59:21; Ezek 36:25-28), becomes an agent of sanctification. The Holy Spirit is "another Counselor" and the "Spirit of truth" (John 14:16-16, 25-26; 15:26).

The Holy Spirit sanctifies by washing the heart and renewing the mind (Tit 3:4-7).

The Holy Spirit sanctifies by assuring the Believer of the indwelling presence of Jesus Christ (Acts 16:6-7; Phil 1:19; 1 Pet 1:11).

The Holy Spirit sanctifies by helping the Believer understand the Scriptures (1 Cor 2:10-16; Eph 3:3-6).

The Holy Spirit sanctifies by attesting to the reality of Believer's faith, brands the Believer as a property of God's, and guarantees his inheritance in the future completion of salvation (2 Cor 1:21-22; 5:5).

How does the Holy Spirit help the Believer live a sanctified life devoted and dedicated to God?

1. Formerly alienated, blind and deaf to God, the Believer with the Holy Spirit realizes the reality of God's presence and reality of his relationship to God (Gal 4:6-7).

2. While a Believer's sinful nature remains, the Holy Spirit provides the power that enables the Believer freedom from the obligation to live according to his sinful nature (Rom 8:12-13; Gal 5:16-18).

3. The Holy Spirit provides the possibility of salvation from the power of sin; but, it is limited by the degree that the Believer "lives by the Spirit" or "led by the Spirit" (Gal 5:16-18; Zech 4:6).

For example, the "fruit of the Spirit" is the natural product of the Holy Spirit when there is a living relationship between God and the Believer (Gal 5:22-25). The nine different qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are considered a singular unit and pertain to one's relationship with God, his fellow man and himself.

Because It produced the Bible (1 Pet 1:21), the Holy Spirit helps one understand God's word (1 Cor 2:10-16; Eph 3:3-6) and educates (Tit 3:4-7) or confronts (Eph 6:18); however, it is through one's efforts of "living by the Spirit" and "following the lead of the Spirit" whether the fruit of the Spirit is achieved (Gal 5:25).

4. The Holy Spirit helps sustain Believers during burdens and disappointments through intercession and prayer (Rom 8:26-27). It is why Believers are exhorted to pray "in the Spirit" (Eph 6:18).

5. In making all Believers one by the Spirit 1 Cor 12:13), the Holy Spirit serves a unifying function in bringing Believers together (2 Cor 13:14; Philip 2:1-2) for the singular purpose of serving God (1 Cor 12:27; Eph 2:19-22).

To this community of Believers, the Holy Spirit bestows spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:1-11) for the purpose of edifying and promoting spiritual maturity (1 Cor 14:12-11) and all for the glory of God (1 Pet 4:10-11).


God the Father God the Son God the Spirit
Legal Means Mosaic Covenant

New Covenant
Fulfills the Mosaic Covenant

Mediates the New Covenant
Agent of the New Covenant
How does He work on Non-Believers? Provides the possibility and means for sanctification

Demonstrates the historical reality that Jesus is the Son of God
Provides the possibility and means for sanctification With the commencement of the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit's work is confined to the Believer; thus, there is no work on the non-Believer
How does He work on Believers? Forgives sin


Teaches what sin is

Provides an example of what it means to be holy

Works through His word the Bible

Motives Believers to be children without fault and pleasing to His sight

Disciplines by rebuking and educating the Believer what holy behavior is
Spiritual union with Jesus

Provides the power for the Believer to live a sanctified life

Provides an example of what it means to be holy and a goal for full development

Provides a community of Believers who could encourage and help in the process of sanctification and be responsible for each other
Indwells permanently, washes the heart and renews the mind

Is the assurance of the indwelling presence of Jesus Christ

Marks the Believer as the property of God’s and guarantees his inheritance in the future completion of salvation

Helps the Believer understand the Bible and provides the power to resist the power of sin

Helps in times of trouble by intercession

Provides a community of Believers to help him grow in spiritual maturity and service of God

"One of the many divine qualities of the Bible is this, that it does not yield its secrets to the irreverent and the censorious."

James. I. Packer


1. Brown C ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology Vol. 2, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House (1979).

2. Brand C, Draper C and England A, eds., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, (1998).

3. Youngblood RF, Bruce FF and Harrison, RK, eds., Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers (1996).

4. Gaebelein FE, ed., The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vols. 8, 10, 11, 12, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, (1976).

5. Swindoll CR, Zuck RB, eds., Understanding Christian Theology, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, (2003).

6. Grudem W, Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, (1994).

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