Towards a more complete appreciation of Sanctification

“This is my husband.”  “This is my wife.” “Til death do us part.” …and grateful for it all!

Readership: Christians;
Theme: The Integrity and Fidelity of Marriage
Length: 1,400 words
Reading Time: 5 minutes


The dictionary is useful for defining words clearly for the purpose of forming simple arguments, but in some cases, the dictionary is inadequate. Secular English language dictionaries can’t give us an accurate account of words like consecration, covenant, defilement, iniquity, sanctification, shalom, transgression, and others. So we cannot rely on a secular dictionary to fully explain the spiritual nuances of these concepts. Even many descriptions of these terms from religious sources are confusing and/or don’t give us the full flavor.

This is why I often go to the trouble to explore the meanings of such words on Σ Frame. This blog often dives into spiritual concepts that are poorly understood (even by Christians) and hard to define. For example,

Likewise, sanctification is another one of those words that is occasionally bandied about in religious circles. We see a lot of scriptural references to sanctification, but I don’t think most people, even most Christians, know what it really means.

This famous quote from Russell M. Nelson is poorly worded. It should say, “Husband and wife are sanctified when their marriage is cherished and honored in holiness. That union is not merely established by husband and wife; it conforms to a covenant with God.” Read on to learn why. Nelson is president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

What is Sanctification?

Sanctification is often taken to be a quality (e.g. a “sanctified marriage”, as given in the quote above), but it is not. It is a state characterized by contentment, inner peace, spiritual security, and shalom.  It can also be described as a state of ownership, possession, or having a dedicated purpose, in which case, it is referring to an overarching covenantal covering.

To offer a trivial, but easily relateable example, the toothbrushes in my bathroom are sanctified in the sense that they each have a specific owner or purpose. The grey Oral B toothbrush belongs to me. The red one belongs to my wife. The white one is used for scrubbing the details on the chrome fixtures. As it is, we are content to have our own toothbrushes and we can brush our teeth with confidence every day. We also have a toothbrush to keep the bathroom looking spic and span. All of this gives us a degree of contentment and inner peace – but only as long as everyone respects the sanctity of all the toothbrushes. If my wife uses my toothbrush to clean the drain, then even though its qualities may remain physically unchanged, it still becomes defiled to me, and it is then relegated to a new status of being sanctified as the new scrub brush. I will be offended by her transgression, but I can forgive her by buying a new toothbrush to be sanctified unto myself.

When the Bible calls an object, location, or person sanctified, it is not referring to a quality. It means it has a unique identity that renders it separate, distinct, or “holy”, meaning that it belongs to God’s personal domain and should be revered as such.

The word consecrated means the willful act of setting someone or something apart for God’s purposes or a special use.

There are many examples in Scripture.

  • Exodus 19:23 talks about consecrating Mt. Sinai.
  • Exodus 20:8 tells us to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
  • In Leviticus 20:7–8), God commands the Israelites to consecrate themselves to be sanctified (owned) by Him.
  • In Matthew 6:9, Jesus teaches us to begin our prayers by first declaring God’s name as holy.
  • In Matthew 23:16-22, Jesus describes how the temple is what makes the gold and gifts therein sanctified.
  • Christians are (or should be) sanctified unto God and unto their spouses if married. (Ephesians 5:22-33).
These candlesticks are not sanctified in their present location, but if these same candlesticks are placed on the altar table at the front of the church sanctuary, worshippers will regard them as holy and revere them as such. They become sanctified because they are identified as objects that contribute to the glory of God in the sanctuary.

Sanctification in Marriage

When the Bible talks about husbands sanctifying their wives and vice versa (c.f. 1 Corinthians 7:14; Ephesians 5:25-27), it refers to a possession or ownership of one’s spouse such that contentment, inner peace, spiritual security, and shalom are a daily reality. Headship is assumed, as this is the only relational structure that can yield these fruits within God’s covenant of marriage.

Being part of a covenant relationship (i.e. marriage) provides the context for sanctification, and sex is a vital contributor towards sanctification by being the sacrament in which that covenant is perpetually renewed.

The institution of marriage and the act of sex are not necessarily sanctified in and of themselves, as these are merely features, or vectors of sanctification.  God Himself does the work of sanctification, but there is much we can do to facilitate this process by aligning our hearts and our behaviors with the directives outlined in His covenant. If you believe that “love sanctifies marriage” or “marriage sanctifies sex” or some other such permutation, then look around and you will find plenty of examples of both marriage and sex that are not sanctified, even among Christians, and this is largely because they neglect Headship and carry habits and expectations that are contrary to God’s covenantal order.

For example, there are millions of men and women in the world.  But if a man, John, marries a woman, Sally, then John and Sally take on the unique identity of being husband and wife.  They now belong to each other — and to no other — according to the marriage covenant. Even if Sally were to divorce John, she will henceforth be John’s ex-wife, because her identity as John’s wife can never be rescinded. Likewise, John will be Sally’s ex-husband.

If John and Sally only have sexual relations but do not enter into a properly binding marriage, they have still eternally and irrevocably joined their souls together in the spiritual dimension. If they break up and marry others, then similar to the toothbrush analogy, John and Sally are defiled from the perspective of their new spouses and they have defrauded them out of some measure of the contentment, inner peace, spiritual security, and shalom that is foundational for sanctification in a covenant marriage.

This “prego mf queen” is (or was) sanctified unto her baby daddy. Defiled unto all other men. If she picks up a sex partner with this Tinder profile, then she’ll be defiled unto baby daddy as well.

Epilogue: A more complete concept of Sanctification

To go a step further in constructing a better conceptualization of sanctification, consider the following.

  1. Sanctification is a state of belonging, contentment, inner peace, spiritual security, and shalom that is dependent on the context of a covenant (i.e. being uniquely identified with Christ, married to a spouse, or as a mother, etc.)
  2. It is PEOPLE who experience a state of sanctification. So we cannot speak of the institution of contractual marriage or the generalized act of sex as being sanctified or not.
  3. Many things contribute towards sanctification, including consecration, commitment, marriage, self-sacrificial love, romantic love, passionate sex, having children, and many others.
  4. The things that contribute towards one’s sanctification are also the same things that can contribute to one’s defilement within an improper context, i.e. outside the boundaries of a covenant.  For example, sex sanctifies a wife to her husband, but if she were to have sex with another man, then this act of sex would make her defiled.  A woman bearing a child would sanctify her in the context of her marriage to the father of the child, but having a child out of wedlock renders her defiled in the eyes of other men seeking marriage.
  5. Thus, sanctification (or defilement) is determined by the context within which sex, marriage, etc. occurs.
  6. Being socially acceptable does not imply genuine spiritual sanctification (e.g. cohabitation, fornication, gay marriage, out of wedlock births, etc.).  It is possible to be “sanctified” through engaging in a popular, acceptable sin, and this is often referred to as “living in sin.”  But from God’s perspective, this is deemed as defilement.

These are important distinctions, because moral agency concerns the social dimension and one’s abilities in navigating through the various contexts of life with the aid of faith, discernment, and wisdom.  Whereas, sanctification describes a holy or redeemed state of being which carries natural, emotional, spiritual, and socio-sexual effects.

About Jack

Jack is a world traveling artist, skilled in trading ideas and information, none of which are considered too holy, too nerdy, nor too profane to hijack and twist into useful fashion. Sigma Frame Mindsets and methods for building and maintaining a masculine Frame
This entry was posted in Adultery and Fornication, Boundaries, Building Wealth, Choosing a Partner or Spouse, Churchianity, Courtship and Marriage, Discernment, Wisdom, Divorce, Forgiveness, Glory, Headship and Patriarchy, Identity, Introspection, Joy, Love, Models of Failure, Moral Agency, Mysticism, Personal Presentation, Purpose, Relationships, Running the Gauntlet, Sanctification & Defilement, Self-Concept, SMV/MMV, The Power of God, Vetting Women. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Towards a more complete appreciation of Sanctification

  1. penumbrated says:

    Jack, thank you for this outstanding post. You’ve further clarified sanctification for me.

    I’m looking forward to Novaseeker’s return; when will that occur?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jack says:

      I’m not sure when or even if NovaSeeker will ever return. In June last year, he told me he changed jobs and moved to another state. I haven’t heard anything from him since then.


  2. Red Pill Apostle says:

    “Whereas, sanctification describes a holy or redeemed state of being which carries natural, emotional, spiritual, and socio-sexual effects.”

    I’d like to add, from a covenant theology perspective, that the concept of sanctification is the process we experience here on earth of becoming more Christ-like as the Holy Spirit works in our lives. We won’t reach the state of Shalom, as God originally made us to dwell in, this side of heaven, although because of his goodness to us we do get glimpses of God’s peace and rest even as imperfect people in a broken world.


  3. Oscar says:


    You keep saying that a contract and a covenant are not the same thing, but adoption is a contract, and it features every aspect of a covenant you wrote about.

    — Contracts are transactional agreements between two parties whose identities remain separate and unchanged by the contract. Covenants transform both parties to have a new combined identity.
    — Contracts require certain measures of willing performance by both parties. Covenants are renewed through faith, communion, and sacraments.
    — Contracts involve the commitment and exchange of goods and services. Covenants are a commitment of the self, entirely personal in nature.
    — Contracts are enforced by law and/or the judicial system. Covenants are enforced by the power of God.
    — Contracts are concerned with what you do or what you offer. Covenants focus on who you are.
    — Contracts can be revised and changed by mutual agreement. Covenants endure for life.
    — Contracts require volitional Head Trust. Covenants produce spontaneous Heart Trust.
    — Contracts are written on paper. Covenants are sealed with blood.
    — Contracts expire. Covenants are eternal.

    In fact, the Bible explains the New Covenant as an adoption.

    Ephesians 1
    3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

    Galatians 4
    4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

    And, by the way, you can find the aspects you listed of a contract in the covenants God made with His people in the Bible. Even Christ’s words on the Cross reflect that fact.

    Literally translated the word tetelestai means, “It is finished.” The word occurs in John 19:28 and 19:30 and these are the only two places in the New Testament where it occurs. In 19:28 it is translated, “After this, when Jesus knew that all things were now completed, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, he said, ‘I thirst.’” Two verses later, he utters the word himself: “Then when he received the sour wine Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

    The word tetelestai was also written on business documents or receipts in New Testament times to show indicating that a bill had been paid in full.

    It’s not a coincidence that Jesus used the word Greeks used to signify the fulfillment of a contract when he fulfilled the Old Covenant.


    • Jack says:

      Oscar, I have not had the experience of adopting a child as you have, but here’s how I understand it. When one adopts a child, a covenant with the child is formed, and there is a contract with the adoption agency. There are no contracts between the adoptive parent and the child, although the child might be listed as a party in the contract with the adoption agency. There are probably some laws about that too. Roman law specified that an adopted child could never be disowned, whereas a natural child could. Paul seems to allude to this in Romans 8:15-17.


    • Jack says:

      Apparently, even Rollo recognizes the difference between a contract and a covenant. He had an interview/debate with Dr. Everett Piper (which has since mysteriously vanished from the web). Rollo summarized this interview in one post he wrote.

      “This was my position going in to this talk with Dr. Piper. Have a listen to the whole segment if you have the time, but what we distilled it down to is the idea of a Covenant Marriage vs. a Contractual Marriage. This was the premise used to describe the divide between marriage how it should be done – religiously, personally, devotionally, how it was done in the past – and the way marriage is now – the worst contractual liability a man can enter into. Needless to say a lot of qualifications followed this.

      By my understanding a Covenant marriage presumes a mutual religious reverence and understanding of what is expected of a man and a woman before they enter into marriage. It is founded on the agreement of two individuals who believe they are better together than they are apart. On paper this sounds good, but it presupposes quite a bit – particularly on the part of that woman today. I’ll detail the reasons why in a bit, but I take the Covenant definition of marriage to mean that there’s a mutual understanding between the man and woman that they are marrying for love in accordance to what they believe is their religious and monogamous obligation. Fine. We’ve got a model for marriage that is set apart from the Contractual model.

      The Contractual marriage is one based on mutual support and an insurance that this support will continue even if the marriage itself dissolves. MGTOWs liken this to a bad business contract that, were it not marriage, no right-thinking man would ever agree to sign off on.

      Contractual marriage is the standard for today. Dr. Piper sees this model as the “what can I get from my partner marriage“, but you can decide for yourself if you listen to the discussion. I think this is a bit disingenuous since it implies that men’s only consideration for agreeing to what amounts to a bad business contract would in any way make sense due to a desire for getting what he can out of what’s already a bad deal. Why marry at all if what you’re taking away from it is nothing you can’t get outside of marriage without the risk?

      Essentially, Contractual marriage is the marriage-divorce-support structure that men are wisely hesitant about today. Dalrock once noted that sometime after the Sexual Revolution “we moved away from the marriage model of child rearing and into the child-support model of child rearing“, and I think the Contractual model of marriage becoming the default was an integral part of this.

      If you’ve ever watched the documentary Divorce Incorporated you can see the machinations of the Contractual form of marriage at work. This is just a taste of some of the real world consequences that accompany Contractual marriage’s liabilities. However, I think going in – and with the emphasis on leading with our feelings – most men have idealistic, Covenant marriage, expectations for their marriages.”


      “I was genuinely surprised to hear Dr. Piper disagree with the idea of separating the marriage models we’d discussed at the time, but to have him state that he wasn’t willing to somehow give up on the heroic fight to reform the ‘Contractual’ marriage was, in hindsight, kind of disingenuous. In both instances, with respect to headship and authority, and the reluctance to let go of the contractual definition of marriage (especially after making such an impassioned case for a covenant marriage) I can only come to the conclusion that Dr. Piper’s position on marriage is influenced by the feminist undercurrent prevalent in the church today – and without his really realizing it too.”


      “Churches are business franchises today and if you want to keep the tithe checks forthcoming in order to keep the lights on pastors and church leaders need to prioritize the sensibilities of the primary consumer in the western world – women. It’s gotten to the point now that church leaders have internalized that women’s eyes and ears will be judging their words minutely in sermons and public appearances to ensure their Pastor is on ‘team woman’. This is why opposing a separation of Covenant marriage vs. the Contractual is literally a ‘no brainer’ for these men. They don’t ever think about it any other way because they’ve already adopted the feminist zeitgeist that’s assimilated their churches. To endorse that separation is to deny women their potential for cash & prizes if a man displeases God by making them unhappy.

      I think maybe I expected more from Dr. Piper. I was hoping to find some common ground, but I think he may be committed to a doctrine that panders to the Feminine Imperative without realizing it. When we got to the part about headship (Corinthians) he came right out the gate with pre-qualifying headship vs. being a domineering asshole. I’ve come to expect this from a female-primary church that deemphasizes male authority. In fact, it redefines that ‘authority’ as responsibility before you get to discuss any other aspect of what women might allow as “headship”.”

      The Rational Male: Raiders of the Lost Covenant (2019-04-20)

      Here, Rollo makes the point that it is in the interests of feminism to schmooze and obscure any differences between a Contractual marriage and a Covenant marriage. This is exactly why I’m hitting on this.


      • hamg says:

        “He had an interview/debate with Dr. John Piper…”

        I think you mean Dr. Everett Piper. I checked Rollo’s article and that is who is mentioned, not John Piper. I have to admit I got excited for a minute.

        [Jack: Thanks for calling that to my attention. I’ve corrected the comment.]


  4. Red Pill Apostle says:

    I’ve been thinking about the concept of covenant vs contract and while the two largely overlap, there is a spiritual component to biblical covenants in how God uses them in setting apart people for Himself. Abraham is promised to be the first of a people set apart for God and that his people would have a homeland to inhabit, which is the earthly indicator pointing to our ultimate place of rest in heaven. The symbol of the Abrahamic covenant being circumcision. The concept of being set apart is so strong that children born to parents of the covenant were covenant children, which is why Jewish people have the Bris. It is an outward expression of faith that since God, who created and often works through the family unit, called the parents to be His will also call the children. Speaking of family, marriage is the setting apart of two people to form God’s basic building unit for the church and his kingdom. Hence, the adoption of the child gives the child a new identity as a member of the covenant unit. Then of course there is the covenant in Christ’s blood, which both legally justifies us before God and sets us apart as we are adopted as sons and daughters into God’s covenant family.

    [Jack: Link added for more information.]


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