“This is my husband.” “This is my wife.” “Til death do us part.” …and grateful for it all!
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,
- What does Forgiveness involve?
- What is the nature of Thankfulness?
- What is discernment and why is it important?
- What is a Curse?
- What is Shalom?
- What is God’s Concept of Justice?
- Defilement and the state of being unclean were terms that were on the threshold of becoming archaic until I examined these ideas about 3 years ago and then applied them to some common examples, such as the Alpha Widow Syndrome, h0m0sexuality, sexual humility, and the Blue Pill mindset. Now, it is not unusual to see these descriptors being used.
- If a contract and a covenant are the same thing, then why would we have different words for it? It’s because they’re not the same thing.
- What about concepts like sin, iniquity, and transgression? If they’re all the same thing, then why do we need three words? It’s because they’re not the same thing.
- Now, Love is one concept that has gotten some traction in Protestant teachings. It is recognized that there are four different kinds of love in Greek. But in English, there is only one word.
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.
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).
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.
Epilogue: A more complete concept of Sanctification
To go a step further in constructing a better conceptualization of sanctification, consider the following.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Many things contribute towards sanctification, including consecration, commitment, marriage, self-sacrificial love, romantic love, passionate sex, having children, and many others.
- 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.
- Thus, sanctification (or defilement) is determined by the context within which sex, marriage, etc. occurs.
- 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.
- Bible Study Tools: Sanctification
- Σ Frame: The Meaning of Marriage (2011-07-11)
- Σ Frame: The Deeper Meaning of Marriage (2011-10-18)
- Σ Frame: Lest we forget, Marriage was once intended to Glorify God (2019-08-08)
- Σ Frame: On the Concept of Sin and the need for Marriage (2020-04-24)
- Σ Frame: The need for Marriage Education (2020-05-15)
- Σ Frame: Only God can grant a successful marriage (2020-05-20)
- Σ Frame: Sexual competition continues after marriage (2021-02-19)
- Σ Frame: Commonalities of Successful Marriages (2021-04-14)
- Christian Publishing House: SANCTIFICATION: You Have Been Sanctified? (2022-01-12)