Betrothal, the Believer’s Relationship with Jesus, and Eschatology (Part 4)
In part one of this series we explored the process of betrothal to include an analysis of the Kiddusin and Nis’uin ceremonies. Part 2 began our discussion over how the concept of the bride of Christ is applied to the believer’s daily life focusing specifically on the characteristic of what it means for the bride to be holy. Part 3 was an overview of what it means for the bride of Christ to overcome. In this post, we will continue our discussion by studying another characteristic of the bride, namely one who is sanctified. As with the previous post, I will include at the bottom the three part video series by Jim Staley from Passion for Truth Ministries as a resource for additional information on this subject.
The word sanctification is likely a theological term many Christians are familiar with, at least in passing. While the word may have an element of familiarity, I would venture to say most believers have not spent an inordinate amount of time study just what sanctification means in the life of the believer and why it is described as a characteristic of the bride of Christ.
Let’s begin with shall we say a theological textbook definition of sanctification. The word sanctification, in Hebrew qadosh and in Greek hagiazō, literally means to make holy. In biblical use, to sanctify something means to set a person, place, occasion, or object apart from everyday secular use in order to be dedicated specifically to use by God. We see throughout the OT a great deal of time being spent describing the process of making something holy for use before God. For example, when the various elements of the tabernacle and the later temple were crafted, God provided specific instructions on how they were to be made and cleansed. It was important for the priests to ensure both the instruments and themselves was ceremonially pure before entering God’s presence.
Joel Beeke notes “Holiness means to be set apart. But what does set apart mean? Two things. The negative sense of set apart is holiness’ call to separate from sin. The positive sense of set apart is holiness’ call to consecrate to God. These two concepts – separation from sin and consecration (or separation) to God – comprise holiness. When combined, these two concepts make holiness very comprehensive. In fact, holiness covers all of life. Everything, Paul tells us, is to be sanctified : “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (I Tim 4:4-5).”
So once again we see that an essential truth that is repeatedly mentioned when it comes to the bride of Christ is the necessity of the word of God. Notice that Paul in I Timothy 4:5 says the creature of God, in other words the bride of Christ is “sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” How does one become sanctified? They become sanctified in large part by washing themselves daily in the word of God and in prayer.
But how does one become sanctified to begin with? It certainly is not through good works as Scripture clearly denounces such a belief. Let’s look at Hebrews 10:10 which states “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once [for all].” It was the sacrifice of Christ that sanctified his bride. His shed blood cleanses us from our sin; it purifies us and sets us apart as holy before God. Hebrews 9:13-14 reminds us For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
If you remember back to part one of this series, we discussed the payment of the bride price by the bridegroom. The payment made by Christ for his bride was his shed blood. I hope you can start to see the parallels between the betrothal ceremony, specifically the Kiddushin and the cross. The word Kiddushin is taken from the word qadosh meaning to set apart. So just as at the Kiddushin, the bride partially through payment of the bride price, the reading and acceptance of the terms of the Ketubah, and the drinking of the wine from the glass is at that point set apart for the bridegroom, so also at the cross the shedding of Christ’s blood was the payment for the bride. Additionally, when we accept that payment on our behalf, we essentially are drinking from that wine glass and accepting the terms of the marriage contract. At that point we are sanctified before Christ through his blood and we become his betrothed bride.
This is not the end of the process. As we noted in part one, there is a period of separation between the bride and bridegroom during which the bridegroom goes to prepare a place and the bride begins to make herself ready for the wedding day. Paul alludes to this time of preparation in I Thess. 4:4-5. In this passage Paul speaks of the necessity of possessing “his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God.” Abstaining from sexual immorality is one important element of being sanctified. Paul takes this one step further and reminds believers of the need for not only physical purity but also spiritual purity. In Romans 12:1-2 we are admonished to present our bodies as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, [which is] your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what [is] that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” There is that word again, namely hagios or holy. So we are called to present ourselves as the bride of Christ as a living sacrifice, holy to our bridegroom. Also note the admonishment to be transformed by the renewing of your mind which hearkens back to Psalm 19:7, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” This is also a passage we discussed before.
As R. O. E. White has noted, “Beside positive motives, Paul stresses positive consecration of the personality so sanctified, in active service and love, with the total dedication of a slave, sacrifice and man in love. The addition of “and spirit” in II Cor. 7:1, the transformed mind set on things above and filled with all things holy and of good report, shows that Paul did not think of holiness only in physical terms. Everything is to be sanctified. Holiness represents purity before God, as righteousness represents purity before the law, blameless purity before the world: sanctification includes all three.”
The blood of Christ sanctifies us before God as it was the bride price paid on our behalf so that we might have relationship with God. Sanctification is however, more than just a onetime event. We are called in Scripture to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, one that is holy. We do this by washing ourselves daily in the word of God and through prayer. Some of this discussion may seem repetitive in nature but that is because many of these concepts cross over one another and are built upon each other. Scripture repeats these ideas because they are important for us to understand and grasp. As the bride of Christ we are to be sanctified, holy, set apart for our bridegroom so that when he returns he might find us faithfully washing ourselves in the word of God and being about his business, namely sharing the gospel, making disciples, and fighting the good fight of faith. We have only scratched the surface of what it means to be sanctified.
I would encourage everyone to do a word search on the word holy or sanctified and to pay special attention to how this plays out in the OT and NT. This will give you something to focus on in the coming months for those of you working through a yearly bible reading plan, especially when it comes to the verses describing the temple and the items contained therein.
In the next part of this series, we will explore what it means for the bride of Christ to be a peculiar people.
As with the other posts in this series, I have included the three part series taught by Jim Staley on this topic:
Who is the Bride of Christ (Part 1)
Who is the Bride of Christ (Part 2)
Who is the Bride of Christ (Part 3)