Joshua 7:13, “Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.”
Sanctify means to make holy, or to set apart for God, Genesis 2:3; Exodus 19:23. In the Old Testament, sanctification often represented the ceremonial or ritual consecration of any person or thing to God: so the Hebrews as a people were “holy unto the Lord,” Exodus 31:13; and the tabernacle, the altar and the priests, were set apart for the God’s service, Leviticus 8:10-12.
In the similar sense, men, “sanctified themselves” who made special preparation for the presence and worship of God, Exodus 19:10, 11; Numbers 11:18. For example:
- A day was sanctified when set apart for fasting and prayer, Joel 1:14“Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD.”
- The Sabbath was sanctified when observed and treated as “holy unto the Lord,” Deuteronomy 5:12, “Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.”
- All these sanctifications were a tribute to the holiness of God, and suggest men’s need of sanctification, or the devotion of purified and obedient men to his love and service.
In a doctrinal sense, sanctification is to make perfectly holy what was before corrupted and sinful. It is growth of God’s grace upon the Christian justified by the love of Christ. We are gradually cleansed from the corruption of our nature, and then we are presented to God, “unspotted before the throne of God.”
We must realize that it is the Holy Spirit that performs this work along with the providence and Word of God, John 14:26; 17:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2 and this ought to move every Christian not to resist Him but seek to be holy even as He is holy.