God Centered Sanctification


Don Fortner 

Jude 1

Those who teach that sanctification is a progressive work which is dependent upon and determined by man, who teach that the believer becomes more and more holy until he is at last ripe for heaven,need to seriously consider one question: Is sanctification essential to one’s everlasting salvation? Without question, it is. That being so, no one who believes the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace can consistently embrace a man centered doctrine of sanctification which would make this vital aspect of salvation something that man does. Sanctification as it is revealed in the Bible is God centered. It is God who sanctifies his elect. We do not sanctify ourselves.

In the Old Testament,it was God who sanctified the seventh day,the firstborn of Israel, and the sacrifices for sin which typified and pointed to the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Gen. 2:3; Num. 8:17-18; Jer. 23:6). In the New Testament, wherever the doctrine of sanctification is taught, we are told that the Sanctifier is God and that the work of sanctification is God’s work (John 10:36; 17:17, 19; Acts 20:32; Rom. 15:16; I Cor. 1:2, 30; 6:11; Eph. 5:26; I Thess. 5:23; II Thess. 2:13; Heb. 2:11; 10:10, 14; 13:12; I Pet. 1:2; Jude 1).These passages of Scripture are heavy, heavy reading for those who teach that sanctification is a work that we do by the enabling of the Spirit.

God’s elect were SANCTIFIED BY GOD THE FATHER in his eternal purpose of grace when he chose and separated them to himself, saying, “I will be their God and they shall by my people” (Jude 1). All the chosen were SANCTIFIED BY GOD THE SON when he put away their sins and made them perfect in God’s sight by the sacrifice of himself (Heb. 10:10, 14). And every chosen, redeemed sinner is in time SANCTIFIED BY GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT in regeneration and effectual calling (II Thess. 2:13; I Pet. 1:2), when he is made a new creature in Christ. In election, we were set apart to be holy. In redemption, we were declared to be holy. In regeneration, we are made holy. This is God centered sanctification.

Source : http://www.donfortner.com/bulletin_articles/65_jude/jude%20v01%20God%20Centered%20Sanctification.htm

13 thoughts on “God Centered Sanctification

  1. “Sanctification”
    I Thessalonians 4:4
    Sanctification, like all other aspects of salvation, is entirely a work of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ. It is not to any degree dependent upon or performed by us. The Holy Spirit tells us plainly that all true believers “are sanctified” (I Cor. 6:11). Never once in the New Testament is sanctification spoken of as being in the present tense, or as a progressive work. Sanctification is the setting apart of God’s elect and making them holy. It is a threefold work of the triune God. We were sanctified by God the Father in election, set apart for him and to be made holy by him before the world began (Jude 1). We were sanctified by the blood of Christ in redemption, justified, and declared to be holy before God (Heb. 10:10, 14). We were sanctified by God the Holy Spirit in regeneration, having a holy nature imparted to us in the new birth (II Pet. 1:4; I John 3:9). And the God of peace shall sanctify us wholly, spirit, soul, and body in resurrection glory at Christ’s second coming! Notice: In all aspects, sanctification is something God does for us and in us, never something we do for ourselves, or even something we do for ourselves by the gracious assistance of God the Holy Spirit.

    Don Fortner


  2. Hi, Elmarie!

    I’m new to your blog finding your via Sola Sisters blog and Stand up for the Truth. May I ask a few clarifying questions concerning this post?

    1. Do you equate salvation with sanctification?
    2. When the Lord commands us to ‘put off the old’ (Eph. 4), ‘put to death the deeds of the body’ (Rom. 8), present your bodies a living sacrifice…which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12), ‘cleanse ourselves of all filthiness…perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7), et. al. have nothing to do with our sanctification?

    It is my understanding that positionally we are sanctified at the point of salvation, but because we are still sinners we are commanded to, by the power of the Holy Spirit, follow these commandments in an effort to live lives of holiness. As we grow in the wisdom and knowledge of Jesus Christ, we will understand how to be obedient in this manner. This is the process of sanctification; growing more and more like Christ (Eph. 4:15). We can only accomplish this by the power of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of God alone.



      • Elmarie,

        Sorry for the delay. Busy weekend!

        I am trying to understand your position concerning sanctification. Don Fortner’s post presents a certain understanding of sanctification with which I assume you agree.

        Last year my home group studied a book on sanctification which presented a view not completely unlike Fortner’s. I found much of it to be troubling and began trying to understand what true, biblical sanctification really means. What I have discovered is that for centuries there have been two major differences: those who believe justification = sanctification (Roman Catholicism and some in the neo-Calvinist camp) and those who present sanctification to be distinct from salvation. Those who hold to the latter believe what I posted as my understanding above; that positionally we are sanctified at salvation and yet still in need of more work. Don Fortner presents a position that seems more in line with the Roman Catholic position.

        I do not claim to have a complete understanding of it all, but I do strongly feel that we, as Christians, are commanded to actively work at becoming more Christ-like (sanctified) and with the help of the Holy Spirit we will.

        Lastly, I have found Dr. Paul Elliott’s teaching on sanctification extremely helpful. I see his banner on your sidebar, so I wanted to mention that. =]


      • Yvonne

        Thanks for your comment, Grant, my husband has already given the explanation of our position. I do make use of much of the teachings of Dr. Paul Elliott’s and have found then helpful too. I do not agree with you on what you say about Don Fortner.

        We must remember man is fallible.


      • Yvonne

        This should be a good read about the issues on the Lordship salvation controversy.

        Absolutely Free: A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation [Hardcover]
        Zane C. Hodges

        In Absolutely Free! Zane Hodges deals with a question that strikes at the heart of the Christian faith, “What must I do to be saved?” By examining various Bible passages Zane Hodges demonstrates the answer today is still “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” This answer is set in contrast against modern “lordship salvation” teaching which answers “Surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” or “Repent to the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”
        While looking at what the Bible teaches about eternal salvation, he answers other key questions about the Christian life from the Bible such as, “What does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ?”, “How do I know I am really a Christian?”, “Can I fail in my Christian walk?”, “What is the biblical meaning of repentance and how does it relate to salvation?” and “If I am saved, why should I serve God?” The end result of this book motivates individuals to simply believe in Jesus Christ for the absolutely free gift of eternal life and to serve Jesus out of gratitude for that free gift. This book is a great guide on how to build one’s life on a firm foundation.


    • Yvonne

      Thank you for commenting.

      Very briefly, regarding your questions:

      1) There can be no salvation without sanctification.

      2) All the verses you have quoted, and there are more, have everything to do with our sanctification. By our own efforts, we cannot fulfill any of these requirements. These requirements are met by Christ. Rom 6:6, 17; also Rom 7:13, 25; and 2 Co 5:17, 21

      3) We will remain sinful till death. Our efforts toward sanctification do not render us sinless in order to gain access or approval for heaven. That would leave the saved sinner, who has only one hour left to live, very little time to “work” towards an improvement in his own sanctified position. Some of us are fortunate to be in a position to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of Christ, we will understand these things better, of course you are right. But, our performance and efforts in achieving holiness will never succeed in sanctifying us for God.

      A simple comparitive illustration: You heard that it must be cold in heaven, too chilly for you, so you pack a light blanket in for the trip, just in case. But when you arrive you find that all weather is perfect in heaven, God made heaven and called it Heaven because all things in heaven are perfect.
      You heard that it must be difficult, like eye of the needle difficult, to gain access to heaven, and you feel your sins and iniquities are too great, so you go about according to a stringent works based regime throughout your whole life, trying to make your deeds acceptable to enter heaven, but when you arrive you find that Jesus Christ fixed all your sin and iniquity, His Sacrifice on the Cross has made you acceptable, sinless, not-guilty to God.

      Those who fail dismally in living up to even the most basic of our own moral standards, which we perceive as a sort of “minimum requirement” to be seen as “sufficiently” sanctified, cannot lose their justification as a result of their failures and mistakes. God knows we cannot be good enough – only sinless perfection is enough for God, and only Christ could have achieved that. We can by no means add to that sanctifying work which He completed on our behalf. 2 Co 5:21

      Eph 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
      Eph 4:16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

      Now even once that process is well underway in life of the saved believer, it cannot sanctify that believer any further than what Christ did for those whom He justified and sanctified. That process which we are led to follow simply Glorifies God. Surely everyone who knows the Lord and has His Spirit would want to glorify God?

      Joh 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.



      • Grant,

        You said, “We will remain sinful till death. Our efforts toward sanctification do not render us sinless in order to gain access or approval for heaven.”

        I completely agree.

        You said, ” our performance and efforts in achieving holiness will never succeed in sanctifying us for God.”

        I agree, as well, with a caveat. We are commanded to act. You quoted Epesphians 4:15 which commands us to “…to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” And as you also say there are many other Scriptures where we are commanded to DO something.

        Just to clarify, I do not believe we will become sinless this side of eternity as some teach, but I do want to be obedient to the Lord when in His Word tells me to do something that will make me more Christ-like.

        As I told Elmarie, I do not claim to completely understand this topic. I am open and willing to admit that I am wrong. I just see so many places in Scripture that command me to action in regard to how I think and act in the power of the Holy Spirit.

        I look forward to discussing this further in the spirit of Proverbs 27:17 ~ As iron sharpens iron…

        May the Lord be glorified!


  3. Elmarie & Grant,

    I have been re-reading some of the articles that Dr. Paul Elliott has written on progressive sanctification in an effort to better understand. What he presents as progressive sanctification is different than what Don Fortner presents as progressive sanctification and I guess that is where I struggled.

    Here is one of the articles that helped me:


    Grace and peace,

    PS~ Please pray for Dr. Elliott. He is in the hospital recovering from major surgery.


  4. Pingback: Donald ‘Don’ Fortner (Updated) | Hillside

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