The Sanctifying Work of Grace

By: Åge M. Åleskjær
From: February 2009
Found in: Sanctification
When the Law is no longer the guide to our Christian life, how shall we then manage to live godly lives? What are the keys to sanctification?

One of the important questions people ask when they hear about freedom from the Law is what guidelines people should then follow in order to live a fruitful and good Christian life. One needs to have some ground rules, or not?

This is where the Word gives some very important answers!

Walking in Him

Simply read for yourself: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, CONTINUE TO LIVE IN HIM, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. SEE TO IT THAT NO-ONE TAKES YOU CAPTIVE through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world RATHER THAN ON CHRIST. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (Col. 2:6-10).

There isn’t one way to salvation and another way to sanctification.

The fundamental thought here is that our walk through life has its full and complete focus in Him, Christ, in the same way as He is the only way to salvation. There isn’t one way to salvation and another way to sanctification. JESUS is the way to both. The first Christians were called THE WAY. This way is Christ Jesus. He is the way to the Father, but He is also the road we are walking on!

More correctly: We walk in Him, we are IN HIM, and He is in us.

Christ is Our Life

When Christ is our life, we can base our walk on the new creation, being renewed to knowledge according to the image of Him who created it (Col. 3:4-10).

This is the foundation for all the admonitions of the apostle Paul correctly place. Throughout all his letters, Paul points out that the key to the walk is the new creation. The new creation has the love of God poured out in its heart and can therefore walk in the law of Christ, the law of love. Paul explains what this means in practical life by many specific examples. For instance, we shall not lie, commit adultery or be angry. It is, therefore, a provoking thought that so many Christians are angry all the time!

I receive many angry letters from people insisting on keeping the Law. The solution for getting rid of short-temperedness is that we have put off the old self and put on the new self, as Eph. 4:20-24 explains. It is in this context that Paul says: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:25-27).

The solution is simply the new creation; the new self has a new nature.

The solution is simply the new creation; the new self has a new nature. We live a life which would be impossible without Christ in us.

The problem pointed to, by Paul, is that some people do no grasp the fundamental thought that the new life and the new self are the keys to a right life. Instead, they take Paul’s admonitions and make a new set of rules out of them. By doing that, one has already lost the focus on Christ, the cross, the new self and the fruit of the Spirit.

In order to stress this, Paul says: “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, WHY…DO YOU SUBMIT TO ITS RULES: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’  (Col. 2:20)

The need that Christians feel for a set of rules is going, in itself,  astray from the life in Christ. He wants us to live by Him, walk in Him, be dependent upon the Spirit of God in everyday life as well as on special occasions. He will show us, when we need it, what we shall do or say. The key is developing a fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

If we live by the Spirit, we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.

The Power of The Cross

There are some simple, but powerful keys to the sanctification. I have already shown you that one key is walking in Him.

The essentials of the life of Christ are His death and resurrection. The word of the CROSS is a force of God. The sad thing is that some preachers and theologians want to reduce the importance of the cross. But we proclaim a crucified Christ. He still carries the marks from the cross!

On the cross Jesus took away all sin, sickness and condemnation.

On the cross, the old self was crucified with Him.

On the cross, the old self was crucified with Him. That is why Paul teaches that practical sanctification is using the power from the cross: “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).  “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed…” (Col. 3:5).

“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, SINCE YOU HAVE TAKEN OFF YOUR OLD SELF WITH ITS PRACTICES AND HAVE PUT ON THE NEW SELF…” (Col. 3:8-10).

Can you see the point? He relates his admonitions to the new self and simply explains what it means in practical life. But by that, he has also said that it will work only for those being born-again!  What counts is being a new creation (Gal. 6:15).

Christ is Our Sanctification

In order that no one shall boast of his or her self in human pride, God has made sure that CHRIST is the only workable way! Unfortunately, pride and arrogance spreads from some Christians who have not grasped that “Christ is our sanctification”. When some Christians speak about holiness, they do it in a way similar to that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. One of their tactics is trying to catch you with their words. But that sort of “sanctification” does not have the aroma of Christ, but of those who wanted to stone sinners.

Sanctification is not a state or an experience, nor a level of maturity in the Christian walk – sanctification is a PERSON!

However, 1 Cor. 1:30-31 is a precious revelation: “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’ “

Because we are in Christ, HE is our sanctification! Sanctification is not a state or an experience, nor a level of maturity in the Christian walk – sanctification is a PERSON! The day when we grasp that, is one of the most important days in our lives.

The question is then: I suppose this must be visible in life and behavior, Åge?
The answer is: Of course, but how does that happen? By CHRIST BEING FORMED IN US! He who is our sanctification, lives in us. So the sanctification becomes visible by HIM being formed in us, and THAT is a lifelong process…

The sanctification becomes visible by HIM being formed in us

The key and the secret is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

The process is 1 Thess. 5:23-24, namely that spirit, soul and body are all filled with Christ-life.

The Work of Grace in Sanctification

Therefore, the sanctification is a work of grace. GRACE does this, too! And grace is free, undeserved goodwill and a happy surprise.

HERE IS THE MESSAGE THAT GIVES THE PROCLAMATION OF GRACE THE CORRECT FOCUS and which many are so slow to hear: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. IT TEACHES US to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled upright and godly lives in this present age” (Tit. 2:11-12).

The same grace that saves us, teaches us to live godly lives in this world.

The same grace that saves us, teaches us to live godly lives in this world.

This refutes all those who believe that the proclamation of grace leads to worldliness and a shabby life. In fact, the complete opposite is written, and the Word should have more authority than our opinions or our fears.

GRACE TEACHES US! What a wonderful teacher. Grace succeeds where the “supervision of the Law” in the old covenant did not (Gal. 3:24-25). The Law only tempted and increased sin, while grace leads to the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

What was impossible for the Law, God did! (Read Rom. 8:1-4)

The Sanctifying Work of the Spirit

In this we touch yet another key to a holy life:
The Holy Spirit lives in us and therefore it is the SANCTIFYING WORK OF THE SPIRIT that produces this life in us.
“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the SANCTIFYING WORK OF THE SPIRIT and through belief in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13).

it is not the sanctifying work of the Law, but of the Spirit!

Peter uses the same expression in 1 Pet. 1:2: “The sanctifying work of the Spirit.”
It should be very obvious to all of us that it is not the sanctifying work of the Law, but of the Spirit! In the New Covenant we are not in the ministry of the letter, but in the ministry of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:6-8).

THE SPIRIT has now taken over all functions! The Spirit convinces of sin, while the Law does not. The Spirit gives us a new birth, the Spirit glorifies Christ and the Spirit equips and sanctifies! We live in the COVENANT OF THE SPIRIT, not in the covenant of the letter. We serve in the newness of the Spirit, not in the oldness of the letter. Here is a big FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE!

The sanctifying work of the Spirit makes the fruit of the Spirit visible. God’s love is poured out in us by the Spirit (Rom. 5:5), and it leads to love, joy and peace - fruit that comes with the new life. Jesus gives life; this life gives fruit. All this happens by the Spirit of the Lord. It is as simple as that. It is effective and deep, and it honors Christ in all things.


By: Åge M. Åleskjær

Former Senior Pastor at Oslo Christian Center, now spending most of his time ministering all over Norway and internationally.

More About Åge M. Åleskjær | Articles By Åge M. Åleskjær