©The Holy Spirit
Puritan Paperbacks by John Owen
Abridged and made easy to read by R.J.K. LAW

By permission
Banner of Truth Trust
Edinburgh, Scotland
Carlisle, PA
Banner of Truth

Chapter 16:Believers Only are Sanctified


Publisher's Preface
1. The Work of the Holy Spirit
2. The Spirit of God
3. How the Holy Spirit Comes to Us and Does His Work
4. The Special Preparatory Works of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
5. The Work of the Holy Spirit in the New Creation
6. The Holy Spirit and the Human Nature of Christ
7. The Work of the Holy Spirit on the Mystical Body of Christ, His Church
8. The Holy Spirit's Work of Regeneration
9. How the Holy Spirit Prepares a Soul for His Work of Regeneration
10. How the Mind is Corrupted and Depraved by Sin
11. Natural and Spiritual Death Compared 12. Regeneration Itself
13. The Work of Conversion
14. The Nature of Sanctification and Gospel Holiness
15. Sanctification a Lifelong Work
16. Believers Only are Sanctified
17. The Work of Sanctification itself
18. The Work of the Spirit in Purging Believers from Sin
19. The Work of the Spirit in Renewing the Spiritual Life of Believers
20. The Activities and Duties of Holiness
21. Dealing with Sin 22. The Necessity of Holiness
23. Election a Motive to Holiness
24. Commanded to be Holy
25. Holiness and the Work of Christ
26. Holiness in an Unholy World

16. Believers Only are Sanctified

All who sincerely believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in God through Jesus Christ - and only those who do - are sanctified (John 17:17, 19, 20; 7:38, 39; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 5:23).

Objection. If the Spirit of sanctification is given only to believers, then how do men become believers? If we do not have the Holy Spirit until after we believe, then we must believe by our own efforts. Doesn't Peter say this in Acts? (2:38). He tells them that first they must repent and be baptized and then they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And doesn't Jesus tell us that the world cannot receive the Holy Spirit? (John 14:17). It seems that faith and obedience are required as a necessary qualification to receiving the Holy Spirit. If this is true, then faith and obedience are our own work and not a work wrought in us by the grace of God, which is Pelagianism.

Answer? First, the Holy Spirit is said to be promised to us and received by us for a particular work. Though he is 'one and the self-same Spirit', and he himself is promised, given and received, yet he has many different works to do. So we receive the Holy Spirit for many different reasons. To unbelievers the Holy Spirit is promised and received by them as the one who comes to make them believers. And to believers he is promised and received by them as the one who has come to sanctify them and make them holy.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit is promised and received to do two main works. He is promised to the elect and received by them to regenerate them. To those thus regenerated, he is promised and received by them to sanctify them, or make them holy.

This work of sanctification must be considered in two ways: first, as the Holy Spirit's keeping alive the principle of holiness given to believers; second, as his work of progressive sanctification, including growth in faith. Faith also must be considered in two ways: first, as to its original infusion into the soul as a gift of God; second, as to its activity and fruits, seen in a lifelong profession of faith and in holy obedience.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit is promised as the Comforter. For this work he is not promised to the regenerate as such, for many may be regenerate who are not to receive comfort, nor do they need it, as in the case of regenerate infants. Nor is he promised wholly and absolutely in all his capacities to adult believers, for many adult believers have not yet been brought into that condition in which the Holy Spirit's comfort would be of benefit to them.

Fourthly, the Holy Spirit is promised and received as the giver of spiritual gifts for the building up of the church (Acts 2:38, 39).

The reason why the Spirit is given for regeneration is election. The reason why the Spirit is given for sanctification is regeneration. The reason why the Spirit is given for comfort is sanctification, along with the temptations and troubles which those who are being sanctified are going through. It is because of these troubles that believers need the Holy Spirit as the Comforter.

What then is the reason why the Spirit is given for the building up of the spiritual life of the church? The reason is the profession of the truth of the gospel and its worship, with a call to encourage and help others (1 Corinthians 12:7).

Here we must take particular note of the following two observations. First, the Holy Spirit does not give his gifts for the building up of the church to any who are outside the pale of the church, or to any who do not profess the truth and worship of the gospel. Secondly, the Holy Spirit is sovereign and he chooses to give his gifts to whom he will. He is not forced to give his gifts to any or to all (1 Corinthians 12:11).

Question. As the Spirit of sanctification is promised to believers, may we in our prayers plead the fact that we are believers, that we are regenerate, as a reason to persuade God to give us more grace by his Spirit ?

Answer. We cannot properly plead any qualifications in ourselves, as if God were obliged to give increased grace to us because we deserved it. Jesus said, 'When you have done all that is required of you, say, "We are unprofitable servants"' (Luke 17:10). But we may plead the faithfulness and the righteousness of God as the one who keeps his promises. We ought to pray that he will 'not forsake the work of his own hands'; that 'he who has begun a good work in us will continue it until he has brought it to perfection in the day of Jesus Christ'; that with respect to his covenant and promises, he will keep safely in his care that new creature, that divine nature, which he has formed and implanted in us. When we become aware of the weakness of any grace, we may humbly confess it and pray for that grace to be strengthened in us.

Question. May believers who are in trouble pray for the Spirit as Comforter with respect to their troubles, seeing that it is to such persons that he is promised?

Answer. They may and ought to pray for the Spirit's comfort in all their troubles. If they do not, it is a sign that they are looking elsewhere for their comfort. Troubles are of two sorts, spiritual and temporal. Spiritual troubles are either subjective, arising from inward darkness and distresses because of sin, or they are objective, arising from persecutions for the name of Christ and the gospel. It is chiefly for these that the Holy Spirit is promised as Comforter.

Temporal troubles, on the other hand, are common to all men. They arise from such things as bereavement and loss of property or freedom. Christians ought to pray for the Spirit as Comforter so that the comforts of God may far outweigh their troubles and that by these comforts of God they will be enabled to encourage themselves in other duties.

Question. May all sincere believers of the gospel pray for the Spirit to give them spiritual gifts for the building up of others, especially the church, seeing that it is for that reason that he is promised?

Answer They may do so, but with the following qualifications. They must do it with submission to the sovereignty of the Spirit who 'gives to every man as he wills'. They must do it with respect to that position and duty they have in the church by the providence and call of God. One not called to preach cannot pray for the gift of preaching. Those who are not called to preach or teach or to minister in the church have no warrant to pray for ministerial gifts. They must pray for those gifts which will best enable them to fulfil their rightful duties. Parents, for instance, must pray for parental gifts.

Question. May one who is unregenerate pray for the Spirit of regeneration to do that work in him? As the Spirit of regeneration he is only promised to the elect. So how would an unbeliever know if he is one of the elect?

Answer. Election is no qualification on our part to be used as a plea in prayer. Election is the secret purpose of God. Those who are elect are only revealed to us when they become believers. Those convinced of sin may and ought to pray that God will send his Spirit to them and regenerate them. This is one way in which we 'flee from the wrath to come' (Matthew 3:7). The special object of their prayers is sovereign grace, goodness and mercy as declared to us in and by Jesus Christ. Those under such convictions of sin have sometimes actually had the seeds of regeneration imparted to them already. Then they will indeed continue to pray for the work of regeneration to be properly done in them. Then in due time they will be given the evidence of that work having been done in them.

Faith: essential to holiness

So we learn that none are sanctified, none are made holy, except those who truly believe in God through Jesus Christ for eternal salvation. This is because 'without faith it is impossible to please him' (Hebrews 11 :6). This faith is the faith that 'justifies'. Now holiness, wherever it is, pleases God. Therefore, without faith, it is impossible for us to be holy and to please God ( 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7).

Our Lord Jesus Christ says that men are sanctified by faith in him (Acts 26:18). If there were any other way or means by which men might be sanctified or made holy, he would not have confined it to 'faith in Christ'. To believe that we can be holy without faith in Jesus is to hold him in contempt. Faith is the means which brings about our sanctification. So where there is no faith, no holiness can be wrought in us (Acts 15:9; Romans 1:5; I Peter 1:20-22; Colossians 2:12-14; 3:7-11).

All grace is first entrusted to Jesus Christ. So we must be united to him in whom all fullness dwells if we are to be united to him in whom all fullness dwells if we are to have anything from kiln (John 15:4). To have a real, thriving, everlasting holiness, we must begin with faith in Christ.

True holiness renews

True holiness is the complete renewal of our whole person, body, soul and spirit. Man was created in the image of God. If sin had not entered, man would have propagated children in the same image of God by virtue of the covenant of creation. But by the entrance of sin, this image of God, which was the righteousness and holiness of mankind before God, was utterly defaced and lost. So the whole nature of man, every part of him, became depraved. 'Every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually' ( Genesis 6:5). So all outward actions of persons in this state and condition are evil, being the unfruitful works of darkness. Scripture includes the body in this depravity of man's nature by sin (Romans 6:19; 3:12-15).

So sanctification must be the renewal of our whole nature, body, soul and spirit, and especially the mind (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:10).

Our whole nature renewed

The subject then of evangelical holiness is our entire nature. So the new nature is called the 'new man' (Ephesians 4:24). A new heart is given. The heart in Scripture is taken for the whole soul and all its abilities. Whatever therefore is wrought on the heart is wrought on the whole soul. A new heart then is a heart ruled and governed by a new ruling principle of holiness and obedience to God.

Sanctification thus has an effect both on our souls and bodies, enabling all their powers and abilities to act in a holy manner. So holiness resides in every part of the soul, filling it throughout, leaving no part of the soul untouched by its influence.

The body also is involved in holiness ( 1 Thessalonians 5:23). Sin is said to reign in our mortal bodies, and the members of the body are servants to unrighteousness (Romans 6:12, 19). So the body is also taken up in the work of holiness. But how?

Our souls are the first proper subject of the infused habit or principle of holiness. And our bodies, as essential parts of our natures, are also made partakers of holiness.

Our bodies are also made partakers of holiness by a special influence of the grace of God on them, for our bodies are members of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15). They are also made partakers of holiness because the Holy Spirit indwells them, making them his temples (1 Colossians 3:16, 17). The result is that the members of the body now become servants to righteousness for holiness (Romans 6:19).

Holiness, therefore, does not change a person naturally, or constitutionally, but morally.

By permission
Banner of Truth Trust
Edinburgh, Scotland
Carlisle, PA
Banner of Truth