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Choice: Foundation, Means, Purpose
1 Peter 1:1–2
1 Peter Lesson #011
April 9, 2015
“Father, we’re thankful that we have freedom in this country to gather together to proclaim the truth of Your Word, to study it, come to understand all of its teaching, all the ramifications and implications that we can derive from the text. No matter how profound we find Your Word, there’s always more to learn, more to discover; and there are many different ways in which the Holy Spirit uses it in our lives to mature us, to give us wisdom and skill in living and to challenge us to transform our lives to reflect the character of Jesus Christ. Father, we continue to pray for this nation and for our president and those in the Supreme Court that are going to be evaluating issues related to marriage. We pray that You would give them wisdom and insight and You might continue to protect the divine institution of marriage in this nation by means of the laws of this nation. Father, we pray for others in the administration, that you might restrain the influence of those whose objections are evil and self-destructive and open the eyes to the reality of the dangers of this world internationally, the dangers that threaten us from the possibility of a nuclear Iran. Many are self-blinded to what is happening because they just don’t want to face the reality and the consequences of war. As horrible as that might be, it pales in comparison to the horrors of a nuclear terrorist nation. Father, we pray for us that as believers, we might be relaxed and a beacon of hope and light to those around us and that we might apply Thy Word in a way that brings honor and glory to You. We pray this is Christ’s name. Amen.”
Okay, we are in 1 Peter 1, and we are continuing in our study of the opening lines, the salutation. (Slide 3) It’s taking a little longer than it usually would because as soon as we got into this, we cracked into one of the more challenging doctrines that’s covered in the Scripture that relates to this whole area of foreknowledge and election and predestination. These are terms that have been, as I’ve explained over the last three or four lessons, grossly misunderstood for a number of different reasons. I know that sometimes I haven’t been as clear as I should because I’ve been plowing some new ground.
I learned a long time ago listening to pastors, that if there was a mist in the pulpit or a fog in the pew, it was because the pastor was plowing some new ground and was working through it just a few inches ahead of us. That’s true, and I’ve experienced it many times over my studying that if you’re teaching three times a week, you just don’t have that kind of time – you have so much to study and so much to read. Even today, I cracked open an article on the salutation on 1 Peter, and I started reading through it and thought, “I wish I’d seen this about five weeks ago.” There’s always something you can learn from a number of different sources. It’s just a matter for a pastor to constantly have enough time. Sometimes it’s not a matter of how he spends his time as much as there’s just not enough time in a finite world to really drill down on everything.
I’m going to try to synthesize this for you tonight so that we can summarize what’s going on here in these phrases, and then move right on down the line. (Slide 4) We’re going to tie these three things together in terms of these prepositional clauses in verse 2 today because this is really setting an orientation for the reader. As a reader would read the opening, it would give some clues as to some themes that would be brought out in the scope of the letter of some things the writer wanted to remind the reader of to lay a foundation prior to what he was going to challenge them with in that particular letter.
Here we read initially, Peter identifying himself as the apostle of Jesus Christ, and he’s writing, as we have it translated in most translations, (although there’s a few that do move the word “elect” up at the beginning). The word “elect” in the Greek actually comes prior to the statement of the location of the recipients, so it should read, “Elect to the pilgrims of the diaspora in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by means of the sanctification of the Spirit, for the purpose of [directional] obedience.” So we are choice ones for a purpose. It’s not just related to our positional identification with Christ, but it’s for a purpose, and that purpose is for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. We’ll come back to look at that a little more as we go through that tonight.
Here are the three prepositional phrases that all modify this adjective “elect”, or “choice ones.” So all are given equal weight. It’s choice according to the foreknowledge of God. That gives us the basis, the foundation for His identification of us as choice ones. It’s in line with a standard, and that standard is what He knew from eternity past. It’s by means of something. It doesn’t just hang out there in isolation, but He has identified us as choice ones through a certain activity or by means of a certain activity which is identified here as the sanctifying ministry of God the Holy Spirit.
We have to look at that, and then it’s for a purpose. Just as Paul states in Ephesians 2:10, we have been saved for “good works”. That’s not morality. We have to distinguish between that. We’ll come back to talk about that a little bit, but the Christian life isn’t simply morality. It’s a life that’s lived by the Holy Spirit. That gets us into experiential sanctification which is a different issue than what we have here in the second phrase.
It’s for the purpose of good works, but those good works are performed as a result of our walk by the Holy Spirit. We have a volitional decision to walk by the Holy Spirit, and we also exercise our volition to choose each time we’re obedient, and to be obedient by means of the Holy Spirit. The Christian life is produced, it’s energized, it’s empowered by God the Holy Spirit. In many, many Christian denominations and theological systems, after you’re saved you just go out and obey the Scripture with no understanding of the role of God the Holy Spirit, no understanding of what it means to abide in Christ, no understanding of what it means to walk in the light. As a believer, you can either walk in the light, or walk in the darkness; walk by the Spirit, or walk according to the sin nature; and learn how to recover. So they never understand these things in those theological systems. The spiritual life basically becomes a life where you’re pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. It’s all in terms of human effort with no understanding that you could be doing it in the power of your sin nature where it has no eternal value whatsoever, or you can do it by the Holy Spirit. You have to understand how to recover from sin when you sin, and that’s the role of 1 John 1:9.
(Slide 5) Just as a reminder, when we looked at the Greek words, we saw three main Greek words that have to do with election. First, the verb EKLEGOMAI, the adjective EKLEKTOS, and the noun EKLOGE. The verb has the idea of choosing out, or selecting, someone usually for the purpose of commissioning them or appointing them to a purpose. It’s not just the idea of going “eeny, meeny, miney, moe.” The point is that they’re being appointed to something significant.
(Slide 6) The word EKLEKTOS is normally translated elect or chosen. It is an adjective and it actually, as we see, has the idea of being choice or excellent. It is pointing out the best of something. It’s that qualitative idea. I’m going to clarify that a little bit more as we go through. It indicates there is a group of select ones. That’s not talking about God making a choice. It’s talking about the quality. (Slide 7) We looked at that and saw that is also the idea in the Old Testament in the word that’s translated elect often, bachir. It has the idea of the choice, the elect, or the most excellent ones.
(Slide 8) I’ve used the illustration of the Magnum bar, the select almonds, the highest quality of almonds. This is the same idea we saw in Matthew 22:14 (Slide 9). This is foundational I think. This whole parable that the Lord told about the wedding feast where he sends out his messengers to invite everyone, but some are not willing to come. So that as a result, the father of the groom then sends out the invitations to more - to everyone, good and bad. There are those that respond to the invitation. When we next see them, they’re seated at the banquet, clothed in special clothing. But there’s one there that doesn’t have on the right kind of clothing, and he is ejected from the banquet. Then it concludes with this verse, “Many are called [the invitation that goes out to many] but few are choice.” The invitation went to many who didn’t come, so all, in one sense, are chosen in that they’re all invited. The translation of EKLEKTOS here is confusing because it indicates that the one inviting does the choosing. The only one who stated in the parable who makes a choice are those who are not willing to come. Those who come are choice because they have on the right clothing, which is tantamount to the imputation of righteousness.
When we look at this passage (Slide 10) and it talks about “elect according to the foreknowledge of God,” what we learned in our study of foreknowledge is that this relates to knowledge ahead of time. It’s sometimes called prescience: to know something beforehand. It doesn’t have the idea of choosing, or the idea of predetermining, or the idea of foreordination. It doesn’t have the idea of predestination. It is simply the idea of knowing something ahead of time.
(Slide 11) Back to 1 Peter 1:1–2. That’s just kind of a summary for us. Peter is writing to the elect; and they’re going to be defined by those three prepositional clauses. But they’re located in these areas of what we now call Turkey, what was then referred to by these regional names. (Slide 12) We also call this whole area Asia Minor. It refers to these five locations - residents of the diaspora in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Here they are on the map. It runs in a clockwise direction. Pontus. Then Galatia. I chose this particular map because the coloring really shows the contrast so you can see where these territories were located. Pontus is up on the Black Sea. Galatia, as you see, is a rather large area looking at the green here. When Paul went on his first missionary journey, he went to Cypress first. Then he came back here to Pamphylia. Then he went to Lystra, Iconium, and Derbe. He also went to Antioch and Pisidia up here; and then Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Then he went back to Antioch, so he was in southern Galatia.
I believe that’s who he wrote Galatians to. There’s a big dispute among scholars over whether he wrote Galatians to northern Galatia, or was writing to the southern Galatians. This shows you the broad territory that Galatia covered. Cappadocia is over here in the yellow. To the west you have Asia. The Roman province of Asia is where, on Paul’s second missionary journey, he was prohibited from going to Asia or to Bithynia. God the Holy Spirit was leading him to Troas and eventually over into Europe. Peter is writing to this group. Probably there’s a significance to the order in that the messenger who is carrying the epistle is probably taking it first to Pontus, then to Galatia, then to Cappadocia, and then west to Asia and back up to Bithynia; so that would describe his direction.
(Slide 13) They’re identified as resident aliens in the diaspora. I believe the use of the term here PAREPIDEMOS is used of the patriarchs, that even though they were resident aliens who didn’t own the land - that that was a term the Scripture uses along with the term diaspora, which is also used a couple of times in the New Testament - but it always refers to Jewish people, to ethnic Jews. So Peter is writing to Jewish-background believers.
That runs counter probably to, and I won’t put a percentage on it, but there’s a small minority that hold this view. Most of the commentators hold the view that this was written to Gentiles who are compared to the Jews in the diaspora. There’s not comparative language here, and I think that violates the basic rule of literal interpretation. The other thing you find is those who take this as some sort of analogy to the diaspora and not really writing primarily to Jews, but writing to Gentiles, Church Age believers, and just comparing them to the scattering of the Jews in the Old Testament; but Peter also talks about greetings from Babylon, so they tend to take that as a long-literal term and as a code word for Rome. I don’t believe that. I think Babylon means Babylon.
Peter was the apostle to the Jews, and Babylon was the second largest area of Jewish habitation in the diaspora. It had a huge, huge Jewish population, second only to the population in Judea and Jerusalem. That again supports the idea that he’s writing to primarily a Jewish background audience. First thing we learn is that the residents of the diaspora are Jews who had trusted in Jesus as Messiah. (Slide 14) The second thing we learn is that the term elect as a translation of the Greek adjective EKLEKTOI has as its primary meaning, an emphasis on quality. I can’t express that enough. It’s not saying “you’re chosen and you’re not” but it’s a focus on the quality of these individuals. They are choice ones, or excellent ones.
We saw from Matthew 22 that that choice is related to their possession of the right garments, that they have imputed righteousness, the perfect righteousness of Christ, which is the basis for justification. (Slide 15) Another thing we ought to say about this word elect is to remember that there’s also an overtone with this word in terms of the Old Testament choice God made of Abraham and his descendants. That’s his choice nation, Israel, from the Old Testament. So the question we ought to ask is if this is written to Jewish background believers, does this idea of calling them elect or choice ones have any overtones related to the Old Testament?
They are choice ones by virtue of every Jew, saved, unsaved, atheist, Buddhist, secular; every Jew is choice because they are descendants of Abraham, and therefore heirs of the Abrahamic covenant. That doesn’t mean they’re saved. It just means that in terms of God’s plan of choosing Israel, that they are set apart or appointed for a purpose. That fits within the idea of EKLEKTOI. Some people have raised that as a possibility, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the Abrahamic covenant.
Under the third point, another thing we can say about the use of this word is that it’s not in reference to Jewish background believers exclusively in terms of their relation to their Creator and the covenant. We know this because of the second two phrases, “by means of the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.” See, that didn’t happen in the Old Testament. That’s not something that’s related to God’s plan for Israel in the Age of Israel, or under the Dispensation of the Patriarchs, or the Mosaic Law. You didn’t have the sanctification of the Holy Spirit at that time. That indicates this is talking about Church Age believers, and is applied to Church Age believers, and doesn’t have any overtone of being related to the Abrahamic covenant and their Jewish ethnicity.
The second line, that it’s “for obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,” certainly doesn’t apply in the Old Testament because in the Old Testament the sprinkling of the blood was of the bulls and the goats. It was ritual sacrifice; so both of these phrases tell us that Peter is addressing Church Age believers. They may be Jewish background, but that’s really not coming into play when we read this word EKLEKTOI.
(Slide 16) Now the fourth thing I want to say about this is that the excellence or quality we have here is further defined for us. It’s not just hanging out there in isolation. Why does Peter say you’re choice and say three things about it? The first thing he says is about this choiceness of “according to the foreknowledge of God.” In studying that over the last couple of weeks, we’ve pointed out several times that first of all, foreknowledge is defined as knowledge beforehand. It does not refer to something elect, foreordination, predetermination or any of the other definitions you usually find in the Reformed camps. It simply means to know something ahead of time.
The next thing we learn is that God’s identification of them as choice is according to a standard. (Slide 17) The preposition in the Greek is the word KATA. We see a parallel in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 in talking about the Antichrist. Paul writes, “Whose coming is according to, KATA…” That’s the same preposition in the Greek. “According to the working of Satan.” KATA communicates that something is according to a particular standard or may be on the basis of something. The Antichrist coming is on the basis of Satan’s work, or it’s because of Satan’s work. Those three phrases sort of help us define what “according to” means.
We see that this foreknowledge, God’s prescience, identifies us as choice ones, and it’s according to something that is known ahead of time by God. - that in eternity past, God knew who would possess perfect righteousness. So this quality is due to, or it’s because of, or it’s based upon God’s knowledge from eternity past.
(Slide 18) We wrap this up with four things. First of all, in eternity past God, in His omniscience, knew who would respond to the invitation to trust in Christ as Savior. He’s not being arbitrary. You don’t have God just saying, “Okay, I’m going to create ten people. Four of them I’m going to designate will be saved, and six of them will not be saved.” Even if you expand it and say that the four who will be saved will be saved through faith, God is still picking who will be saved and who won’t be saved, and it’s not predicated upon any responsibility on their part.
We’re not told anywhere in Scripture what the criteria or condition is for God’s choosing. In Calvinism, it’s expressed as unconditional election, meaning that God chooses them on the basis of no condition, which makes it very arbitrary. God is just saying, “I’m going to select you but not you.” They exclude the idea of God’s prescience, His foreknowledge, His knowledge of future things from that decision.
In Calvinist theology God can’t know something unless He’s already determined it. According to them, God does not know the alternatives, the hypotheticals, or what philosophers call the counterfactuals - the things that coulda, shoulda, woulda happen, but didn’t happen. They say God just knows what will happen. He doesn’t know what might happen. We see that in eternity past, part of what goes into God’s thinking is His knowledge of future contingent events and what will actually take place.
(Slide 19) So we graph it this way. The outer circle represents all the knowledge that God has. He is omniscient. There never was a time when God did not know all of the knowable. He immediately precedes it for all time. It is a direct knowledge that God has. He never learns anything. He never acquires knowledge or loses knowledge. He always knows everything. That includes all of the possible as well as all of the actual. Foreknowledge relates to what God knows in advance will happen. That goes into His decision making as He makes this selection.
The choiceness is a result that in His plan, those who trust in Christ will receive imputed righteousness, and those who trust in Christ will be the choice ones, and that is the determination of His plan. He is not individually determining who will and who won’t. He is saying that those who trust in Christ, those who respond to the invitation, are the ones who are clothed with the right garments at the banquet. They’re the ones who have imputed righteousness. Those are the ones who have the quality. They are the choice ones.
(Slide 20) That is point 2. Those who respond in faith alone receive the imputation of perfect righteousness from God and are declared righteousness. So they are choice because they have something they didn’t earn. They have Christ’s righteousness. They have not merited it, because the merit is at the cross. It is Christ’s righteousness. It’s not faith. In theology everybody seems to want to put merit somewhere. Calvinists often say faith is a gift. They mean that faith in Christ is a gift. It’s different from the faith you had this morning when you were running late and ran out to your car to put the key in, and it started, you believed it would start. If it didn’t, then you were surprised because you believed it would start. That’s the issue. It’s the same kind of faith in Christ. A Calvinist will say no, it’s not because they say it’s not saving faith. It’s not the right kind of faith.
The Bible says that it’s the object of faith. Anyone can believe. A perfect picture is the Lord’s Table. Anyone can eat. Anyone can drink. That is a picture of accepting or receiving Christ into our life. Anyone can do it. It’s based upon their decision. It’s not based on God’s decision. He’s not choosing who will and who won’t. It’s the object of faith, the work of Christ, that gives the merit to the individual from the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Those who respond in faith alone receive the imputation of perfect righteousness from God, and are declared righteous. They’re the ones who possess that quality. They become choice ones because they possess perfect righteousness.
(Slide 21) Third, we see from this that God’s knowledge beforehand, his prior knowledge, or prescience, perceives who will believe and who will not. On that basis of knowing that these will believe and receive imputed righteousness, they are the choice ones. This idea of being choice or select ones, when you look through all of the word study literature, goes back to concepts in the ancient world, especially in ancient Greece in the democracy of Athens: that those who were elected or chosen in the election, were appointed to a responsibility. The focus is not on the process of choosing, but the focus is on the responsibility of being appointed to a responsibility. That’s also sort of a nuance that’s part of this concept - that those who are choice receive the perfect righteousness of Christ so they can fulfill the responsibility God has given them.
This leads to the second of the three prepositional phrases that we have. They’re sanctified by the Holy Spirit. They’re set apart by the Holy Spirit. This idea of being choice is related to a quality that every believer has: the perfect righteousness of Christ. How do we receive that? We receive that by our identification with Christ in our death, burial, and resurrection. In that identification with Christ, we are set apart, so these are all tightly, closely related concepts between being choice ones, receiving imputed righteousness, and being set apart positionally by God the Holy Spirit.
(Slide 22) The fourth thing I’ve noted is that inclusion in this group is not because of faith. The phrase “because of faith” would be expressed in Greek with a preposition DIA with an accusative case. It would indicate that faith was the cause of a person’s salvation but the Bible says we’re saved through faith. Faith is simply a means by which something is accomplished. It’s not the cause. The cause is the love of God. He is the One who provides salvation. So inclusion in this group is not because of faith. That makes faith meritorious. The merit or the value is the death of Christ, not the kind of faith that a person has. That helps us understand that first phrase, “We are choice ones according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” It doesn’t stop there. It’s not a period. It’s not even a semi-colon. It’s a comma because there’s a second prepositional phrase that qualifies and helps us understand the basis for being choice ones.
(Slide 23) It is by means of the sanctification of the Spirit. This is an extremely important doctrine, and the term “sanctification” actually has three senses to it in the New Testament. It’s pictured through the sacrifices in the Old Testament. First of all let’s look at the word group that’s used. These words, HAGIASMOS, HAGIOS, HAGIAZO, and HAGIASMOS represent the words in the Greek text, all related to one another. The word that’s used here in this verse is the noun HAGIASMOS. It’s used ten times, and it’s typically translated holiness, sanctification, or consecration.
Words like holiness, sanctification, and consecration are words that you hear teenagers tweeting all the time. Right? Everyone knows these words. You use them when you’re at the grocery store, right? These words have basically become marginalized and antiquated in the English language. Most people don’t know what they mean. A lot of Christians don’t have any idea what they mean; and especially if they’re reading some of the “dumbed-down” translations, they don’t have a clue what these words mean.
They were great words when the Bible was translated into English, and they communicated to people because after the Protestant Reformation, people were educated in the local church and were taught what these words mean. They were chosen because they were words that were part of the vocabulary of the population in England. I’m thinking about the King James Bible. These were words that could communicate. They were understood. Not so much anymore.
The noun that we’re often very familiar with is HAGIOS. This is the noun that is usually translated “holy” or “sacred.” It’s also translated “saint” in some places. Anyone who is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is called a saint, a sanctified one. There aren’t just the Biblical saints. This term refers to every single believer because it’s a reflection of the doctrine I’m teaching here which is called positional sanctification, or positional truth - that we were positionally, legally set apart unto God at the instant of our salvation. That’s the idea of HAGIOS. It means something that is holy or sacred. That’s how it’s usually translated. The idea is that something is set apart to the service of God. That’s the core meaning for this whole word group. The verb means something holy, or to consecrate something, or to sanctify it.
Basically it means to set something aside to the service of God. In the Bible you have a lot of different things that are set apart for the service of God. You have people, sacrifices, places (such as the Temple or the Tabernacle or an altar), that are sanctified. They’re made holy. When most of us think of the word holy, what do we think of? We think of the contrast between good and bad, between evil and good, that something holy is pure, morally pure. If something is holy, it is something that is good and righteous.
We often think of the word holy as a synonym for righteous. If you go back into the Old Testament, the core verb translated holy is qadosh. It’s interesting that in Hebrew when you are saying a prayer, a certain kind of prayer, it’s called a qiddish. You hear the same consonants in there, q, d, s, h. Those are the consonants in that word. A qiddish is a prayer, a prayer of sanctification, basically. You’re praying for something to be sanctified or set apart to God in some way in a prayer. You say qiddish at a funeral when someone has died, when you’re sitting shiva for someone, you’re saying a qiddish. It’s that idea of something set apart for God.
One form of that noun was used in a masculine and feminine form to refer to the temple prostitutes at the fertility religions for the worship of Baal and the Asherah. So the temple prostitutes, temple hookers, the temple whores that were working there in the various fertility rites were called qadeshim. Now how in the world can they be morally pure? They’re not. But they’re set apart to the service of their god. That’s the core thing. You talk about an altar. How can an altar be morally pure? How can the utensils that are used in the sacrifice, in the butchering of the animals of the sacrifice be morally pure? How can they be immoral? They can’t. Rocks and wood and metal can be neither morally pure nor morally impure, but they are set apart to the service of God. This is very important for us to understand.
Believers and unbelievers just have a hard time understanding the fact that you can be sanctified and consecrated to God, and holy, and be out of fellowship. There are a lot of Christians who believe that if you commit certain kinds of sins, either you weren’t saved, or you’ve lost your salvation because they don’t understand this important doctrine of positional sanctification: that we’re declared legally righteous and we’re set apart to God at the point of our salvation, and we can’t lose that. It doesn’t have anything to do with who we are or what we’ve done. It has everything to do with who Jesus Christ is and what He did on the cross.
So we have the noun HAGIOS, the verb HAGIAZO, and another noun HAGIASMOS describing the quality of holiness or consecration or sanctification. That is the word that we have here, HAGIASMOS. When we look at what the Bible teaches about sanctification, I use this chart (Slide 24), a time-honored chart. This is one of the best charts I’ve ever seen to help people visualize what we’re talking about.
There are two areas of our relationship to God. One is our Eternal Realities [on the left] and the one on the right has to do with Temporal Realities. At the instant that we trust in Christ as Savior, we are identified by God the Holy Spirit. That’s what baptism signifies, an identification [Romans 6:3–6], that we’re identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection; and we’re identified with Christ so that we are placed in Christ. We are sanctified, set apart forever and ever in Christ. We are no longer what we were before we were saved. We are now new creatures in Christ. Everything is different.
(Slide 25) Also, a reminder on this chart, Three Stages or Phases of Salvation. Phase one has to do with justification. When you trust in Christ as Savior, God imputes, or credits to your account, the perfect righteousness of Christ, and He legally declares you righteous. Does that make you righteous? No. When the judge declared that O.J. Simpson was not guilty, did that make him righteous? No. Did it make him not guilty? No. It made him not guilty legally and that’s it. It’s a legal definition, a legal concept. That’s what it is for us. We’re legally declared righteous because we possess something - the perfect righteousness of Christ.
Then after we’re saved, the issue is our spiritual growth, our spiritual life. Then when we die, we’re absent from the body and face-to-face with the Lord. We also talk about these three areas (justification, our spiritual life, and glorification) in terms of positional sanctification. That’s what happens at the instant we’re justified. We’re positionally sanctified. Experiential sanctification refers to our ongoing spiritual growth.
When we die, we’re now free from the sin nature, and we are sanctified. When we’re justified, we’re free from the penalty of sin. We’re not going to go to the Lake of Fire. We’re no longer spiritually dead. We’re now spiritually alive. We’re free from the power of sin as we grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then we’re ultimately free from the presence of the sin nature when we are glorified.
I want you to turn in your Bible to Leviticus 21. Going all the way back into the Old Testament, to the third book: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, chapter 21. Leviticus 21 is I think one of the more interesting passages in the Old Testament because there are some things we never quite get right when we talk about the Old Testament ritual. Here we have regulations for the priests. I want to pick up the context, so go back to verse 1. The Lord says to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron and say to them, ‘None shall defile himself for the dead among his people.’” This has to do with ritual defilement. If they’re ritually defiled, they can’t go into the Temple, and they can’t serve the Lord. They’ve already been set apart positionally as priests.
When they were inaugurated as priests, they were anointed, or sprinkled. That sets them apart as priests for the rest of their lives. When they’re the right age, they can start serving in the Tabernacle or Temples as a priest, but they can defile themselves. This is talking about experiential sanctification. “None shall defile himself for the dead among his people.” In other words, not touching a corpse. If you touched a corpse, you would be ritually defiled. Is that a sin? Not at all. Ritual defilement is not the same as a sin. Ritual defilement is whenever you eat the wrong thing, or you go to the wrong place, or a woman gives birth, different things like that would ritually defile a person.
If you examine these things, what you discover is that the food that was unclean usually involved a scavenger of some sort. Something that involves death. Why do we have death? We have death because of Adam’s sin, because of the Fall. So God is giving a visual lesson here that you are to avoid certain things that were there because of sin. He’s teaching about the iniquitousness of sin. He’s saying someone can’t defile himself by touching the dead, except for his relatives that are nearest to him: his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, and his brother. Also his virgin sister is near to him who has had no husband, for he may defile himself. If any of his close relatives die, it’s okay to touch their bodies. But anyone else, no.
Verse 4, “Otherwise he shall not defile himself for each [leader among his people] to profane himself. They shall not make any bald place on their head…” All of these things have to do with what the pagan priests would do. “They should not make a bald place on their heads” is almost like the tonsure that Roman Catholic priests in the Middle Ages would have - same kind of thing. “Nor shall they shave the edges of their beards.” In other words, there was a certain way they could not trim their beard because that’s how pagan priests did it. “Nor make any cuttings in their flesh.” They couldn’t do any self-scarification because that was also part of pagan priestly practice.
Then verse 6 says, “They shall be holy.” There is that word qadosh. “They shall be holy or set apart to their God and not profane the name of their God.” So there we see a contrast, set apart to honor Him; and they’re not going to make God something that is common or profane. “For they offer the offerings of the Lord made by fire and the bread of their God; therefore, they shall be holy.” This is a command. They shall be set apart to God’s service and follow certain regulations. “They shall not take a wife who is a harlot or a defiled woman nor shall they take a woman divorced from her husband for the priest is holy to his God.” He’s set apart to His God. There’s regulations who he could marry and who he couldn’t.
Where does it say he has to believe the Messianic hope? That he has to be regenerate? That he has to be justified? Are there any spiritual qualifications here? None at all. That’s one of the most fascinating things to discover: is that they didn’t have to be saved. They just had to fit certain physical qualifications in order to be a priest, because ritual is not the same thing as reality. Ritual is just depicting certain things about reality. A priest could serve God and not be saved, but he still went through the ritual; and it depicts certain spiritual truths.
(Slide 26) Then we come to the verse I want to go to which is Leviticus 21:8, “Therefore you shall consecrate him.” That’s positional sanctification. He is set apart at the beginning of his service as a priest. He is positionally set apart to serve God. “Therefore you shall set him apart [that’s the idea there] for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you. He shall be treated distinctively and uniquely by you for I, the Lord, who sanctifies him” [set him apart, but it doesn’t mean he’s saved; it means God sets him apart to serve Him] because he’s a descendant of Aaron. He’s a Levite, not because he has trusted in the Messianic hope.
“I, the Lord, who sanctify you am holy. I am unique.” That’s how I would translate that. He’s holy. Part of what makes God unique is all of His attributes, including His righteousness and His justice. So that gives a little insight into the Old Testament background and Old Testament meaning.
There are a couple of other passages I want to look at in the New Testament that emphasize this idea of positional sanctification. This is the use of the noun that we’re looking at: HAGIASMOS. (Slide 27) It’s found in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 where Paul says, “But we should also give thanks to God for you brethren, beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification.” I chose this verse because of that language. That word there is the preposition EN, by means of sanctification of the Spirit. God didn’t just choose you. There’s not just this selection process, but it’s through sanctification by the Holy Spirit. There has to be faith in Christ, and God the Holy Spirit then identifies you with Christ, and you are sanctified.
This is the use of the verb that has a different idea than the noun. Here it focuses a little more on God Who makes the selection process. But what’s the standard? The standard is Romans 8:28–29 and 1 Peter 1:2, and it’s according to the foreknowledge of God, from the beginning of salvation, for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. So this is positional at this point. It’s talking about what happens at the instant of salvation.
Acts 26:18 is another place where the noun is used in the sense of positional sanctification. Paul is talking about those who have trusted in Jesus. He says God is going to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light, from the dominion of Satan to God so they may receive forgiveness of sin and an inheritance among who? Those who have been sanctified. It’s a perfect tense participle. Perfect tense always means action that’s not just in the past. It’s that action was completed in the past so that their sanctification is complete in the past. This isn’t talking about experiential sanctification, which is ongoing through our life; and it’s not talking about ultimate sanctification, which only happens when we die. It’s talking about that which has been fully, totally completed, and that is positional sanctification. How does that occur? By faith in Christ. You trust in Him, and we are positionally sanctified.
We have to distinguish this from passages such as Romans 6:19. (Slide 28) where Paul says, “I’m speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. Just as you presented your members [your body] as slaves to impurity and lawlessness [that was when they were unbelievers] resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members to slaves to righteousness resulting in sanctification.” Now they’re already saved and sanctified positionally. Now he’s telling them they need to walk in obedience and righteousness, and that will result in experiential sanctification, your spiritual growth and spiritual maturity.
Romans 6:22 says, “Now having been freed from sin [completed action in the past] and enslaved to God you derived your benefit resulting in sanctification and the outcome, eternal life.” So that’s talking about sanctification, experientially and the result is ultimate sanctification, eternal life.
Another use of the term in terms of experiential sanctification is the verb in John 17:17. (Slide 29) Jesus prays to the Father, “Sanctify them in truth. Thy Word is truth.” He’s talking about His disciples. Are they already positionally sanctified? Yes. Here it’s talking about experiential sanctification, their experiential growth.
(Slide 30) In 1 Corinthians 1:2, this is one of the clearest passages because Paul is addressing a bunch of really confused, disobedient Christians living in Corinth. They were involved in all kinds of sins. They were divisive. They were arrogant. They were licentious. They were overlooking some sins. They were taking other Christians in the congregation to court. They were suing each other. There were all kinds of problems. They were getting drunk and being gluttonous at the Lord’s Table. All of these things were going on. They were so carnal that that’s the picture we always have of the concept of carnality in the Bible. Paul addressed them and said, “To the Church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified.” Again, it’s a perfect tense use of the verb. It’s completed action. “To those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling.” So all these carnal Corinthians who are involved in all these different sins are saints - not because they have such a morally pure life, but because they’ve been set apart in Christ; and they have imputed righteousness. They’re saints by calling with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. This is a great passage emphasizing positional sanctification.
One last verse on this. (Slide 31) Hebrews 9:13, “For with the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh.” Now those sacrifices were for sin offerings, trespass offerings. And whenever they would become ritually defiled, they would have to bring a sacrifice. It was the sprinkling of that blood on the altar that would restore them to ritual fellowship with God and make them fit to once again worship in the Temple.
So this brings us to the Doctrine of Positional Sanctification. This is the idea that we are identified with Christ and become legally and positionally set apart to God at the instant of salvation. So, in terms of the first point, the believer is united with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection according to Romans 6:3–6. I’ve stated that several times.
Second, this act sets Christians apart. We are set apart in Christ. It’s that position of being in Christ that sets us apart from the world. It makes us distinct from others. That’s 1 Corinthians 1:2. The third thing we’ve seen is that sanctification is accomplished through the death of Christ. (Slide 32) Hebrews 13:12, “Therefore, Jesus, also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood [His work] suffered outside the gate.” So Christ’s death is the basis for sanctification. Hebrews 10:10, “By that will we have been sanctified [perfect tense] through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all.” That’s positional sanctification. It’s been completed.
(Slide 33) The fourth point, Acts 26:18 tells us that this sanctification is applied at the instant of faith in Christ. “We have been sanctified by faith in Him.” It’s that last line, perfect participle again, it’s completed action. Why is this doctrine so important? One reason it’s so important is that this is an absolute reality that can never be destroyed by any sin or act that we’re engaged in. We did nothing to be sanctified, and we can do nothing to lose our sanctification. You did nothing to be saved, so you can do nothing to lose your salvation. That’s something you can tweet, if you’re into tweeting. I don’t think anyone here is. That’s the point. If you are listening to someone and they say that somebody can lose their salvation, it doesn’t matter how well you thought they had a grace gospel, if they say there’s something you can do to lose your salvation, there’s something in the woodpile that says you can do something to get your salvation. You can’t do something to lose it unless you’re doing something to get it and that’s always the clue. There’s nothing we can do.
That’s great comfort because we all sin. At times we even shock ourselves with some of our sins. It doesn’t shock or surprise God because in His omniscience He knew every sin we would ever commit. He says, “I imputed it to Christ on the Cross and Christ paid the penalty.” So the second reason it’s important is that every one of us is righteous because we possess Christ’s righteousness. It’s not because we’re moral. It’s not because we behave correctly. There’s that little bumper sticker that says it’s not that Christians are better, it’s just that they’re forgiven. That captures it. We’re not better than anyone else. We’re just forgiven. We’ve realized that forgiveness in terms of positional sanctification.
That means we can relax. We don’t have to be concerned about our future. We know that if we die tonight or tomorrow, we’re going to be “absent from the body, face-to-face with the Lord”. We can be sure of that. We need to make sure that every one of our children and grandchildren clearly understand. They’re never too young to start communicating the gospel to kids.
The third reason this is important is that we realize that every one of us is perfectly sanctified even though we commit a lot of nasty sins. We’re still set apart because it doesn’t have anything to do with us. It has everything to do with Christ. Experiential sanctification has to do with our spiritual growth. Positional sanctification has to do with our relationship with Christ that cannot be lost.
Now the last thing we see in 1 Peter 1:2 is that it talks about the fact we’re choice “according to God’s foreknowledge by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit and for the purpose of obedience and sprinkling of the blood.” I’ll come back and say a little bit more about that next week.
(Slide 34) Look at Hebrews 10:22 before we close. The writer of Hebrews says, “Let us draw near with a true heart and full assurance of faith having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” That’s the idea. This is post-salvation cleansing. That’s what was depicted in the Old Testament. The Old Testament sacrificial system pictured sprinkling in relation to the consecration of a priest or a high priest. The word is most often used for on-going sin offerings. When someone sinned, they would have to bring a sacrifice and be cleansed of that sin so they could worship at the Temple.
That’s what Peter is talking about here, reminding them at the end, that your choice according to the foreknowledge of God, by means of the sanctification of the Holy Spirit [relates to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness but it doesn’t stop there.] That’s what Paul says. You’re a new creature. You once were bond slaves to sin. Now you’re a slave to righteousness. Live like you’re a slave to righteousness. That’s what Peter says here. All of this was done for the purpose that we would be obedient to God. Sometimes we’re not, so we have to recover through confession of sin. That’s this sprinkling, the application of the death of Christ. 1 John 1:7. We are cleansed continuously by the blood of Christ.
Every time we confess our sins, there’s a sprinkling, a cleansing as it were, from the fact that Christ died for our sins. This is stated over and over again and gives us great confidence. We don’t need to focus on our failures. We need to focus on the cross and the grace of God so that every time we stumble, we can confess, pick ourselves up, and keep going forward. Everybody runs into these problems. Too many people just get overwhelmed with guilt in the Christian life which is like handicapping yourself terribly in terms of spiritual growth. It’s a great doctrine that we just continue to go forward because of Christ’s death on the cross. We realize forgiveness every time we confess sin.
“Father, thank you for this time we’ve had to study this evening and to focus on these important doctrines - to be reminded that we are choice, not because of what we’ve done but because of what Christ did for us on the cross. We have received His righteousness. You have imputed or reconciled it to our account, and that is the basis for our relationship with You, not anything we have done. But all of that was for a purpose, that we might obey You, walk in obedience which means to walk by the Spirit and apply the death of Your Son through confession of sin every single time that we commit sin. We recognize afresh that forgiveness of sin that we have in Christ. We pray this in His name. Amen.”