Sanctification as a Work of the Holy Spirit

Is sanctification solely a work of the Holy Spirit, or do believers play a role as well?

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When it comes to growing in holiness — "sanctification" — this is really a process that is a cooperative effort between us as followers of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. There really is a "both/and" that's involved in all of this. You know, on the one hand you have the Holy Spirit does work to, in incredible ways by his power, change us and cleanse us and make us more holy. I think back on when I first came to Christ I had a fairly foul mouth. I came to Christ and that seemed to disappear almost overnight, without any effort on my part. And I look at that as the work of the Holy Spirit graciously removing that from me. Yet, at the same time, Paul says to the Philippians that we need to work out or to work at our salvation with fear and trembling. He says it in the same context of, "he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion." So, there's this ongoing sense the Holy Spirit is working, the Holy Spirit will sanctify us, but we also need to put in the effort, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to be disciplined and make that happen. Growing in holiness is not a passive thing. We can't just sit back and say, "Oh well, you know, the Holy Spirit didn't clean up my life yet." But at the same time, we can't do it all on our own. There has to be this cooperative relationship of relying on the Holy Spirit, yet being as diligent as we can with perseverance to press ahead, knowing that we're also only able to do it because of the Holy Spirit.

Answer by Dr. Dan Lacich

Dr. Dan Lacich is a pastor at Northland, A Church Distributed in Orlando, FL.