Sanctify them through Thy Truth.  The influence of Bible Truth upon the believer leads him to separation and dedication.

By Paul Billington

When we consider the words that the Lord Jesus Christ prayed for his disciples: "that they may be one" (John 17:22), it is sometimes forgotten that in the very same prayer he asked that they should be "sanctified" through the Truth (verse 17). The word "sanctify" (Gk. Hagiasmos) signifies separation--to be set apart for special use, is the idea. Thus two ideas are seen to be in the mind of Jesus as he prayed; first, that his disciples should be a separated people, and then united together in him.

What the disciples were to be separated from is clear from the context, as follows:

"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world..." (John 17:16-18).

Clearly, the disciples of Jesus were to be separated from the world, even though they were to be in it. This separation would result from the influence of "the truth" upon them. "Thy word is truth" says Jesus, so that it was the power of the word of God upon their minds which caused the separation to come about. This word of truth (which today is found only in the Scriptures) teaches certain principles by which disciples ought to live. Not only so, but the teaching of this word provides disciples with an outlook which is altogether different from people who follow the ways and thought-patterns of the world. This, inevitably, leads to "separation"--that is to say, social incompatibility.

In 2 Corinthians 6 the apostle points this out saying: "What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion (social participation) hath light with darkness?" (verse 14). "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you..." (verses 17, 18).

Such is the call of the true Gospel. Those who come to believe the Truth are sanctified or set apart by its influence. They develop an abhorrence of that which is "unclean". Consequently the real saint (or sanctified one) is not found to be in social intercourse with unbelievers--no more than is necessary for the normal business of daily living. The Lord's saints have no pleasure in movie-going, beer parlours or pubs, howling sports stadiums and similar places where the men and women of the world gather for entertainment. They have no interest in the latest fad or fashion, or in the accumulation of wealth and possessions like other people. The influence of the Truth has set their affections upon higher things (Colossians 3:2); to these things they are dedicated.

These principles can be seen again in Acts 15:14. This verse reads;

"Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name."

Notice this. There is first the call of the Gospel--the word of God in the truth of the Gospel came to Gentiles. This truth has its effect upon some, and it takes them out, or separates them as a people. Finally, we see that they are separated for a specific purpose--expressed in the words "for his name". Here then is a call, a separation, and then dedication.

What then is the objective here? What are these saints dedicated to? The word tells us that they are "a people for his name." Their purpose in life is to bring glory upon God's name--or as the apostle Peter expresses it in 1 Peter 2:9 "...that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light."

How then do these separated ones show forth the praises of the living God? They do so by manifesting the principles of the truth in their lives--and this cannot be better expressed than in the words of Jesus himself, as he instructed his disciples:

"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another"--John 13:34, 35.

Jesus defines carefully the "love" that he has in mind when he says "as I have loved you". He repeats this again (John 15:12-13) saying: "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, IF YE DO WHATSOEVER I COMMAND YOU."

Here then is a one-ness of character and spirit. The Lord's true friends reflect or manifest the ways of the Lord himself. As he would behave, so they behave. As he loved, so they love. As he gave himself, so they are prepared to "lay down their lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16)--and with the same objective in mind. What objective is that? Hear Jesus in his prayer of John 17--

"And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth"--verse 19.

Hear also the words of the apostle in writing to the Hebrews:

"Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people, with his own blood, suffered without the gate..." (chapter 13:12).

Let us note this. The objective stated here is sanctification. But some man will say--'Was not the love of Christ and the sacrifice of Christ for the purpose of salvation?' Indeed, it was, for it is written: "...God hath not appointed us unto wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us..." (1 Thess. 5:9-10). Again, in Romans 5:6-9 "... in due time Christ died for the ungodly...God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him."

There is no contradiction here. That Christ's death made salvation possible does not rule out the fact that it also sanctifies those who believe the Truth. In fact, salvation from both sin and death is effected through a process of sanctification. Christ's death saves only those who are sanctified (set apart) by it. Thus says Paul--: "...God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth" (2 Thess. 2:13). This is the aspect of Christ's work that is all too often ignored. His sacrifice must have an influence upon the believer.

Where there is no belief of the Truth, there can be no sanctification--and where there is no sanctification (separation and dedication) there will be no salvation. Both are necessary. This aspect of Christ's love, this purpose in his death requires emphasis for it is all too often forgotten. His love, manifested in the giving of his life for his friends is intended to evoke imitation in those who are his disciples. They too will go to any length required so that their brethren may be set apart and dedicated to the high calling of manifesting God's name and showing forth his praises.

It is for these people--a people set apart from the world by the influence of the Truth--that Christ prayed "that they may be one." The words have no connection whatsoever with the "unity" being currently sought by an apostate Christendom that is manifestly "of the world". Only those who are sanctified through the truth and by the love of Christ working in them, can be united in him.