Paul opened his first letter to the Corinthians by addressing the church and directing his words “to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” It is interesting to note that the word “saint” is found throughout the scriptures, both in the old and new testaments and in most abundance in the Doctrine and Covenants.
Paul was speaking to those who belonged to the church in Corinth, noting that they had been sanctified (past tense) and, as such, could be called saints. Throughout the New Testament, Paul addressed his letters to the saints and spoke of them in favorable terms.
Today, members wear the title of Latter Day Saints, connoting the difference from those that lived at the meridian of time. As with Paul, those in the church today are considered saints. Can we consider, as in the case of the Corinthians, those who were in the church and called saints have been sanctified as suggested in Paul’s address to the Corinthians?
Sanctification, by definition, is to be made holy or purified. In fact, the original Greek term ‘hagios’ was most often translated as holy in the New Testament. While the New Testament contains little in regards to the process of sanctification, the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants adds critical detail to this important process.
In defining His gospel, the Lord spoke of the critical nature of this process. In 3rd Nephi Chapter 27: 19-21 one reads:
“And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel…”
In order to enter the kingdom of God, one must be sanctified or cleansed from sin. This is done through the blood of Christ, which was shed for us. The path here is defined as repentance, coming unto Christ, followed by baptism. Once these conditions are met, we can then be sanctified. Christ tells us in 3rd Nephi 12:1: “after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost…”
This baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is the means to receive a remission of our sins (3rd Nephi 12:3, 2nd Nephi 31:17)
Some in the church has suggested that the process of sanctification is the result of a life-long quest to live a Christ-like life. The idea expressed is that we, day by day, become more holy until, imperceptibly, we have achieved this state of purity. Is this what Paul suggested in his address of the Corinthians; identifying those to whom he spoke as sanctified? Perhaps not.
Moroni provides an interesting checklist for those who are to be considered members of the church of God. In Moroni 6:1-4 we find:
“Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.
Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.
And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.
And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.”
This passage outlines the steps to be numbered with the church of Christ:
Bring forth fruit
Broken heart and a contrite spirit
Witness to the church that they have truly repented
Take the name of Christ and determine to serve him to the end
These steps are defined as prerequisites to baptism. Following baptism by water, the candidate is then cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost. This cleansing is the same as sanctification and precedes membership in the church.
How could sanctification be a life long pursuit if Moroni defines it as a requirement for membership in the church of Christ? This message is consistent with Paul’s comments on the saints of his era. Can we truly call ourselves saints if we have not been sanctified?
Sanctification through the remission of our sins, according to 2nd Nephi 31:17-18, is the gate:
“For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life…”
Can sanctification be the result of a life long effort when the scriptures define it as the GATE to the strait and narrow path?
We are called to be saints, to purify our hearts and minds, to sanctify ourselves in preparation to be numbered with the church of Christ and entry into the kingdom of God.
What think ye?