Resources for the members of the United Church of God

The Beautiful Process of Becoming a Saint

You are here

The Beautiful Process of Becoming a Saint

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up

×

A full-service car wash is quite a step-by-step process. A typical car wash sequence includes (after paying the cashier): vacuuming, prepping to remove bugs and mud, spraying with soapy water, scrubbing with automatic brushes, rinsing, air-drying with fans, towel-drying the remaining water and cleaning ash trays, mats, mirrors and windows.

God’s plan for mankind is not a one-time quick fix, but a step-by-step process as well-not to wash cars, but to spiritually cleanse people. And it is much, much more than that. It is a total miraculous transformation of lowly humans to become perfect glorified sons of God in the Kingdom of God!

We’ve heard various transformation tales, like a frog to a prince or a Cinderella to a princess. And in God’s creation, there are countless transformations, like a caterpillar to a butterfly and a tiny zygote (embryo) to a beautiful baby.

But the greatest transformation of all is the metamorphosis of a human being from mortal and carnal to immortal and spiritual, from weak and sinful to powerful and holy; in short, from sinner to saint. It is a complex process, but simple in overall design. The more we understand this process, the more we are inspired by the awesome beauty of it.

This transformation can be summed up in three major phases, which are portrayed by the first four festivals of God.

This process can be described with words that may be a little unclear at first, including the words saint, holy, sanctified, justified and saved. These words were not invented by theologians-they are in the Bible where they are used many times.

A clear understanding is necessary in order to know how to answer some important questions, such as: Are you sanctified? Are you a saint? Are you saved? How would you answer?

Let’s begin with some brief definitions.

Justify: To make just or righteous.

Holy: Sacred; set apart, separated, or consecrated to God; separated from sin.

Saint: One who is holy; a holy one.

Sanctify: To set apart for a sacred purpose, to dedicate to sacred use, consecrate; to make holy.

In the biblical Hebrew and Greek, the words translated holy, saint and sanctify are from the same root words. Space does not permit giving the Hebrew and Greek words with their variants and shades of meaning, but the English words translate the meanings closely enough for our understanding.

To help understand the word holy, one can substitute the words of God. Holy Scriptures are the Scriptures of God; holy calling is the calling of God, etc. So a saint or holy one is a person of God-one God has chosen to belong to Him, represent Him and serve Him.

Most of us have heard people say, “I’m no saint,” meaning “I’m certainly not perfect.” Is a saint perfect? What is a saint? One dictionary definition is basically correct: “Any baptized believer in Christ.” The New Testament in many places calls all true Christians saints. And the context often relates sins of those saints, so they clearly weren’t perfect.

Names That Sound Too Good

But the words saint and holy one sound like someone perfect, or practically perfect, don’t they? Let’s pause and reflect for a moment! Doesn’t it just seem that God is describing us, His people (with so many flaws and failings!), with words that are too honorable, too complimentary, too sublime? It certainly seems we don’t deserve to called saints. Or to be considered saved.

One benefit of such noble names is that they give us a lot to live up to. As a wise and loving Father, God uses positive incentives to inspire and motivate us.

Part of the explanation is that God is willing to name us what we will become-to give us the honor now of being called what we are destined to be. God called Abraham the father of many nations long before it became true. Paul explained that God “calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:17 Romans 4:17(As it is written, I have made you a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who vivifies the dead, and calls those things which be not as though they were.
American King James Version×
).

Because of God’s power to transform and preserve us, He has faith in our ultimate success. He calls us winners long before we have crossed the finish line. It truly is a great honor for God to call us saints, holy ones, sons of God, etc. We are very aware that we should honor God, but we tend to forget how much God honors us.

One benefit of such noble names is that they give us a lot to live up to. As a wise and loving Father, God uses positive incentives to inspire and motivate us.

Now consider God’s plan of salvation. To fulfill God’s purpose in “bringing many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10 Hebrews 2:10For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
American King James Version×
), He calls and chooses them, leads them to faith and repentance, forgives their sins, gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit, which empowers them to overcome sins, grow spiritually, become effective servants of God and to be faithful to God to the end of their lives. Then they are changed or resurrected to be glorified spirit beings in the Kingdom of God.

That step-by-step plan and process can be summed up as “sanctification”-the making of a saint. A major reason for our having a deep understanding of God’s plan of salvation is that we observe God’s annual festivals. The first four festivals emphasize God’s plan for individuals, and the last four emphasize how that plan will be extended to the whole world. (The Feast of Trumpets is the middle festival that is in both categories.)

Following are the three major steps or phases of sanctification and salvation. (For the sake of simplicity, the use of the masculine gender, he, him, son of God, etc., refers, of course, to both males and females.)

Passover and Phase One

When God calls and chooses a person, He has initiated the process of sanctification, a process ultimately intended to transform that person into a glorified Son of God.

When a person who has been called by God comes to have understanding, faith and repentance, and then commits his life to Jesus Christ and is baptized, he receives the forgiveness of every sin he has ever committed. And immediately afterwards, when he experiences the laying on of hands, God gives him the precious gift of the Holy Spirit.

When one receives God’s forgiveness and the Holy Spirit, he is sanctified (set apart and consecrated by God for a holy life and purpose). The washing away of the guilt of all past sin makes him holy, and the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit makes him holy.

According to the Bible and God’s point of view, he was moved immediately from the category of sinner to the category of saint, from the category of the unjust to the just, from unrighteous to righteous, from spiritual gentile to spiritual Israelite, from being of the world to being of God, regardless of how spiritually strong or weak he still is, regardless of how many bad habits he still has, etc. He now is “in Christ.”

This is the legal sanctification; it moves the person from the legal status of being “under the law” to being “under grace” (Romans 6:14-15 Romans 6:14-15 [14] For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace. [15] What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
American King James Version×
). For example, when a criminal is pardoned, his life suddenly changes from being a felon to a free citizen. And it is the relationship sanctification; it changes the person from being a stranger and foreigner to a son of God (Ephesians 2:19 Ephesians 2:19Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
American King James Version×
).

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 [9] Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, [10] Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×
, Paul mentions various sinful lifestyles. And then in verse 11, he says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” The words washed, sanctified and justified overlap in their meanings, but note that they are in the past tense. In other words, the members of the Church were already in those categories.

Although many of the members were still very “carnal” (1 Corinthians 3:1 1 Corinthians 3:1And I, brothers, could not speak to you as to spiritual, but as to carnal, even as to babes in Christ.
American King James Version×
, 5:1-2), Paul addressed them all as “saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2 1 Corinthians 1:2To the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s:
American King James Version×
).

Jude’s epistle is addressed “to those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ” (Jude 1). “Sanctified” is past tense; it occurred in the past as a one-time event.

This first phase in the sanctification process coincides with being “saved,” past tense. In the New Testament, saved sometimes refers to having received forgiveness of one’s sins. Jesus told a repentant woman, “Your faith has saved you” (Luke 7:50 Luke 7:50And he said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace.
American King James Version×
). After baptism, a person is no longer doomed to the death penalty. He has been saved from death row.

Also notice how “saved” is used in these verses: “we were saved” (Romans 8:24 Romans 8:24For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for?
American King James Version×
), “by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:5 Ephesians 2:5Even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ, (by grace you are saved;)
American King James Version×
, 8), and “an antitype which now saves us-baptism” (1 Peter 3:21 1 Peter 3:21The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×
).

Phase one of sanctification (and saving) was made possible by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. The blotting out of each person’s sins occurs when Christ’s sacrifice is applied to him personally at the moment of his baptism. Therefore phase one is largely summed up in the meaning and observance of the Passover.

Unleavened Bread, Pentecost and Phase Two

We tend to connect the Passover with the Days of Unleavened Bread, partly because they occur back-to-back on the calendar, and partly because they both are illustrated by the story of the Exodus from Egypt. But there seems to be a closer connection in meaning between the Days of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost, as we shall see.

Once we become saints, we can’t stop there. We don’t “have it made.” Phase number two is progressive sanctification-the lifelong spiritual purification and growth that must take place after baptism. It is the changing of one’s life to conform to Christ. It is the ongoing conversion of our minds and hearts and behavior, the building of godly character.

Phase two requires remaining in the state of sanctification or holiness that went into effect at baptism. We remain holy by receiving ongoing forgiveness from God each time we succumb to temptations to sin. “If we [we baptized believers] confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
American King James Version×
).

In phase two, God commands that we use that position of holiness as a foundation to build a holy life. While speaking to believers who had been made holy at baptism, Paul said, “Pursue…holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14 Hebrews 12:14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
American King James Version×
).

Now the close connection between the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost should be clear. They both focus on our transformation. The former teaches us the changes that must be made; the latter teaches us that God offers the power of the Holy Spirit to make those changes possible.

It’s as if God is saying, “I have freed you from slavery. Now you must use your opportunity-you must walk out of Egypt and keep walking toward the promised land.”

The Days of Unleavened Bread teach us that we are to grow spiritually in our attitudes and behavior-to “purge out the old leaven…of malice and wickedness” (sin) and put “the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (God’s righteousness) into our lives (1 Corinthians 5:7-8 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 [7] Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: [8] Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
American King James Version×
).

In verse 7, Paul says to “purge out the old leaven,” but he also says “you truly are unleavened.” Is this a contradiction? Paul may mean that they should purge out the spiritual leaven since they already are “unleavened” physically-they had deleavened their homes. But another meaning may be that they should purge out the spiritual leaven (second type of sanctification, cleansing and overcoming) “since you truly are unleavened” (first type of sanctification, having received forgiveness and the Holy Spirit).

Using again the analogy of an imprisoned felon who is pardoned, once his legal status is changed, he must learn to change his old habits, learn to live by the laws of the land and become a productive citizen.

The Bible’s use of sanctification and holiness in this sense puts strong emphasis on becoming clean, pure and morally chaste.

“Therefore…let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1 2 Corinthians 7:1Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
American King James Version×
). This involves resisting Satan and fleeing from the temptations and evil influences of the profane world around us. Each must “keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27 James 1:27Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
American King James Version×
).

A wonderful benefit of God’s laws of clean and unclean animals is that they are a constant reminder of our calling to holiness and spiritual cleanness. “You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps; nor shall you make yourselves unclean with them, lest you be defiled by them. For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate [or sanctify] yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:43-44 Leviticus 11:43-44 [43] You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps, neither shall you make yourselves unclean with them, that you should be defiled thereby. [44] For I am the LORD your God: you shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall you defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
American King James Version×
).

Needed: the Power That Makes It Possible

God’s people soon discover that good intentions and resolutions don’t lead to much success. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41 Matthew 26:41Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
American King James Version×
). We need help-lots of help!

Faithful obedience to God is humanly impossible, “but with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 Matthew 19:26But Jesus beheld them, and said to them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
American King James Version×
). Enter God’s Spirit. That’s the answer. Jesus promised His disciples that they would be “endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49 Luke 24:49And, behold, I send the promise of my Father on you: but tarry you in the city of Jerusalem, until you be endued with power from on high.
American King James Version×
). It is because of the power of God’s Spirit that Paul could say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 Philippians 4:13I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
American King James Version×
).

The Israelites on their own could not escape from Egypt and remain alive, much less thrive. God brought them out by a series of stupendous miracles, and He sustained them in the wilderness by constant miracles. Likewise, it takes even greater miracles from God to liberate us-to bring us to repentance and conversion and to keep us growing spiritually. We must zealously work at overcoming, and put our trust in God to bring success.

Now the close connection between the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost should be clear. They both focus on our transformation. The former teaches us the changes that must be made; the latter teaches us that God offers the power of the Holy Spirit to make those changes possible. Pentecost reminds us that we must rely on Jesus Christ and not ourselves. Even the counting of days from one festival to the other implies a close connection.

The Bible likens the calling of the Church in this age to the spring barley harvest in Judea, which began during the Days of Unleavened Bread and ended approximately at Pentecost. So both festivals and the time in between them coincided with the spring harvest. The Jewish custom of reading the book of Ruth on Pentecost is quite fitting. Its setting is the barley harvest in Judea, and its rich symbolism fits both the Feasts of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost.

Since true spiritual growth begins at the time of baptism, we can say that phase two is only possible for those who have experienced phase one. Only those who are sanctified can be sanctified!

Hebrews 10:10 Hebrews 10:10By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
American King James Version×
uses the word “sanctified” (past tense) to refer to the first phase of sanctification, and then verse 14 speaks of “those who are being sanctified” (present progressive tense) to refer to the second phase of sanctification. See also Hebrews 2:10-11 Hebrews 2:10-11 [10] For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. [11] For both he that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
American King James Version×
.

In 1 Peter 2:9 1 Peter 2:9But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
American King James Version×
, Peter speaks of God’s people as “a holy nation.” But in chapter 1 and verse 15, he said “you also be [increasingly become] holy in all your conduct.”

Note that “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be [become] holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27 Ephesians 5:25-27 [25] Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; [26] That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, [27] That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
American King James Version×
). The Church is the people who have experienced the first phase. Then the Church must be sanctified and cleansed (second phase).

See also 1 John 3:3 1 John 3:3And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.
American King James Version×
, 2 Peter 3:9-14 2 Peter 3:9-14 [9] The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. [10] But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. [11] Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness, [12] Looking for and hastening to the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? [13] Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness. [14] Why, beloved, seeing that you look for such things, be diligent that you may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
American King James Version×
, Ephesians 4:1-3 Ephesians 4:1-3 [1] I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation with which you are called, [2] With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; [3] Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
American King James Version×
and Hebrews 6:6 Hebrews 6:6If they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
American King James Version×
.

The word saved is used in the New Testament in this sense as well. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved [present progressive tense] it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 1 Corinthians 1:18For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but to us which are saved it is the power of God.
American King James Version×
).

This use of saved refers to the process of salvation, an ongoing spiritual creation of godly character. “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×
), and “we shall be saved by His [Christ’s] life” in us (Romans 5:10 Romans 5:10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
American King James Version×
).

Therefore phase two of sanctification (and saving) is largely summed up in the meaning and observance of the Feasts of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost.

Feast of Trumpets and Phase Three

We learn in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 [13] But I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. [14] For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. [15] For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. [16] For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: [17] Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
American King James Version×
that it will be at the second coming of Jesus Christ that the saints will receive eternal life. Also, 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 [50] Now this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. [51] Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, [52] In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. [53] For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
American King James Version×
reveals that God’s people will be changed at the sound of the last trumpet from a natural body to a spiritual body, from mortal to immortal, from weakness to power, from dishonor to glory!

This is part of the meaning conveyed by the Feast of Trumpets.

After this magnificent change, we will no longer have the corrupt human nature, carnality and inherent sinfulness. Then all of the wonderful labels that God has given us, such as saints, holy ones, righteous and sons of God, will truly fit us! Reality will match the terminology. We will be completely clean and pure. There will be no contradictions between our names and how we think and act. What a relief and joy that will be!

This third phase is the ultimate sanctification, the final and permanent phase of sanctification that will bring completion. God will have finished His work of spiritual creation in us. We will have been made fully into the image of God. We will be worthy to be called saints. We will be holy as God is holy.

Jesus Christ said, “Therefore you shall be [become] perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 Matthew 5:48Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
American King James Version×
). We will achieve that perfection-at the resurrection!

God is completely committed to the process of transforming us into glorified saints.

The Bible uses the word saved in this ultimate sense also-the receiving of eternal salvation. Paul used the word saved in that sense when he said “that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5 1 Corinthians 5:5To deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
American King James Version×
).

Thus we see the three ways that the word saved is used in the Bible. We in the Church have been saved, we are being saved and we eagerly long to be saved.

Jesus said, “But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22 Matthew 10:22And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endures to the end shall be saved.
American King James Version×
). We all must endure to the end. If we do, we will be saved in the best sense, the ultimate sense, of the word. We will receive eternal salvation in the Kingdom of God!

How motivated are we to complete God’s process of sanctification and saving? May we pray with all our hearts, “Your Kingdom come!” May we yearn for Christ’s return and the resurrection. May we “groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption [sonship], the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23 Romans 8:23And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
American King James Version×
).

God is completely committed to the process of transforming us into glorified saints. For this let’s thank God, as Paul did: “I thank my God…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6 Philippians 1:3-6 [3] I thank my God on every remembrance of you, [4] Always in every prayer of my for you all making request with joy, [5] For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; [6] Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×
).

God’s step-by-step process of making saints is truly a beautiful plan! UN

The Process of Sanctification

Step

Festival

Meaning

Phase One

Passover

At baptism past sins forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice (justified). Moved from “sinner” category to “saint”- saved from penalty of death. Set apart (sanctified) for a holy life and purpose. The starting line.

Phase Two

Unleavened Bread and Pentecost

Lifelong spiritual purification and growth (pursuing holiness) made possible through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Being saved. Running the race.

Phase Three

Trumpets

At return of Christ, saints raised incorruptible, perfectly righteous, holy, glorified. The finish line.

You might also be interested in...