To be Like God

(Sermon Notes) By Warren Zehrung  7/10/2021

Brethren, today we will be speaking on the subject of sanctification in God’s Plan.  In our classic Church narrative, we have not spoken very much on the subject of sanctification – at least not using this word specifically.  Our Sanctification means to be made holy, set aside.

Sanctification means to become holy as God is holy—set apart for a sacred purpose and special use.  Sanctification is a concept that is vital to our continuing growth in the faith.  For example, if someone were to ask us to explain the concept of sanctification of the Spirit, what would our answer be?  Paul wrote:

2Thessalonians 2:13  But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

That is not an unfamiliar concept in the Scriptures, as Peter also comments on it:

1Peter 1:2  Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

Brethren, through sanctification of the Spirit we are able to become holy as God is holy—to be like God.  And that is the title of today’s sermon.  To be like God.  Many Scriptures teach us that Jesus Christ undertakes the work of sanctification of His brethren—just as He did their justification.

Hebrews 10:14  For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.

Hebrews 10:15  Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,

Hebrews 10:16  This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;

That is the process of sanctification.  Our Sanctification means to be made holy, set aside, and called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).

That is the fullest meaning of being called by God unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord (1Corinthians 1:9).  When we stop to pause and reflect over life and its problems in this troubled and angry world, we are often perplexed and at a loss to understand God’s underlying purpose in creating us.  We, brethren, are so very special:

1John 5:19  We know that we belong to God, though the entire world lies in wickedness.1

Most people realize the visible realities: man is born, he must work to earn his bread and make his way through life, and, sooner or later, must face the inevitable certainty of death.  But, the great majority of people, due to their own ignorance of the truth of the Bible, and due to the gross error of most religious teaching2 have never really understood the spiritual realm and what lies therein.  They have not known or understood the Creator’s wonderful Plan and why we have been placed here.

Let’s consider the basic Plan and purpose, and the goal, of the Eternal Creator who has set human life in motion.  Let’s determine the true values—the things really worth struggling to attain.  Let’s ask ourselves the question, “Why is sanctification necessary?”  And to understand that, we need to start at the beginning:

Very few people seem to realize the fact that, as we are born into this troubled world we have only a human nature.  It is a nature that is a conflicting mixture of both good and evil.  Why, because Adam and Eve, instead of worshipping God, chose to take of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Ours is a rebellious nature inherited from our parents and grandparents clear back to Adam and Eve.3

When the Eternal God created our first parents and started the human race on its way approximately 6,000 years ago, He did not then make them completely perfect.  Although God did not make Adam and Eve with evil in their nature, still He did not make them incapable of sinning, as He could have done, nor did He make them capable of living forever.  For He told them that if they sinned—they would surely die (Genesis 2:7, 2:17, 3:19).

But it was all important that man be given free will—the will to choose good or evil—so that ultimately man could attain to Godly character.  Adam and Eve could choose to worship their Creator God, or be self-willed—the choice was theirs.

God said that His creation was, “Very Good.” (Genesis 1:31)  So we know that Adam and Eve were created perfect only in the physical sense—perfect in form, shape, health, genetics, beauty, and the intelligence of a sound mind.  Otherwise, they, and all mankind, have all been born completely lacking the one vital Godly attribute which all men desperately need, which is God’s Holy Spirit.

Yes, with the exceptions of Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, and Jeremiah the prophet, all mankind has entered this life minus that which every person needs above all things, God’s Holy Spirit within themselves!  Man needs to have God’s Holy Spirit within themselves in order to know the will of God.

The most precious gift He has to offer anyone, besides that of eternal life in the world to come, is one’s receipt now of His Spirit within their mind and heart, to properly order and establish their lives.  Far above all physical health and perfection, far above all positions of power and prestige, or of material wealth and prosperity, the most wonderful thing in life to be earnestly desired by every thinking man and woman is the possession of God’s Holy Spirit!  Jesus Christ had this in mind when He said the following:

Luke 11:9  And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Luke 11:13  If ye [as human parents], being evil, [that is, possessing an inherently evil human nature] know how to give good gifts unto your children: [Yes, human nature has some good in it because it came from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil!] how much more shall your heavenly Father give Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Christ well knew that above all things man is born to need, and should earnestly strive to acquire, God’s Holy Spirit, His most precious and good gift!  What Took Place in Eden?  Satan himself is a created being and is totally subject to the power and will of God.  Those things which God has allowed Satan to do has not thwarted His overall Plan for humanity.

From the very beginning it has been Our Creator God’s express will that men should have His Holy Spirit within themselves.  Even Adam and Eve could have acquired His Spirit.

In Genesis 2:9 we see that God placed the “Tree of life,” which represented His Holy Spirit in the center of the Garden of Eden, and that Adam and Eve could have partaken of it.

However, when they foolishly chose to ignore the tree which would have brought them God’s Holy Spirit, and instead partook of the one forbidden tree in the entire garden. (Genesis 2:15-17)

Adam and Eve, then and there—by reason of their willful disobedience to the commands of God—automatically denied themselves the receipt of His Holy Spirit!  By partaking of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil, our first parents then became an unstable, contradictory, mixture of both good and evil.

By rejecting the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, for disobeying His command, for eating the forbidden fruit, lost the sound mind they were created with and acquired a corrupt mind.  (2Timothy 1:7)

Therefore, God drove Adam and Eve from the paradise of Eden.

Thus it was that the children of Adam and Eve, and all their descendants to this very day, have entered this world under the handicap of corrupt minds and a sinful human nature.  As Paul explains in:

Romans 5:19, “By one man’s disobedience [Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden] many were made sinners [all Adam’s descendants acquired his disobedient nature which causes us to sin].”

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul reaffirms God’s declared intentions toward mankind by stating of:

1Timothy 2:4  “Who [desires that] all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

From many Scriptures we learn that Our Creator has placed men here on earth in order that they might be saved, that He alone can save, and that it is His loving will that all men should be saved!

Did God know what was liable to happen in the Garden of Eden between fleshly Adam and Eve and the superior spirit-being – Satan the Devil?  Of course God knew.

The issue involved was whether or not our first parents would voluntarily submit themselves to the loving will and rule of their Holy Creator God.  To test them on this crucial point God allowed Satan to tempt Adam and Eve.

Adam and Eve need not have listened to Satan’s lies and corrupted themselves.  They were not forced to do so.  But once the error had been made, by which they openly showed themselves unwilling to voluntarily submit to the will of God, they were removed from the Garden of Eden and all its blessings, to teach them and their descendants the bitter results of disobedience.

Man is a creation made of matter, made of the dust of the ground, and subject to decay and death.5

Just why did God first create Adam of the dust, and then, even though he and Eve miserably failed to obey Him, continue creating their children of the same composition—the dust of the ground?  Why has God chosen to continue creating those since Adam with an inherited human nature full of weakness and defects?

The answer to this searching question explains the reason for all human history—past, present, and future!  Why has the Creator God deliberately made mankind on such an inferior plane?  The answer is that we must qualify—to be on His level—the God plane.

Romans 8:20  “For the creature [meaning us] was made subject to vanity [subject to material decay and eventual death], not willingly [since those of us since Adam have had no choice in the matter, as Adam did], but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope.”

Here we find that God has admittedly subjected us to an inferior, temporal, composition and nature, that we have had no choice in the matter, but that God has done so far a reason—for which He has great expectations for humanity thus created!   Do we understand God’s Plan for humanity?  It is to be like God!

What prompted God to first create us of the earth, and with defective human nature inherited from Adam?  Paul explains the startling implication and significance:

Romans 8:21  “Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption [from enslavement to material decay, wearing out, and eventual death] into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

We are to be like God.  God’s glorious purpose in first making us of the ground is that from such “clay models”—subject to every temptation of evil—He may nevertheless create those like Himself—in His image and likeness — the crowning masterpiece of all His creative art!  His Plan is that such vessels of clay be formed and shaped to become like Himself.

It will be those who are willing to submit to the process involved.  It calls for obedience to His laws, even though to obey goes against the pull of human nature.

The ones worthy by reason of their cooperative efforts and willing submission to His Plan will be ultimately changed by Him into perfect Holy beings—the fully born children of God!  Again that is the process of Sanctification.  How does that change in us take place?

1John 3:1  Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not.  Title here:

1John 3:2  Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

1John 3:3  And every man that hath this hope in him purifies himself, even as He is pure.

That is working toward sanctification6.

Thus it is that although we originally enter this world in an vile and material state, in a state of enslavement to corruption and death, it is nevertheless gloriously possible— and God’s express design and desire—that those who show themselves worthy may ultimately become His own children—fully like Him (His character) in every respect!

Philippians 3:21  Who [our Lord Jesus Christ] shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.

John 17:5  And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

In other words, God has purposed to create His own Divine Nature (2Peter 1:4), His own superb character, in and through those made of clay who will wrestle with their imperfect human nature in order to overcome the bad in it and become as much like their Creator as possible7.

Isaiah 64:8  “But now O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we are all the work of thy hand.”

Through sanctification, God is bringing us to glorification if we fail not.  To effect this wonderful transition—from clay models possessing a naturally rebellious human nature, to that of spirit-beings possessing the Holy and obedient nature of God—man stands in desperate need of receiving here and now, in this life, God’s Spirit within himself.  Yes, God is responsible for us entering this life without His Spirit.  But, we ourselves become responsible for remaining without God’s Spirit if we fail to ASK, and do what He requires in order that we may receive His Holy Spirit.  We have a big, big part in the process of sanctification—receiving more and more of God’s Spirit.

Acquiring God’s Holy Spirit is known as sanctification.  Moreover, once we come to realize our lack of His Spirit, once we understand our imperative need of it and how it can be obtained, we then become directly responsible for our own welfare and eternal Salvation.

In God’s Church, too many forgot that after their initial justification and baptism—they were required to grow in holiness and sanctification through the workings of God’s Holy Spirit.  Peter said that if we will accept Christ’s complete rule over our lives, then God promises He will give us His Holy Spirit.  No one receives God’s Spirit unless and until they become willing to obey the Commandments.

We cannot keep the Commandments without God’s Spirit.

The Commandments comprise God’s all-inclusive Law of Love.  By honestly keeping each and every point we prove our love, first toward God, and then toward our fellow man.  It takes the love of God Himself to fulfill His Holy Law. (Romans 13:10).

Romans 5:5  … the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.

Romans 8:7  “… the carnal mind [the natural human mind we are all born with] is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

When Paul stated here that the natural human mind is not subject to the law of God, he meant it is a mind which sees no necessity in obeying the Commandments.

The natural human mind naturally rebels at all thought of serving God.

A natural human mind craves unbridled freedom from the will of God and the rule of God—and being devoid of God’s Spirit, it cannot please Him.

Brethren, what about the rest of our lives—that is where sanctification comes in.  We must quit lying, stealing, bearing false witness, profaning God’s Holy Sabbath and so forth.  Without the virtue, mind, power, strength, understanding, and faith of Christ within us we cannot conquer the badness in our human nature as we are supposed to do.  We cannot overcome our faults and weaknesses and devastating sins on our own.

There is a process that we must follow:  It goes like this:

Justification, Sanctification and then Glorification.

I’ll explain the sequence as I go on today.  That is the course that we must follow to be like God.  To be like God?  “It is too ambitious!”  “It’s an outrageous concept.”  “It is to impossible to imagine.”

The world believes such a concept as being like God is blasphemy because they have no desire to become like God at all.  In the Bible, becoming holy as only God is holy is called sanctification.

It seems that it takes a Biblical vocabulary to begin to grasp God’s intent that we become like Him.  ‘Sanctification’ is a word we have heard without really knowing how it comes about or how it works.  

Most people in the world go through life without ever using words like justification, sanctification and glorification.  But for those who are being called, chosen and faithful it is very important that we understand how God will bring us fully to Himself through sanctification.

It took the death of our Savior for us to be able to be like God.  Jesus was praying to His Father during the night before He was crucified.  Jesus gives the reason He willing laid down His life:

John 17:17  Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

John 17:19  And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

Jesus was saying to His Father that He was being offered up for our sake.  In death, Jesus was consecrating Himself for a sacred purpose, offering Himself as a holy sacrifice to God so that we also may be sanctified [set apart, dedicated, made holy] by [His] truth.  What does it mean to be sanctified?

Sanctification has to do with the setting apart of Christians from sin and the ways of this world.  It is the inward spiritual conversion as a result of God’s Spirit at work within us.  Sanctified Christians live by every word of God, and walk in His righteousness.

There is a sequence that is utilized by those whom God is calling:

Salvation begins with justification and the process of sanctification, and ends in our glorification as God beings in the resurrection (Hebrews 2:10).

That is our goal – that is God’s goal, too.  When we are called and granted repentance by God, through faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior we are immersed in a watery grave—burying the old man of sin, and receive God’s Holy Spirit with the laying on of hands.

We are justified, purified and made clean.  The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us then and there.  That is our justification stage – our past slate wiped clean.

At that point in our calling we are actually pure, forgiven, reconciled and holy.  At that moment we are also initially sanctified because all of our sins have been forgiven, covered and washed away.  We are like a newborn babe – perfect in every way – though not at all mature – with much growing toward Christ yet to take place.

Sanctification continues to increase daily throughout life in a true Christian.  Too many have assumed that preliminary justification is all there is to being a Christian.  No, we must live a life in Christ.  We must go on to His perfection (Hebrews 6:1).

Ephesians 4:13  Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:

Though sanctification, with God’s Holy Spirit, we continually strive to attain to that goal of perfection.  We begin striving toward ever increasing sanctification as soon as we are baptized, and we do not cease until death.

The expansion of Godly sanctification can be so powerful a force in a Christian’s marriage as to bring about the sanctification of the spouse and children.

1Corinthians 7:14  For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now your children are holy.

1John 2:5  Whoso keeps His word [God’s Commandments], in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him.

It is by the indwelling motivation and power of the Holy Spirit that we must diligently pursue sanctification by keeping every word of God.  It is God’s word living and growing within us that brings us toward holy perfection.

Sanctification progresses within us as we become more and more like Jesus.  Our goal then, is to become fully like Jesus and like God the Father.  We see both in these Scriptures:

Jude 1:1  Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:

1Corinthians 1:2  Unto 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 upon the name of Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

The Church that Jesus marries will be a sanctified Bride (Revelation 19:8): [This describes sanctification]

Ephesians 5:26 …Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it;

Ephesians 5:26  That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, [There we see the sanctification – now followed by the glorification.]

Ephesians 5:27  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 [sanctified] and without blemish.

That is exactly God’s Plan for us.  The concept of being like God so enraged the Jews of Jesus’ day, they sought to kill Him.  Because of the healing at the pool on the Sabbath…

John 5:18  Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill [Jesus], because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

John 10:31  Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.

John 10:32  Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?

John 10:33  The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, make thyself God.

‘Sanctification’ means to become holy as God is holy—set apart for a sacred purpose and special use.  In Genesis we see that God sanctified the Sabbath Day, set it aside for a Holy purpose.

Sanctification is the inward spiritual transformation of a person that Jesus Christ, as our High Priest, works in a convert by His Holy Spirit following justification.

Some people think that Justification is all there is.  “We get cleaned up—and we’re ready for the Kingdom.”  If Justification was all there is to the process of becoming like God – God might as well raise up stones (Matthew 3:9, Luke 3:8).

Sanctification is what our Christian life is all about.  Three steps here:

The threefold process of salvation begins with justification, proceeds through sanctification and ends in glorification as God beings.  Sanctification is the middle step Christians go through in becoming like God.

First of all, we have to get right with God – the fancy name for getting right with God is Justification.  But first, we must be called by God to initiate the Christian process. John 6:44, John 6:65.  God is not calling everybody right now—only a few.  Only God the Father knows who will be useful to Jesus Christ in His millennial work.

In this time now, we have to become LIKE Jesus Christ in order to be ready to teach God’s way in the Millennium.  If we do not learn to become like God NOW, we will be of no use to God in the world tomorrow.

God’s purpose is to bring us to salvation with the goal of having His character and express image instilled upon us.  If we do not complete the training process that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David went through, we will be of no use to God during the next 1,000 years.

God might as well have waited for the second resurrection at the end of the Millennium to called us.  We only have a limited amount of time to become Christ-like in order to be co-Saviors with Jesus Christ.

Jesus works within us to instill His principle of life, making us holy in our actions and reactions within the experiences of life.  That is sanctification!

This makes us Godly Christians, and at the same time, prepares us for teaching in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus carries us through every step of the way.

Romans 5:6  While we were yet in weakness [powerless to help ourselves], at the fitting time Christ died for (in behalf of) the ungodly.

Romans 5:7 Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble {and} lovable {and} generous benefactor someone might even dare to die.

Romans 5:8 But God shows [and] clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us.

Romans 5:9 Therefore, since we are now justified (acquitted, made righteous, forgiven and brought into right relationship with God) by Christ’s blood, how much more [certain is it that] we shall be saved by Him from the indignation [and] wrath of God.

Jesus justifies us.

Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is much more [certain], now that we are reconciled, that we shall be saved (daily delivered from sin’s dominion) through His [resurrection] life.

Jesus is alive and active 24/7 in our lives, Sanctifying us.  We are being transformed and saved by Christ’s living His life in us.

Justification has to do with aligning us with the standard of God’s law that in turn permits us into God’s presence.  Justification gets the salvation process started.

1Corinthians 1:30 tells us that Christ is not only our righteousness [Justification] but also our sanctification.

1Corinthians 1:27  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

1Corinthians 1:28  And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are:

1Corinthians 1:29  That no flesh should glory in his presence.

1Corinthians 1:30  But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

1Corinthians 1:31  That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord.

What we must understand is that forgiveness, cleansing, and even fellowship is not a once-for-all act; but it is a process—even as growing in the grace and knowledge is a process, even as the writing of God’s law on our heart is a process. Cleansing is a process.

Redemption, like salvation, is a process that has begun but has not yet reached its conclusion.  Both of these processes began when we believed and accepted Jesus Christ, but they will not end until we receive God’s Spirit in full measure and are glorified in His Kingdom.

Sanctification unto holiness:  We are gradually being transformed into the image of God.  The Source of our sanctification is Jesus Christ.  Sanctification is the inward spiritual work that Jesus Christ works in us–changing who and what we are.  To appropriate the Name of God (Children of God, Church of God, People of God) means to represent His attributes, character and nature.  Our daily behavior, likewise, must imitate Christ just as Christ’s behavior revealed God the Father.

Sanctification is the period between justification and glorification during which we become holy, when the growth takes place.

Titus 2:14: …Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Hebrews 2:11  For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.

In closing…  We will be like God.

Jesus is now glorified and sits at the right hand of God the Father on His throne.  Jesus says:

Revelation 3:21  To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne.


End:  To be Like God


Thanks to Gene C Carter   (1921-1991)

“The Truth About God’s Holy Spirit”  (~1950)

Support Scriptures:

  1. Luke 4:5-6; Galatians 1:4; 1Corinthians 14:33; 2Corinthians 4:4),
  2. Romans 1:28; Hosea 4:1-6; Jeremiah 4:22; Deuteronomy 32:18-20) Matthew 7:13-15, 24:11, 24; 2Peter 2:1-2; 2Timothy 4:3-4; Isaiah 30:8-10; Jeremiah 5:30-31; 2Corinthians 11:13-15; Titus 1:16; 2Timothy 3:5,
  3. Genesis 6:5; Ecclesiastes 8:11, 9:3; Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:19; Isaiah 1:4; Jeremiah 2:13, 19; Isaiah 53:6).
  4. Genesis 2:7, 3:19,
  5. Job 4:17; Romans 7:24; Hebrews 9:27; Romans 5:12,
  6. John 3:5-7; 1John 3:9; Romans 2:7; 1Corinthians 15:50-53; 1Thessalonians 4:13-17.
  7. Romans 7:14-25; Galatians 5:16-17; Revelation 2:26, 3:21; Philippians 3:11-14; 1Corinthians 9:24-27.