“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17: 16 – 19 NIV)
Sanctify – 1. Holiness of life and character; saintliness. 2. Sacredness; inviolability, religious binding force; as, the sanctity of an oath; pl., sacred obligations, rites, etc.
I am by-passing definitions based on Roman practices in this article. I am basing what I am saying in this article directly on the concepts put forth by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that we have mentioned the Roman practice of invading a territory, occupying that territory, and transforming that territory into a semblance of Rome. The leader of that expedition was called an apostle; by definition, a sent one. We want to define this process more closely to bring it out of the context of Roman conquest of territory to what Jesus meant in His teaching and life example.
As quoted from the prayer of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John; Jesus was not of this world. Before we take that thought too far and revert to Gnostic thinking that Jesus did not have material existence but was a spirit among us; we must make it perfectly clear that Jesus had bodily form, physical form, just like you and I. When Jesus says that He was not of the world He is referring to the system of the world run under the authority of the “prince of the world,” Satan. Jesus was not of the worldly kingdom and we, His followers, are not of the worldly kingdom.
We are of a different Spirit. We are of the Holy Spirit. We have a different Father. Jesus made reference to the fact that the “hypocrites and Pharisees” were of their “father” the devil:
“Jesus said to them, `If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8: 42 – 47 NIV)
We are a privileged people. We are the ones Jesus prayed for at the end; before He went to the cross. He sanctified himself for that task so that we, too, could be truly sanctified to the task He won for us. We are cleansed by His words. We are washed clean by the words He has given us. We were sinful. We now can stand with Jesus in the above quote as, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” We have been sanctified by the words of Jesus. We have been made holy and set aside for His use.
What is that use? We are set aside and made holy so that Jesus could send us into the world just as He was sent into the world. We are to occupy the world of the enemy and transform it into the kingdom of Jesus, Son of God. We are sent!