Based upon the experiences of many years I can say that sanctification is the addition of the divine element into us. For example, there are five cups of pure water here, and you can see that they are all the same. But when you add tea into one of these cups of water, the components in that cup will be different. Among the five cups of water, only one cup has tea, and the other four do not. Therefore, this cup of water that has tea in it has undergone “tea-ification.” This illustration explains the meaning of sanctification.
Before we were saved, we were all cups of pure water at best. As a matter of fact we were not pure; we were all cups of contaminated water. On the day we were saved, however, the Spirit of God entered into us. This Spirit of God is the divine element, which is God Himself. God Himself was added into us. We have something additional in us which is the element of God. To have this additional element is to be sanctified.
Of the five cups of water, four do not have tea added into them; they are common. Only one has tea added into it, so it is separated. There is a distinction between this cup and the other four, and this distinction lies in the element of tea. When tea was first added into the water, only the center showed a change in color, but after a little time and a little stirring, the element of tea spread from the center to the circumference. At the beginning, the appearance of the tea was present only in the middle of the water, but after a period of time the characteristic of tea permeated the whole cup of water. Thus, the whole cup of water was “tea-ified.” This is the meaning of sanctification spoken of in the Scriptures.
Of course, in the Bible, sanctification has both the objective, positional aspect and the subjective, dispositional aspect. Positional sanctification is like that which is recorded in Matthew 23:17. When a piece of gold is in an ordinary home, it is common. However, when it is placed in the holy temple to overlay the walls, it is immediately sanctified. This is because this piece of gold is different in position from all the other pieces of gold. All the other pieces of gold are in a common position; only this piece of gold, being placed in the temple, has been sanctified. This is positional sanctification.
However, the sanctification mentioned in Romans 15:16, 6:19, and 22 is not positional but dispositional. This may be compared to the cup of water that has an ingredient added into it. There is not a change in its position; rather, there is an addition to its composition. Therefore, this is not positional sanctification but dispositional sanctification.
Now I would like to ask you a question. After we are saved, we love the Lord and want to pursue the Lord. We pursue “holiness” because we see it in our reading of the Bible. Therefore, those who were always joking in the past do not joke anymore. Those who previously were quick and blunt in speaking and thus easily offended others now learn to be slow in their speaking. Those who used to criticize others now restrain themselves from speaking loosely. What would you say about this? I say that this is the sanctification in our natural concept; it is not the sanctification spoken of in the Bible. The sanctification referred to in the Scriptures is that we open ourselves to the Lord from our spirit and let the Lord come into us. It is not a matter of joking or of not joking, nor is it a matter of criticizing or not criticizing others. It is not any of these things. These are all matters in the religious world. Do not remain in that world. Today we are not in the realm of religion but in the realm of life. It is not that we change our behavior outwardly; rather, it is that we open our entire being from within and let the Lord, the living Spirit, infuse Himself into us. When His divine element has been infused into us and has increased in us, this is sanctification.
It is not so important whether or not you joke, whether or not you offend others, and whether or not you criticize others. Forget all of these things! I often say that if not joking or not criticizing others is considered holy, then the statue of Mary in the Catholic cathedrals must be the holiest one. That stone statue does not lose its temper, nor offend people, nor criticize, nor joke; it maintains the same posture from the beginning of the year to the end. Do you consider that situation holiness? That is not holiness; that is something belonging to the religious realm. We have been in the environment of the religious world too long. Do not stay there any longer. Forgive me for saying this, but even some of the young people who have come into the church are still somewhat influenced by religion to try to live a “holy” life. I am afraid that up to now you still have such a concept.
Let me tell a story here. After the war in 1946, the brothers in Nanking invited me to the church there. One day a sister who came from Shanghai acted very much like the statue of Mary you see in the Catholic cathedrals. She was very refined, neither too fast nor too slow, and was greatly appreciated by the brothers and sisters. She came to Nanking while I was in Shanghai attending a conference. When I returned to Nanking, the brothers came to me and said, “Brother Lee, thank goodness! We now have a sister who is truly holy!” Immediately I answered, “Only the statue of Mary in the Catholic cathedral is better than this sister!” Not only the brothers there in Nanking had that concept of holiness, but I believe even tonight many of you brothers also have the same concept. Suppose I carry a Bible and come into this room with deliberate steps, and then I slowly open the Bible; you will all surely appreciate me. Suppose, however, I walk in with quick steps and just put the Bible on the stand. Surely you would think, “This Brother Lee is not sufficiently holy or spiritual.” Am I right?
I illustrate just this much to show you that today not only the unbelievers but even Christians, including the Christians among us, are not that serious about things in the religious realm; they do not understand what sanctification is. Sanctification is neither to be quiet nor to be noisy. Sanctification is neither to refrain from losing your temper nor to be free to lose your temper. Instead, sanctification is the addition of the element of God into you to make you distinct from others. This distinction lies not in the fact that you refrain from laughing while others laugh or that you remain standing while others run. These things may make you distinct but they do not make you holy. To be made holy, to be sanctified, is to have God’s element added into you whether you are laughing or you are not laughing. In order to have this element added into you, you must open to the Lord and call on Him from your spirit, “O Lord!” Whenever you have such a little opening and call, “O Lord,” His element, His Spirit, will be added and increased in you. In this way you will be sanctified.
This dispositional sanctification, of course, is in varying degrees. In adding tea into water, the more tea you add, the stronger the flavor of tea will be; the less tea you put in, the weaker the flavor will be and the fainter its color. In like manner, our sanctification is of different degrees. With certain brothers and sisters you may sense a strong flavor of the divine element, while with other brothers and sisters, you sense that the flavor of the divine element, the element of sanctification, is there but is not that strong.
(The Subjective Truths in the Holy Scriptures, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)