Charles Hodge did a nice job explaining from Scripture how sanctification is a supernatural work of God.  Here’s an edited summary of his explanation:

That sanctification is a supernatural work…is proved:

  1. From the fact that it is constantly referred to God as its author (1 Thes. 5:23, Heb. 13:20-21, Titus 2:14, Eph. 5:25, etc.)….

2. This reference of sanctification to God as its author is special.  “Every such prayer, every thanksgiving for grace imparted, every recognition of the Christian virtues as fruits of the Spirit, and gifts of God, are so many recognitions of the great truth that the restoration of man to the image of God is not a work of nature, either originated or carried on by the efficiency of second causes, but is truly and properly supernatural, as due to the immediate power of the Spirit producing effects for which second causes are inadequate.”

3. We find in Scripture that the continuation of spiritual life in its activity and growth is attributed to God’s almighty power (Eph. 1:19, 3:7, 3:20)….

4. “All that the Scriptures teach concerning the union between the believer and Christ, and of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, proves the supernatural character of our sanctification. Men do not make themselves holy; their holiness, and their growth in grace, are not due to their own fidelity, or firmness of purpose, or watchfulness and diligence, although all these are required, but to the divine influence by which they are rendered thus faithful, watchful, and diligent, and which produces in them the fruits of righteousness. Without me, saith our Lord, ye can do nothing. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. The hand is not more dependent on the head for the continuance of its vitality, than is the believer on Christ for the continuance of spiritual life in the soul.”

The above edited summary is found in Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 218.


Rev. Shane Lems is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Hammond, Wis.