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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Consecrate, Consecration (2)

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CONSECRATE, CONSECRATION.—In the Authorized Version of NT ‘consecrated’ occurs twice. In both places the reference is to the work of Christ, but to two different aspects of that work, neither of which is suggested by the rendering ‘consecrated.’ (1) In Hebrews 7:28 the word used is τετελειωμένον = Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘perfected.’ Our Lord, as ‘a Son perfected for evermore,’ is contrasted with human high priests ‘having infirmity.’ The connexion of thought, obscured in the Authorized Version, is with Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:9 etc. The perfection of Him who ‘abideth for ever,’ and whose priesthood is inviolable, is the result of the human experience of the Divine Son. By His life in the flesh, His lowly obedience, and His sufferings, He has gained that abiding sympathy with men which fits Him to be ‘the author of eternal salvation.’ (2) In Hebrews 10:20 the word used is ἐνεκαίνισεν = Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘dedicated,’ lit. ‘made new.’ Jesus ‘dedicated for us a new and living way’ into the Holy Place. The thought is that by means of His own blood our High Priest passed into the Divine presence, inaugurating a way for us. Because He passed through our human life, and out of it by the rending of ‘the veil, that is to say, his flesh,’ He is not only our representative, but also our forerunner; in full assurance of faith we also may draw near and follow Him into that heavenly sanctuary.

In the (Revised Version margin) ‘consecrate’ is found three times, viz., John 10:36; John 17:17; John 17:19. ἁγιάζειν, of which ‘consecrate’ is an alternative rendering, is usually translated ‘sanctify.’ The exception in the Authorized and Revised Versions is the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9 = Luke 11:2)—‘Hallowed be thy name.’ Here the Rheims version has ‘sanctified be thy name’; on the other hand, Wyclif has ‘halowe,’ ‘halowid’ in John 10:36; John 17:17; John 17:19.

The distinction between ‘consecrate’ and ‘sanctify’ turns rather upon usage than upon etymology. Both words mean ‘to make holy.’ But a person or a thing may be made holy in two different ways: (1) By solemn setting apart for holy uses, as when in the LXX Septuagint ἁγιάζειν designates the consecration of a prophet (Jeremiah 1:5, cf. Sirach 45:4; Sirach 49:7); (2) by imparting fitness for holy uses, as when St. Paul speaks (Romans 15:16, cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23) of his offering as ‘made acceptable’ because it has been ‘sanctified by the Holy Spirit.’ On these lines it now seems possible and desirable to distinguish the two English words which mean ‘to make holy.’ Ideally, consecration implies sanctification. But in modern English ‘consecrate’ suggests the thought of setting apart for holy uses, whilst ‘sanctify’ has come rather to imply making fit for holy uses.

The rendering ‘consecrated’ better suits the context of John 10:36 ‘Say ye of him, whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am Son of God?’ Jeremiah 1:8 supplies a suggestive OT analogy, for the word of the Lord reminds the young prophet that, in the Divine counsel, he was set apart for holy uses before his birth. The thought would be more appropriately presented by ‘consecrated’ than by Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘sanctified’ (LXX Septuagint ἠγίακα). Similarly, as our Lord declares in His argument with the Jews (John 10:36), the Father consecrated His Son to His redemptive mission before sending Him forth to His work. More is implied in this statement than that the Father ‘chose’ or ‘set apart’ His Son. All things were given into His hand (John 3:35), and amongst the all things were ‘life in himself’ (John 5:26), fulness of grace and truth (John 1:14), and the Spirit ‘without measure’ (John 3:34). ‘The fact belongs to the eternal order. The term expresses the Divine destination of the Lord for His work. This destination carries with it the further thought of the perfect endowment of the Incarnate Son’ (Westcott, Com. in loc.). It is only in this sense of complete equipment that the Divine Son was made fit for His sacred mission; the Holy One had no need of sanctification ‘in a way of qualification,’ as the Puritan divines used the word, when they meant inward cleansing from sin and the Holy Spirit’s bestowal of purity of heart.

Our Lord’s words, ‘I consecrate myself’ (John 17:19), are best understood in the light of His earlier saying that ‘the Father consecrated’ Him (John 10:36). The two statements are complementary. His consecration of Himself was the proof of His perfect acquiescence in the Father’s purpose concerning Himself, His disciples, and the world. The secret of His inner life was continually revealed ‘in loveliness of perfect deeds’ which constrained men to acknowledge the truth of His words, ‘I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me’ (John 5:30); the law that ruled His every word and work He was soon to fulfil to the uttermost; His readiness to drink the cup which the Father was about to put into His hands was involved in His calm word, ‘I consecrate myself’; its utterance in this solemn hour affords a glimpse of the spirit of absolute devotion to His Father’s will in which Jesus is finishing His work and consummating in death the self-sacrifice of His life. And as for the sake of His disciples Jesus consecrates Himself, He prays for them, knowing that the future of His kingdom depends on their having the same spirit of complete consecration to the Divine will.

Commentators who follow Chrysostom in regarding ἀγιάζω as practically equivalent to τροσφἑρω σοὶ θυσιαν (cf. Euth. Zig. ἑγὼ ἐκουσίως θυσιάζω ἑμαυτόν), and as connotiog the idea of expiatory sacrifice, support their interpretation by references to OT passages in which ἁγιάζειν (= הקְרִּישׁ) is a sacred word for sacrifices, as, .g., Exodus 13:2, Deuteronomy 15:19 ff., 2 Samuel 8:11 (cf. Meyer, loc.). They are obliged to give the word ἁγιάζειν two different meanings in the same sentence, as does the (Revised Version margin): ‘And for their sakes I consecrate myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.’ But it is not from the word ἁγιάζειν, that the nature of Christ’s death is to be learnt; that which differentiates the consecration of Christ from the consecration of His disciples is brought out rather by the other words in this pregnant saying. The consecration of Jesus is His own act, but He does not pray that apart from Him the disciples may follow His example and consecrate themselves; His consecration is the pattern of theirs, therefore the same word is used of the Master and of His disciples; but without His consecration ‘for their sakes’ (ὑτὲρ αὑτῶν), their consecration would be impossible, therefore it is said of the Master alone that He consecrates Himself on behalf of others.

If ἀγιάζειν be uniformly rendered ‘consecrate’ in our Lord’s intercessory prayer, it will be seen that He twice expresses His yearning desire for the consecration of the men whom His Father had given Him out of the world: (1) John 17:17 ‘Consecrate them in the truth’; as Jesus sends forth His disciples on the same mission which brought Him into the world at His Father’s bidding, He asks that they also may be set apart for holy service, and may be divinely equipped for their task, even as He was, by the indwelling of the Father’s love (John 17:26). They possess the knowledge and the faith that the world lacks, for they have come to know and to believe that the Father sent the Son (John 17:8; John 17:25, cf. John 17:21; John 17:23). It is because Jesus desires intensely that the world may know and believe, that He so fervently prays for the consecration of the men whose faith and knowledge qualify them to speak in the world the word which He has given them. (2) John 17:19 ‘And for their sakes I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.’ Reasons for departing from the rendering of the Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 and the (Revised Version margin) have been given above. No doubt it is important to remember that men ‘having infirmity’ need by inward sanctifying to be made fit for the holy service to which they have been consecrated; but the emphatic words, ‘they also’ (καὶ αὐτοί), suggest not a contrast, but a resemblance,—a consecration common to the Master and His disciples. It is a resemblance not in the letter, but in the spirit. Between their work as witnesses and His as Redeemer there was a contrast; but their lives might be ruled by the ‘inward thought’ (1 Peter 4:1 (Revised Version margin)) which constrained Him to suffer for their sakes. For the disciples of Jesus real consecration consists in having the mind which was in Him, who ‘humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross’ (Philippians 2:8). It should also be noted that the consecration spoken of in John 17:19 is, alike in the case of Jesus and of His disciples, ‘not a process but an act completed at once,—in His case, when gathering together in one view all His labours and sufferings, He presented them a living sacrifice to His Father; in theirs, when they are in like manner enabled to present themselves as living sacrifices in His one perfect sacrifice’ (W. F. Moulton, Com. in loc.). See, further, art. Sanctification.

J. G. Tasker.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Consecrate, Consecration (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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