Total Sanctification – Holiness
God’s Word teaches;
That Entire Sanctification is a definite act of God’s grace, subsequent to the New Birth, by which the believer’s heart is purified and made holy. It cannot be attained progressively by works, struggle or suppression, but it is obtained by faith in the sanctifying blood of Jesus Christ. Holiness of life and purity of heart are central to Christian living – Luke 1:74,75; John 17:15-17; I Thessalonians 4:3,7,8; 5:22-24; Ephesians 5:25-27; Hebrews 2:11; 10:10,14; 13:11,12; Titus 2:11-14; I John 1:7; Hebrews 12:14; I Peter 1:14-16.
The doctrine of entire sanctification is central in the mind of the God-head. The doctrine is at the hub or nucleus of Christian teaching. What then is the meaning of the word, Sanctification? Sanctification is an English word which means: to make sacred or holy; to set apart for a holy or religious use; to make free from sin; to cleanse from moral corruption and pollution; the act of God’s grace by which the affections of men are purified or alienated from sin and the world, and exalted to supreme love to God; to purify in order to prepare for divine service and for partaking of holy things; to free from the power of sin; being set free from the power of cancelled sin. It is a gracious work of the Holy Spirit – not of works, not of growth, not of death, not of purgatory – in those who are already in Christ. Sanctification is an operation of the Spirit of God. Those who have been regenerated and recreated in Christ, must of necessity be sanctified through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, and by His Word and His Spirit.
Sanctification is an instantaneous experience given to a believer to enable him cleave to God without the tendency to want to go astray or go away from the Lord. It is not a protracted or tedious process of growth. You do not grow INTO sanctification, but you can grow IN sanctification. We can never grow into what God must of necessity do for us. Again, sanctification is not brought about by death: to assume that is to say that death is no longer our last enemy to be destroyed (I Corinthians 15:26). Neither are we cleansed from the original stain (the nature we brought into the world) through Water Baptism. Entire sanctification is not of works, but it is the work of God, divinely wrought by the Holy Spirit.
‘Holiness’, ‘Perfection’ and ‘Sanctification’ are the definitive terms used interchangeably. Holiness means entire freedom from sin; wholeness, spiritual health, moral integrity and purity. Therefore, holiness means the absence of sin (Luke 1:74,75; Psalm 93:5; I Peter 1:16; Hebrews 12:14). ‘Perfection’ means that which is not lacking in that which it ought to have. The perfection which God requires and accomplishes in those who earnestly ask in faith is the purifying of our hearts to love every believer as Christ loves us, and to love our neighbours as ourselves. Nothing less than this is desirable and nothing more is required (Colossians 1:28). Entire sanctification is described as ‘clean heart’ or ‘pure heart’. This descriptive term shows the experience in a way one can understand when it takes place in his heart (Psalm 24:3,4; Matthew 5:8). The Bible teaches that all of God’s children can be like Jesus in separation from the world, in purity and in love. We must be inwardly pure and peaceful in order not to suffer defeat in our Christian life. A blameless life is a life in which God sees nothing to condemn. We may not be blameless to our contemporaries, but we can be blameless before God. God examines a sanctified heart and expects to always find all that it possesses to be in harmony with Himself. The heart of the sanctified is a throne on which God reigns without a rival; an empire wherein He exercises unchecked, undisputed dominion and authority.
How does the earnest seeker get sanctified? There must first be a definite separation and withdrawal from all sins and appearance of evil, immorality and all unclean things (I Thessalonians 5:22; 2 Corinthians 6:17; 2 Timothy 2:21). There must, second, be entire consecration. This is giving ourselves unto God in a vivid manner. First, we give ALL we are to God. Here, we no longer lay any claim to ourselves (Luke 9:60; Romans 12:1-2). Second, we give our body unto the glory of God, not for any selfish motive or purpose in view, but with the consideration and knowledge that we are bought by the precious blood of Jesus. Third, we give ourselves for service (John 13:12-17). We should not only stress our being priests and kings unto God but also as being servants. Here, Jesus shows us how to consecrate and dedicate ourselves for service. Washing the feet was the work of a slave. So, we must learn to do the meanest job in the midst of believers and not waiting for compliments. Fourth, we must die to self. “Verily, verily I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24,25). To consecrate is to come before God with our past, present, future personality, possession, wisdom, talent, intellect, money, influence, position in the family and in the church and dedicate all to Him. When we separate and dedicate ourselves unto God, He is readily willing to do His part and give us the definite experience of Entire Sanctification. This is the operation of God, a definite act of God’s grace in believers’ hearts (Hebrews 2:11; 13:12,13).
By what means of grace does the believer get into this experience? The means of sanctification includes: (a) the word of God (John 15:3); (b) the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 13:12,13); (c) Faith in the Lord (Acts 26:18); (d) the Spirit of God, and (e) God Himself (I Thessalonians 2:23). We do not get sanctified by studying the Word alone. We need to pray in faith for the experience. We must believe in its possibility before we can ask in faith. Also, we must realise that it is the will of God that we are made holy (I Thessalonians 4:3-8; I John 5:14,15). Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord. Holiness here is not just the judicial kind of holiness, but the practical holiness of which believers are partakers because they have surrendered their entire life unto God through Christ. This holiness does something in our hearts and it makes us live right. We must desire it (Mark 11:24), and ask with a genuine burning desire.
What should be our response to this doctrine? The Bible teaches that all believers can be wholly sanctified (I Thessalonians 5:23). We should not be guilty of taking away from the Word. This teaching places a great and solemn responsibility upon all preachers of the Word to teach this doctrine; be a partaker of the experience (I Timothy 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:6); endeavour to understand and know it through diligent study (2 Timothy 2:15; Titus 1:9); faithfully and effectively teach all believers without fear or compromise, for in all things of the Spirit, we should not withhold or withdraw the truth from our congregation (2 Timothy 2:2). Let us encourage all believers to partake of the blessing. This gracious Christian experience could be kept all through life provided that the recipient keeps abiding in Christ, watching and praying (John 15:4; Mark 13:32-35). Thus, believer must not grieve the Holy Spirit, or relapse into bitterness and harshness of spirit (Ephesians 4:30,31). He must not allow or engage in unprofitable conversation (Ephesians 5:3,4), unkind criticisms, evil speaking and fault finding, self-indulgence, prejudice, impatience, indolence, negligence, uncontrolled temperament, self-dependence and self-management. He must avoid developing or showing interest in objects of temptation.
Why should any Christian doubt the possibility of complete deliverance from sin? Jesus should not be limited as a Saviour. Complete deliverance from sin is Christ’s purpose (Titus 2:11-15). The white lily grows up from a mire, but with no dust on it. Christians can grow up in this dirty world yet without spot on their lives (Romans 12:1,2). It is our privilege to be totally separated from this evil of the world. It is a promise from God that we should be purged and sanctified. “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it” (I Thessalonians 5:24).