5/21/2018 11:16:25 AM
#244, "Sinless Sanctification"
A discussion recently arose over lunch concerning a man who left the Nazarene church because he did not believe in entire sanctification (a doctrine of the Church of the Nazarene, and other Pentecostal groups associated with the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition).
At the lunch I was asked to explain the doctrine, and in doing so I also described some of the dangers in structuring salvation around the work of man to such a degree. Because the topic recently came up again I decided I would use this opportunity to explain sanctification.
Sanctify comes from the same root word as holy and consecrate. Some of our best examples are found in the construction of the tabernacle and temple as things were “sanctified” (set apart as holy) for consecrated use in the temple.
When it comes to people and salvation, sanctification has two senses. Most everyone agrees that sanctification first refers to the person who is set apart for God. When a person comes to faith in Christ they are set apart as holy (1 Peter 2:9). We call this “positional sanctification.”
The second sense of sanctification pertains to our growth and maturity. After our conversion, we begin living in a way that pleases God. We call this “progressive sanctification.” The church at Corinth had members performing acts that God did not approve of, but they were still referred to as “saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2) because they were children of God through faith in Christ.
The second sense of sanctification according to the Wesleyan-Holiness movement jumps to “entire sanctification” (or Christian sinless perfectionism) which teaches that a Christian can reach a state of sinless holiness this side of Heaven. They believe it is possible for Christians to be so sanctified in their behavior that they no longer sin. Sometimes they will quote 1 John 3:6 as proof: “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.” However, the verb sins is in the present tense and indicates an ongoing, habitual pattern of unrepentant sin. 1 John also speaks of Jesus being the Advocate for sinning believers and that, if we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves (1 John 2:1; 1:8-9).
If you don’t believe in entire sanctification (as I do not), it does not stop us from believing that holiness is our goal and desire. The longer I am a Christian, the more my mistakes bother me (the Apostle Paul felt the same way, see: Romans 7:15-23), but Scripture does not teach that believers will become perfect in this life. I do look forward to the day it happens in glory.
Sin is present, but it should not dominate us (read Romans 6:11-14). It’s a constant work within us with the Holy Spirit’s help. If I could achieve sinless perfection on my own, I would not need the Spirit’s help, and if I claimed such a thing I am sure I would be guilty of sinful pride. If I feared losing my salvation over a sin then I know I would hope I could live a sinless life. I know I have struggles with perfect love, perfect habits, perfect spiritual disciplines and perfect obedience (and if I think I don’t, I just need to ask friends and family). I am grateful that my Savior who set me apart also holds me in His hand (John 10:28).
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