Entire Sanctification

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mattrose
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Entire Sanctification

Post by mattrose » Fri May 29, 2015 9:24 am

As an ordained minister in The Wesleyan Church, I often get asked about the doctrine of Entire Sanctification. Recently, on our church facebook page, I've been doing Q&A FRIDAY'S. This week I was asked by 2 different people about this particular belief, so I gave my answer this morning...

Question: Could you explain Entire Sanctification?

Historically, one of the distinguishing marks of The Wesleyan Church has been its emphasis on the doctrine of sanctification and, in particular, its belief that believers may be 'entirely sanctified' during their earthly lives. What is meant by the phrase and whether it is actually possible have been points of contention.

Simply put, sanctification is the transition from sin to love. When we become Christians, the Holy Spirit begins to make us holy too. This process of purification continues throughout our lifetimes, but Wesleyans have traditionally taught that there is a crisis moment at some point after our initial conversions when we are perfected in love and empowered for service. God's 1st major work of grace entirely justified us, but this 2nd major work of grace entirely sanctifies us.

Many have found this teaching confusing. During the process of ordination, I had to meet annually with the District Board of Ministerial Development. This board lovingly asked questions of candidates to make sure they were fit to be ordained ministers and that the Wesleyan Church was the right fit for them.

I distinctly remember being asked by Rev. Paul Markell if I was Entirely Sanctified. My reply was honest... I didn't really know what that meant. He re-phrased by asking something like this: "Are you totally surrendered, so far as you know, to Jesus Christ? Are you fully consecrated to God?" To that I could say yes.

I was saved at 8 years old in Verna Branch's Sunday School class. I remember the moment even though I don't remember the date. But at 17, during Family Camp at Houghton, I came to a much deeper understanding of what it means to be a Christian and completely surrendered my life to Christ. Some might argue that Verna's class was the moment I was completely justified and Family Camp was the moment I was entirely sanctified.

But to be honest, I myself am still not completely comfortable with the term. I really believe I was saved in Sunday School... and I really believe something very spiritually significant happened to me at Family Camp... but I'm not sure that '2nd Work of Grace' or 'Perfect Love' or 'Entire Sanctification' are the best terms for exactly what happened.

Grace, while sometimes received in bursts, comes continually. I can become more and more perfect in my loving intentions, but would be uncomfortable describing myself as having perfect love. I am entirely consecrated to God (as far as I know), but it is God who sanctifies. I'll let God decide if I'm entirely sanctified, but I can definitely assure you God is not entirely done working on me!

My preference is to speak of the ongoing process of sanctification. During that process there will undoubtedly be critical moments where spiritual victories are won. One of those moments might even be SO significant that we consider it in a category all its own. But even after that moment, growth must continue for the rest of my life. The doctrine of Entire Sanctification must never take on the aura of arrival at a destination if such thinking causes us to plateau. There's always room to grow!

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ryan
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Re: Entire Sanctification

Post by ryan » Fri May 29, 2015 9:37 am

Thanks, Matt. I appreciate your take on entire sanctification. As you're aware, I'm also part of a holiness denomination with strong Wesleyan roots, and as I've gotten older, I've taken some issue with how the doctrine has traditionally been taught.

Your closing thought, albeit using different terminology, is similar overall to what I've come to conclude about "entire sanctification."
My preference is to speak of the ongoing process of sanctification. During that process there will undoubtedly be critical moments where spiritual victories are won. One of those moments might even be SO significant that we consider it in a category all its own. But even after that moment, growth must continue for the rest of my life.
-Ryan

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dizerner
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Re: Entire Sanctification

Post by dizerner » Fri May 29, 2015 10:04 am

Sometimes I think we get this idea that God wants to fix up our old nature. But that old nature will always be the old nature—the nature that Christ took on the cross. The only reason I have to say "I have been crucified with Christ" is because I'm beyond fixing. I'm beyond sanctifying in one sense—but I'll always try. I'll continually make that mistake of self-effort trying to suck that snake-poison out, instead of looking entirely away from myself and saying "it is finished, I thank my God through Jesus Christ." Because looking away is what brings that sanctification. If the life of Christ is in me, does that life of Christ need to get its act together? Does the life of Jesus in me need to get a better attitude or adjust its behavior? Or is it really the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, himself? What I find myself repenting more and more of, is trying to repent. God says I'm beyond fixing, and entire sanctification only happens when I fail so much and feel so full of sin that I simply say "God, I can't possibly do it. I can't possibly make the changes I see I need to in your Word, I can't possibly live up to the standard of your Son." And then God will say "Good, finally. I was so tired of seeing you try to do it. Now, let me." And to me, that is entire sanctification—not lowering the standard, not cheap law, but finally falling at the cross again with the renewed realization that square one is where we are to constantly live, and that "apart from me you can do nothing." God has one solution for our problem, and one alone, the life of Jesus Christ. Those old filthy rags of my efforts won't cut it at the beautiful and glorious wedding banquet. We want to say "wait, wait, I think I got this sanctification thing down finally!" Oh, those beautiful words, "not having a righteousness of my own." Entire sanctification indeed, conformed to the image of his Son, in death and resurrection. No longer I that lives. But Christ. That lives in me.
~ Classical Arminian Christian Mystic ~

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Paidion
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Re: Entire Sanctification

Post by Paidion » Fri May 29, 2015 12:10 pm

Thank you, Matt. I think you have expressed the Wesleyan Methodist doctrine well. Many misunderstand "entire sanctification" as meaning "sinlessness."
"Entire sanctification" means "entire holiness" or "entire separation" (presumably from all that is not of God). And indeed, as you say, this does seem to be a lifelong process. But there is a moment when it begins, when we enter the door of sactification (or salvation from sin; I see the two terms as synonymous).

I think the Wesleyans separated this into TWO works of grace because they thought of salvation as being saved from hell, and sanctification as being saved from sin. I think they believed one could be saved from hell, while not being saved from sin.

I think Paul taught that primarily we are being saved from sin, and being saved from the wrath of God is but a natural consequence of that. And yes, it is indeed a lifelong process. But that process will come to completion.
The apostle Paul wrote:For I am persuaded of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philp 1:6)
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

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mattrose
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Re: Entire Sanctification

Post by mattrose » Fri May 29, 2015 3:37 pm

I have a theory that the reason a '2nd work of grace' became a doctrine is because the further we were removed from the early church the more the true meaning of becoming a Christian became distorted. Absolute surrender should really be part of the initial conversion experience, but the practical reality is that many people take a major step toward God without really understanding that it entails absolute surrender. This is not ideal, but it is real. And we live in the real world.

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Paidion
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Re: Entire Sanctification

Post by Paidion » Fri May 29, 2015 3:58 pm

Your theory makes sense to me, Matt.
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

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Homer
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Re: Entire Sanctification

Post by Homer » Fri May 29, 2015 8:51 pm

Dizerner & Paidion,

Paidion quoted:

Philippians 1:6 (NASB)
6. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work (ergon) in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
And Dizerner wrote:
I'll continually make that mistake of self-effort trying to suck that snake-poison out, instead of looking entirely away from myself and saying "it is finished, I thank my God through Jesus Christ."
I was just recently thinking the work God does in us in Philippians 1:6 is the same work as referenced by Jesus in John 6:26-29, 39-40 (NASB). The Greek word, ergon, is the same in both places. Thus the work God does in us would be faith in Christ:

26. Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” 28. Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29. Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work (ergon) of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

39. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes (continues to believe) in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

Which is consistent with:

Revelation 2:10 (NASB)

...................Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

And again our works (the life we live) are evidentiary regarding to our faith in the work of Christ.

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dizerner
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Re: Entire Sanctification

Post by dizerner » Sun May 31, 2015 1:57 am

I believe in a so-called second work of grace, but it's not something mysterious or complicated. Basically upon salvation one generally realizes one is incapable of being holy and thus trusts God 100% for that ability. But after time that 100% number goes down, as the Christian starts to take the burden upon himself or herself and feel the weight and effort of trying to produce Christ's life in the flesh. We lose sight of the fact that "as we have received Christ" is exactly how we are to continue to "so always walk in him." It's simply a lack of trusting God for the power of sanctification and that gets away from the acknowledgement of totally inability and sin without Christ's work. That's the whole point of Galatians 3:1, ff. We who "began" in the Spirit can start trusting our "works" of the law.
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Paidion
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Re: Entire Sanctification

Post by Paidion » Sun May 31, 2015 4:18 pm

Dizerner wrote:Basically upon salvation one generally realizes one is incapable of being holy and thus trusts God 100% for that ability. But after time that 100% number goes down, as the Christian starts to take the burden upon himself or herself and feel the weight and effort of trying to produce Christ's life in the flesh.
Dizerner, it right to trust God 100% for the ability. But the very fact that it becomes an ability implies that you have a part in the process.

I also agree that if the Christian "takes the burden upon himself," that is, attempts to become righteous by self-effort, he will sooner or later fail. For to consistently practise righteousness requires the enabling grace of God (Titus 2).

However if you had said that one must trust God 100% to make you righteous, I would have had to strongly disagree. God will not make you consistently righteous, and you cannot make yourself consistently righteous. But you, together with God, coöperating with His enabling grace CAN succeed in becoming consistently righteous.

Notice I didn't use the word "holy" as you have done. Every genuine disciple of Christ is holy. Paul wrote his letters to the saints (holy ones) at the various churches. To be "holy" means to be separate from the evil ways of the world (not from the evil people, of course).
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

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dizerner
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Re: Entire Sanctification

Post by dizerner » Sun May 31, 2015 11:41 pm

What do you feel is our exact contribution? Our exact effort? I agree that sanctification is a form of synergism, actually because we have to fail to be able to fully trust. Failing is something we have to do—failing to be holy. Because at that point, it paves the way for a new trust in that area. Otherwise, how do we know what's the difference between what God does in us, and what we do in our selves? Can I look at all my good deeds and good attitudes and say "Wow! The only part I played is letting God do in me what I can't do!" And we do that by a combination of failure and trust, and since it's an action, Calvinists would call it synergism. Because sanctification is suppose to be supernatural, but religion makes it a work and effort of man's flesh through the Law. Christ in me, is the hope of glory, because we are all else an unclean thing. And I agree a new creation in Christ is holy, but remember also that some plants sprang up quickly but withered away. We maintain holiness by efforts, but not successful efforts; rather efforts that bring us to faith in the work of the Cross again. That makes everything still entirely and totally by grace, even though Calvinists, again, would call it synergism simply because we contribute failure and trust. And we logically cannot trust in any area we don't know for certain that we can't do it. Because—if you think about it—and this was Peter's problem too—if you are not fully sure that you can't do something, you will always be tempted to trust in a little bit of yourself. Watchman Nee makes a really vivid illustration of this point. In WW II the soldiers often had no real way to fight a tank without heavy weaponry. What they would rely on instead is trickery. They would throw little stones at the tank, until the operator was so curious he would poke his head out, and that was the end of it. Christ is our tank, and self-effort is the stones the devil throws at us. Every place we try to sanctify ourselves without 100% trust, is a place where it's just us and Satan with no Savior. Otherwise, I believe you get into the error of "hyper-grace" which is cheap grace (no synergism or sanctification is necessary). Because there's one thing I really agree with you on—without holiness no one will see the Lord. I think there's going to be some Christians that somehow think being a pastor, going to church, surrounding themselves with Bible verses, will be the same thing as being born again and trusting in the work of the Cross. "Lord, Lord, I preached sermons in your name, I exegeted Scripture in your name." Let's make sure we know him!
~ Classical Arminian Christian Mystic ~

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