Is Sin Burned Out?

 •  47 min. read  •  grade level: 7
That sanctification is taught in God’s Word is very evident to every attentive reader of the Scriptures; and that it is a most blessed and precious truth thousands are ready to testify. But in these last evil days when Satan is so busy in his efforts to spread false and evil doctrines, and to rob the people of God of His truth, it becomes us diligently to compare the teaching on this subject with the teaching of God’s Word, and inquire whether these “Holiness people,” as they are called, really hold the truth according to God, or whether they have been taken in the subtle snare of the enemy.
Hundreds, yes, thousands of honest souls are being perplexed by their teachings. They seek in vain to reach this state of perfection, and failing to attain to what they have been longing for, they become unhappy and in some instances, distressed.
It is with the thought of helping such that this paper is written, and with the hope also, that the Lord in His great grace may even use it to deliver some from the bondage into which such a system of teaching is sure to bring them. It has been remarked by someone that Satan is never so dangerous as when he comes with the Bible in his hand.
And when he does come thus, surely it is only as the same weapon is wielded in the power of the Spirit of God that he can be met and vanquished. The question then comes to us, Will these teachings stand the test of God’s Word, or is the deluding power of the enemy found lurking under the fairest of exteriors through them?
We will endeavor to state briefly the doctrines of those holding the “Holiness” views (to unfold the workings of the system would require volumes), and to mention a few examples given by them, and seek to measure these things by the Word of God, leaving it to the reader to judge whether or not such teaching is of God.
They hold that inward sin, or the “old nature,” is taken out of the one who is sanctified, he being purged from it by the “baptism of fire,” and nothing is left but what is perfect and holy. The person who receives this baptism of fire lives without sin. His walk is a holy walk, his heart is perfect, and his love toward God and toward man is according to the requirement of the law, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself” (Luke 10:2727And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. (Luke 10:27)).
Quoting from Wesley, an acknowledged leader, we have these words, “All the commandments of God, he, the sanctified one, accordingly keeps, and that with all his might.” And again, “Love has purified his heart from every malice and every unkind temper. It has cleansed him from pride.”
As to this state of sinless perfection continuing, there is a difference in the views of our Holiness friends, some taking the ground that, once sanctified, they cannot sin, while others (those of the Wesleyan school, and consequently Arminian in doctrine) affirm that one may “fall from sanctification” just as he can fall from justification. A careful examination of scriptural examples and principles will show that the views of both parties are erroneous and inconsistent.
Let us first examine some of the scriptures they quote, and one or two of the examples they bring forward, and then look a little more fully into the teaching of Scripture on this subject. They cite David as one who had attained to holiness, but this holiness was not in connection with forgiveness of sins. David had yet another stage to make after his sins were forgiven, they say, before attaining perfection, else he would not have cried, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psa. 51:1010Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)). In answer to this cry David was sanctified. Such is their teaching. The depraved nature was gone, and he could not sin! But they do not seem to have searched far enough to know that, years later, in the matter of numbering the people, David had to say to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done” (2 Sam. 24:1010And David's heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O Lord, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly. (2 Samuel 24:10)). If he was sanctified, as they regard it, how could he sin? What inconsistency is here!
Before looking further into the doctrine of those who teach perfection in the flesh, we would state, in order that we may not be misunderstood, that while we strenuously hold that sin is in the believer, and that the root will remain while he is in the body, yet we do not affirm that one may not be delivered from its power, for there is such a thing as deliverance from the bondage as well as from the guilt of sin. One who knows deliverance proves the truth of God’s word, “Sin shall not have dominion over you” (Rom. 6:1414For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:14)). And where one grasps the truth that he is “dead with Christ,” and thus “freed from sin,” sin ceases to be any longer his master. The flesh still exists, but the Christian walk is “in the Spirit”; and in the power of the Spirit, through constant watchfulness and prayer, the flesh is kept in the place of death. This thought is very different from that of sin being “burned out of us,” leaving no evil principle to be constantly watched against.
We will now consider for a little the doctrine of those who say that those who are once sanctified cannot sin. Scripture affords but one example of a Person who could not, and did not, sin. That Person was the blessed Lord Jesus, of whom it was said, “holy, harmless, undefiled,” and so on. Not only is this said of no other, but even in those specially sent of God, in whom the Holy Spirit wrought mightily, the works of the flesh were manifest, thus proving, beyond a question, that sanctified persons could sin, and did sin. Look at Peter, for instance; one who stands among the foremost of those specially chosen and sent of God. After he was indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and had been much used of God, he, with other Jews, was found dissembling, and the Apostle Paul says, “I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (Gal. 2:1111But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. (Galatians 2:11)). Is anyone ready to make so light of sin as to say that dissembling — deception is not sin?
But the same class who say that the sanctified cannot sin, say also that the sanctified have no sin in them. Have they considered the case of the Apostle Paul, who says, “I keep my body under”? Why did he keep his body under, if there were no sin there? Even after Paul was caught up to the “third heaven,” it was necessary that he should have “a thorn in the flesh.” And why? Lest he “should be exalted above measure.” Thus we learn from God’s Word that even Paul, after this wonderful and unutterable experience, was capable of being puffed up, and that God in faithfulness sent some chastening to prevent the working of sin. Could the fact be more clearly demonstrated that sin was not burned out? No, not even in the Apostle Paul! The evil principle was still there, and needed to be kept in check.
Did Christ ever need a thorn in the flesh? No, for there was no sin in Him! But where among all the worthies of Old Testament or New, where anything of their history is recorded, is failure not found — the working of the evil principle within, and thus proof that it exists? God sets before us but one perfect Man — His own Son. He alone could say: “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” (John 8:4646Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? (John 8:46)).
Added to the testimony of God’s Word the experience of godly souls in our day bears witness to the same truth, namely, that the sinful nature is not taken away. Also the many instances of failures, yea, and sad failures, too, in those who have professed to attain this holiness, not only forcibly prove the same thing, but they also bring dishonor upon Christ and upon the truth. I will give a statement made by a “holiness minister” from the pulpit, in order to show how far this thought of holiness in the Christian is carried by them. Referring to a young woman who had been preaching for him, he said, “Miss is as pure as Christ is pure.” This is given on good authority — “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” — but one almost shudders to chronicle such blasphemy. What an instance of “holiness” is this — making poor mortals equals to the Son of God in purity!! The legitimate outgrowth of such teaching is, that those holding it are usually found glorying in their holiness, and many of them quite puffed up by it, thus giving another proof that sin is in them, and actuating them contrary to God’s Word which says, “Not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.” (2 Cor. 10:1818For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth. (2 Corinthians 10:18)).
It is a source of thankfulness that the one who made the statement referred to above was undeceived in later years, and after getting his eyes opened gave a weighty testimony against the views he had formerly held. I quote from a paper in which he says, “There is no scripture to show that the Christian may be rid of the flesh this side of the grave”; and again, “But as you value the truth, and as you would not mislead souls, never tell them to expect the destruction of the carnal nature, for in spite of it all the flesh still lives. It is there, if in no other apparent form, as subtle, spiritual pride. It is there more pronounced in the spirit of judging.”
The instances we have given — David, Peter, Paul, and those within personal knowledge demonstrate the folly of those who take the ground that they have no sin in them. And God’s Word definitely settles the matter, for it tells us, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:88If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)). This scripture alone is sufficient to overthrow their whole doctrine.
Now let us turn for a little to the other class — those who take the ground that a person may “fall from a sanctified state.” Are they any more consistent, or scriptural, in their views, than those who, claiming that they are sanctified, declare that it is impossible for them to sin? Hear what they have to say. “God Himself comes in and sweeps out all that offends.”1 But they say there are some “who fail in watchfulness,” and so on, and these receive “from an ever present foe without, an infusion of evil.” Could anything be more absurd, than to say that the depraved nature is burned out by the “baptism of fire,” but if the one who possessed it is unwary, it will be infused into him again through Satan’s wiles! Do we get the sinful nature the second time by inheritance, or by infusion? And how many baptisms of fire may there be?
We might raise the inquiry, how do we get the sinful nature in the first place? God’s Word gives the answer: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psa. 51:55Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:5)). “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:66That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:6)). The flesh is the corrupt and sinful nature which we have in connection with the natural body,2 and is inseparable from it during this life, or while the body is yet unredeemed. (Rom. 3:11,2311There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. (Romans 3:11)
23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23)
; Eccl. 7:2020For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not. (Ecclesiastes 7:20)). The infant who knows not the motion of sin is possessor of this sinful nature: it was “shapen in iniquity.” The Apostle John, whom our friends single out as a bright example of one who had sin “taken away,” not only said, “for the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us forever,” but said also, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”; and this he said through the Holy Spirit. Thus we see, whether it be the innocent babe, or the aged saint, sin is found indwelling; or in other words, we inherit a sinful nature which remains while we are in the body.
We would notice here that our friends mark two stages in the Christian’s path. They speak of the first state of grace, or the “justified state,” and of the “second blessing,” or “higher experience” — terms, by the way, which are not found in God’s Word. These states are explained in this way: in the first, forgiveness of sins is known; in the second, there is “the incoming of the Holy Ghost as Sanctifier.” And further, we remain sanctified as long as we “keep crucified.” Is there not strange inconsistency here? God speaks of the sealing of the Holy Spirit as “unto the day of redemption”; not a thing to have one day, and lose the next! And as to “keeping crucified,” does God’s Word ever present such a thought? Even as men would look at it, how strangely inconsistent to speak of a man dead on the cross keeping crucified!
In Romans 6 we get God’s thought as to being crucified. “Our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed [annulled], that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Here we see that power over sin is given to one who is “crucified with Christ,” that he should no longer serve it. But how could we serve that which does not exist? God does not tell us that sin has ceased to exist; on the contrary, He exhorts the one who is crucified with Christ, NOT TO SERVE SIN, thus proving that it does exist even after “our old man” has been crucified with Christ.
Our friends still further wrest this passage by making those who are “crucified with Christ” to be only those who have the “second blessing,” whereas God gives it as true of all Christians. Further, God calls us to “reckon” ourselves “to be dead indeed unto sin” because we are crucified with Christ: dead unto sin and alive unto God. And the conclusion drawn is, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Rom. 6:1111Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:11)). Our friends say that one in the crucified state “has no sin in him.” Would God call upon us to reckon ourselves dead to a thing that had no existence? Or would He enjoin us not to let reign in our bodies that which had been burned out of them? The mere mention of it shows its fallacy, and how utterly contrary to God’s Word is their teaching on this point.
In order to avoid misunderstanding we might remark here that Scripture plainly makes a difference between being “in the flesh” and the flesh being in us. In Romans 8:99But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:9) we learn that we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in us. Our holiness friends would here confound the two things, and say, if we are “not in the flesh,” sin, or the flesh, is all taken out of us. But further examination of this chapter clearly shows the contrary. Referring to the first verse, they say, “there is no condemnation,” for the sin is all gone — nothing left to condemn. But they fail to note that the “no condemnation” is “to them that are in Christ Jesus” (the last clause of the verse is admitted by all textual scholars to be an interpolation). Also they fail to make the application which God makes a little further on in the chapter. “If ye,” — those in Christ Jesus, for whom there is no condemnation — “if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” Mark, it is through the Spirit that we are to mortify, or put to death, the deeds of the body; but it is only the one who has the Spirit, and who is “not in the flesh,” who can do this. Therefore we conclude that it is not incompatible to say that one “not in the flesh” still has the flesh in him. In Romans 8:11There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1) we learn that we are “in Christ”; in verse 9, that we are “in the Spirit”; one gives the standing, the other the state. Both are secured to us through redemption, Christ having died for us to deliver us from our former standing in Adam. Once we had to do with sin, and because of this, the storm of God’s wrath burst upon His devoted head. The sword of divine Justice was awakened against Him who bore our sins in His own body on the tree, for God, in the holiness of His nature, must punish sin wherever found. And when His own beloved, spotless Son stood in our stead, the stripes which were due to us must fall upon Him. But, thank God, all this is past and the question of sin forever settled. The judgment has been borne, death has been conquered, Satan has been vanquished, and now, in the words of another, Christ is a man “beyond death, beyond judgment, beyond sin, and beyond the power of Satan.” He is risen and glorified, and we are in Him, beyond the reach of condemnation; our standing sure, unchanging and eternal.
Through the Holy Spirit we enter into the knowledge of the wondrous position that is ours, the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and that we have a standing in favor with God. Also the Holy Spirit dwells in us as a power to keep us in heart and life from evil associations and ways, as well as from the activity of evil which is within a power greater than that of the flesh. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Gal. 5:1616This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16). Thus we learn from God’s Word that those in the Christian position are not looked upon any longer as in the flesh, or in Adam, but as in Christ Jesus, and having the Holy Spirit as their power in walk and service.
Let us turn again to Mr. Wesley and hear what he has to say as to those who have reached this higher attainment of which they speak. “It remains, then, that Christians are now in such a sense perfect as not to commit sin, and to be freed from evil thoughts and evil tempers.” Could Mr. Wesley have had the hope mentioned in 1 John 3:33And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:3) — “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” — when he wrote these words? Verse 2 shows it is the “sons of God” who have this hope; and these are characterized as being led by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:1414For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Romans 8:14)). Now this is just what our “sanctified” friends claim for themselves; and if they are thus led, this hope should be theirs. But oh! strange inconsistency, being now “pure,” and in “such a sense perfect as not to commit sin,” they have nothing from which to purify themselves. Having the bad all burned out, this word cannot be for them! This again shows the fallacy of their position, for God says “every man that hath this hope” (1 John 3:33And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:3)), and as we have noticed, the context shows it is the sons of God who have it, while they take the ground of being beyond the need of purification.
We might inquire a little about this hope and this purifying. A hope is something in the future always: when it is realized it ceases to be hope. A most wonderful hope it is, and when we are able in the Spirit to lay hold of it, it acts upon heart and conscience, leading us to seek to be as much like Him as possible in our ways down here. “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3:33And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:3)). We are not told that we are pure as Christ is pure — that will be when we are with Him and like Him — but Christ is the measure of our purification. Not only do we mortify our members which are upon earth, but there is the growing up in all things to Him who is the Head. Thus the purifying goes on in the power of the Spirit of God who dwells in us. How long will this purifying continue? Plainly, while we are in the body, or until we are like Him, which will be “when He appears.” And note, it is not, “the justified” purify themselves, the sanctified have no need! No! but “every man that hath this hope.” If our friends have this hope, they too purify themselves, which is proof that they have not yet reached a state of perfect purity.
Mr. Wesley does not, like some of the Holiness people, affirm perfection of the Old Testament saints. He says, “from Solomon to Christ there was then no man that sinned not. But whatever was the case of those under law, we may safely affirm, with John, that since the Gospel was given ‘he that is born of God sinneth not.’” He says further, one may judge himself to have attained to “entire sanctification” “when he experiences a total death to sin,” and again, “he is not dead to sin, till sin is separated from his soul; and in that instant he lives the full life of love.” “So the change wrought, when the soul dies to sin, is of a different kind, and infinitely greater than any before, and than any can conceive, till he experiences it.” Now let us turn for a moment to God’s Word. We will see in 1 John 3, “whosoever is born of God Both not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” Mark in this verse that those who cannot sin are those who are “born of God.” But who are those that are “born of God”? And 1 John 5:11Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. (1 John 5:1), gives the answer. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” “Born of God,” then, is the broadest possible term, taking in every true believer in the Lord Jesus. Making the application, we see that every true believer, being born of God, cloth not commit sin. But our friends say that only those who have “entire sanctification” do not commit sin. Thus we see they repeatedly narrow down to their own prescribed limits what God applies in general to all Christians. Is this handling the Word of God deceitfully, or is it ignorance?
Some honest souls have real difficulty with the scripture, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” I think their difficulty will disappear when they take into account that God, by the Spirit, is drawing a contrast in the passage. The children of God and the children of the devil are both mentioned. That which characterizes the children of the devil is the committing of sin; that which characterizes the children of God, is just the opposite: that is, that they do not commit sin; thus both are manifested. Those born of God are His children and they are made partakers of the divine nature. This nature which we get from God is truly without sin, therefore as born of God we cannot sin. The new nature is holy. Let us get distinctly before our minds, that the believer has two natures; the one inherited from Adam is a depraved nature, and all born of the flesh share that. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:66That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:6)). The other, the new nature is possessed only by those who are born again. This nature is without sin. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:66That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:6)). The new nature delights in God; the old nature is enmity against God, and never can be subject to His law, God tells us (Rom. 8:77Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Romans 8:7)) It is utterly bad. “In me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:1818For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. (Romans 7:18)).
The Holy Spirit never seeks to mend the old nature or to make it better; it is unmendable. Neither does Scripture lead us to believe that it is “burned out,” and we left pure and without sin. On the contrary, we are clearly taught from God’s Word that these two natures exist at one and the same time in the believer. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” (Gal. 5:1717For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Galatians 5:17)). And through the Spirit we are to keep the flesh in the place of death. When this is clearly understood, it relieves of many a difficulty in connection with this question.
Some one may be ready to say, if it be so that the believer is possessed of two natures while he is in the body, will he not be in bondage to the old, sinful nature as long as he lives? We unhesitatingly answer, no! Thanks be to God, we are entitled to account ourselves “dead to sin” in virtue of the death of Christ, and there is also a delivering power. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:22For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)). In order to understand this it is important to see the difference between sin and sins. Sin is the evil nature we inherit; sins are the evil deeds that flow from this evil nature; or, as has been aptly said by another, sin is the tree, sins are the fruit. Now God deals differently with sin and sins. The sins of the believer He forgives; the nature cannot be forgiven, it is judged and condemned. My child might, in the heat of passion, do some serious mischief. I could afterward forgive the bad act, but I could not forgive the temper that led to it. It remains in all its badness, and may lead to a repetition of the same, or something worse, unless there is watchfulness. Neither does God forgive our nature. Finding no good in the flesh, He could only condemn it and this is just what He has done in the Person of His Son on the cross, “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:33For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (Romans 8:3)). Not only has our blessed Savior borne all our sins in His own body on the tree, but in Him as our Substitute, the old evil nature — the source of all sins — has been judged and set aside. Before God it is gone; we are crucified with Christ. But not only are we identified with Him in His death, but also in His resurrection. We are in Him, as risen from the dead, and thus beyond the sphere of sin’s dominion. When this precious truth is known, we are free; no longer do we groan under the bondage of sin. Henceforth we are free to walk “in the Spirit” and “not after the flesh.” “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:1616This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)).
Not every believer has attained to this walk. Not every one, indeed, who has the Holy Spirit is walking in the power of the Spirit; and such cannot be said to be spiritual. Sad though it is, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that there are many “carnal Christians” and many who are grieving the Spirit of God whereby they are “sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:3030And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)). It is the few, indeed, who are walking in the power of the Spirit-bearing about in the body “the dying of Jesus” and manifesting in the body “the life also of Jesus”; it is the many who are carnal, “walking as men,” allowing, to a great extent, the flesh to act unjudged.
Thus there are many believers who have never entered practically into the meaning of “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:22For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)).
There is, and ought to be, progress in the Christian life. One may be born again and yet not sealed; and one may be sealed and yet not know deliverance. Our Holiness friends seem to confound these different stages and experiences. Practical deliverance is, perhaps, what they would term the “second blessing.” In order to sustain their view that sin is eradicated entirely, they build much upon the passage, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:77But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)). Here is confusion, for, according to their use of this scripture, there is a reapplication of the blood every time a man falls and is restored. He is, in the first place, cleansed and made holy by the blood and the incoming of the Holy Spirit, and when he falls he trusts Christ again, and is again cleansed. I will quote from one of their writers: “Sin alone makes a man unholy; and to remove sin by the blood of Christ and the incoming of the Holy Spirit, as Sanctifier, is to render the man holy.” Again, the same writer says: “He who has trusted Christ for entire cleansing and has been overcome, must do the same and the blood shall again cleanse him from all unrighteousness.” And yet again hear the same writer: “Sin is only driven from its stronghold by the all-cleansing blood, and can only be kept from returning by the same blessed power — the life (for the blood is the life) — the glorified life of the Son of God, always flowing through the soul, and thus keeping it clean.” This last quotation if taken as written — and, doubtless, judging from the whole tenor of their belief it is meant literally — would be shocking beyond expression. Its fearful blasphemy ought to be apparent to every spiritual mind. The very thought is horrible! When God speaks of the life which is in the blood, He refers simply to the animal life, as is clearly seen in Leviticus 17:1111For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11), where alone the expression occurs. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.” Could we bring down to a level with this, “the glorified life of the Son of God,” thus making it no more than the life of the flesh? And where does Scripture ever speak of the blood of Christ flowing through the soul in order to keep it clean! The article from which these statements are taken shows that there is no true apprehension of the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross. That work is a finished and a perfect work, and on the ground of the redemption accomplished at the cross, every believer in Jesus receives the forgiveness of sins. “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-3938Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38‑39)). Being justified from all things — everything that stood against us gone — we have access into God’s presence; we are brought into the light, and that light can discover no stain, no spot. The blood has cleansed us from all sin. This forgiveness of sins is not a fluctuating thing, as many deem it, making the work of God less stable even than that of man. No! blessed be God, it is a forgiveness that is absolute and eternal. God can righteously forgive, on the ground of the full atonement that has been wrought. God, who knew our sins, laid them upon the spotless Victim, and there the wrath of a holy God was poured out against sin: there every stroke due to us was borne, and we are free. His blood cleanses from ALL sin: and there is no need of its reapplication, for it never loses its value; it is of eternal efficacy. The blood of bulls and of goats could not make the offerers perfect and so they had to be “offered year by year continually”; and the priests’ work was never done, so he was standing “daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:11-1211And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; (Hebrews 10:11‑12)). He sat down because His work was done. The “one sacrifice” so completely satisfied God, that further offering was not needed. “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ ONCE” (Heb. 10:1010By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)). “By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:1414For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)) — not till Satan infuses some evil, but FOREVER. On the ground of this perfect work, God can say, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:1717And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 10:17)).
Entering into the fullness of the work that has been accomplished for him, the believer gets a “purged conscience.”
The knowledge of sins unforgiven gives a guilty conscience, but when I see that my sins are gone, my conscience is purged. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:1414How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14)). Had the sacrifices of bulls and goats made the “comers thereunto perfect,” the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But it required the one perfect offering for that; and so completely have our sins been put away by that all-cleansing blood, we now have access into God’s very presence. The veil which shut man out, and to have passed which would have been death, has been rent in the death of Christ, and we can now enter into the Holiest. As long as there is any question of sin, we dread the light: but when the conscience is purged — the sins gone — all dread is taken away. As we have said, the light discovers no spot: and, as has been said by another, if it were possible for the light to be yet brighter, it would but show the more clearly, the perfection of the work. Yes, we are washed and made “whiter than snow.”
It is when brought into the light that we learn the value of the blood. But the same light that shows us we are washed and made clean, accepted before God in all the infinite value of that perfect work, shows us also that we have SIN IN US. “Light makes manifest”; and when we get into the light of God’s presence, that light searches us through and through, and hinders our saying WE HAVE NO SIN. Sin — the old nature — is there. God’s Word declares it, and every honest, undeceived Christian admits it. “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves.”
Consciousness of sin is one thing, and a conscience burdened with sins, quite another. Consciousness of sin is the consciousness that the flesh is still in us, and that through unwatchfulness we fall; but our conscience is purged — free from the burden of sin — when we know that all our sins have been taken account of by God Himself and put away by the blood of Jesus. The very fact that Jesus (who was “delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification”) is now at God’s right hand, is God’s proof to us that there is nothing against us — our sins are remembered no more. If He were not risen, we would yet be in our sins. But HE IS RISEN. Our SINS ARE GONE. The evil nature — sin — remains; but remains as a thing to be abhorred, and kept in the place of death, as that which God condemned in the death of His own Son on the cross.
Other scriptures, beside those we have been considering, are wrested from their true meaning; but we need not multiply passages. There is, however, another point of inconsistency I would mention. They tell us that wrong thoughts are not sin; that they come like a flash and we are not responsible for them. Do they remember that God says, “the thought of foolishness is sin”? (Prov. 24:99The thought of foolishness is sin: and the scorner is an abomination to men. (Proverbs 24:9)). Have they considered that word in Mark 7:2121For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, (Mark 7:21), where we learn that “evil thoughts” proceed from within out of the hearts of men? They say that evil thoughts are from Satan, and that Satan tempts us thus, but it is not sin: Satan tempted Jesus. Quite true, Satan did tempt Jesus, but did wrong or “evil thoughts” ever flash through the mind of Jesus? Far be the thought! God tells us that these evil thoughts defile the man; but Jesus was UNDEFILED. Do they not, in holding that the having wrong thoughts is not sin, lower the standard of holiness? God’s standard of holiness is absolute, perfect, unchanging; that of our friends would adapt itself to the imperfection of the being in whom sin yet dwells.
Before passing on we might ask, what is the character of the Holiness writings? Take Wesley, Mrs. H. F. Smith, or others of their prominent writers, and any careful, unbiased, reader will not hesitate to say that in them there is thorough SELF-OCCUPATION. Now “facts are stubborn things,” and the very fact that they are occupied with self shows that they are not done with it, which they claim to be. It may be good self or it may be bad self, but still it is self, and self is not Christ, who should be the “all in all” of the Christian; as it is written, “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:2121For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)). Colossians 1:1212Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: (Colossians 1:12) teaches us that those who have redemption through His blood are made meet. The third point is, “ye are justified.” What a comprehensive word that “justified” is! Everything that stood against us, met, and that in a righteous way; guilt nevermore to be imputed. Yes, justified; no flaw in the title! Beautiful order — God’s order! Made meet — then the title made clear! God does not give the title before the fitness; it is first the fitness, then the title. Herein we see how fittingly sanctification comes before justification. Having it pointed out, one said, “Yes, it is there, but it’s contrary to our teaching.” This it certainly is: and should not this be convincing proof to them that “our teaching” is wrong? The truth is, no theory of man will stand the searching test of God’s Word. Another Holiness friend on being referred to this scripture, remarked, “but it’s the only place it’s put so.” As if when God speaks once that is not enough! Yet another, on a different occasion — an old man — said, “If you will show me that sanctification comes before justification it will be something I never saw before.” We turned to this scripture, then to 1 Corinthians 1:3030But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (1 Corinthians 1:30). The old man, on reading, seemed amazed. “You have shown me two places where sanctification comes first; it is enough.” There are also other scriptures which show this, to which we may refer again. Let us return to our verse. There is no denying the order in which God puts these subjects, and God makes no mistakes. He did not put it thus without a purpose, although it seems to baffle our friends to say, or understand why it is so. Looking at the verse with its context, we find that some of the Corinthian saints had been among the idolators, thieves, drunkards, and so on, but God in His great grace had laid hold of them, had wrought in them, had set them in an entirely new position: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” Notice, there are three things here said of the one who has been turned from darkness to light. First, he is washed; this is the effect of the Word of God in its cleansing power, as applied by the Spirit to the believers; as our verse says, “by the Spirit of our God.” But the washing that is done by the Spirit is through the Word; this washing or cleansing by the Word is taught in many scriptures, and we will refer to it again. Next in order we get, “ye are sanctified”; that is, they were made fit (morally fit) for God’s presence, by a work of the Spirit; and this is true of every child of God, though our friends would limit it to a favored few. Colossians 1:1212Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: (Colossians 1:12) teaches us that those who have redemption through His blood are made meet. The third point is, “ye are justified.” What a comprehensive word that “justified” is! Everything that stood against us, met, and that in a righteous way; guilt nevermore to be imputed. Yes, justified; no flaw in the title! Beautiful order — God’s order! Made meet — then the title made clear! God does not give the title before the fitness; it is first the fitness, then the title. Herein we see how fittingly sanctification comes before justification.
And this is not the only scripture in which God puts sanctification first. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1313But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: (2 Thessalonians 2:13), we have these words: “We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” If chosen to salvation through sanctification, sanctification must come first. Again in 1 Peter 1:22Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. (1 Peter 1:2), we see the same order followed: “Elect THROUGH sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” Again, in Ephesians 5:2626That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (Ephesians 5:26), the sanctifying comes before the cleansing; so that, clearly, He does not cleanse in order to sanctify.
The question, then, will naturally arise, WHEN do we get sanctification, and now? In 1 Corinthians 1:3030But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (1 Corinthians 1:30) we learn that Christ is, of God made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Here again we get beautiful order; redemption, which in its fullness takes in the body, being mentioned last. Since Christ is “made unto us” all these things, it follows that when we get Christ, we must get all; until we get Christ we have nothing. As to righteousness, our own righteousness is but as “filthy rags” in God’s sight.
The righteousness which He imputes is “righteousness without works.” See Romans 4:66Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, (Romans 4:6). And so as to sanctification, it is a sanctification without works. As we get the one, so do we get the other. Christ “is made” both the one and the other unto us. From this and other scriptures we conclude that the one who knows forgiveness of sins, is warranted in saying he is sanctified. “Ye are sanctified.” “Christ is made unto us sanctification.” “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once” (Heb. 10:1010By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)).
In this last, we learn that sanctification is secured to us through the value of the offering, which is His own body. In all the priceless value of this offering we are set apart to God. And set apart how long? Until we have “been overcome”? No! “He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.”
“Without holiness no man shall see the Lord,” is a word oft repeated, with the thought that those only who have the “second blessing” have this holiness and shall see the Lord, whereas, it is in fact, a practical word to every son whom God receives. All such are to “follow peace” and to “follow holiness”; moreover, such are to watch against defilement, through some root of bitterness springing up. See Hebrews 12:14-1514Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; (Hebrews 12:14‑15). Here again is proof to us from God’s Word that sin is in the believer; yes, in the one who is following holiness; for how could a “root of bitterness” spring up or defilement take place, if there were no sin to produce it? All the evil in the world did not defile the Lord Jesus. No root of bitterness ever found lodgment in His breast. Why this difference? We would answer, He had no sin in Him; we have sin in us.
In the same chapter — Hebrews 12 — we learn the wonderful truth that we are made partakers of God’s holiness. This is not God asking holiness from us; it is not even the leading us into the enjoyment of holiness; it is making us partakers of His holiness; and if we partake of His holiness are we WITHOUT holiness? But how are we made partakers? It is through the breaking of our will. He chastens to our profit to this end. And is it only those who attain to the “higher experience” who are thus blessed? No! Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth (vs. 6).
Our friends object to allowing the word sanctification to mean “set apart.” This it certainly does mean, though doubtless it should not be confined to this meaning; nor yet should it be confined in its meaning to being holy. In John 17, Jesus sanctifies Himself. Had He anything from which to cleanse Himself? Was He not always holy? He has “set Himself apart” as an object for His people, in order that the truth might have its sanctifying power over them. The vessels in the temple were sanctified, but no one will claim that they had any intrinsic holiness. They were simply “set apart” to a special use — a holy use — if you like. So we, God’s children, are “set apart” — and for a holy purpose, too. Set apart to serve God, set apart to live in separation from the world which is at “enmity against God.” But alas! how little this is practically entered into! How forcibly do the houses, dress, companionships and pursuits of Christians, prove that they are not separated from the world! This being linked up with the world, instead of being separated from it, goes so far, even, that the churches, through their fairs, festivals, and weekly collections, RECEIVE FROM THE WORLD. Just think of it! The cause of Christ supported by that which is directly antagonistic; yea, that which is AT ENMITY AGAINST GOD! The Church a debtor to the world! Christ a debtor to His enemies! How inconsistent! How low have Christians fallen!
Not only are we “set apart” to live in separation, but we are set apart to walk in the light, in communion with God, where everything which that light manifests to be wrong, must be judged. Thus the believer is set apart to God. And let us bear in mind, this setting apart is in the power of the Spirit of God — washed, sanctified, justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
It is of all importance that we should distinguish between the work done FOR us and the work done IN US. The work done FOR us is by CHRIST, and as we have sought to show in this paper, it is a work of infinite value; a work done ONCE, never to be repeated; while the work done in us is by the HOLY SPIRIT, and is being carried on CONTINUALLY in the believer. Our Holiness friends make a very great mistake in confounding these two. With them, there was not a full, accomplished redemption at the cross. They say the blood has NOW to be doing its work in the believer; that the justified man still has sin in him and needs further application of the blood to render him holy; and besides that, he needs a continuous stream of the blood flowing through him to keep him clean. All this is directly contrary to God’s Word which says “once for all.” And when they speak of losing “the state of holiness,” and as we have seen, say we are sanctified as long as we “keep crucified,” they show that they fail entirely to see that it was at the cross Jesus was crucified as the expression of God’s judgment of man in the flesh, and that we can say we are crucified with Him when our souls bow to this truths accepted before God, without a spot — “whiter than snow” — yea, more, loved even as Christ is loved. See John 17:2323I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:23). Could language be stronger?
How different the work of the Holy Spirit IN US. It is continuous; it is practical; it is progressive. He, the Holy Spirit, leads us into the knowledge of what Jesus has done for us, what He is to us, and the coming glory we shall share with Him. He takes the things that are Christ’s and shows them unto us. “He shall glorify Me,” Christ says. (John 16:1414He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. (John 16:14).) The Holy Spirit leads us to delight in Christ, and forms within us the desire to be more like Him, and to live separate from all evil. He also leads us to “keep the body under.” This desire to be like Christ is practical sanctification, and it is through the power of the Holy Spirit, not only that the desire is produced, but that its results are seen. There is progress here. More and more we learn to enjoy Christ as more and more He becomes the sole object of the heart. We have also more power in testimony, as through the Spirit we learn the “closer walk with God.” It is through the work of the Spirit that we are enabled to “grow up into Him in all things which is the Head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:1515But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (Ephesians 4:15)). This progress should continue till we are with Christ in glory. “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3:33And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:3)).
The progressive work that the Holy Spirit carries on is seen also in 1 Thessalonians 5:2323And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23). “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” No mention here is made of “the flesh.” That cannot be sanctified. But the body is the Lord’s and should be rendered to Him; it is our reasonable service. We see from this scripture that not only spirit and soul, but body as well, is to be set apart for Him and His service. Another word which shows the sanctification of the body is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:33For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: (1 Thessalonians 4:3): “This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.” I am aware that our friends leave off the latter part of this verse, that is, “that ye should abstain from fornication,” as it does not suit their purpose very well to bring this out, showing as it does, that the evil principle is within and to be guarded against; else why should the sanctified one be enjoined to abstain from fornication? The body is to be wholly set apart to the Lord; not given to uncleanness. Thus the progressive work goes on in the power of the Holy Spirit.
There is yet another point which we would briefly consider — something which our friends seem to overlook entirely — that is, the cleansing character of the Word. They make all the cleansing to be by the blood. “Washed from our sins in His blood,” as we have seen is once and once only, while “the washing of water by the Word” is being carried on all the time (Rev. 1:55And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (Revelation 1:5); Eph. 5:2626That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (Ephesians 5:26)). It is in this way that Christ is sanctifying and cleansing His much-loved Church; and in the glory He will present her to Himself, without “spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:2727That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:27)). In the power of the Holy Spirit the Word is applied and the work goes on.
Some of my readers may not have noticed that water is used as a symbol of the Word. It is one of the many symbols of Scripture. Its fittingness is readily seen; as water cleanses from physical defilement, so the Word cleanses from moral defilement. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to THY WORD” (Psa. 119:99BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. (Psalm 119:9)). In Ephesians 5, the two are linked together. “The washing of WATER BY THE WORD.” That cleansing takes place through the Word, is seen again in John 15:33Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. (John 15:3). “Now are ye CLEAN through the WORD which I have spoken unto you.” Water is used as a symbol of the Word again in John 3:55Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5), although it is often wrongly applied to baptism here. “Except a man be born of water and the Spirit,” that is, the Word of God applied in the power of the Spirit of God. Other scriptures will bear us out in this thought. In James 1:1818Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:18), we get: “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth.” Here we see the Word is instrumental in the new birth. Again in 1 Peter 1:2323Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (1 Peter 1:23), “Being BORN AGAIN, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” Thus we see that God’s Word must get entrance into the soul in order to the being born again. “The entrance of Thy words giveth light” (Psa. 119:130130The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple. (Psalm 119:130)). But it is in the power of the Spirit alone that the Word is carried home to heart and conscience. “Born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:55Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)).
It is not in connection with the new birth only, that this cleansing power is applied. It is continued in the believer’s path. This is beautifully pictured to us in John 13. There Jesus tells His disciples that “he that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit” (John 13:1010Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. (John 13:10)). The picture is of one who has had a hath, but in his walk from the hath gets his feet soiled and needs them washed again. Just so it is with the Christian. He has had the hath of regeneration, but he is going through a defiling world, and is constantly contracting defilement. He sends the Word home to our conscience in the power of the Holy Spirit; thus He cleanses. Doubtless one reason of our carrying so much defilement is found in the fact that we do not study God’s Word more diligently, and apply it to our walk. Through engrossing cares, or duties, or pleasure, as the case may be, we too often have little time or heart for God’s Word; and thus, the Spirit grieved, the Word neglected, we make little progress.
We have already noticed, in connection with Hebrews 10, sanctification through the offering of the body of Jesus, the sacrifice offered for us. Closely connected with this, we have in Hebrews 13, sanctification through the blood of Christ. “Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people WITH His OWN BLOOD, suffered without the gate.” This is the setting apart to God of His people outside Judaism and the world, according to the value of that priceless sacrificeg the SIN BURNED OUT OF us, but our being set apart to God in the power of the Spirit, through the truth, and on the ground of accomplished redemption.ARE SANCTIFIED, in a three-fold manner — by the SPIRIT; by the TRUTH (the Word of God); and by the BLOOD. Sanctification is not our having the SIN BURNED OUT OF us, but our being set apart to God in the power of the Spirit, through the truth, and on the ground of accomplished redemption.
Can our friends honestly look these scriptures in the face and say they have not been laboring under a delusion? We would give all credit for a desire to walk in the right way and for a breathing after holiness, but is it a holiness ACCORDING TO TRUTH? If not, it is not a sanctification according to God.
Deliverance from this doctrine is deliverance from bondage, as those who have been delivered from it, testify.
May God give us to be more diligent in the study of the Word, and may He guide us into all truth.