Division In The Church - Salvation (Sanctification)
Division In The Church
After the Holy Spirit has done the work of regeneration in a believer's life the next step is the growth or the sanctification of the believer. Basically there are two primary beliefs in the church of today concerning this work in the life of the believer. The first are those who believe total sanctification is an instantaneous act which occurs sometime after the initial justification of the believer before God at salvation. The doctrinal statements of these assemblies imply that they believe justification enables the believer to work his way to a point where total sanctification is possible. I see therefore a three-stage development of the believer:
1. Initial justification or new birth
2. Progressive sanctification or growth of the believer after the new birth
3. Total Sanctification in which the heart is cleansed from all inbred sin.*
Wesleyan (From the "Discipline of the Wesleyan Church): Paragraph 117 "Sanctification: initial, progressive, entire" "We believe that sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit by which the child of God is separated from sin unto God and is enabled to love God with all his heart and to walk in all His holy commandments blameless. Sanctification is initiated at t he moment of justification and regeneration. From that moment there is a gradual or progressive sanctification as the believer walks with God and daily grows in grace and in a more perfect obedience to God. This prepares for the crisis of entire sanctification which is wrought instantaneously when the believer presents himself a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, through faith in Jesus Christ, being effected by the baptism with the Holy Spirit who cleanses the heart from all inbred sin. The crisis of entire sanctification perfects the believer in love and empowers him for effective service. It is followed by life-long growth in and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The life of holiness continues through faith in the sanctifying blood of Christ and evidences itself by loving obedience to God's revealed will."
Church of the Nazarene: "We believe that entire sanctification is that act of God, subsequent to regeneration, by which believers are made free from original sin, or depravity, and brought into a state of entire devotement to God, and the holy obedience of love made perfect . It is wrought by the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and comprehends in one experience the cleansing of the heart from sin and the aiding, indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, empowering the believer for life and service. Entire sanctification is provided by the blood of Jesus, is wrought instantaneously by faith, preceded by entire consecration; and to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness. This experience is also known by various terms representing its different phases, such as "Christian perfection", "perfect love", "heart purity", "the baptism of the Holy Spirit", "the fulness of blessing", and "Christian holiness".
An interesting note concerning these assemblies is their belief that entire sanctification does not mean eternal security. The Wesleyan stating that "there is no such height or strength of holiness from which it is impossible to fall. But by the grace of God one who has fallen into sin may by true repentance and faith find forgiveness and restoration."
The second group are those who believe that total inward sanctification (how God views us) is recognized at the point of justification in our initial salvation, making us holy in the eyes of God through Christ (known by some as positional sanctification, we are perfect because Christ is perfect). At this point we are eternally secure in His grace however our outward sanctification or our action towards God and man (known by some as practical sanctification) will not be seen in its perfect state until our earthly bodies have been done away with and we stand complete in Christ clothed in our sinless bodies. So imply the following statements:
Regular Baptist: "We believe that sanctification is the divine setting apart of the believer unto God accomplished in a three-fold manner; first, an eternal act of God, based upon redemption in Christ, establishing the believer in a position of holiness at the moment he trusts the Savior: second, a continuing process in the saint as the Holy Spirit applies the Word of God to the life; third, the final accomplishment of this process at the Lord's return."
United Methodist: (Taken from "This We Believe" pg.65 "It follows that santification and perfection are terms that tell of these good deeds. But a person is never sanctified. Persons are always in the process of being sanctified- being made holy. Nor is a person ever perfect. But all believers are in the process of being made perfect."
Independent Bible Church: "We believe that positional sanctification occurs at the moment of regeneration and that practical sanctification is to be progressive throughout the entire lifespan of a believer here on earth and by the powerful word of God."
Basically both courts agree to initial sanctification at belief, that work of the Holy Spirit which causes us to be changed in heart and mind. This enables each believer to understand the scriptures and causes him or her to be a child of God. Where the difference occurs is seen in the aspect of perfection of the believer in sanctification. The Word of God plainly states that we are to be perfect as God is perfect, Matt.5:48, I Pet.1:16, the question is, can we attain that perfect state of holiness short of glory? Since both sides provide scriptural proofs for their beliefs and it may help to see how both view relevant scriptures: I John 3:6-9- This passage seems to be a very good proof text for the advocates of "sinless perfection" however those of the opposing view tell us that the word translated "commit" in these verses would be better rendered "practice" stating that John tells us earlier in the book, I John 1:8 "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." is a rebuttal against those in the church who laid claim to sinless perfection.
Duet.13:6- In this verse we see the promise of God to the believer concerning the work of Christ in the believer's heart. We can see sinlessness in this verse but is it positional sanctification or practical sanctification. We know the new man (Christ) which indwells our bodies is pure and sinless but can the old man (sinful nature) ever reach that height? Matt. 5:43-48- Again we note the call to perfection, the need for continual conforming of our hearts and minds to the heart and mind of Christ. An action which one believer lays claim to in this life and another sees fulfilled in its perfect state i n the life to come. These along with other verses (Rom.12:9-21; Rom.13:8-10; I Cor. 13; Phil.3:10- 15, Heb.6:1) give us the road map needed for the believer to mature in Christ.
Each believer knows in his or her heart if an attitude of sin presides there, the slightest thought that goes contrary to the Word of God is sin in the eyes of God. If a brother or sister has no thought of malice, desire for earthly wealth, pride, or doubt, he or she is indeed perfect. Each person must search their own heart concerning this matter, knowing that ultimately they will be judged by the One who tries the reins and knows the heart. We cannot judge each other on this matter, however it may be of consolation to those who believe their perfection will only be seen in their spiritual body that all of the writers God used to pen His Holy Scriptures discovered that when their holiness was compared to the Holiness of God they fell short of the mark. Isaiah-Isaiah 6:5, David-Psalm 25:11, Paul-Rom.7:24, John- Rev.5:3-4 all realized their insufficiencies when they were ushered into the presence of God.
There is one point which we can agree on concerning this matter. That being, the action of sanctification is the work of Christ in a man's heart, through the action of the Holy Spirit. We will all readily admit that, unlike the belief of the Stoics, perfection is beyond the reach of unregenerate man. If we can attain "perfect holiness" in this life we must all agree that it is only through the action of Christ in our lives and because of this we have nothing in ourselves which w e can boast in. All glory, regardless of state, will belong to our Savior at His return.