By Mike Willis
Every Christian is faced with the problem of how to handle his day-to-day sins with reference to his hope for an eternal home in heaven. If sin separates a man from God (Isa. 59:1-2), the individual must cope with the possibility of losing the salvation which he has obtained through Jesus Christ. Last week, we discussed one possible method of handling the problem of day-to-day sin, namely that which is used by Calvinists. The Calvinists appeal to the doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ to the believer’s account to reach their belief in the impossibility of apostasy. This is their method of handling the problem of day-to-day sin. I did not engage in a refutation of this belief last week because I have previously reviewed the doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ and, furthermore, most brethren are well equipped to handle the subject of the impossibility of apostasy.
Not all denominations, however, handle the problem of day-to-day sin in the same manner as do the Calvinsits. Others handle the problem with a “second act of grace” otherwise known as the sanctification doctrine. Let us define this doctrine in more detail.
A Second Work of Grace
Perhaps a word should be said about the philosophy of this second work of grace (otherwise known as perfectionism). The underlying principle of perfectionism is that of natural depravity and the impotence of the individual to help himself, morally and spiritually.
Man is “a mass of corrupts and his salvation must come from outside himself. In attaii that ideal three steps are usually recognized. Justification secures remission of sins; it is divine forgiveness, conditioned on repentance in evangelical thinking, and does little or nothing to man’s nature. Regeneration is an inner work, usually accompanying but distinct from justification, which purifies the life and purges it of the original taint. But there still remains “sin in the regenerate”; men are still tempted, evil desires remain, and depravity still manifests itself. So there must be sanctification which completes the work of regeneration and frees man entirety from inbred sin (Elmer- T. Clark, The Small Sects In America, p. 52).
The result of sanctification is the total eradication of sinful desires and deplorable psychological states; the individual is thus enabled to live free Jrom sirs because of this second work of grace.
The second work of grace is secured in only one way. A direct operation of the Holy. Spirit manifested in the believer by a definite emotional response is the only way of obtaining sanctification. In defining “Christian Perfection,” John Wesley stated the following:
1. Christian perfection is the product of faith and means freedom from all sin, both outward and inner, including “evil thoughts and tempers,” though it does not insure against such human frailties as ignorance, mistakes, temptations, and the common infirmities of the flesh.
2. It is not the same as, nor does it ever accompany, justification, but is always subsequent thereto . . .
3. It is always an instantaneous experience, though there may be gradual growth both previous and subsequent thereto . . . (Ibid, p. 55).
Here are some statements from creed books which manifest belief in this doctrine:
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 abiding indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, empowering the believer for fife and service.
Entire sanctification is provided by the blood by Jesus, is wrought instanteously by faith, preceded by entire consecration; and to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness (Manual of the Church of the Nazarene, 1944, p. 29).
Sanctification is that renewal of our fallen nature by the Holy Ghost, received through faith in Jesus Christ, whose blood of atonement cleanseth from all sin; whereby we are not only delivered from the guilt of sin, but are washed from its pollution, saved from its power, and are enabled, through grace, to love God with all our hearts and to walk in His Holy commandments blameless (Discipline of the Methodist Church, 1940, p. 48).
McClintock and Strong summarized this doctrine rather concisely in their monumental work; they wrote,
This is, in brief, the doctrine that Jesus Christ is a present Savior from sin; that he is able to keep those that trust in him from falling into any sin whatever; and that if the soul trusted him completely it would be preserved from all deliberate sin, and its unintentional wrong-doing – errors rather than sins – would not be imputed to it. It is true that some of the advocates of this view claim to have so lived in the presence of Christ as to have been for weeks and months unconscious of any sin; but more generally those who hold this view of the present redeeming power of Christ, while they insist that it is possible to live so near to him as to be kept by him “without sin,” also confess that they occasionally fail to keep up a complete and undeviating trust in Christ, and so do, in fact, in some degree, temporarily fail away from that condition in which they maintain it to be their privilege to walk (Vol. -VII, p. 944).
In a telephone conversation with a person who believed in this second work of grace, which conversation was aired on the radio, he stated that he had lived fifteen to twenty years without committing a single sin. Some of the more staunch defenders of this second work of grace would frankly confess that they have not sinned in years. When confronted with sin in the lives of their members, they either try to explain this as not being sin or assert that this individual who obviously is guilty of sin never actually received sanctification. In this, they remind one of the Calvinists who deny that a certain individual who has fallen away from the faith ever was saved in the first place.
Sanctification And Daily Sins
Despite whatever one may think about the truthfulness or falsity of this doctrine, he must admit that this one method presently being used to grapple with the problem of day-by-day sites in a Christian’s life. This approach simply states that a Christian who has been sanctified does not sin anymore. The temptation to sin has been removed from his body; consequently, he does not sin.
The advantage of this position if obvious. It gives an individual a security of salvation. He does not have to worry about being a “yo-yo Christian” who moves in and out of grace every day. Instead, once he has been saved and sanctified, he is forever secure because he simply cannot sin; hence, there is nothing in his life to separate him from God.
The disadvantages of this position should be obvious to anyone who has his eyes open and knows his Bible. The very first disadvantage should be obvious to anyone, with or without a Bible. That is, that it is not in harmony with experience. With our eyes and ears, we have witnessed quite the contrary; we have seen men who had been saved by the grace of God become involved in transgressions. We have seen men who were dedicated to the service of God for years become enmeshed in some sin. This has happened on a sufficient number of occasions that it simply cannot be dismissed by saying that such individuals were never saved in the first place. Hence, this first objection is that this doctrine of sanctification is contrary to experience.
The second, and more important, objection is that this doctrine is contrary to the Scriptures. The New Testament Scriptures demonstrate that those who have been saved by the blood of Christ can continue to commit sins from time to time. The following. passages, addressed to Christians, demonstrate this fact:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us: My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 Jn. 1:8-2:1).
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, . . . Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted., when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (Jas. 1:1-2, 13-15).
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (1 Cor. 10:12).
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (1 Cor. 9:27).
These passages show conclusively that Christians can continue to sin after being saved; they continue to have temptations; they must be careful lest they fall away from Jesus Christ and, consequently, lose their salvation.
Thirdly, this doctrine is contrary to what the Scriptures teach regarding sanctification. Sanctification is not a “second work of grace” which occcurs instantaneously making man above the temptation to sin. Sanctification has a two-fold meaning in the Scriptures: (1) It refers to that which occurs in salvation whereby one becomes setapart to God (1 Cor. 6:11; 1:2). These are not sinless persons but set-apart persons. (2) It refers to that continuing process of growth in Christian living whereby one is constantly laying aside sinful acts and deeds in an attempt to replace them with fruits of the Spirit, as the following: Jn. 17:17; 1 Thess. 4:1-7.
This second method of dealing with the sins which occur day-by-day in one’s life is rejected. The denial of the possibility for the presence of sins in the Christian’s life is antiscriptural. It is in direct conflict with what we learn about the Christian’s life in the Scriptures. Hence, this method of handling day-by-day sins must be rejected. (Continued next week.)
Truth Magazine XXIII: 33, pp. 531-533
August 23, 1979