Scriptures Supposed To Contradict The Fact Of A Second Work Of Grace
The opposers of the doctrine of a second work, subsequent to regeneration, realizing that their simple denial of the truth will not be sufficient, but that a thus saith the Lord is properly demanded of them, have been at pains to produce certain scriptures which they affirm ring the death-knell of the doctrine.
One of the passages most frequently quoted by them is Philippians iii. 12-14: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect…. I count not myself to have apprehended,” etc.
This is brought forward to show that Paul never claimed the blessing of sanctification or Christian perfection; that instead he herein plainly denies it in the words “not attained,” “not perfect,” and “not apprehended.”
We confess to amazement at such an interpretation. Let the reader look at the entire paragraph, and see for himself what the apostle was talking about.
“If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.”
Several facts become clear to the honest inquirer:
First, there are two perfections mentioned in the passage; one, Paul said he had; the other, he had not. The one in the twelfth verse he said he did not possess; the one in the fifteenth verse he said he had.
Secondly, in the first “perfection” or “attainment” he was not speaking of sanctification, but of the resurrection of the dead. The eleventh and twelfth verses settle the fact beyond all question.
Thirdly, the word “attained” is used in connection with the word “resurrection,” “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” So the apostle could not be speaking here of sanctification.
Fourthly, when he says in the twelfth verse that he was not “already perfect” he was again speaking of the glorified state, of the life beyond the grave. The literal translation is: “Not that I have already been perfected.” The marginal reference is Hebrews xii. 23, which proves that he was speaking of the heavenly state. Dr. Adam Clarke says that Paul here “alluded not to deficiency of grace, but to his martyrdom.”
Fifthly, the word “apprehended” is found in the same verse, and in such close connection with the word “attain” that any one can see that he was still speaking of the life and glory to be had with Christ in the glorified state. Moreover, the word itself gives light. “Apprehend” here means to “lay hold.” But sanctification cannot be laid hold of, but is a grace and condition wrought within us by another hand altogether. A man may lay hold of a martyr’s crown and its rewards, but not of sanctification. God lays hold of us there.
Sixthly, the word “prize,” in the fourteenth verse, shows us that he was not speaking of Christian perfection. “I press toward the mark for the prize.” Sanctification is not a prize. Heaven, eternal life, celestial rewards, are prizes, but holiness is a privilege, a duty, a condition, a blessed means to an end, and the way itself to the attainment of the “prize.”
Seventhly, the word “attained” proves that the apostle was not speaking of sanctification. This word alone can settle the question, and in this way: That sanctification is never presented in the Bible as an attainment, but as an obtainment. The words are very different. There are two ways of coming into possession of a fortune. One is to labor and gave up for it; the other is to inherit it. The first takes years; the second occurs in a moment. One is an attainment; the other, an obtainment. The Christian can, by a life of devotedness to Christ, attain unto distinctive and superior rewards in the resurrection, but no one can by any amount of religious work attain unto the blessing of holiness. Sanctification is always an obtainment of grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The word “attain” then shows that Paul was not speaking of sanctification.
Eighthly, the fifteenth verse puts the matter beyond peradventure in the following words: “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.” Could anything be clearer? Paul, in the beginning of the paragraph, disclaims glorified perfection, and says that he is pressings after it; but there is another perfection which he does claim. This is the same perfection that he urges the Christian Hebrews to “go on to,” and which John, in his Epistle, calls “perfect love,” and Mr. Wesley calls Christian perfection.
A preacher once took issue with me in this interpretation in the following language: “What folly and absurdity it is to make Paul say that he was striving and pressing forward for the resurrection of the dead, when it is well known that we will be raised from the dead, no matter whether we strive or not!”
The preacher overlooked a fact that today is thrilling many scholarly Christian minds. It was not the general resurrection Paul was talking about, but a peculiar one, a resurrection from among the dead. The overlooked preposition “ek” gives this gracious and yet startling light. There is to be a resurrection a thousand years before the general resurrection. It is to be out from among the dead. Some will arise, and many will sleep on. A certain grace and life will secure this early and glorious arising. Paul said that he was after that, pressing forward for that, and “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.”
A second verse relied on to disprove a second work is Corinthians v. 17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
One point made by the opposers from this verse is that a new creature must necessarily be a sound and perfect creature.
Our reply is that this does not follow, for such is not the case in nature or grace. An earthly child is a new creature, but it is often born with inherited disease. So with the child of God. He is by conversion a new creature; but he has a dark inheritance which speedily discovers itself after regeneration in forms of doubt, pride, envy, impatience, uncharitableness, and other disturbing things. He is a new creature, but not a pure creature. The two expressions are not synonymous .
A second point made by the opposers is that the verse declares “all things are become new;” that, according to this statement, no inbred sin is left, and so nothing remains to require a second work, and therefore the doctrine must fall through.
To this we reply that, if all things are become new in regeneration, why is it that only a few verses farther on Paul begins a chapter with an exhortation to these same regenerated people, whom he calls “babes in Christ,” and hence born of God, and bids them cleanse themselves from “all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.”
Again, some things never become new. We have God’s own statement that “the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Besides this, the “old man” is never said to become a New Man. The “old man” dies, and then the New Man clothes us. So, to force this verse, in the expression “all things are become new,” to include the regeneration or renewing of the “old man” is to make God contradict himself.
To crown all, the Revised Version leaves out the word “all,” and we have the verse: “Old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.”
This, indeed, is what we felt at conversion. Old things did pass away; there seemed to us a newness, sweetness, freshness, gladness, in everything; yet after that we found the “old man” left in the heart. He never becomes new; he is under sentence of death to be “crucified” and “destroyed.”
A third quotation by the opposers is I Peter i. 22, 23: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.”
The argument based on this verse is: How can anything corrupt be in a being born of incorruptible seed?
We reply that, if the new birth saves us from the presence of indwelling corruption, how is it that two verses after Peter begs these same people to lay aside “all malice, and all guile, and all hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,” and “as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word?” This last verse unanswerably demonstrates the existence of remaining sin in the regenerated heart; for here is asserted the fact of their being “newborn,” while the sins mentioned are all heart sins. The “laying aside” refers to that perfect consecration, that close approach to God, that sanctifying of self which precedes the sanctifying work of the Spirit.
As to the argument built on the words “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth,” and “See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently,” we make answer that this could hardly be the blessing of entire sanctification, for only a few verses preceding the apostle exhorts them to that blessing in the words: “Be ye holy.” Besides, he says: “Ye have purified your souls.” In entire sanctification God does the purifying. Moreover, genuinely sanctified people hardly need to be told to love one another; for when filled with perfect love they cannot help loving one another fervently.
A fourth verse brought against us is I John v. 18 : “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.”
The argument drawn from this passage is that there is no need of a second work of grace to keep us from sinning; that if born of God we sin not, and this itself is a pure and holy life.
Our reply is that we have never asserted that we need sanctification to keep us from sinning; regeneration alone can do that. The work of sanctification goes deeper, and takes the “prone to wander” and “want to sin” out of us. Regeneration saves us from the guilt and power of sin, but sanctification delivers us from the inbeing of sin.
A fifth verse urged against the second work is James iii. 11: “Doth a fountain send forth at the same time sweet water and bitter?”
The argument formed from the above is that there should be nothing contrary to holiness in the child of God. God has sweetened the waters of his life, how can they be bitter?
Our reply is that there is nothing wrong with the water of life, but the trouble is with something left in the regenerated heart that gives the occasional bitterness to word and act.
James denies that such a state of things exists in nature, but affirms that it is seen in the spiritual life. He tries to shame Christians with this very fact: that they are seen doing what is not according to nature. No fountain sends out sweet and bitter water, and yet here among you, he says, “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing” (scolding). Then adds: “My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”
Furthermore, both observation and experience agree in proof that the regenerated heart is a fountain from which proceeds sweet and bitter water. O the blessings and scoldings we have heard come from the lips of the same child of God! The trouble is inbred sin. Get that sanctified out, and the fountain will run pure and sweet all the time.
We confess to surprise that any one should quote this verse from James as if he had said that there could not be sweet and bitter streams from the same heart, when this is the very thing he affirms, and says it is in the “brethren.” “My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”
Truly it ought not to be so, for sanctification can end it.
A sixth passage relied on by the opposition is Matthew vii. 17,18: “Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”
The argument made here by our brethren against us is that a regenerated man does right and the sinner does wrong; that a Christian is a good tree, and cannot and does not bear corrupt fruit; that he is sound to the heart; and there is, therefore, no corruption remaining in him.
The simple reply that punctures all this is the question: Where does the corruption come from that we see in the lives of regenerated people? Does the good tree that Christ planted in their hearts bring forth such fruit as ambition, pride, ill will, suspicion, evil speaking, irritability, fear of man, lust, and love of the world?
The whole mistake of the opposition springs from the failure to recognize that there are two trees in the heart, a good tree planted by Christ, and a corrupt tree planted by Satan and called inbred sin or depravity, under the shadow of which we are born into the world. Until Christ planted the tree of life, or regeneration, there was only evil fruit in the man’s soul. But after that beautiful planting men came and gathered from the greensward of our lives the strangest mixture of sweet and bitter, good and evil fruit. Christ touches his heavenly plant, and lo! a shower of golden celestial fruit in our thoughts, words, and actions; another time Satan shakes his tree, and alas! there comes tumbling down upon the hands and heads of the people a dark and bitter fruitage from another world altogether. The way to do is to have inbred sin, or the corrupt tree, cut down as is done in sanctification, and then the pure, unmixed fruit of holiness will abound to the good of man and the glory of God.
A seventh citation is I Corinthians ix. 27: “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.”
The argument made from this passage is that repression of sin is all that can be hoped for in the Christian life. That sin cannot be extirpated, but must be kept under; that we need not expect to be better than Paul, and yet here is a statement from him to the effect that he had always to be keeping his sinful flesh under and so bring it into subjection.
This whole plausible speech is utterly swept away by calling attention to a fact plainly appearing in the Bible–viz., that the word “body” stands for one thing and the word “flesh” for another. In the verse quoted above Paul uses the word soma, meaning the human body; but in Galatians v. 17, when he says, “the flesh lusteth” he employs the Greek word sarx, which, as stated in a previous chapter, the apostle uses to describe carnality, a fleshly principle apart from the body.
This being the case, a flood of light is poured on both verses, as we see that they speak of different things–one of the body, the other of the carnal mind. The latter is to be “destroyed;” the former we are to “keep under.” God has no quarrel with the body (soma), but with inbred sin (sarx). By the grace of God the “flesh” can be crucified and destroyed, and after this we simply watch over, keep under and in proper subjection the “body,” with its natural appetites and inclinations.
It would be a mistake to kill a horse because he is wild; the thing to do is to get the wildness out of him; hitch him to a buggy, and then, reins in hand, drive, guide, and control him while he does his proper work.
In the Dark Ages men were maltreating and destroying their “bodies,” thinking that these were referred to in the word “flesh.” As in the case of the wild horse, so we say here that it is a pity and a mistake to destroy the human “body,” because of the “flesh,” carnality. The true course is laid down in the Bible; get the “flesh “crucified and destroyed, which has run away with the “body;” and then with that inward, disturbing principle gone, how easy it is to control and keep under the body! The “body” is God’s creation; the “flesh” is the devil’s work. When the “flesh” is gone, the “body” can render God, man, and the owner most blessed service. Then it is that the “body” fairly bowls along to glory, only requiring, as in the case of the well tamed horse, the controlling and directing eye and hand.
The eighth quotation is I Corinthians xv. 31 “I die daily.”
This language of Paul is brought forward to disprove the instantaneous and final death of inbred sin, which we assert is taught in the Word of God and verified in Christian experience. You claim, they say, to die once; but Paul said, “I die daily.”
Here again the slightest attention to words brings clear light and explanation. Paul said, “I die daily;” he did not say that the “old man” died daily. The “old man” has his moment of death and is cast out of the soul. There is no experience clearer to the human heart than the fact of the death of inbred sin. The Spirit witnesses to it, the soul rejoices in it. But distinct from this is a daily death that awaits the sanctified in this world. Not a death of agony such as we had in the seeking and reception of the blessing of sanctification; but the application of this same death to daily surroundings and new circumstances that will constantly arise. Trials, temptations, favors, friendships, promotions, praises, flatteries, cuts, insults, wrongs, persecutions, and countless other experiences will come into the life; but with the “old man” out and the New Man in, the sanctified soul accepts each one as the Saviour would have him, and so dies to them all. To the world it looks like a daily death, and the man h imself so describes it, but it is not like the death of the “old man” fraught with intense suffering; there is in this daily dying an element of joy and a perpetual shout of victory.
The ninth Scripture used to combat and destroy the doctrine of the second work of grace is John xv. 3: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”
The argument based on this is that Christ, in addressing his disciples as regenerated men, said that they were “clean;” that if clean, then they were not unclean; and if clean, what need for a further work? that, therefore, there is no room in our theology or experience for a second work of grace.
Our reply to this is that our disagreeing brethren fail to distinguish between personal cleanness, as a man stands before God as accountable to him as an individual, and an uncleanness in nature transmitted by birth for which the man is not responsible. For instance, a man’s personal sins are one thing, and depravity, the effect of Adam’s sin on the soul, is another. In justification and regeneration a man’s individual transgressions are pardoned, his guilt washed away, the evil bent and injury that he has personally brought upon his own soul is rectified, and the life of God implanted. He stands personally clean before God, but there still remains in him that bias of the soul to evil wrought by Adam’s fall and transmitted to him as a dark inheritance. This remaining nature is felt by every converted person and is recognized and grieved over as spiritual uncleanness. Thus it is that Christ can say to every regenerated man and woman, “Ye are clean,” and yet inbred sin be left within them.
An additional convincing fact we bring forward as proof on this line, and which the objectors seem to have overlooked, is this: If the disciples were pure, as some contend, because Christ said, “Ye are clean,” why is it that a few minutes afterwards he prayed the Father to “sanctify them?” Careful to quote the words “ye are clean,” our brethren of the other side are strangely careless in overlooking the words that almost immediately followed, “Sanctify them.” The word “sanctify” in the Greek means to make pure, to make holy.
This last prayer did not mean to “set apart” these disciples to preach, heal, and cast out devils, for, according to Mark iii. 14, 15, this had been done three years before. It meant that they might receive that which afterwards came upon them on the day of Pentecost–namely, the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire–by which inbred sin is destroyed, the heart made pure, and the life holy.
The last verse we mention as quoted by the opposers to a second work is Proverbs iv. 18: “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”
The reader will at first hardly see how this passage can be twisted to bear against the doctrine of heart purity. The explanation is that the opposers of an instantaneous sanctification seem to think that when we affirm that there is a second and completing work of grace in the soul we teach a stoppage of Christian growth, a cessation of religious activity, a discarding of means of grace, and so sink into a kind of “Hindoo stillness” or lazy, self-satisfied, fanciful perfection.
With this mistaken view of what sanctification is and does for the soul, some have quoted the passage above as though it annihilated us, when we love that Scripture and believe in it as heartily as those who use it against us.
Perhaps if all classes of Christians were brought to the witness stand it would be found that the sanctified man enjoys the experience laid down in this verse even more than his regenerated brother. Certainly, if it describes any one, it is the soul that has been purified from inbred sin and is going on from glory to glory. We feel like appealing to the reader and asking him as in the presence of God if this quoted verse truly describes the regenerated man’s experience? Does his path look like the shining light, and does it shine more and more? Is there a steady increase all the time of light, life, and power? Observation tells us that this is not so; that if the regenerated soul does not press on at once into perfection and holiness the path of the just gets darker and darker, and the end is coldness, formality, and backsliding.
There are ministers today in the pulpit using this verse against the doctrine of sanctification, whose own light has never been as bright as in the first year or month or day of their converted lives. And yet this Scripture calls for an experience that grows brighter all the time. There are thousands of backsliders in the Church whose paths grew dark and darker after the first few days of their regeneration until at last every beam went out of their spiritual skies, and they are now walking in the night once more. And yet this verse calls for an experience of ever increasing glory and brightness.
As we look at the passage again we feel sure that it can only be made to apply to two classes. One is the regenerated man pressing on to perfection; and of course his way will be “the path of the just” (or justified) “that shineth more and more unto the perfect day,” the day when God’s perfecting work is done, and perfect love fills the soul. The other class is the sanctified. Truly the life of the man whose life has been made pure grows brighter and brighter unto the perfect day that awaits the soul in heaven.
Summing up the thoughts in this chapter, we affirm that God has a second work for the soul that is a completing work; yet as a work it does not stop growth in grace, progress in knowledge, or advancement in the divine life. Regeneration removes personal sins and personal guilt; sanctification removes inherited or inbred sin; and this completes the direct work of salvation. But from that time on the child of God grows in grace more rapidly than before, adds every spiritual excellence and practice to the life; while his path grows brighter and still brighter unto the perfect day.