Once again we thank God that there is an experience obtainable here and now that can eradicate sin from the human heart so that the entirety of life can be brought into a sweet subservience to His precious will. We will then know the answer to the cry of David when he exclaimed, “Unite my heart to fear thy name.” But remember, the entire philosophy and its practical outworking are contingent upon the cleansing of the heart from sin. If this crucial point of heart cleansing is ignored, denied, or disbelieved, an impossible predicament is created and a hopeless maze of difficulty ensues and there is little else to do but rest on the oars of spiritual effort hoping for the best.
It is at this point the opponents of scriptural holiness find themselves in a dilemma. They must in consistency either deny the possibility of a present life of victory or else wink at its crude and carnal indiscretions. In the words of Dr. J. B. Chapman, “But those who say that Christians are not bound to commit sin, though it is not possible to get entirely rid of the sin principle in this world, are under the necessity of explaining how one can live on a higher plane than his heart state. They must tell us how one can live a holy life and still not be holy in heart.”
Who is there at all familiar with the Word of God who would deny the insistent call to actual righteousness and holiness in this present world? “That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:74, 75). What life of Christian profession with less than genuine holy character can have any meaning to a critical and gainsaying world?
How this vital experience has been beclouded with false issues! In a strenuous effort to deny any present obtainment of holiness the definition of sin has been obscured. They say one must certainly sin in word, thought, or deed each day of his life. Thus with an improper and inconsistent humility, the challenge of a clean heart and a holy life is branded as spiritual arrogance.
However, a candid and even casual investigation of God’s definition of sin assures us that such an attitude is scripturally untenable. They fail to differentiate between mistaken judgment and deliberate intent; between lack of knowledge and an unwillingness to walk in the light; between infirmity and sin. Thus the prospects being denied and the seeking of such an experience condemned, the multitude of church people pass by unmoved by the challenge to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
We remind you that wrongdoing is vastly different from misdoing. What is a mistake? It is obviously a ”miss-take.” One’s motive was consistent with a pure heart and in full harmony with the principle of perfect love, yet that one “miss-took.” Can it be consistently held that God will hold us responsible for that which is not known or understood? Paul tells us that by the law came the knowledge of sin, that where there is no knowledge, there is no transgression. God will not unjustly condemn where there is no actual knowledge of sin. Our conduct may sometimes err even with the purest of motives prompting that act; yet God will not hold me guilty when I actually did my prayerful best. But rest assured such action is based upon a prayerful and sincere search for all the will of God. Fletcher suggested Paul’s two exhortations so inconsistent in the eyes of those who attempt to confuse infirmity with sin. “Them that sin rebuke before all” (I Tim. 5:20). “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak” (Rom. 15:1). Here are two direct commands, “Rebuke sin,” “Bear with infirmities.” How incoherent are these scriptures if there be no discrimination between infirmities and sins. Although our faulty human judgments and infirmities may sometimes thwart a perfect act, yet God sees the heart’s holy intent and His smile is upon us and we are accepted by Him. Notice God’s estimate of King Asa of old, “But the high places were not taken away out of Israel: nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect all his days” (II Chron. 15:17).
Only one other recourse remains and that is a sinning religion. The late Dr. Scofield in his well-known Reference Bible speaks of “the sinning saint.” What an impossible paradox. One might as well speak of good-evil or light-darkness. The one is unmistakably the opposite, the antagonist of the other. How strained and impossible is such a position as this! It would seem apparent even to the scripturally untutored that the gospel of Jesus Christ either saves, or it does not save. If this be true, what is the difference between the man of the street and the man of the church save in their mental attitudes? In the light of such a position how unreal and impracticable are those glorious promises, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” “His name shall be called Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.” “Wherefore he is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us.”
To attempt to isolate or limit the meaning of such scriptures to a coming dispensation is but begging the question. “As many were made sinners so shall many be made righteous.” To relegate to the future the standards and teachings of the Sermon on the Mount is a travesty on biblical interpretation. The human heart that is honestly looking for deliverance from the power and dominion of sin does not find a satisfactory response to his own soul’s cry and need in such elusive promises as these. In the face of such a far distant deliverance in another dispensation he must needs cry out with Paul of old, “Woe is me.”
Hence the dilemma. If the possibility of heart cleansing be denied, the anticipation of present victory is hopeless and meaningless. If the source of human pollution cannot be cleansed now, how can the overt acts of men become consistent with the life of Christ, for, “As he is so are we in this world” (I John 4:17). If the promise cannot fail we are to be “delivered out of the hands of our enemies (that we) might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:74, 75). If the main spring of man’s spiritual nature cannot here and now be attuned to divine will and nature throughout, how impossible is an actual life of victory consistent with the glorious gospel proclamation of salvation from sin. How impracticable are then the controlling of man’s appetites, affections, and propensities? If the scriptural consistency of a holy life is not sustained, what can we do? We are truly of all people most miserable, and the instinctive hope of the soul is stifled with a mocking pretense.