No phase of the sin problem has been more bitterly and strenuously opposed than the affirmation that the last remains of sin can be removed from the heart of man here and now. Sweeping liberality is often granted in fundamental interpretation save in this one particular. The writer’s personal experience vouchsafes the truthfulness of this statement. Among that great and gracious people where he first labored in his ministerial career, theological laxity was but feebly challenged. However, let one proclaim the possibility of death to sin in this present age, and henceforth he must bear the anathema of gross heresy and the accusation of wild mental vagaries. Good men in their mistaken and sometimes carnal zeal have deliberately stepped aside from their God-given prerogatives, and forgetful of pulpit and platform ethics, have sorely and rigorously libeled those who would dare support such a position. Good men have with pen and by word of mouth instructed souls in those identical steps of consecration and faith inevitably leading an honest heart to a certain knowledge of inward purity only to bitterly close in with the supporters of this very doctrine . as to its logical and scriptural results. Even men whose mental acumen and scholarship could not be questioned have indignantly declared that such a proposition as a clean heart here and now has absolutely no scriptural support — and this in face of the clear teaching of the Word of Life.
There is an eradication of sin from the heart of the believer. This is most evidently and clearly proved without a single misapplication of text or any untoward effort. We have space for but a few scriptural passages whose contexts speak with unmistakable import. Neither would it be difficult to bring forth from the treasury of the Lord much more evidence to bear further weight of proof. How amazing is the deceitfulness of the carnal heart! How astonishing is the blindness of those minds closed to truth antagonistic to their prejudices!
Mark with careful scrutiny the words of the apostle in his Roman letter (6:6), “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Many have affirmed that Paul never taught the eradication of sin, that no single passage can be cited as evidence of his clear support of this so-called extreme doctrine. Yet here is one if there were no others. Can we conceive of a man with the ethics and standards of the Apostle Paul speaking so personally and unhesitatingly of a teaching in which he himself had neither lot nor part? Would this not be the worst kind of perjury of the soul? I affirm in the light of this scripture as well as other passages that Paul was a believer in and a possessor of heart purity.
Here is a figure, chosen by the apostle, which can have but one satisfactory implication — death. Crucifixion in the light of contemporaneous Roman custom could mean but one thing — death. There upon the cross of shame, in the literal expression of the writer, our old man of sin is to be crucified in company with Christ. By divine forethought the crucifixion of the sin principle is inextricably associated with the awful yet glorious Cross. Truly did He suffer without the gate that we should be literally made holy in heart here and now. Most surely was Jesus manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8).
Of course, there are some who would attempt to challenge the consistency of such a premise by contending that Paul positively affirmed that he was not already made perfect, but such an attempted rebuttal is not only void but indicative of very superficial interpretation. One needs but to read the context of the third chapter of Philippians most casually to grasp the meaning of the apostle. “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after . . . .” we hear him say. But pray tell of what he is speaking — heart perfection? Obviously not, for he has just declared that his heart’s great longing is “that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead;” but three verses later we hear him cry, “let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.” We cannot now discuss some improper implications of perfection for that must needs arise in a later discussion. But, thank God, Jesus’ transcendent command of the Sermon on the Mount can be realized here and now, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
Glorious news! Perfection of love is within humanity’s grasp. Through Christ’s precious sacrifice that old stony heart can be removed and in its place be created a heart of flesh like unto His own, a heart of divine, melting love. Thank God, to the earnest, unbiased soul the crucifixion of our Lord has more momentous consequences than imputed righteousness reserved for some future kingdom age. Rather now in this present dispensation the human soul can enjoy its Utopia of divine love by the renunciation of self and the crucifixion of the old man of sin that the body of sin MADE sinners so shall many be MADE righteous.
Turn again to those unmistakably dogmatic and stirring words of the Colossian letter (2:11), “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” Where are the remotest grounds of interpretation to infer aught else than destruction of sin? The rite of circumcision had and still has but one implication-separation and mortification. In fact, the literal double negative of the original text but emphasizes the truth already startling and vivid, “In whom ye are circumcised . . . . in the putting AWAY and OFF the body of the sins of the flesh.” There is no more forceful illustration in the entire New Testament as to God’s predetermined disposition of sin
Mark briefly the clear teaching of the text, “In whom ye also are circumcised . . . . by a circumcision made WITHOUT HANDS (a supernatural act) in the putting off (a distinct removal) the body of the sins of the flesh (the very source and taproot from which the overt acts of sin originated) by the crucifixion of Christ (the very purpose for which He came).”
“And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the tree: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: HE SHALL BAPTIZE YOU WITH THE HOLY GHOST, AND WITH FIRE” (Matt 3:10-11). In this hour of fullness of revelation, God insists that the axe be laid to the root of the tree, that the source of the trouble be reached, that the provocation of evil be removed. “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, HE PURGETH IT, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:2). “He purgeth it” — purge, a word from which our English word cathartic is derived meaning to cleanse, to expurgate, to eliminate dross, to remove impurity. “But 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 (the same verb as in John 15:2) FROM ALL SIN. . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS” (I John 1:7-9). True, as many were MADE sinners so shall many be MADE righteous (Rom. 5:19). How clearly did Zacharias, under the mighty impetus and revealing power of the Holy Ghost, anticipate the glorious coming of the golden dispensation of grace. “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David…. 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 1:68, 69, 74). Thank God “for the grace of God that bringeth salvation unto all men teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us FROM ALL INIQUITY, and PURIFY unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” Titus 2:14, 15). “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” — “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it” (John 3:16; Ephesians 5:25, 26). In other words, God gave His own Son to save the world from their sins while Christ gave himself that He might cleanse and purify the church.
Can one wonder, in the light of these and kindred scriptures, that early in the modern propagation of holiness teaching the word “eradication” should have been adopted? True the word is not to be found in the entire text of Scripture, but the reader is challenged to find either word or phrase that so forcibly, concisely, and accurately portrays the persistent statements of the Bible as to God’s disposition of sin in the heart of man.
With infinite forethought God chose the Greek language to be the vehicle of divine revelation in the unfolding of an age of grace. No language, past or present, holds such versatility and lucidity of expression. Our own English language is confessedly a beggar in its presence. Such delicacy of expression and careful turning of thought is not within the capability of any other tongue. There were ample words within the vocabulary of both classical and spoken Greek which could mean to control, bring into subserviency, to keep under, to hold down. The significant fact is, however, that in no single instance does the Bible refer to God’s method of dealing with sin in the human heart in such terminology. Ever does the Scripture declare that sin is to be cleansed — removed — expurgated. And in spite of all this, mistaken men tell us that the Bible nowhere teaches the destruction of sin Thank God for the glorious gospel declaration of the present possibility of an utter deliverance from that awful body of death. “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:24, 25). “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by WHOM also we have access into THIS GRACE wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1, 2).