Appendage: Entire Sanctification
1 Thess. 5:23-24 — And the very God of peace (GR. autov — Himself) sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit. soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In these words we have the inspired prayer of the inspired apostle Paul. Paul, like his Lord, walked in the Spirit, lived in the Spirit, wrote in the Spirit, preached in the Spirit; prayed in the Spirit. He could, concerning his inspired prayers, say with Christ, “I thank thee, Father, thou hearest me always.” John 17:15-17 records a prayer by Jesus exactly like Paul’s in its import, God would not. inspire Jesus to pray for that which His disciples had no need, nor Paul to pray for his Thessalonian converts for that which they already had or did not need. There is no stronger argument for the attainability of “Entire Sanctification” than found in these two prayers. This argument recognized at the outset wilt give confidence in the unfolding of this verse.
As nothing so fully explains Scripture’s true meaning as the Pauline method of “comparing spiritual things with spiritual things” we wish to take brief references from the first four chapters of this epistle as a context and make and prove therefrom a few simple propositions:
The Thessalonians prayed for in the text were previously converted.
In the first chapter (please refer to) Paul salutes them as being “in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ” — (or 20th. Cent. Test., in union with God the Father, etc.) sinners have no union with God — their work of faith, labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ was to the apostle a matter of constant thanksgiving; further he writes, knowing brethren beloved your election of God, and of how the Gospel came not unto then? in word only but also in power and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance (the Gr. word here signifies “full assurance” — they had full assurance of their initial sanctification); also of how they were followers of the apostles and of the Lord receiving the word with joy in the Holy Ghost so that they became ensamples (examples) to all that believed, the word of the Lord sounding out from them and their faith spreading abroad in every place. He wrote they had turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and were waiting for His Son from Heaven — earnestly desiring the Second Coming of Christ, looking forward to, and loving His appearing. The Holy Spirit could not have chosen stronger language descriptive of their conversion or initial sanctification. Would God every church member had such evidence of conversion as these had!
They did not backslide but maintained their converted life up to the time the prayer was offered.
1 Thess. 3:5-7, “For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labor be in vain. But now when Timotheus came from you unto us and brought us good tidings of your “faith” and charity Therefore, brethren, we were comforted by your faith, i e., by their continuance in faith.
1 Thess. 4:1 As ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and please God. R.V. says, Even as ye do walk — (and please God) — i. e. they were then so doing and pleasing God: this backsliders do not do.
1 Thess. 5:4, “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness,” (v5) “Ye are all the children of the light and children of the day.” (v.8) “Us who are of the day.” (v.16) “Rejoice evermore.” (v.17) “Pray without ceasing.” (v.18) “In everything give thanks.” This language, spoken of their condition before the prayer, could not apply to backsliders. These converts stayed converted. There is no evidence they had backslidden. If so this prayer (1 Thess. 5:23) is a mistake, as repentance is for sinners and backsliders and holiness (entire) only for converts who have so remained.
Though converted previous to prayer of the text and so remained up to it and did not backslide the apostle through the Epistle makes repeated reference to a deeper experience, a higher blessing, than their conversion, climaxing with his prayer for their Entire Sanctification in the text.
1 Thess. 3:10 “Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith.” In chapter 1:8 Paul said their faith to God-ward was spoken of in every place, but here he says he is burdened in prayer exceedingly and prays night and day (An example here of the true minister’s solicitude for the entire sanctification of his converts) for a lack still in their faith. He does not say they have no faith, but a lack in their faith. (Evidently more important than is generally admitted if Paul was so burdened over it. The minister who ignores this lack, in all young converts, is not their friend nor God’s.) Jesus spoke similarly to His disciples prior to Pentecost, “O ye of little faith,” not, no faith, but little faith. So it is here.
1 Thess. 3-12:13 continues the prayer begun in v.10 and more explicitly unfolds this lack enumerating increasing and abounding in love towards each other and towards all men to the end God might establish their hearts unblameable in holiness before God. Verse 11 tells this is to be by personal ministry of Paul “The Lord direct our way unto you.” Here is the justification for holiness evangelists running from ocean to ocean: God is “directing their way” unto candidates for holiness.
1 Thess. 4:3. “This is the will of God even your sanctification,” or Gr., “the sanctification of you,” (definite article) . Even is not in the original. It should not be thought a thing of surprise for a holy God to will the purification of his children. No Christian can be happy and unfriendly to the will of God as expressed here.
(4) “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despises — this call to holiness — (R. W. rejects, Gr. sets aside) despises not man but God, (not the holiness evangelist but God.)
(5) The climaxing reference to the deeper experience of entire sanctification is found in 1 Thess. 5:23. “The very God of peace (Himself) sanctify you wholly … But what is meant by being sanctified wholly?
Absolute perfection is not meant, nor Angelic, nor Adamic; nor perfection of knowledge, mind, judgment, or memory. He does not mean impeccability (not capable of sinning), infallibility, immutability, omnipotence nor omniscience. Not will obliteration but submission. Not freedom from blunders, errors, infirmities, humanity or mistakes, but willingness to correct these as far as possible. Not exemption from pain, sorrow, temptation, trial, and testing. Not unanimity of taste, but modest apparel for each individual. Not perfection of development or maturity. Not perfection of manners, speech or conduct. Not above praying the Lord’s prayer and consciously needing the merit of the atoning blood. Not sinlessness nor faultlessness, but blameless before God. Not where we can not grow, but where with leaps and bounds we may advance in the Divine life as this book abundantly proves. But what does he mean?
The prayer is for “Entire Sanctification” not Sanctification begun, which all who repent and believe receive, but full, complete or finished sanctification (as far as destruction of sin goes) which all, who have initial sanctification receive on consecrating and believing. Notice the word wholly or entire. Why wholly if the sanctification they received in the first chapter was not initial or partial sanctification? This word “wholly” kills Zinzendorfianism, which says a man in conversion is as pure as he can ever be. They were previously converted. This prayer is for that sanctification received subsequently to regeneration — without which they cannot see the Lord (Heb. 12:14) which purifies the heart to such an extent or degree that nothing of sin remains.
Dr. Lowrey says of this, “Entire holiness is the destruction or extermination of all sin from the soul.”
John Wesley says, “Sanctification (entire) in the proper sense is an instantaneous deliverance from all sin .and a power then given to cleave to God.”
John Fletcher said, “The same Spirit of faith which initially purifies our hearts when we cordially believe the pardoning love of God, completely cleanses them when we believe His sanctifying love.”
Adam Clarke asks and answers the question, “What then is this complete sanctification?” It is the washing the soul of the true believer from the remains of sin.”
Richard Watson, speaking of the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul says, “Nor terminates His sacred operations till He has purged from the heart of man all its stains of sin, all its debasing alloy.”
The old Methodist Catechism (the new one is not definite) had the following definition, “Sanctification is the act of ‘Divine Grace’ whereby we are made holy.” This expression “Act of Divine Grace” shows absurdity of growing into it by culture. It is God’s act. No three says, “Sanctification is the state of being entirely cleansed from sin so as to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength.”
Binney’s Compend says, “justification” is not the same as sanctification. Justification is a change of our state from guilt to pardon. Sanctification is a change of our nature from sin to holiness.
Brief Distinctions Between Regeneration and Entire Sanctification.
In justification all the fruits of the Spirit (“in a germinal form”) are in the heart, but commingling with them are contrary elements to them — e. g. with love commingle elements contrary to love, with faith elements of doubt, peace intermittent; with gentleness elements of harshness and resentment. In entire sanctification love for God is perfect, faith knows not what it is to doubt, peace is abiding, constant, and permanent; gentleness has no harshness, no get back at or get even with you elements. The regenerated soul is conscious of two elements, the flesh and Spirit warring against each other — conscious of pride, ill will, anger, unforgiving spirit, unholy ambition, self-will, etc., “remaining” but not “reigning.” When these elements are permitted to reign or yielded to regeneration is lost. The entirely sanctified soul is not conscious of these elements, the act of sanctification purging them from the heart.
How Much Time Must Elapse Between Regeneration and Entire Sanctification?
Scholarly commentators tell us about six months after Paul visited the Thessalonians and they were so brightly converted as described in Chapter 1, he wrote, “This is the will of God your sanctification,” and prayed prayer of 5:23 for God to sanctify them wholly. Mr. Wesley says, “The time element has little to do with our sanctification, seeing it is from God, He can as well sanctify five minutes after regeneration as fifty years as all things are possible to Him.” The delay is not with God, but, “ye are not able (or willing and obedient) to bear it.” The writer knows of a number of authentic cases, where from a few hours to a day, several days, and a week after, converts have entered the sanctified life. With the disciples the time between conversion and Pentecost (another name for sanctification or the purification of the heart, see Acts 15:9) was about three years. With the Samaritan converts a few weeks; with the writer three years. Wait not for time, God wills it now. I Thess. 4:3. Mr. Wesley said, “expect it every moment, as you are, by faith, now!” Sanctification is a now blessing without waiting or anything more, you may be sanctified now. Now is the day of this full salvation. As soon as justified God says, “go on to perfection.” “Be holy ‘now’ and all the days of your life.” Lu. 1:74-75
All our unbelief and doubt should vanish when we look to the source of this great blessing. The God of peace (Himself, Gr.) sanctify you wholly! Here is the authority for the Methodist Catechism definition that Sanctification (entire) is the act of God’s grace whereby we (i. e. the justified) are made holy. Sanctify is a verb. A verb is a word that denotes action. God is said to perform the action Himself. Surely He is able. He is omnipotent! Is any thing too hard for God? He spoke and ’twas done, He commanded and it stood fast! He spoke the worlds into existence! He upholds all things by the word of His power! All things are possible to God!
Condition of Obtaining the Blessing
Conviction — Realize you haven’t received sanctification. Mr. Wesley said, the soul, after justification, experiences a far more deep and powerful conviction of its need of inward purity than experienced when convicted of its need of pardon. Desire the blessing with desire intense.
Consecrate your all This is man’s part of sanctification. “God will not consecrate for you, you can not sanctify for God. Man consecrates, God sanctifies.” Elijah puts the bullock on the altar. That act typifies man’s work of consecrating. He then prays and the fire from heaven falls. That typifies God’s act of sending the fiery sanctifying baptism with the Holy Ghost. Yield all and receive all. As long as any known thing is kept off the altar so long the fire refuses to fall. “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.” Give up all you know and you don’t know. Search your heart. Spare not. Go to the bottom. Consecrate all — time, talent, life, wife, children, tithes, offerings, past, present, future, opportunities, ambitions, reputation. Solomon made an end of prayer — make an end of Consecration. Be willing to be among and identified with the sanctified.
Then you will be prepared to take the next step. We are sanctified by faith in Jesus. (Acts 26:18). Faith is naturally and easily exercised when you have fully obeyed. The cry, “I can’t believe” has back of it the cause, “you wont obey.” Mr. Wesley says, “exactly as we are justified by faith we are sanctified by faith.” By faith in what? The truth and the blood. “Sanctify them through the truth.” “Now ye are clean through (instrumentality) the word I have spoken to you.” The word of His grace which is able …. to give you a place among them that are sanctified. The blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sin.” Here is the ground for your faith. Seize a promise which offers sanctification, e. g., “Blessed are the pure in heart.” The altar sanctifies the gift, “Sanctified by faith in me and believe according to His word, He is able to save you now to the uttermost from sin. Faith is taking God at His word. The word becomes to us exactly what we believe it for. A justifying promise obeyed and believed brings justification; a sanctifying promise obeyed, believed, brings sanctification. “Faith is believing what God says and His word is true.” Your faith however is spurious if it does not bring the witness of the holy Spirit attesting the work is done. A proper obedience and faith brings the witness of the Spirit that the work of sanctification is done just as He witnesses to pardon.
Reader get humbly before the faithful God of peace who calleth you (Thess. 5:24) and ask Him to answer this prayer (Thess. 5:23 as well as Jesus’ prayer, John 17:17) on your behalf. Never mind the consequences to your reputation. God will see you through. To be sanctified wholly is your gracious privilege in this life yea more, it is absolutely and indispensably necessary to present happiness, usefulness, development and heaven. Without the sanctification (Heb. 12:14, R.V.) no man shall see the Lord. Seek, consecrate, obey, pray, believe, receive and you will be prepared to read and profit by the foregoing chapters which have already been an inspiration to many readers. God bless you, reader, and bestow the greatest blessing on you now.