Holiness Is The Condition of Satisfactory Growth
The Scriptures not only teach the possibility of growth or development in grace but make it a duty. We are commanded to “grow in grace.” None of us will be so saved from sin as to make growth in grace either unnecessary or impossible. The holiest of beings, in this world, grow in grace. It was said of the holy child Jesus, “He increased in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man.” The word favor is karis in the Greek. It is nearly everywhere in the New Testament translated, grace. Adam Clarke says, “Even Christ Himself who knew no sin, grew in the favor of God; and as to His human nature, increased the graces of the Holy Spirit. From this we !earn that if a man were as pure and perfect as the Man Christ Jesus Himself was, yet he might, nevertheless, increase in the image and consequently in the fear of God.” John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb and yet he “grew and waxed strong in spirit.” We note these two illustrations because some have thought that when a soul is cleansed from all sin, it implied, that growth in grace stops.
The term growth is a figure taken from the natural world. It means that the soul increases and develops in the divine graces just as animal and vegetable life grows in the natural world. The same laws of development exist in the spiritual as in the natural world.
There are two errors that well meaning people have embraced right here. Had they kept to the figure as seen in the natural world, these errors might have been avoided. The first error consists in confounding purity with maturity. They would not make this mistake in the natural world. Perfect fruit may increase until it comes to maturity. For instance an apple in June may be perfect in quality and yet increase in quantity until October. And when October comes it will not be of more perfect quality, although it is fully developed. Or the apple may be mature in October and have impurities in it, so that purity and maturity are not the same. Nor did growth of all the months make the apple sound. If it had a rot in it in June the growth of months could not out develop the rot. No amount of growth or development can remove sin from the heart. There is nothing that can do it but the blood of Jesus. This is the second error which is very popular. Nothing impure ever becomes pure by growth in the natural or spiritual world. Is it not singular that people who never heard of a dirty child growing clean, or a field of corn outgrowing the weeds and thus killing them, or an apple outgrowing a rot or a tree outgrowing a blemish, should boldly affirm that the soul can outgrow its uncleanness?
There is no recorded instance of the outgrowing of sin in all ages of the Christian church. Is it not strange that anyone should hold to a theory that has no practical illustrations to prove it? The fact is that the reverse is true. After a growth of five, ten, twenty, thirty, and seventy and eighty years we find under certain circumstances and provocations the old sinful nature will assert itself as readily as in youthful days. Thousands have acknowledged that a long life of growth in the Christian life had not destroyed the old carnal nature.
The theory that sin is destroyed by growth in grace is not only contrary to the analogy of growth in nature, and contrary to human experience, but also has no scriptural support. There is no such teaching in the Word of God.
We have never heard but one passage of Scripture quoted in its favor. It is this: “First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” (Mark 4:28.) An examination of the passage shows that it refers to the spread of the kingdom of God by successive stages, over the world. But if an objector deny this, even then, it does not prove that sin is destroyed in the heart by growth in grace. For if sanctification is taught in the passage then “‘the full corn in the ear” must mean entire sanctification and “the blade” must mean the experience of justification. And if entire sanctification is by growth then “the blade” of justification must be wrought the same way. This is proving too much for we know the Scripture teaches that we are justified by faith, not by growth.
The difficulty with these objectors is (as has often been pointed out), they make no distinction between growing in grace and growing into grace. The old familiar illustration is this: We can swim in water but we cannot swim into water. We can grow in grace but not into it. All grace, whether the grace of justification or the grace of entire sanctification, is obtained by faith. Having entered into the state of grace by faith we can then grow in it and not until then.
Entire sanctification means the removal of the hindrances to growth. It would be untrue to say that there is no growth in grace until we are entirely sanctified, for there is a growth in grace in the justified life, but it is feeble and usually very unsatisfactory. It is like the growth of the field of corn in which the weeds are left to grow unhindered. The state of normal growth as God intended is in the entirely sanctified life. The growth is so much more satisfactory and substantial that the scriptural passages that speak of it are always in connection with statements concerning heart purity or entire sanctification. We quote them. They are in the Second Epistle of Peter: “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” It will be seen here that entire sanctification is taught in the phrase, “having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Faith in these exceeding great and precious promises brought this sanctification to these people, to whom he is writing. He continues thus, “And besides this, add to your faith.” That is, add to the faith, by which you appropriated the promises and escaped the corruption of lust. It means, having been cleansed from all sin by faith, now add, increase, grow. So we are to grow by adding “virtue [or courage]; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity.”
The only other passage enjoining growth in grace is found in Second Peter 3:18 — the last verse of the epistle. “Grow in grace.” This follows the injunction, “that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless.”
This is as it should be, for growth is so truly best promoted by purity in the spiritual world as in the animal and vegetable worlds. Strange that people cannot see that we get purity in order to grow, rather than grow in order to obtain purity. They have, by this inconsistent, unscriptural theory reversed the order both of nature and of grace. We clean our corn fields in order that they shall grow better. We do not make them grow in order to clear them of weeds. We purify the blood of our children in order to have them grow and develop. We do not seek to make them grow in order to make their blood pure. But when it comes to spiritual matters, some expect to make the soul free from sin by development. Their mistake is in not realizing that growth is addition. But what we need is subtraction of sin. Growth never subtracts, but it develops that which exists already.
Holiness is a state of heart where the weeds of sin have ceased to exist. The soul is freed from internal hindering evil and can put all its effort upon God and His salvation. A religion that cannot accomplish this fails at the point where it is sadly needed. Again we say holiness is in harmony with good common sense. It saves just where we need it.