Justification Must Be Maintained
It is not sufficient that a person may have had a very radical and definite conversion some time in the past, and then to rest in that fact and suppose that because of that experience one may have everlasting acceptance with the Father. “We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end” (Hebrews 3:14). No experience, however pronounced and glorious it may be, should be regarded as a finality, but simply as a stepping stone to higher altitudes of grace; as a preparation for better things on before. This new found experience of justification must be maintained if it is to be retained; and in order to maintain the experience of justification, the spirit of obedience must dominate the heart, and the individual must welcome and walk in all the light that God sheds on the pathway.
We have heard persons say, when urged to press forward into the deeper things of God, “If I am only true to the grace already given me, I expect to outride all the storms of life and get safely home to heaven.” A person might as well say that “if I only properly digest the food already taken, I will henceforth need no more.” The grace already given was for past necessities and will not suffice for the future any more than will the food we eat today suffice for all time to come. And the facts are, no person is “true to the grace already given,” unless they gladly welcome and walk in all the light that God gives. No person can disobey God and retain His favor. God commands all men to be holy; to refuse to be holy is to disobey God; disobedience is sin, and sin incurs guilt and condemnation, and forfeits to the soul the blessing and grace previously obtained.
When we insist that the command and call of God to holiness is imperative, some will inquire in a cynical way, “Do you mean to say that no one will get to heaven but the holiness people?” No, we would not say that no one will get to heaven but the holiness people, but we would say no one will get to heaven but holy people, and insist on “holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.” This is not our opinion, but what God says about it. No sin, nor nothing unclean or unholy, can ever enter a holy heaven. A more proper question would be, for the individual to ask of himself, how long may I neglect and reject the command and call of God to holiness, and so refuse to yield to His will, my sanctification, and yet retain His favor?
We are persuaded that in the lives of most Christians there comes a time when the person must be sanctified and made holy in order to have any experience of salvation at all; not to do so would be willful disobedience in deliberately turning from the call of God. The light that is in them would then become darkness. The measure of light is the measure of responsibility. Light graduates guilt. God will hold men responsible for all the light shed upon their pathway. “This is the condemnation, that light is come” (John 3:19).
The children of Israel were taught to say, “He brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers” (Deuteronomy 6:23). To say that he justified us in order that He might sanctify us, would be the exact equivalent, and the exact truth in the matter.
The objective point of everything in the whole plan of redemption is our restoration to holiness; hence justification is simply a step or start in this direction. God never intended that any person should stop short of holiness. Sanctification is that divine act whereby we are made holy.
When the children of Israel stopped short of Canaan , and so failed to take all God had promised and provided for them, He was “grieved” and “provoked” and destroyed them. Hence Jude says, “I will, therefore, put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.” He “destroyed” the very people he had “saved,” when they disobeyed and “believed not,” and so failed to measure up to their high calling and exalted privileges. This should be a solemn warning to Christians today who fail to possess all their purchased and promised inheritance in Christ, and so stop short of the “fullness of the blessing.” Paul says, “All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). The call of God to holiness is imperative; holiness is not simply a privilege or a luxury, but a necessity. “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 from all sin.” (1 John 1:7 ).