The Pursuit of the Holy God - Church of God of Prophecy

The Pursuit of the Holy God - Church of God of Prophecy

The Pursuit

of the Holy God:

Answering the Call

of the Holy Spirit

Study Document

Final Study Document-January 15, 2012

Assembly Committee for

Biblical Doctrine and Polity

Church of God of Prophecy


1 Committee Note to the International Assembly

The following document is submitted as a “Study Document”

and will be provided to our International Presbyters in both a

hard copy and in electronic form. The document will be made

available on the Internet for download by all ministers and

members effective the date of the Assembly Committee for

Biblical Doctrine and Polity’s report to the 2012 International

Assembly. This extensive version is intended for study purposes

only. The final submission will be greatly condensed, adjusted

and edited after the constituency of the Church of God of

Prophecy has had sufficient time to review it and reply.

The final document will then contain any recommendations

that are determined as necessary. The final document will be

submitted no less than one year before the 2014 International

Assembly. Special appreciation is extended to our General

Overseer and the General Presbyters who have been trusted

counselors to our work and deliberations. We further want to

encourage our constituency to send any thoughts or added study

to the committee for consideration. Only after this procedure

is completed will a final document with recommendations (if

needed) be presented to the 2014 International Assembly. Thank

you for the opportunity to serve this church and we sincerely

desire your continuing prayers.

Carswell Leonard, Asst. Secretary

Daniel Chatham

Elias Rodriguez, Secretary

James Kolawole

Tedroy Powell

Timothy McCaleb

Wallace R. Pratt, Chairman


Table of Contents

Introduction ...................................................................Page 4

Section I- Major Biblical Passages that Deal with Sanctification and Holiness ...............Page 4

Section II- The Sanctifying Work in the Life of the Believer ............................Page 13

Section III- Corporate Sanctification ...............................................Page 15

Section IV- Missional Sanctification ...............................................Page 18

Section V- Biblical Understanding of Holiness .......................................Page 20

Section VI- History of Holiness and Sanctification ....................................Page 21

Section VII- Common Understandings of Sanctification/Holiness ........................Page 32

Section VIII- Presuppositions in the Past COGOP Formation ...........................Page 34

Section IX- Culture and Holiness .................................................Page 36

Section X- Dynamics between Personal and Corporate Holiness .........................Page 39

Section XI- Vital Nature of Prayer and Holiness ......................................Page 42

Section XII- Initial Sanctification/Ongoing Sanctification ..............................Page 44

Section XIII- More Biblical Explorations of Sanctification/Holiness ......................Page 45

Section XIV- Washing of the Blood/Water/Spirit .....................................Page 47

Section XV- Dynamics between Sanctification and Holiness ............................Page 47

Section XVI- Righteousness (Where Does It Come From?) .............................Page 48

Section XVII- Partakers of the Divine Nature ........................................Page 49

Section XVIII- The Pastoral Call to Holiness ........................................Page 50

Section XIX- Appendix (The Controversy over the Three Blessings) .....................Page 51

Bibliography .................................................................Page 57


The Pursuit of the Holy God:

Answering the Call of the Holy Spirit


As we begin this study of sanctification and holiness, we do so with the modest confession that we

will not seek to be dogmatic or condescending toward hundreds, if not thousands, of other expositors,

theologians, and pastors who have sought further light on these remarkable blessings. From the apostles

and early church fathers, to the Reformers and Holiness movement, each sincere generation of scholars

and believers have furthered our understanding and pursuit of holiness, “. . . without which no man

shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). We wish to also confess that we want this document to be more

of a call to holiness, rather than just a detailed or exegetical study. At the end of the day, this study will

demonstrate a need for each believer, as well as the ecclesia, to strengthen our resolve to pursue the Holy

Spirit in our quest to be a holy people. This mission must be more than a scholarly or doctrinal exercise.

Sanctification requires a renewal of actively seeking to make welcome the power of the Holy Spirit,

rather than limiting His work to that of a one-time experience. Indeed, we must commit ourselves to

become maturing children of God who fulfill the exhortation of Paul: “Only let your conduct be worthy

of the gospel of Christ. . .” (Philippians 1:27 NKJV).

Major Biblical Passages that Deal with Sanctification and Holiness

Biblical Study of Holiness

“Hallowed be your name,” a phrase that has been spoken innumerable times, for thousands of years,

in hundreds of languages. Yet these simple words contain the core of God’s plan. This plan encapsulates

God’s design with Israel, the sacrificial system, the cross and Christ suffering. It even deals with our

lives now and hints of the future that is still to come. This plan is all about the holiness of God. It is here

in a daily calling for God’s name to be holy that one flees from hypocrisy, legalism, or antinomianism

(in Christian doctrine, the belief that Christians are not bound by established moral laws, but should

rely on faith and divine grace for salvation), and instead hopes that God’s holiness is clearly reflected

into his or her world.

During the most well-known sermon of Jesus’ ministry in Matthew 6:9, He taught the crowd and his

disciples how to pray. There are multiple requests that are to form this prayer, “your kingdom come,”

“give us this day” and others. However, the one which Jesus encourages us to pray first and foremost is

“hallowed be your name.” It is a request that the name of God be made holy. 1 “…a prayer that he will

bring people to a proper attitude toward him. It expresses an aspiration that he who is holy will be seen

to be holy and treated throughout his creation as holy.” 2

The importance for the study of holiness is rooted in the truth that holiness is not primarily focused

on humanity. It is first and foremost rooted in the Holy One who is distinct and separate in person and

morals from His creation. It is this holy God who calls His people to a life separated for his service and

separated from sin. This prayer for God’s name to be holy connects with Ezekiel 39:27 where God states

that He will show Himself holy. Israel had profaned God’s name through the practice of idolatry and

God had sent them into exile. However, the exile had also caused the surrounding nations to ridicule the

1 M. S. Heiser. (2005). Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Logos Bible Software.

2 L. Morris. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (145). Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans;

Inter-Varsity Press.


character of God. YHWH would not allow this derision of His name to remain. He would restore His

people to the Promised Land in order that He would be seen as holy.

“When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of

their enemies, I will show myself holy through them in the sight of many nations.” 3

Human’s perception of God’s holiness is important to God and is central to our own holiness. It is in

recognizing His holiness that I can clearly see myself and my deep need for Him, as well as the depth to

which He calls me. This is where the study of holiness must begin, in the first pages of Scripture, where

we witness God as He reveals Himself as holy.

The Holy God

The revelation of holiness begins as Moses is drawn to a bush that is burning, yet is not consumed:

Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which

you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of

Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was

afraid to look at God (Exodus 3:5-6). 4

This encounter with God begins a flood of revelatory moments where YHWH reveals His holy

nature in contrast to the gods of Egypt and the other pagan religions. In Egypt, gods were connected

with, not distinct from, creation. According to the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary:

Many of the great number of gods were personifications of the enduring natural forces in

Egypt, such as the sun, Nile, air, earth, and so on. Other gods, like Maat (truth, justice),

personified abstract concepts. Still others ruled over states of mankind, like Osiris, god of

the underworld. Some of the gods were worshiped in animal form, such as the Apis bull

that represented the god Ptah of Memphis. 5

Pagan worship then becomes a complex life of appeasement and bribery to manipulate the gods

for their favor. These gods were amoral at best and often immoral as Baal, the Canaanite fertility god,

exhibited. Therefore, the problem with worship was not merely idol worship but the perception of the

morality of God and His relationship with creation. God was perceived to be too much like us, and a part

of us. It is into this worldview that God tells Moses to remove his sandals because he is in a place that

has been made holy by God’s presence. At this burning bush theophany, God begins to teach Moses an

important lesson concerning His holy nature. Moses’ lesson: there is a distinct danger in being in close

proximity to God personally without being adequately prepared.

This passage, with its come-no-further command, is remarkably parallel to that of Exodus 19:9-25,

where a series of conditions of sanctification (procedures that confer holiness) and distance (e.g., “Put

limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy” [v. 23]) are imposed upon the Israelites. Thus what

the people would eventually have to learn from God through him, Moses now began to learn from God. 6

3 The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1996 (electronic ed., Ezekiel 39:27). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

4 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001, (Ex 3:4–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

5 Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., Butler, T. C., & Latta, B. (2003). Holman Illustrated Bible

Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, page 467.

6 Stuart, D. K. (2007). Vol. 2: Exodus (electronic ed.), Logos Library System; The New American Commentary. Nashville:

Broadman & Holman Publishers, page 114.


In this first moment of God self-revelation, Moses hides from God out of fear of what He might see.

Moses now understands that glaring into the holiness of God is a life-changing experience that is both

comforting and fearful simultaneously.

In Exodus 19, this expanding revelation of God’s holiness grows as God now confronts the Hebrew

people with the revelation of His holiness. The people are encamped in the same mountainous area

in which Moses had previously experienced God’s holiness. They have just recently experienced the

delivery of the Passover and crossing of the sea. The defeat of the Egyptian gods through the plagues has

been powerful and complete. Although God has expressed his power, He now reveals His holiness at Mt.

Sinai (Horeb).

The people are commanded to “sanctify or consecrate” themselves. They are to wash their clothes.

They are to put limits which neither man nor animal are to cross. They are not to run into God’s

presence haphazardly. As Moses was called to remove his sandals, the Israelites are preparing to meet

the holy God:

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the

mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses,

“Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

Moses said to the people “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear

of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” The people remained at a distance,

while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was (Exodus 20:18-21). 7

Just as Moses turned away in fear at the bush, the people are overwhelmed by the presence of a God

that they could not control or manipulate. They are confronted by the holy God.

The Holiness of God

The question is raised then of God’s holiness. What exactly is meant by the phrase the holy God?

Isaiah 6 is just one of many occasions where individuals are confronted with intimate experience of the

holy God.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up;

and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six

wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he

flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole

earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him

who called, and the house was filled with smoke (Isaiah 6:1-4).

Isaiah states that he saw the Lord. This event is a transformational in the prophet’s life. The whole

experience of seeing the Lord (אדן – sovereign one) 8 shakes him to the very core of his humanity. In this

moment Isaiah is confronted with the vast separation between the Most Holy God and himself as a sinful

man. Rudolf Otto describes this type of experience as the “awful mystery” where we are drawn to God

and yet desire to run from Him.

Isaiah describes in His vision that God is “high and lifted up” (רָ֣ם וְנִשָׂ֑א). This phrase points to

God’s transcendence. This is how holiness as separate from reveals God’s nature. God is completely

separate and distinct from that which He created. It is coming to face this completely separate reality

7 The Holy Bible: New International Version (Electronic Ed.) Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996, Exodus 20:18–21.

8 Sproul, R. C. The Holiness of God. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, page 32.


that Isaiah, Moses, the children of Israel, and later Peter all experience the “awful mystery” of God. It is

in this moment that Isaiah hears the seraphim cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” All that his mouth can utter

are the words “Woe is me.”

This transcendence means that God is separate from Creation in every way. He is beyond time and

space; these are mere components of His creation. In God, there is no sense of need, as all of the rest of

creation experiences. He is complete in His own Trinitarian nature. There is infinite moral distance from

sinful man, as it is impossible for God to be tempted by sin (James 1:13). Even His reason and purposes

exceed our own as expressed in Isaiah 55:8-9: “ For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your

ways my ways, declares the Lord. . For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher

than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). 9

This is the holy God by whom Isaiah was confronted and cried, “Woe is me.” He transcends or is

completely separate from us in every way. He is completely other and higher than we can imagine. Job

has a similar experience when the holy God questions him from the storm:

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. . . What is

the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their

places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? Surely you know, for you were already

born! You have lived so many years (Job 38:4, 19-21). 10

Job’s response is found in chapter 40:4-5. “I am unworthy-how can I reply to you? I put my hand

over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer- twice, but I will say no more.” 11 Similarly, at the

miracle of great catch of fish recorded in Luke 5. Peter recognizes that this teacher, Jesus is more than

he appears to be. He is confronted by the greatness of Jesus and replies “Go away from me, Lord; I

am a sinful man!” (NIV) Even cloaked in human flesh the recognition of the holy nature of Jesus was


When people were confronted with this God who is holy, whether it was a burning bush, thundering

cloud, vision of God’s throne room, or being with Him in a boat, they have been changed. The

recognition of the transcendent God resulted in these individuals being more desirous to be separated

from the corruptions of their world and ready to follow the mission that God had for their lives.

Expanded View of Holiness

This revelation of God as holy then begins to impact the understanding of God’s call for his people

to be holy. YHWH begins with an expression of His purpose for the deliverance of this people from the

slavery of Egypt:

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my

treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me

a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the

people of Israel (Exodus 19:5-6). 12

9 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001, Isaiah 55:8–9.

10 The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1996 (Electronic Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Job 38:19–21.

11 The Holy Bible: New International Version. Ibid, Job 40.

12 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001, Exodus 19:5–6.


They had the privilege and responsibility of being God’s treasured possession (סגלה) among all

people. This presented new ideas to this group which had grown up in a polytheistic world. YHWH was

revealing himself as the holy God over the whole earth. This was very different from the polytheistic

worldview which perceived gods as over geographic areas, or particular elements (sun, fertility, storms

and seas). However this unique relationship had purpose, that they might be a kingdom of priests and a

holy nation. The challenge to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” represented the responsibility

inherent in the original promise to Abraham in Gen 12:2-3: “You will be a blessing. I will bless those

who bless you … and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Priests stand between God and humans to help bring the humans closer to God and to help dispense

God’s truth, justice, favor, discipline, and holiness to humans. Israel was called to such a function. 13

Israel as God’s treasured possession would have the responsibility to exhibit holiness in her worship

and ethical lifestyle. This responsibility was not for the religious elite, but corporately each person in

the nation was to portray holiness. This Mt. Sinai event begins to give understanding of term “holy”

(שקדׁ-kadosh) in the Old Testament. All forms (adjective, noun or verb) of “קדשׁ” carry the idea of being

set apart or consecrated. 14 In its verbal forms it is variously translated: to be set apart, consecrate, be

holy, dedicate, purify. In its form as a noun “קדשׁ” it is translated: “consecrated or consecrated thing,

dedicated or dedicated gifts, holiness, holy, holies, holy ones, holy portion, holy things, most holy, most

holy place, most holy things, sacred, sacred things, sacrifices, sanctuary, set apart.” 15 It is in this way that

things were made holy such as the tabernacle or its furnishing, priests and their vestments. They were

holy in that they were set apart from the profane for the purposes designed by God. Ultimately people

were set apart from the profane for God’s purposes.

This event at Sinai helps define the very meaning of holy (קדשׁ). The Israelites were “set apart,”

“consecrated,” or “made holy” from the rest of the people of the earth for the purposes of YHWH. This

call to be ‘holy’ or ‘set apart’ is recorded in Leviticus 19 and several other places in Scripture.

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say

to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy’” (Leviticus 19:1-2). 16

The basis for the distinction from the other nations is the reality that they have been separated from

all the other nations by a holy God to be a reflection of His holiness. All who are God’s unique treasure

are to represent him to others by emulating His holy nature. 17 Both individually and corporately they

were to be a witness of God’s holiness to others. Therefore they were to be separated from the profane,

distinct and different in their morality and worship from those of the nation’s surrounding them.

They were all called to the role of priests to the surrounding nations in order that those nations might

recognise God as holy.

Unfortunately Israel did not follow through with their call to be holy. Rarely did they give up

worship of YHWH; they just included the worship of the gods of the nation’s surrounding them. They

rejected their call to be set apart from those nations; there was very little difference between them

and the surrounding nations in their worship or morality. The prophets often describe this sin with the

graphic term “Israel played the whore.” Ezekiel 16:16 is one such example: “ You also took your beautiful

jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself images of men, and

13 D. K. Stuart. Exodus: Vol. 2, (Electronic Edition). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary. Nashville:

Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2007, page 423.

14 R. L. Thomas. New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: Updated edition (G1). Anaheim:

Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998.

15 R. L. Thomas, Ibid.

16 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Ibid, Leviticus 19:1–2.

17 M. F. Rooker. Leviticus: Vol. 3A, (Electronic Edition). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary. Nashville:

Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, page 252.


with them played the whore.”

This failure to be a holy nation is what impels God to reject both Judah and Israel. Judah experiences

70 years of exile as punishment at the hands of the Babylonians. Yet as this punishment is about to

begin Jeremiah reveals a very different future for God’s people, a time when the law will be known and

followed by God’s people:

The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the

house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with

their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they

broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “This is the

covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will

put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be

my people.” 18

It is with this hope that we read the New Testament. Although the language has changed to Greek,

the noun άγιος, and its derivatives translate: holy, pure, saints, and sanctification while the verb άγιάζω

translates: “to make holy, consecrate and sanctify.” 19 The Old Testament revelation of God’s holiness

and His plan for our sanctification carries over and even expands in the New Testament. Peter, drawing

on the Old Testament, encourages Christians to holiness: “But as he who called you is holy, you also be

holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:15-16). 20

Even God’s design for His people to express corporate holiness is brought into the New Testament.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may

declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. “ Once you were not a

people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received

mercy” (1 Peter 2:9). 21

The purpose of this corporate holiness is driven by its missional nature, that we might be priesthood

for others and to declare the praises of God. Jesus expressed in John 17:17 that his design was to

sanctify them, “set them apart|” in order that he could send them into the world. The question remains

will this new people of God, take up the challenge of holiness. The difference now, God will not be

coming in a bush or a storm. They will know the holy God up close and personal. He will walk with

them, eat with them and call them to follow his holy life.

Matthew 16:24-25, Mark 8:35-38, and Luke 9:23-27 each record an event where Jesus describes

what it means to be one of his followers. Mark records it like this: “ And calling the crowd to him with

his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross

and follow me.’ ” 22

These words of Jesus are instructive for a discussion of holiness. Would his disciples choose to

reflect the holy lifestyle of Jesus? Here disciples are called to deny (άπαρνησάσθω - aorist imperative)

themselves take up (ai;rw - aorist imperative) a cross and follow (άκολουθέω -present imperative) Jesus.

Each verb is imperative, which should be translated as commands to action on the part of the followers.

Luke and Mark use a present imperative verb for follow while Matthew continues the use of the

18 The Holy Bible: New International Version. (Electronic Ed.) Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996, Jeremiah 31:31–33.

19 H. R. Balz & G. Schneider. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 1. Wheaton, IL: Eerdmans Publishing,

1990, page 16.

20 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Ibid, 1 Peter 1:15–16.

21 The Holy Bible: New International Version. Ibid, 1 Peter 2:9–10.

22 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Ibid, Mark 8:34.


aorist for all three. While the aorist imperative denotes a single act of denying—for today, the present

imperative often denotes a continuous act of following—day after day. 23

Luke goes further and includes the idea of continuous action with his inclusion of the “daily” in

the command to take up ones cross. So even in this primary passage in the gospels we see an emphasis

on first moment someone denies themselves, and takes up their cross as well as concern for continuing

a life of following Jesus. To deny one’s self is “a rejection of a life based on self-interest and selffulfillment.”


This is similar to Paul’s “consider yourself dead” in Romans 6:11. Cross bearing meant that we

were prepared to give up our life for our Lord as He has already given his for us. Following Jesus meant

more than a mere physical tagging along with Jesus’ group. It meant a following of his words, which

represented his lifestyle and mission. In these passages Jesus is concentrating on the actions which man

is required to accomplish. There is denying/lifting a cross following that must take place within the lives

of Jesus disciples. With these words of Jesus in mind, we can turn to the rest of the New Testament to

see how other writers expressed these concepts of the life of holiness.

Sanctifying Work of the Cross-Romans 6

“When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his

spirit” (John 19:30). 25

What is finished? The Law is fulfilled as never before, nor since, in His “obedience unto death,

even the death of the cross;” Messianic prophecy is accomplished, Redemption is completed; “He hath

finished the transgression, and made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness,

and sealed up the vision and prophecy, and anointed a holy of holies”; He has inaugurated the kingdom

of God and given birth to a new world. 26

What was accomplished in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus? Romans 8:3 reads:

…for what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God

did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man as a sin offering. And so he

condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be

fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

Throughout the book of Romans, Paul shows the human condition under the dominion of sin. In

Romans 3:23 he states that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Under this reality are

included both Jews and Gentiles. In chapter 1:18-32, Paul describes the life of sin in the Gentiles that

represented the former lifestyle of many of the Roman believers, as one of complete depravation and

reversal of the natural customs established by God in Creation. In Romans 5:12, he states that “sin came

into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all

have sinned.” This means that no human has escaped the power and dominion of sin.

Paul says that sin enslaves (douleuein) (6:6), exercises dominion (basileuto) (v. 12), and rules

(kyrieusei) over man (v. 14). Sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and death through sin, and

so death spread to all men (5:12). This is what Christ came to deal with. Richard E. Howard in his book

Newness of Life says that “sin has been defined as self-delusion, self-reliance, listening to oneself instead

23 H. P. V. Nunn. The Elements of New Testament Greek (49). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2003,

24 R. H. Stein. Luke, Vol. 24 (Electronic Edition), Logos Library System. The New American Commentary. Nashville, TN:

Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, page 279.

25 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. Nashville, TN:Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989, John 19:30.

26 Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown. A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory on the Old and New Testaments. Oak Harbor,

WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, John 19:30.


of listening to God, man’s self-assertion in rebellion against God, turning toward oneself and making

oneself the center of his self.” 27

Through sin, man changed the sovereignty of God over him and made himself sovereign over

himself. The consequence of changing the sovereignty of God for the sovereignty of the self is that man

is now under the dominion of sin and death, being unable to free himself of its tyranny. What is the

tyranny of life dominated by sin? In Romans 5:6-10, Paul portrays the human condition and the salvific

work of God:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely

will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might

actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners

Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood,

will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we

were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been

reconciled, will we be saved by his life (NRSV). 28

When Paul describes the condition of man under the power of sin, he describes him as weak,

ungodly, sinner and God’s enemy. Man was morally weak, constantly breaking God’s laws, and

irreverent to Him. As an enemy of God, man was doomed to God’s wrath, and was actively fighting

against His kingdom. Under the dominion of sin, man was powerless to change his condition. But

God did not leave us there. The cross of Christ changed the human condition from helplessness and

hopelessness to hope and redemption.

In Romans 6, we find Paul’s assurance that the believer can live a life of holiness. To demonstrate

that, he states that the believer is identified with Christ through his death and resurrection (vv. 1-14), and

that now the believer is a slave to Christ and righteousness (vv. 15-23)

In Romans 6:1-11, Paul considers the new condition of the believer recognizing that now the

believer has “died to sin” (v. 2), has been “baptized into Christ” (v. 3), has been “baptized into his death

(v. 3), “buried with Him through baptism” (v. 4), his old self has been “crucified so that the body of

sin might be rendered powerless” (v. 6), and the believer has “died with Christ” (v. 8). The believer’s

identification with Christ death and resurrection is made public by baptism.

Paul moves from death and burial through baptism, to death of our old self through crucifixion.

Crucifixion is an internal act of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, through which the old man

is nailed to the cross and rendered powerless, so that he can walk in newness of life. Paul declares that

we know that our old self (man) was crucified with Christ, so that the body of sin might be destroyed

(made powerless, unproductive), that is, to invalidate the old self, so we might no longer be enslaved to

sin but live a victorious life. It is interesting to note that the verb katargethe is in the subjunctive mood,

implying probability of destruction, instead of the certainty of destruction. What is he implying here?

Was he preparing the stage for 6:12-13 and chapter 7? Paul ends Romans 6:6 by saying that when the

body of sin is destroyed, we are not controlled by sin any longer. To what extent is the old man dead?

What does the extent of ‘freedom from sin’ mean?

Paul continues developing his argument stating that whoever has died (past tense) is freed (perfect)

from sin (v. 7). Whoever has been crucified with Christ is no longer under the dominion of sin. This

death produced a freedom that happened in the past but its effect is felt at the present, therefore the

person continues being set free from the slavery of sin. The death of the old man produces freedom from

sin, so we are not enslaved to sin.

27 Richard E. Howard. Newness of Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1975, page 42.

28 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. Ibid, Romans 5:6–10.


Verses 8 through 11 deal with the fact that Christ died to sin once and for all. His death was a

definitive one, making only one sacrifice. Now he lives to God. Paul states that if we have died with

Christ, we will also live with him. That means that in the same way that death no longer has dominion

over him; death no longer has dominion over us. The same way that Jesus was raised from the dead,

now living to God is the same life that we are called to live. Paul concludes this section giving an

imperative call to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. This is a present

middle (deponent) imperative, which means that this is an ongoing, habitual command for the believer.

Before, we were dead to God and alive to sin, but now through Christ we have experienced a reversal of

the disobedience of Adam, being alive in Christ. In verses 12 through 14, Paul states that as a result of

being dead to sin, but alive to God, we have to live according to what we are in Christ. Under this new

condition, we must not let sin exercise dominion in our mortal bodies, to make us obey their passions (v.

12). In this section, Paul uses a series of imperatives (two negatives and one positive) to tell us what not

to do and what to do as people dead to sin and alive to God.

The first imperative is: “do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies.” Paul uses the word

basileuto, which means ‘be a king, control completely.’ If sin is our king, he will exert his control over us

to make us obey the passions (lust, deep desires) of our bodies. The second imperative Paul uses is “no

longer present” (peristaneti: ‘cause to be in place, provide’) your members to sin as instruments (the term

refers to a soldier’s weapons) of wickedness (adikias: unrighteousness). We are not to make provision for

our members to be instruments of unrighteousness. Our physical body is the battleground for temptation.

The third imperative is in the positive, and is a command to “present ourselves to God as those who have

been brought from death to life, presenting our members to God as instruments of righteousness.” Paul

closes this section assuring that sin will not rule over us, since we are not under law but under grace.

Romans 6:18 declares: “…and that you, having been set free from sin” (aorist passive participle:

the believer has been freed both from the penalty of sin [justification] and the tyranny of sin

[sanctification]), “have become slaves of righteousness” (aorist passive indicative: the believer is freed

from sin to serve God). This righteousness leads us to holiness (v. 19). This means that the work of the

cross has accomplished both justification and sanctification for us.

Subsequently, we must see salvation in different terms than we have often used with no malicious

intent. For instance, when a person is converted or ‘born again,’ we often referred to this experience

by saying the new believer is now saved. In reality, this is only the beginning of the Christian’s walk

with God. Indeed, they have been converted, but the overarching dynamic of salvation comes through a

spiritual journey that will not be completely perfected until all believers are changed (delivered) when

they meet Christ in the air at His coming:

Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor

does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not

all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last

trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will

be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on

immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal

will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is

swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who

gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be

steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil

is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). 29

29 Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible. Chattanooga, TN: New American Standard Bible, 2008 (I Cor. 15:50-58).


This simple diagram illustrates this beautiful application of salvation:


• Justification (Savior)

• Repentance

• Regeneration

• Adoption

• Sanctification (Lord)

The Sanctifying Work in the Life of the Believer

The new life in Christ—the result of the work of the cross—sets believers apart and consecrates

them for the service of God. This work is immediate and the believer is said to be sanctified

‘positionally’. The work of sanctification continues, however, and must come to full actualization in the

life of every believer. The work of God to bring believers to perfection is a cooperative effort that places

responsibility on believers to respond appropriately to the sanctifying work in their lives.

The response, by necessity, begins with a sincere desire toward self-denial. Jesus admonished his

followers saying, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their

cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). It is evident that the cross that Jesus was referring to was prophetic

of the sacrifice that he would eventually have to make. Jesus himself was sanctified (set apart) for

God’s service, but it was realized by his obedience to the will of the Father. The positional aspect of

sanctification requires nothing more than the believer’s surrender to Christ. The actualization, however,

occurs through continual surrender and self-sacrifice.

In Galatians 5:22 Paul describes the reality of the sanctified life as the product (fruit) of the Spirit.

The Christological aspects of sanctification are well appreciated and prominent in our doctrinal

formulations. In 1 Corinthians 1:2 Paul referred to Corinthians as being “sanctified in Christ Jesus

[emphasis added].” However, in many cases, the pneumatological aspects of sanctification have not been

emphasized. The term sanctification of the Spirit (rather, the sanctifying work of the Spirit) is used by

Paul several times in his writings. As part of the salvific work of God through Christ, the Holy Spirit

effectuates the plan of salvation in the lives of believers. It is the Holy Spirit that sanctifies (sets us apart)

and empowers believers to live sanctified (consecrated) lives. In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul uses the

term “sanctification through the Spirit [emphasis added] (en hagiasmōi pneumatos). 30 The phrase here

is a subjective genitive indicating that the sanctification is wrought by the Holy Spirit. Peter expresses

the same idea in 1 Peter 1:2 as he greets the believers that were scattered because of the persecution. He

wrote, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit

[emphasis added], unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and

peace, be multiplied.” It is clear from these two texts that there was a common understanding of the

Holy Spirit as the active agent in the work of sanctification.

Although we usually define the sanctified life by the things we refrain from (outward activities), the

sanctified life is more accurately pictured by the development of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. The

30 Spiros Zodhiates. Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (NASB). : Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2008, Page 2079.




fruit of the Spirit highlights one side of the collaborative effort. The other side is represented by Paul’s

statement in Galatians 5:24 and deals with what believers have to do. “And they that are Christ’s have

crucified (stauroo - aorist, present indicative: to stake, drive down stakes; to fortify with driven stakes, to

palisade; to crucify; to crucify one) 31 the flesh (sarx) with the affections and lusts.” Paul then makes the

declaration, “If we live (zao - to have true life and worthy of the name) in the Spirit, let us also walk in

the Spirit (pneumati kai stoicho - present subjunctive; volitive). The phrase is better rendered as, “Such

being your principle of life, adapt your conduct (walk) to it.” 32

Similarly, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed

(apolouō - to wash off or away), but ye are sanctified (hagiazō - to separate from profane things and

dedicate to God), but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

Although Paul lists sanctification before justification in this litany of action, this in no way should be

taken as any order of chronological importance. According to fact, the order would be justified, washed

(baptism), sanctified; but as Ellicott justly remarks, “…in this epistle this order is not set forth with any

studied precision, since its main purpose is corrective.” 33

In another instance Paul writes to the church at Colossae. He addresses the saints at Colossae as

God’s chosen people (hōs eklektoi tou theou), and holy (hagios - pure, morally blameless or religious,

ceremonially consecrated). As a result of God’s sanctifying work, the believers are then commanded

to “clothe yourself.” The Greek for word for clothe (put on in the KJV) is enduo which means “to

put on as a garment.” The verb is in the aorist imperative, middle voice which indicates an immediate

even urgent, effective action. What the believers are called to put on is enumerated in the following

list that Paul uses to contrast with what was put off (Colossians 3:8). The garments which they were

to put on (make a part of their lives) were: a heart of compassion (splagchna oiktirmou), kindness

(chrēstotēta), humility (tapeinophrosunēn), meekness (prautēta, tapeinophrosune), and long-suffering

(makrothumian). 34 The connection between this text and Galatians 5:19-23 is evident.

In addition to the issues regarding the second coming of Jesus that caused some problems in the

churches at Thessalonica, Paul addresses the pervasive problem of sexual immorality. In Thessalonica,

besides the ordinary licentious customs of the Gentiles, immorality was fostered by the Cabeiric

worship. “About the time of Paul, a political sanction was given to this worship by deifying the emperor

as Cabeirus.” 35

In 1 Thessalonians 4:1 Paul expresses the importance of believers’ response to the sanctifying

work in their lives. He says, “We beseech (erōtaō - to request, entreat, beg) you brethren and exhort

(parakaleō - to admonish, exhort; to beg, entreat) you by the Lord.” The intensity and the urgency

of the apostle’s concern are evident by the use of these two terms. The concern is that they obey

the word that they “have received.” The word instructed them on how they were to “please God.”

In verse 4 of the same chapter he writes, “For this is the will (thelema - refers to a wish, a strong

desire, and the willing of some event) of God, even your sanctification (hagiasmos - literally means

sanctification and includes the ideas of consecration, purification, dedication and holiness). The term

hagiasmos is found only in the Greek Bible and among ecclesiastical writers. It has the technical idea

of consecration to a god or goddess that did not necessarily include the idea of holiness as we know it.

A. T Robertson observes that:

31 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. (Electronic Edition, STEP Files), Parsons Technology, Inc., 2007,

Galatians 5:24.

32 Spiros Zodhiates. Ibid, page 2278.

33 Ibid, page 2079.

34 James Strong. Strongs Exhaustive Concordance. Iowa Falls, IA: Riverside Books, 1995, (Colossians 3:12).

35 D. Edmond Hiebert. The Thessalonian Epistles (A Call to Readiness). Chicago: Moody Press, 1971, page 165.


In secular Greek hagiasmos conveyed the technical idea of consecration to a god or

goddess that did not include holiness in life. So Paul makes a sharp and pointed stand

here for the Christian idea of sanctification as being “the will of God” further

explained by the... infinitive that ye abstain from fornication. Pagan religion did not

demand sexual purity of its devotees. Your sanctification is literally, “your sanctifying.”

Keep the cultural context in mind as you study this section. Remember that a major

problem for the early church was maintaining sexual purity. 36

The call to sanctification (separation, consecration) in the life of the followers of Christ was to be

qualitatively different than that of the pagan temple devotees. Their sanctification (in that context)

was to be manifested in their abstinence from fornication and to “possess his vessel in sanctification

and honor.” Although there is some controversy regarding the term “vessel” (whether it refers to the

body or specifically to the wife), there is no doubt that Paul wanted them to know that God’s work of

sanctification in their lives was to be reflected in their lifestyle.

Although God’s sanctifying work was completed on the cross (past) and is being worked out in

the lives of believers (present), it is important to always keep in mind that there is always the future

expectation of glorification (complete sanctification) at the coming of the Lord. In the letter to the

Thessalonians we see that the eschatological (endtime) perspective is always at the fore. The very God

that sanctified them was going to preserve them until the end. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 he writes, “And

the very God of peace (a better rendering is the God of peace himself) sanctify (separate, consecrate,

cleanse) you wholly (holotelēs—perfect, complete in all respects). The term holotelēs also has the

meaning of consummation or end. 37 God’s sanctification (setting apart) of his people was part of the

eternal plan that was to be greater than any individual concern. God’s sanctifying work was to have a

corporate aspect as the church, the body of Christ, reflects the glory of the holy God to the world.

Corporate Sanctification

From the inception of Christ’s ministry, when he “turned the water into wine’ at Cana (John 2:1-

11), there was an underlying recognition of the corporate responsibility to care for the welfare of

others beyond one’s own personal agenda or comfort. While some might question such application,

the Holy One was remarkable in His actions that were not necessary, yet they were beneficial to those

around Him. In a similar vein, Paul in the closing passages of Romans, writes to the Jewish brethren in

Rome to help them understand their corporate responsibility to behave themselves in such a way as to

demonstrate to unbelievers the holiness of Jesus Christ (Romans 14:13–15:6). Like Jesus, they are not to

please themselves, but to deny even their rights so that others would see their conduct of peace and their

love for one another that caused them to “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:6).

Corporate sanctification becomes more and more essential in a society inundated with self-centeredness

and individualism; especially within cultures that give little or no testimony to Jesus Christ and His holy

purpose of selflessness. In Ephesians 5:26-27, it reads:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her in

order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word so as

36 D. Edmond Hiebert. Ibid, 167.

37 James Strong. Ibid, I Thessalonians 5:23.


to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the

kind – yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish (NRSV).

This section of Ephesians falls under the section known as the “Household Code.” Paul understood

the sacred bond of marriage as a sanctifying relationship. The husband was set apart for the wife

and vice versa. The husband’s love for his wife was to be mutually rewarding and sanctifying. The

mutual love would be sanctifying love. Any disruption of this relationship was to be seen as sin. Paul

understood the sanctifying work of Christ in this context. Christ loved the church and gave (paradidomi

- to give into the hands of another) himself up for her. He did this in order to make her holy (sanctify).

The word sanctify here is translated from the Greek, hagiase. The verb is used here in the aorist tense

which indicates that it is a past completed event. Because of the sacrifice of Christ, the Ephesians were

in fact sanctified. The text indicates the sanctification was accomplished through cleansing. The term

cleansing is translated from katharizo which means to cause something to become clean. In a spiritual

sense, it means to purify from pollution and guilt of sin. In secular Greek katharizo occurs in inscriptions

for ceremonial cleansing. This expression is not found anywhere else in the Pauline corpus. He

emphasizes the corporate dimension by asserting that it is the church which is sanctified through Christ’s


In 1 Corinthians 1:2, Paul writes: “ Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are

sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus

Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (KJV).

When Paul uses the word sanctified (Greek- h`giasmenoij), it is a verb participle perfect passive

dative masculine plural from a`gia,zw. (to make holy, sanctify, consecrate, dedicate, purify: of things—

Matthew 23:17-19; of persons—John 10:36; 1 Corinthians 7:14; Hebrews 9:13). 38 Therefore, Paul is

speaking to the church of God which is in Corinth, consecrated to him in union with Christ Jesus (1

Corinthians 1:2). By this opening verse in Corinthians, a person cannot fail to see that a fundamental

problem with the Corinthian believers was the selfish attitude of the church members who desired their

freedom above the well-being of others. Paul’s writings demonstrate his concern for both the individual

and the corporate body. There is a distinctly corporate dimension to his thoughts. This dimension shows

up when Paul writes that any act which harms an individual Christian is really an affront to Christ

himself (8:12), and most certainly when he says that an act performed in isolation may be insignificant

and harmless in one’s own eyes, but as a social act it can become intensely meaningful (10:16-30). 39

According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary:

Sanctification, involves more than a mere moral reformation of character, brought about

by the power of the truth: it is the work of the Holy Spirit bringing the whole nature

more and more under the influences of the new gracious principles implanted in the soul

in regeneration. In other words, sanctification is the carrying on to perfection the work

begun in regeneration, and it extends to the whole man (Romans 6:13; 2 Corinthians

4:6; Colossians 3:10; 1 John 4:7; 1Corinthians 6:19). It is the special office of the Holy

Spirit in the plan of redemption to carry on this work (1Corinthians 6:11; 2 Thessalonians

2:13). 40

38 Louw Nida Lexicon- 53.44, Norfolk, VA: Bible Works, 7.0, (Electronic CD), 2010.

39 J. AyodejI Adewuya. Holiness and Community. New York: Peter Lang Publishers, 2003, page185.

40 Easton’s Bible Dictionary (Hodge’s Outlines). Parsons Technology: Electronic Edition STEP Files, 2007.


The Scripture and observation reveal that the more holy a man is, the more humble, self-renouncing,

self-abhorring, and the more sensitive to every sin he becomes, and the more closely he clings to Christ.

The moral imperfections which cling to him he feels to be sins, which he weeps over and strives to

overcome. Believers find that their life is a constant pursuit of God. They need to “take the kingdom of

heaven by force’ and to watch while they pray. They are always subject to the constant correction of their

Father’s loving hand, which is designed to correct their imperfections and to confirm their graces. And

it has been notoriously the fact that the best Christians, like the Apostle Paul or John Wesley, who have

been those who have been the least prone to claim the attainment of perfection for themselves. Add to this

special grace they seek, the fact of a historical record of them caring dearly about how the corporate body,

whether local or universal, is reflecting the holiness of God to the community around them.

The church as it reflects or bears more and more the holiness of Christ to one another and to

those who are unbelievers that may congregate or socialize with them, can also carry the potency of a

sanctifying influence that causes others to want to pursue a relationship with the Holy One:

And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an

infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple

of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be

their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye

separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will

be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2

Corinthians 6:15–18).

In the Gingrich New Testament Lexicon, we find the Greek term avfori,zw, meaning to “set apart,

take away, separate, exclude” (Matthew. 13:49, 25:32; Luke 6:22; Acts 19:9; 2 Corinthians 6:17;

Galatians 2:12). 41 Again, there is distinct call for the people to separate themselves in conduct and

testimony in life. Furthermore, we see the inclusion of holiness as it relates not only to the person, but to

the people as a whole. This is pointed out later on in this text in verse 16 by the reference to ‘my people’.

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye

should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1

Peter 2:9).

Peter speaks to his flock who were dispersed abroad, but also to believers in all generations. The

Greek term for people (laos) in the context of 1 Peter 2:9 means: “a people group, tribe, nation, all those

who are of the same stock and language.” 42 The reference in this passage holds great significance to

how we will as a people ‘called of God’ exhibit the sanctified life that will bear the image of Christ. He

asserts that all believers are called by God specifically to be holy as he is holy — that is ‘saints’ (Romans

1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2). Christ sanctifies the church, aiming to present it as holy and without blemish

before God (Ephesians 5:26-27). In the New Testament, Christians in a particular locality or church are

normally called God’s ‘saints’ (Acts 9:13, 32; Romans 15:25); these believers or holy ones are those

for whom the Holy Spirit performs the ongoing priestly function of intercession (Romans 8:27), and to

whom God makes known His mysteries (Colossians 1:26), and for whom we are to show acts of love

(Colossians 1:4; Romans 12:13 1 Timothy 5:10; Hebrews 6:10). They have been chosen, redeemed,

and called to be ‘sanctified,’ which is to say set apart, consecrated to God’s service, or holy before Him.

The inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s redemptive kingdom means that they have now become “fellowcitizens

with the saints” (Ephesians 2:19) in the “commonwealth of Israel” (Ephesians 2:12). Peter

41 Gingrich New Testament Lexicon: Parsons Technology: (Electronic Edition, STEP Files), 2007, Page31.

42 Spiros Zodhiates, Executive Editor. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers,

2003, (Usage: Primary AV - people 143, note also 4:29,499; n. m.), Entry- 5832.


having this understanding makes his declaration (1 Peter 2:9). He draws on the Old Testament (Exodus

19:6) system of the Levitical priesthood and Moses prophetic declaration that God’s elect will be unto

him as a Kingdom of Priests.

The church is made up of those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy ones or ‘saints’ (1

Corinthians 1:2). In essence Peter was reminding them in the midst of their persecution that they were

being built into an edifice by God through Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. “Ye also,

as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices,

acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”(2:5 ASV). Christians are “holy brothers” (Hebrews 3:1), a

“holy temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:17; Ephesians 2:21), purged vessels of honor “made holy for the

Master’s use” and ready for every good work (2 Timothy 2:12).

As a corporate body or church, we cannot ignore our collective privilege and duty to stand out as

lights in darkness. When Christians have a mutual testimony that gives harmonious praise to God, His

holiness is exalted and held out as a virtue that attracts those who see so little of it in families, groups

and religious sects today. On the opposite hand, this kind of holy unity and passion for righteous

living cannot be forced by legalistic rulings or coercion that will lack spiritual appeal to unbelievers

already facing militant cults and other carnal religions who try to force adherents into a rigid set of

rules. Rather, corporate sanctification must come from sincere Christians who want to please God

above any other pursuit that can offer up spiritual sacrifices. One person’s misconduct will affect the

entire witness of the church:

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage

war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though

they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when

he comes to judge (1 Peter 2:11-12). 43

In truth, only a genuine and voluntary passion for holiness within a church can attract sincere

seekers looking for a better way to live.

Missional Sanctification

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17, NASB).

In John ‘sanctification’ has the broader meaning of separation and particularly separation for

mission. 44 The means for this being accomplished is the truth. Jesus is this truth (John 14:6). This truth

comes through the work of the Holy Spirit (16:13) who makes the truth of Jesus come alive in the hearts

of disciples.

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should

shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

The church is made up of those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy ones or ‘saints’ (1

Corinthians 1:2). In essence Peter was reminding them in the midst of their persecution that they were

being built into an edifice by God through Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. “Ye also,

as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices,

acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (2:5 ASV) Christians are “holy brothers” (Hebrews 3:1), a

“holy temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:17; Ephesians 2:21), purged vessels of honor “made holy for the

Master’s use” and ready for every good work (2 Timothy 2:12).

43 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. Ibid, 1 Peter 2:11–12.

44 D. A. Carson. The Gospel according to John. Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans (Inter-Varsity Press), 1991, Page 565.


Therefore, we must address ‘missional sanctification’ since it is critically important to Jesus Christ.

All that He has sanctified and continues to sanctify is not only for their betterment and development

as Christians, but His sanctifying Spirit continues to help us to be a testimony of the power of the

Sanctifier. Nothing has so impacted the various peoples and nations over the span of the ages like the

holy work of Christ Jesus in the believers. In the first century, as they beheld the faith of Christians, as

well as the radical change in the character and life of these new believers, people were swayed by the

holy lives of these men and women that glorified their holy God. The same missional sanctification is

needed in the church today so that Christians can evangelize their communities where they need to see

the image of Christ lived openly. If we live with this kind of passion to pursue a holy God, men “will see

and glorify the Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Missional sanctification brings us to the developing truth that we must be “blameless at His

coming.” Paul writes to say, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.

May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1

Thessalonians 5: 23, ESV [bold added for emphasis]). It is the testimony of the saints as they draw

nearer to the coming of Christ that will convince others through their ‘blameless’ conduct before all

humankind. This is the significance of missional sanctification in this present world. Jason Zahariades in

The Wisdom Project states:

Sanctification is missional in the sense that while the individual believer is being set

apart for God, they are also set apart to be involved in God’s mission in the world;

that is, in the missio Dei. The missio Dei is God’s ongoing process of redeeming the

world back to Himself. And God uses His people in that process (Matthew 28:19-20;

Acts 1:8). When writing to the Corinthian believers, the apostle Paul directly links the

process of sanctification with God’s missional activity in the world. He writes of the

believer’s ‘new creation’ responsibility to be an ambassador for Him. 45

The missional and eschatological are wedded by Paul’s thinking:

Wherefore we henceforth know no man after the flesh: even though we have known

Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more. Wherefore if any man is in

Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become

new. But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave

unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world

unto Himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us

the word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though

God were entreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to

God. Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the

righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:16-21 ASV).

‘Missional sanctification’ is a glorious subsequent blessing of corporate sanctification. This spiritual

outgrowth of holiness emphasizes the relationship and responsibility the church is to have to the global

community. The church is God’s gift to the world, and therefore she is called to reach it. Here, we are

to reflect God’s glory before the lost, and to participate in calling people to a relationship with Him.

As a “royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9), the church must be engaged in vital witnessing

experiences with the lost as we draw closer to the imminent return of Christ.

45 Jason Zahariades. The Wisdom Project (Part 13). Dallas, TX: Sanctification Study, September 2, 2010, page 1.


Biblical Understanding of Holiness

Definition of Sin

In his classic work, A Right Conception of Sin, Richard S. Taylor argues that, “Any doctrine that

relates to sin, is affected by our understanding and definition of sin. Most errors in theology can usually

find their roots in a defective definition of sin.” 46 All unrighteousness is sin. That is, whatever is not of

righteousness—by commission or omission—is sin. Sin is both a condition and an act of transgression

against the law of God, nature, or society.

Sin has its origin in Satan (Luke10:18); not in man nor could it be in God (Job 34:10). Sin is

older than man since sin was first found in Lucifer. Satan became the first sinner when he was lifted

up with pride and desired equality with God (Isaiah 14:12-14). Since sin entered the world, sin has

become universal, “All have sinned” (Romans 5:12). Thus man is depraved—in fact, totally depraved.

Notwithstanding modernism and the dressings of language and phraseology, we cannot afford to see sin

from the standpoint of modern culture and modernism. The one and only right perspective to viewing sin

is from the standpoint of God. That is, how does God see sin? It is only by a right perception of sin, its

corruption, its smears, and heinous nature that we may correctly extol Jesus Christ who offered Himself

for the salvation of humanity.

Sin entered the world through Adam, and became universal resulting in spiritual death first, and then

physical death (Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23). All men are born in sin (Psalm 51:1 - 5), but not born to

sin (Romans 6:16). Total depravity means that man’s will, intellect, and emotions are corrupted by sin.

Total depravity does not mean there is nothing good at all in man—for man yet bears some signs and

evidences of his original good and dignity before ‘the Fall’. Thus, the very principle of sin is unbelief

in the Word of God and will lead to a process of gradual decline or deterioration from God’s divine will

and purpose for humankind!

Jesus Christ took on human nature so he could die. His death on the cross was our death (Romans

6:23). He died in our stead. God took the initiative for our redemption when He provided the suitable

and perfect sacrifice in the person of His begotten son, Jesus; who alone is the complete satisfaction

to His justice. This is in full demonstration of God’s love for man (John 3:16). God did not stop at the

provision for the complete atonement for sin in Jesus; He continues to give the full benefits of that

atonement by Himself through His grace and by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, “as many as believe Him to

them gives He power to become the sons of God” (John1:12 ASV).

Sin is generally seen as a two-fold concept. The first aspect is seen in Psalm 51:5, “In sin did my

mother conceive me.” The other is seen in 1 John 3:8, “He that committeth sin is of the devil.” The text

from the psalter refers to a nature that comes with birth. This is often referred to as original sin, inherited

sin, total depravity or fallen nature. But, the text in 1 John refers to the act of committing sins – also

referred to as actual sin. Oftentimes, there can be some difficulty in ascertaining whether a biblical

passage is referring to sin as a state or sin as an act.

The aspect of theology that deals with the issue of sin is known as hamartiology and is inextricably

bound to soteriology, which includes the doctrine of salvation and the resultant doctrines of justification

and sanctification. Justification is the declarative act of God wherein the sinner is declared righteous.

This is known as imputed righteousness. Paul’s exposition on sin in chapters five and six of the letter to

the Romans is helpful in understanding the pervasive effects of sin on humanity as well as humanity’s

proper response. Paul repeatedly makes the point that the first man’s sin resulted in humanity’s

participation in all the effects of sin (Romans 5:12; 17- 19). Consequently, all humanity is born with this

inherited, sinful nature. It is also from this understanding that the doctrine of original sin emerged.

46 Richard S. Taylor. A Right Conception of Sin. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1945, page 9.


As it relates to sanctification, the doctrine of original sin becomes critical in understanding the

salvific role of this work of grace. In Five Views on Sanctification, Melvin Dieter writes, “A central point

in any theology is its accepted position on the nature of the human situation. One’s doctrine of original

sin is arguably as determinative a concept as any other for one’s view of sanctification.” 47 Although

the doctrine of original sin was somewhat developed before the time of Augustine, it found its most

significant development in Augustine’s work in the context of his controversy with Pelagius. Pelagius

advanced that individuals are born with the same nature that Adam had prior to the fall. Therefore,

the sins that they committed were a result of them simply following the steps of Adam. In reaction to

Pelagianism, Augustine introduced the idea of “generic sin” through which human nature was corrupted

through Adam’s sinful act. Augustine wrote:

Nothing remains but to conclude that in the first man all are understood to have sinned,

because all were in him when he sinned; whereby sin is brought in with birth and not

removed save by the new birth…It is manifest that in Adam all sin, so to speak, en masse.

Hence, by that sin we become a corrupt mass-massa perditionis. 48

Augustine believed that through Adam’s sin, “the entire mass of our nature was ruined and fell into

the possession of its destroyer. And from him no one – no not one has been delivered, or will ever be

delivered, except by the grace of the Redeemer.” 49 It was the doctrine of original sin and the resultant

doctrine of total human depravity that produced some of the fertile ground for the later doctrine of entire


History of Holiness and Sanctification

Any attempt to develop a deeper understanding of the biblical doctrines of holiness and

sanctification must include an investigation of the historical developments and understandings

throughout the history of the church. There are many direct and indirect sources that detail the continued

efforts of the church to interpret the canon of Scripture as it relates to holiness and to accurately apply

these understandings to the life of the church. These sources include the writings of, and references

to many of the early church fathers. In addition, the writings of Augustine and the later Reformers

are of equal importance. More contemporary sources include studies of the Holiness and Pentecostal

movements. [Note: For further study on these movements and their effect on the doctrine of holiness/

sanctification, an appendix is attached at the end of this document.] A word of caution is necessary,

however, when we engage these documents: we must avoid the temptation (in some cases, the tendency)

to read contemporary understandings into these historical documents. This creates complications that

may distort the original meanings and result in a hermeneutic that may potentially produce errant


The Apostolic/Early Church Fathers

It is noted that the writings of the early church fathers are not abounding with direct references to the

doctrine of sanctification. One possible reason for the rarity of references could be attributed to a level

of stable understanding by the church fathers relating to this particular issue. This common knowledge

may have removed the need for extensive elaboration. Nevertheless, valuable information relating to the

47 Melvin E. Dieter. Ibid, page 21.

48 G. C. Berkouwer. Sin. Grand Rapids: Erdman Publishers, 1971, page 186.

49 Kenneth S. LaTourette. A History of Christianity (Volume 1). San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1975, page 178.


church’s understanding of holiness and sanctification can be gained through study of the early, post-New

Testament writings. John Wesley was particularly interested in the witness of the early church fathers

and the experience of grace in their lives. In fact, his studies of the early church fathers “constituted

one of the main sources of his understanding of Christian perfection and the nature of salvation.” 50 The

earliest Christian writings after the New Testament are customarily known under the title “Apostolic

Fathers.” 51

The name reflects the belief that these men had actually known the apostles. Initially the designation

applied to only five documents. The total eventually grew to eight. “With the sole exception of the

Epistle of Diognetus, all of these writings are addressed to other Christians. Therefore, they are very

useful to give us an idea of the life and thought of the early church. 52 Many of these documents are in a

letter format. The Didache is a church manual. Still, others are in the forms of theological treatises and

apocalyptic writings. After these, the next group of important documents is those that are apologetic in

nature and mostly date from the second century onwards. From these documents, we find much of the

correspondence was written in light of developing heresies that emerged from either misunderstandings

or outright attempts to subvert the Christian faith.

The apostolic and early church fathers understood the issues of holiness and sanctification as part

of the greater theological task of understanding the person and nature of God. This, therefore, became

the point of reference for their understanding of the doctrines of holiness and sanctification. The

transcendence of GodGod being distinct and separate from his creation— was fundamental to this

understanding. Equally as important were the early developments of the Christological doctrines and

their relation to the salvation of humanity.

Clement of Rome

The first of the writings of the apostolic fathers that can be dated accurately was written by Clement,

the Bishop of Rome. Somewhere around A.D. 96 he wrote the letter to the Corinthians that is usually

referred to as I Clement. His second letter to the Corinthians, II Clement (A.D. 150), was actually a

homily that exhorted the believers to repentance. The issue of repentance seems to have been a central

concern for Christians in Rome during the second century. The same subject occurs in a document

known as The Shepherd of Hermas which dates from the same period. Against those who held the belief

that the flesh had nothing to do with spirituality, Clement wrote:

Furthermore, let none of you say that his flesh is not judged nor does it rise again. Consider: in

what state were you saved, in what state did you regain your sight, if it was not in this flesh?

Hence, it is necessary to guard the flesh as the temple of God. For as in the flesh you were called,

in the flesh you will come. If Christ the Lord who saved us was first spirit but became flesh and

in that state called us, so we also shall receive our reward in the flesh. 53

The quote above underscores the spiritual significance placed on the flesh and thus the actions

performed in the body.

The Didache

Of particular importance to the ethical and moral life of the early church was the document known as

The Didache or Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles. Some scholars place the composition of the document

50 Melvin E. Dieter. Five Views on Sanctification– Wesleyan View. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1987, Page 12.

51 Cecil C. Richardson. Early Christian Fathers. New York: MacMillan Publishing, 1970, page 15.

52 Justo L. Gonzalez. A History of Christian Thought –Volume 1. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1970, page 61.

53 Justo L. Gonzalez. A History of Christian Thought –Volume 1. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1970, page 66.


as early as A.D. 70 while others support a later date. The Didache consists of 16 chapters which can

be divided into three sections. The first section, The Document of the Two Ways, is an exhortation to

believers to walk in the way of righteousness to fulfill their Christian duties. The second section deals

mostly with liturgical instructions. The third section is essentially a manual of discipline. The Didache

serves as an expression of the moralism as part of the theological frameworks being developed by early



Irenaeus’ understanding of holiness and the sanctifying work of Christ was not just limited to the

death of Christ. He referred to, “The Sanctification of Each Stage of Life.” He wrote:

He came to save all through himself; all, that is, who through him are born into God, infants,

children, boys, young men, and old. Therefore he passed through every stage of life; he was

made an infant for infants, sanctifying infancy; a child among children, sanctifying children,

sanctifying those of his age, an example also to them of filial affection, righteousness, and

obedience; a young man amongst young men, an example to them and sanctifying them to the

Lord. So also amongst the older men; that he might be a perfect master for all, not solely in

regard to the revelation of the truth, but also in respect to each stage of life. 54

Irenaeus saw Jesus as sanctifying humanity throughout each stage of His life and therefore as a

continuous process. Of course the ultimate sanctifying acts were His death and resurrection in which He

made His victory available to all humanity.


Athanasius introduces us to the theology of the Alexandrine theologians who were heavily

influenced by Origen. However, in contrast to the other Eastern theologians, Athanasius strives to

be more practical and less theoretical. He vehemently opposed those who refused to affirm the full

humanity and divinity of Christ. He writes, “For therefore he did assume the body originate and human

that having renewed it as its framer, he might deify it in Himself, and thus introduce us all into the

kingdom of heaven after his likeness.” In Athansius’ understanding, since perfection was only possible

in God then our perfection as Christians is never finished. Therefore, we are always found in the process

of continued growth into the likeness of Christ. Likewise, Gregory of Nyssa, one of the Cappadocian

fathers, writing on the issue of perfection says, “…and thus always improving and becoming more

perfect by daily growth and never arriving at any limit of perfection…” 55

Cyril of Alexandria

Cyril of Alexandria, a fifth century bishop, also wrote on the importance of understanding the duality

of the nature of Christ as it related to holiness. He writes:

If he had not been born like us according to the flesh, if he had not partaken of the same

elements we do, he would not have been able to deliver human nature from the fault we

incurred in Adam, nor would he have warded off the decay from our bodies, nor would he

have brought an end of the curse which we say came upon the first woman. 109

54 Henry Bettenson. Documents of the Christian Church. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1963), page 30.

55 Ibid.


All of the above references describe the prevailing understanding of holiness of the early church

fathers. Stated concisely, it was that Christ became like humanity in order to sanctify us and make us

holy. For the early church fathers, holiness was not grounded in right behavior or conduct, but holiness

was grounded in our union with Christ. This did not mean that holiness was divorced from behavior;

but it was the process of growing into the image of Christ that led to right behavior and conduct.

Christlikeness or theosis as the Eastern fathers referred to it was the key to holiness.

Eastern Orthodox Theology and Theosis

In Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic theology, the term theosis or theopoiesis is used to

describe the call to humanity to become holy and seek union with God, beginning in this life and

then consummated in the resurrection. Theosis is defined as the process of becoming free from sin.

Athanasius amplified the meaning by saying, “Theosis is becoming by grace what God is by nature.”

During the early stages of the Reformation, the concept of union with Christ (unio cum Christo)

was used to develop an understanding of the entire process of salvation and sanctification. This was

especially true in the thought of John Calvin. The concept of theosis was also important among the

early Methodists and other pietistic movements. Theosis is often seen as the precursor to the doctrine of

entire sanctification which teaches the possibility of sinless living in the present world. In Five Views of

Sanctification, Anthony Hoekema posits, “Sanctification means that we are becoming more like God or

like Christ, who is the perfect image of God.” 56

The Montanists, Novatians, Donatists and the Quest for Holiness

The Montanists, Novatians, and the Donatists were all groups identified for their strict beliefs in the

purity of church members and the separation of the church from the world. The Montanists, a second

century movement, were sarcastically called “Spirituals.” They emphasized the work of the Holy Spirit

in the lives of believers, but also rigidly supported holiness of life and strict church discipline. The

movement was eventually condemned by the church for supposed heresy and fanatical ascetic practices.

The Novatian movement emerged in the third century. They too challenged the church in relation to

lack of church discipline regarding those who had denied the faith. They were advocates of the purity of

church membership. They believed that the church should separate itself from apostasy, impurity, and

worldliness. The Donatists’ doctrines were similar to the Novatians in that they advocated for church

purity, strict church discipline, and separation of church and state.

The Monastics

One would be unforthcoming about sanctification to exclude the Monastics from their overall

early influence on holiness. The monastic philosophy of life struck early Imperial Christianity with

unprecedented power and by the fourth and fifth centuries it rose up into a movement affecting all levels

of Christian believers. Many people found the ascetic way of life, including separation from the world,

to be more in line with biblical holiness than the prevalent spiritual heroism required during the early

days of persecution. These monks brought a revival of Christian enthusiasm and end-time holiness

reminiscent of the early years of the apostles. They transformed what had been martyrdom into a full

commitment to God and the imitation of Jesus Christ. 57 This lifestyle and unfortunately the correlating

emphasis on the ascetic and holy life disappeared with the rise of the reformed churches and later even

among Roman Catholics after the French Revolution. 58

56 Anthony A. Hoekema. Five Views on Sanctification– Reformed View. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1987, Page 66.

57 Bruce Shelley. Church History in Plain Language. Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1995, page 119.

58 F. L. Cross, Editor. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989, page 930.



Augustine, a towering figure in Christian theology in the West, represents the last of the early

Christian writers, the beginnings of medieval theology, and the greatest influence of sixteenth century

Protestant theology. Apart from his writings against Manichaeism, his most influential works are derived

from his refutation of the Donatists and Pelagianism.

Augustine’s writings against Pelagianism seem to be the most important in the formulation of his

doctrines on grace and predestination. Pelagius was a native of the British Isles. He is usually referred to

as a monk. The tenets of Pelagius’ theology are summed up below:

Pelagius affirmed that God has made us free, and that this freedom is such that through it we

are capable of doing good. The power not to sin – posse non peccare – is in human nature since

its very creation, and neither the sin of Adam nor the Devil himself can destroy it. Adam’s sin

is in no way the sin of humanity…Nor does the sin of Adam destroy the freedom that all his

descendants have not to sin. It is true that the Evil One is powerful, but he is not so powerful that

he cannot be resisted. The flesh is also powerful, and it struggles against the spirit, but God has

given us the power to overcome it. 59

Augustine’s main contributions to the contemporary understandings of holiness and sanctification

emerge primarily from the development of his doctrines of free will, original sin, the fallen human

nature, as well as grace and predestination.

For Augustine, free will was something given to humans and angelic beings. He believed that free

will was essentially good because it came from God. He wrote:

This free will is good, for it comes from God and is one of the characteristics of a truly rational

being. But it is an intermediate good, for it can decide to do what is good as well as that which

is evil. However, let it be stated clearly, free will is what makes us truly human and is in no way

evil in itself, but it is rather a good gift of God which is capable of turning to evil. 60

It is important to note that Augustine was referring to free will prior to the fall. Augustine believed

that the fall so affected the totality of humanity that it was virtually impossible to even consider any total

freedom of the will. It is the consequence of the fall that informs Augustine’s theology of original sin.

The following quote succinctly captures his understanding:

Augustine accepted and developed the understanding of original sin as an inheritance that Adam

bequeathed to his descendants. Such an interpretation of the text which claims that “in Adam all

die” is certainly not the only one that has appeared in the history of Christian thought, but it is

the one that, from Tertullian on, became more and more common in Latin theology. This was due

in a large measure to Augustine’s support of it. 61

The conclusion of this understanding was that fallen human nature (inherited from Adam) still has

a free will, but since the fall it is free only to sin. There was really no option not to sin. “The option not

to sin does not exist. This is what is meant by saying that fallen human nature has freedom to sin (posse

peccare) but does not have the freedom not to sin (nonposse non peccare).” 62

59 Justo L. Gonzalez. A History of Christian Thought –Volume 2. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1970, page 31.

60 Justo L. Gonzalez. Ibid, page 43.

61 Ibid, page 44.

62 Ibid, page 46.


Augustine understood grace to be the only means that could lead from the bondage of sin to a state

of redemption. Conversion was only possible through grace and only by grace is the believer enabled

to do good works. Concerning how God works through grace in us, he writes: “He operates, therefore,

without us, in order that we may will; but when we will, and so will that we may act. He co-operates

with us. We can, however, of ourselves do nothing to effect good works of piety without Him either

working that we may will, or co-working when we will.” 63 Out of Augustine’s understanding of grace,

came the idea of grace being irresistible as well as grace being the gift of perseverance which ensures

faithfulness unto death. Predestination, which is also a result of the Augustinian system of grace, has led

to long controversies, but is not a necessary element in this discussion of holiness and sanctification.

Augustinian theology became the major influence of Western theologians throughout the Middle

Ages. His works were studied and quoted as a source of authority on mostly all theological issues. This

continued to be true up until the time of the Reformation.

The Reformers (Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin)

Undoubtedly, Martin Luther is the most significant theologian of the sixteenth century. Protestant

theology of the sixteenth century can be classified into four categories: Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist,

and Anglican. Like Augustine, Lutheran theology is closely linked to Luther’s personal life experiences.

The point of departure for Luther’s theological renaissance was his struggle with the issues of sin and

grace. The voluminous expositions of the influence of Luther’s conversion experience on his theology

prevent the space to deal with it here. The focus here will be how Luther’s understanding of holiness and

sanctification informed our own understanding. Luther understood the human situation as being one that

is totally affected by sin. By this he meant that the entire human nature was corrupted by sin. He writes:

Hence it is great wisdom to know that we are nothing but sin, so that we do not think of sin as

lightly as do the Pope’s theologians, who define sin as “anything said, done, or thought against

the Law of God. Define Sin rather, on the basis of this psalm, as all that is born of father and

mother, before a man is old enough to say, do or think anything. For such a root nothing good

before God can come forth. 64

Luther’s understanding of free will was in line with Augustine’s. For Luther, it was a clear fact that

human will was in bondage to do evil. “This is not because our will is constrained, but because it is so

imbued with sin that it freely chooses evil. There is nothing left in us by which we can actively please

God or even move toward the Divine.” 65 Justification by faith, which was the lynchpin of Luther’s

soteriology, was understood to be an “imputed justification.” This resulted in the assertion that “a

Christian is at once justified and a sinner – simul justus et peccator.” 66 Luther states:

A man who is justified is not yet a righteous man, but is in the very moment or journey toward

righteousness. And the start of a new creature accompanies this faith. For he first purifies by

imputation, then he gives the Holy Spirit, through whom he purifies even in substance. Faith

cleanses through the remission of sins, the Holy Spirit cleanses the effect. 67

63 Justo L. Gonzalez. Ibid, page 47.

64 Justo L. Gonzalez. A History of Christian Thought –Volume 3. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1970), page 55.

65 Ibid, page 56.

66 Ibid, page 59.

67 Ibid.


Ulrich Zwingli is the earliest theologian of the Reformed tradition. Although Zwingli is not

as recognized as John Calvin, his early theological works and his disagreements with Luther were

instrumental in the development of Reformed theology. It is in Zwingli’s understanding of the absolute

providence of God that we see the initial development of his doctrine of predestination. For Zwingli,

“Anything less than absolute predeterminism would impinge on the sovereignty and wisdom of God.” 68

It is on the basis of predestination that Zwingli refuted the doctrine of salvation by works. For Zwingli,

self-love was the root of all sin. The original sin of Adam, according to Zwingli, was not transmitted

to his progeny, but it was the result of this sin that was transmitted. Zwingli refers to this result as “a

disease.” Regarding the defenders of free choice, he says the reason “theologians and hypocrites of

animal appetite insist on freedom of choice is that they do not know the depth of the consequences of

original sin.” 69

There is no doubt that John Calvin has become the greatest of the Reformed theologians. It was

through John Calvin that Reformed theology took its shape. His opus magnum, Institutes of Christian

Religion, became the systematic exposition of Reformed theology. Calvin’s understanding of the human

soul was in contrast with that of Servetus who believed that the soul was part of the divine substance.

Calvin believed that “the soul was created out of nothing (ex-nihilo) and does not participate in the

divine essence.” 70

This understanding was fundamental in Calvin’s doctrine of the totality of human depravity. Like the

other Reformers, the dependence on grace is paramount in Calvin’s theology and thus justification by

faith is also the point of departure of his soteriology. He argues, however, that:

Justification by faith does not mean that the Christian is to be content with the imputation of

righteousness, and continue to wallow in sin. It is true that the justified Christian is still a sinner,

and will continue to be throughout his earthly life. But it is also true that the justified Christian

seeks to show the fruits of justification. 71

He further states:

Although the justified sinner does not cease being a sinner, the divine act of justification is also

one of regeneration. In the elect, God creates the love of righteousness by the example of the

divine holiness and through their communion with Christ. The work of regeneration is God’s

work in the believer, progressively creating anew the divine image that had been deformed

through sin. The result is the Christian life, which abounds in good works. These works,

however, do not justify. They are the result and sign of justification. 72

The Pietist Movement (John Wesley)

The work of the Reformers was instrumental in the development of what became orthodox

Protestant theology. However, during the succeeding centuries the significance of the Protestant

movement which was grounded in personal religious convictions of the Reformers became primarily a

series of truths stated in propositional statements.

One reaction to the complacency of Protestant orthodoxy was the Pietist movement. The term

pietist originated from the devout home study groups of Christians called collegia pietatis which were

68 Justo L. Gonzalez. A History of Christian Thought –Volume 3. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1970. Ibid, page 76.

69 Ibid, page 141.

70 Ibid.

71 Ibid, page 156.

72 Ibid


organized by Phillip Jakob Spencer, the founder of German Pietism. Spencer emphasized the experience

of the Christian faith over against doctrinal formulations. He affirmed that he “accepted all the orthodox

doctrines – but much more important is the actual experience and practice of the Christian life.” 73 The

Moravians, another Pietist group who also insisted on the importance of the moral life over theological

formulations, had a significant influence on John Wesley and the Methodist movement.

Similar to the Pietists in Germany and the Moravians, groups of believers in England also found the

traditional formal life and worship of Anglicanism irrelevant to their Christian faith. As early as 1702,

Samuel Wesley, the father of John and Charles Wesley, formed a religious society to engage in devout

study of the Bible. At first they were called “the holy club” and later became known as Methodists. From

its inception, the Methodist movement’s concern was on the ethical or moral dimension of faith. .......

One of the most controversial elements of Wesley’s view of the Christian life was the doctrine of entire

sanctification or Christian perfection. For Wesley:

“True biblical Christianity finds its highest expression and ultimate test of authenticity in the practical

and ethical experience of the individual Christian and the church, and only secondarily in doctrinal and

propositional definition.” 74

Although Wesley’s theology was built on the central doctrines of the Reformation, he disagreed

with the prevailing thought that the constant struggle and defeat was somehow a normative aspect of the

Christian life. His teaching regarding the freedom from sin that could be experienced in this life was a

definite departure from the position of the Reformers. He believed “there was a remedy for the sickness

of systemic sinfulness, namely entire sanctification – a personal, definitive work of God’s sanctifying

grace by which the war within oneself might cease and the heart be fully released from rebellion into the

wholehearted love for God and others.” 75 Wesley had an ardent passion for Christian holiness and would

not be content with any religion that accepted the dominion of sin in the life of a Christian. While this

was certainly Wesley’s conviction, Melvin E. Dieter observes:

He never allowed that entirely sanctified Christians could become sinless in the sense

that they could not fall again into sin through disobedience. He did teach that so long as

men and women were the creatures of free will, they were able to respond obediently

or disobediently to the grace of God. They would never be free from the possibility

of deliberate, willful sinning in this life. They would, however, be delivered from the

necessity of voluntary transgressions by living in moment-by-moment obedience to

God’s will. 76

Like the Reformers before him, Wesley saw an inextricable connection between justification and

sanctification. Dieter elaborates on this connection: “The critical point of this purifying experience need

not be chronologically distinct from justification and the new birth, but logically it is distinct from them

in the continuum of salvation. However, the scriptural exhortation to believers to pursue perfection in

love indicates that believers typically appropriate purity of love in a distinct crisis of faith.” 77 Wesley

believed that in the act of justification God begins to sanctify the believer. He stated, “We are sanctified

as well as justified by man is sanctified until he believes: every man when he believes is

73 Ibid, 303

74 Melvin E. Dieter. Five Views on Sanctification– Weslyan View. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1987), Page 11.

75 Ibid, 17

76 Ibid, 14

77 Melvin E. Dieter. Ibid, page 18.


sanctified.” 78 The end of the process was “entire sanctification” or “Christian perfection.” The following

excerpt from Wesley’s writings serves to explain his understanding:

…we are saved by faith, consisting of those two grand branches, justification and

sanctification. By justification we are saved from the guilt of sin, and restored to the favor

of God; by sanctification we are saved from the power and root of sin, and restored to

the image of God. All experience, as well as Scripture, show this salvation to be both

instantaneous and gradual. It begins the moment we are justified in the holy, humble,

gentle, patient love of God and man. It gradually increases from that moment as a grain

of mustard seed…in another instant the heart is cleansed from all sin, and filled with pure

love to God and man. 79

Wesley expressed reservation to use the term “sinless perfection” because it could imply an

inability to sin. For Wesley, Christian perfection held a teleological character that served as the goal of

the Christian life rather than the starting point which was espoused in later holiness teachings. In his

compelling book entitled Transformed by Grace, J. Ayodeji Adewuya says, “The Christian life ought

to be an experience of growing victory over sin and of growing likeness to Christ, a goal that is ahead

of us to challenge our strongest desire and effort.” 80 In his early writings, Wesley was not firm in his

convictions regarding exactly when this state could be achieved. He writes, “I believe this instant is the

instant of death, the moment before the soul leaves the body. But I believe it may be ten, twenty, or forty

years before. I believe it is usually many years after justification, but that it may be five years or five

months after it. I know of no conclusive argument to the contrary.” 81 Wesley maintained some level of

ambivalence for most of his life regarding giving priority to “crisis” or “process.” He finally came to the

point where he emphasized the instantaneous nature of the second blessing, “though it always preceded

and was followed by process and gradual sanctification.” 82

The Wesleyan understanding of sanctification found further development and assumed various

trajectories in America. The Second Great Awakening revival movement brought with it a renewed

interest in the experiential aspects of Christianity as well as the doctrine of Christian perfection. This

focus was seen in the both the Methodist, Baptist, and the Reformed movements.

Timothy L. Smith describes the dominant religious forces in America on the eve of the Civil War

as “a coalition of revivalistic Calvinism and evangelical Arminianism – a coalition dominated by

Methodist-like ideas, including the doctrine of Christian perfection.” 83 The ideals and doctrine of the

Christian perfection movement penetrated several denominations. Higher Christian Life, the work of W.

E. Boardman, a Presbyterian, became the first popular treatment of the subject that influenced several

denominations. A. B. Earle, a Baptist, experienced sanctification and carried the teaching into that

denomination. Charles Cullis was instrumental in carrying the theme into the Episcopal Church.

Within the Calvinistic segment of the Reformed movement, luminaries such as Charles G. Finney

and Asa Mahan preached the message of a “higher Christian life” through Christian perfection. The

doctrine of sanctification espoused by Finney and Mahan resulted in the so-called Oberlin perfectionism

which was basically Wesleyan in character, but influenced by the Calvinist New Divinity. Consequently,

78 Justo L. Gonzalez. A History of Christian Thought –Volume 3. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1970), page 313.

79 Donald W. Dayton. Theological Roots of Pentecostalism. (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1987), page 46.

80 J. Ayodeji Adewuya. Transformed by Grace. (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2004), page 14.

81 J. Ayodeji Adewuya. Ibid, page 48.

82 Ibid.

83 Ibid, page 64.


there were some differences that caused some debate between them and the Methodist holiness


Despite the phenomenal growth that was occurring within the traditional Methodist Church,

there was a group of Christians who felt that the Wesleyan understanding of sanctification was being

neglected. The revival of the doctrine of Christian perfection within the Methodist Church was led by

Phoebe and Walter Palmer. The fertile ground that fostered the growth of the Holiness movement, both

Reformed and Methodist, was created by the re-focus on sanctification by both groups, as well as the

pietism and millennialism of the American revival movement. The doctrine of sanctification was further

developed (some would say modified) within these contexts.

The revivalist wing of Methodism prevailed and sanctification was defined as a work of grace

that was received subsequent to regeneration. The revival preaching strongly emphasized the work

of grace as “crisis experiences”, which were immediate, definable experiences. Phoebe Palmer

understood the experience of Christian perfection as the culmination of a process of grace. “Holiness

preaching clustered the elements of Wesley’s teaching on sanctification around the second crisis of

faith, subsequent to justification, commonly called entire sanctification.” 84 In this context, the doctrine

of entire sanctification sought to resolve Wesley’s tension between crisis and process. This was done by

focusing on the instantaneous character of the experience as a second definite work of grace. In some

ways this focus was begun by Adam Clarke. A collection of his writings from 1835 entitled Christian

Theology stated the following:

In no part of the Scripture are we to seek holiness gradatim. We are to come to God as well for

an instantaneous and complete purification from all sin, as for an instantaneous pardon. Neither

the seriatim pardon, nor the gradatim purification, exists in the Bible. It is when the soul is

purified from all sin that it can properly grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus

Christ. 85

Opponents claimed that this particular understanding was not faithful to Wesley’s original teaching.

Dieter wrote, “Opponents claimed that the Wesleyan understanding that salvation was a continuum

in which certain radical points of decision and infusions of justifying and sanctifying grace were set

within a lifetime of process was being compromised.” 86 Conversely, those who supported the “crisis

motif” were equally as adamant. Dieter writes again, “Proponents of the renewed emphasis on the crisis

moment of entire sanctification…feared that their opponents’ overemphasis on process and downplaying

of crisis experience tended to destroy the hope of being entirely sanctified in this life.” 87 The Holiness

movement within Methodism created such tension that separation and the formation of new churches

were the ultimate result.

Several emphases became part and parcel of the Holiness movement’s teaching on sanctification.

First, there was the use of ‘altar terminology’ as the formula for the experience of sanctification that

stressed the immediate availability of the sanctification experience. This focus tended to eliminate the

spiritual struggle that was characteristic of the eighteenth century teaching. Palmer wrote, “If you do not

now receive it, the delay will not be on the part of God, but wholly with yourself.”

Another emphasis was the implication that sin (as a material substance) was rooted out of the

heart. Wesley himself used terminology such as “circumcision of the heart” to describe the product of

sanctification. The Holiness movement expounded “the concept of sanctification as an eradication of sin

84 Melvin E. Dieter. Ibid, page 38

85 Donald W. Dayton. Theological Roots of Pentecostalism. (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1987), page 68.

86 Ibid.

87 Ibid.


as though it were some unified entity that might be excised.” 88 The ‘altar’ and ‘eradication’ terminology

along with the focus on ‘crisis experience’ developed what some felt to be a static concept of grace

instead of a dynamic process that was felt to have more scriptural support.

Anabaptist Movement

The Anabaptists rejected all thoughts of rebaptism; they never considered the ceremonial sprinkling

people received in infancy as a legitimate baptism. Their basic goal was the restitution of true apostolic

Christianity. The New Testament Church, they proclaimed that only men and women who experienced

personal spiritual regeneration were candidates for water baptism. They proclaimed that the apostolic

churches knew nothing of infant baptism and this was brought into the church during the second and

third centuries. They claimed that this convenient practice for promoting Christianity was brought about

by nominal Christianity but left it spiritually impotent. But they went further and strongly refused to be

a part of worldly power including bearing arms, holding political office, and swearing by oaths. These

beliefs left them vulnerable and attacked by the Roman Catholic Church, so much so that by January

1527 the first martyr among them was Felix Manz. By 1529, the Diet of Speyer declared Anabaptists as

heretics. Their group spread beyond the Swiss Alps into France, Germany, and England. It is interesting

that they are the distant relatives to Baptists, Quakers, Congregationalists, Pentecostals, and most of

their followers today are called Mennonites. 89

Why should we as those who adhere to the holiness tradition consider these Reformers as part of

our distant heritage? Because it was the Anabaptists that embraced more than any of the other reformer

groups the ‘love ethic,’ that Christians should emulate Jesus by following in baptism and a life of

servanthood. In the Schleitheim Confession of 1527, they agreed on four distinct principles that any

sincere believer who pursues the holy God would prayerfully consider:

1. The Christian relationship with Jesus Christ must go beyond inner experience and

acceptance of doctrines. It must involve a daily walk with God, in which Christ’s

teaching and example shape a transformed style of life.

2. The principle of love grew logically out of the first. In their dealings with non-

Anabaptists, they acted as pacifists. They would neither go to war, defend themselves

against their persecutors, nor take part in coercion by the state.

3. The third principle was the congregational view of church authority. In their assemblies,

all members were believers baptized voluntarily upon confession of personal faith in

Christ. Each believer, based then on practical application of this authority, was both a

priest to his fellow believers and a missionary to unbelievers.

4. A fourth major Anabaptists conviction was the insistence upon the separation of church

and state. Christians, they believed, were a “free, unforced, and uncompelled people.”

Faith is a free gift of God, and civil authorities exceed their competence when they

“champion the Word of God with a fist.” 90

In concluding this brief glimpse into this reform group, the descendants of the Anabaptists lost many

of the characteristics of their founders. In their search for a pure church, they often became legalistic.

They also because of persecution lost their evangelistic fervor and became more known for their

excellence in farming, good citizenry, and great work ethic.

88 Donald W. Dayton. Ibid, page 41.

89 Bruce L. Shelley. Church History in Plain Language. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008), pages 248-251.

90 Bruce L. Shelley. Ibid, pages 253-254.


Pentecostalism (Pentecostal Sanctification)

Invariably, questions relating to the role and work of the Spirit relating to the doctrine of Christian

perfection came to the front. This question posed problems for parts of the Wesleyan tradition for more

than a century. Once the focus of entire sanctification shifted to emphasize the moment of the experience,

questions arose about whether it would be appropriate to describe the experience as Baptism in the Holy

Spirit. Wesley did not support this direction, but it was strongly supported by John Fletcher, who was

Wesley’s designated successor. Fletcher taught that, “the full potential of salvation from sin inherent in

the promise of the Spirit is not realized until, in a subsequent moment of complete faith and obedience to

the will of God, one becomes so filled with the Spirit that holiness and love becomes the habitual pattern

of one’s life.” 91

The use of Pentecostal imagery and language to describe the sanctification experience became more

pervasive as the focus shifted from theme of perfection to holiness and then to power. The writings of

Phoebe Palmer placed sanctification in the context of purity; however, there was some reflection of

Pentecostal language in her later writings. Finney and other Oberlin perfectionists emphasized the work

of the Holy Spirit in sanctification even more than Palmer. Another source of Pentecostal language

came from the Keswick Higher Life conferences in England. The Higher Life teachers understood

sanctification as part of a series of “experiences that equipped believers for extraordinary feats of

witness and service. They called it an enduement of power.” 92

As the Holiness movement separated from Methodism, they increasingly adopted the formulation of

Pentecostal sanctification. Flethcher’s formulation was overwhelming the traditional Wesleyan teaching.

The issue of balancing the perfection and purity motifs with the Pentecostal power motif presented a

significant challenge. Phoebe Palmer sought to reconcile the tension by equating holiness to power. She

suggested that “holiness is power” and “purity and power are identical.” The next restatement of the

purity-power struggle was the postulation of the Three Blessings teaching. Some within the Holiness

movement advocated a teaching that broke the second work into two separate blessings. This position

surfaced as early as 1856 in the Guide to Holiness in which someone asked: “Does entire holiness, entire

sanctification, a clean heart, perfect love, or full salvation, etc. necessarily imply the full Baptism of the

Holy Ghost? May not a soul enjoy the blessing of entire holiness, and still live short of the fullness of

the Spirit?” 93

Emphasis was also being placed on the purity aspect as a preparatory work for the Baptism of the

Spirit, similarly implying a separation of the experiences. A.B. Earle, a Baptist Holiness evangelist,

responded to the following question: “May not a person have a clean heart without the Baptism of the

Holy saying, ‘a clean heart is preparatory for the Baptism of the Holy Ghost?’” 94

Common Understandings of Sanctification/Holiness

It was John Wesley who has addressed sanctification and holiness by writing an abundance of

sermons on the subject. In one such sermon he enlarges on the role of the Holy Spirit in the sanctifying

process. This is a lengthy citation of his writing, but beneficial:

91 Melvin E. Dieter. Ibid, page 43.

92 Grant Wacker. Heaven Below-Early Pentecostals and American Culture (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001),

page 2.

93 Donald W. Dayton. Ibid, page 94.

94 Ibid, page 96.


If we take this in its utmost extent, it will include all that is brought in the soul by what

is frequently termed natural conscience, but more properly, preventing grace;—all the

drawings of the Father; the desires after God, which, if we yield to them, increase more

and more;—all that light wherewith the Son of God “enlighteneth everyone that cometh

into the world”; showing every man “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with

his God”;—all the convictions which His Spirit, from time to time, works in every child

of man; although, it is true, the generality of men stifle them as soon as possible, and after

a while forget, or at least deny, that they ever had them at all.

And at the same time that we are justified, yea, in that very moment sanctification begins.

In that instant we are born again, born from above, born of the Spirit: There is a real

as well as a relative change. We are inwardly renewed by the power of God. We feel

the love of God shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us”;

producing, love to all mankind, and more especially to the children of God; expelling the

love of the world, the love of pleasure, of ease, of honor, of money, together with pride,

anger, self-will, and every other evil temper; in a word, changing, the earthly, sensual,

devilish mind, into the mind which was in Christ Jesus.

How naturally do those who experience such a change imagine that all sin is gone; that it

is utterly rooted out of their heart, and has no more any place therein! How easily do they

draw that inference, “I feel no sin; therefore, I have none: It does not stir; therefore, it

does not exist: It has no motion; therefore, it has no being!”

But it is seldom long before they are undeceived, finding sin was only suspended, not

destroyed. Temptations return, and sin revives; showing it was but stunned before, not

dead. They now feel two principles in themselves, plainly contrary to each other; “the

flesh lusting against the Spirit”; nature opposing the grace of God. They cannot deny,

that, although they still feel power to believe in Christ and to love God; and although his

“Spirit” still “witnesses with their spirits, that they are children of God”; yet they feel

in themselves sometimes pride or self-will, sometimes anger or unbelief. They find one

or more of these frequently stirring in their heart, though not, conquering; yea, perhaps,

“thrusting sore at them that they may fall”; but the Lord is their help.

From the time of our being born again, the gradual work of sanctification takes place.

We are enabled “by the Spirit” to “mortify the deeds of the body,” of our evil nature;

and as we are more and more dead to sin, we are more and more alive to God. We go

on from grace to grace, while we are careful to “abstain from all appearance of evil,”

and are “zealous of good works,” as we have opportunity, doing good to all men; while

we walk in all His ordinances blameless, therein worshipping him in spirit and in truth;

while we take up our cross, and deny ourselves every pleasure that does not lead us to

God. 95

Although Wesley shared many other thoughts in this sermon, his inclusion of the Holy Spirit

is critical to our understanding of the pursuit of holiness. For many, the lack of understanding and

accepting the role of the Holy Spirit in holiness has left them without the catalyst and we need this

constant guidance of the Third Person of the Trinity. It has been thoughtfully expressed that:

95 John Wesley. “The Scripture Way of Salvation.” John Wesley Sermon Collection: Electronic Edition STEP Files

Copyright © 2008, Quick Verse. Excerpts from Pages 1-2.


To relate rightly to God—that is, to know and to follow God— required a progressive

transformative development. Participation in the Pentecostal worship and witness over

time produced an “effective” transformation in which lives were formed and shaped by

their experience of GodThe Spirit would lead into righteousness. The Spirit would

search the heart and, by the Word, point out what was not like Christ and therefore carnal.

The Spirit would fill and lead in powerful witness. The Spirit would express himself

through gifts and fruit that are producing a divine character being formed in the believer

by virtue of participation in the divine life. The Father, Son, and Spirit, by the Spirit,

came to take up abode in the believer. 96

Presuppositions in the Past COGOP Formation

As we examine the Scriptures, we must keep in focus the pursuit of holiness intertwined throughout

the pages of both the Old and New Testaments. Our past presuppositions even in the Church of God

of Prophecy (hereafter noted as COGOP), was heavily influenced by the Holiness movement of the

nineteenth century. While this movement swept through Wales, Scotland, England, and the United

States with positive spiritual revival, it was also infected with some scriptural misinterpretations that

altered even the original teachings of John Wesley and James Arminius. So much so, that coined

phrases such as “entire sanctification,” “instantaneous sanctification” and “sinless perfection” began

to imbed themselves with new meanings into the movement to influence church beliefs and doctrinal

interpretations. Regrettably, these quick descriptions carried with them some incorrect inferences that

greatly affected most Pentecostal churches. The COGOP was not free from these less than accurate


Older tracts by the COGOP emphasized an instantaneous experience that was a one-time event. 97

Yet, these two documents give only some Scripture verses relating to sanctification and very little on

the ongoing process of holiness. In the same manner, the Holy Spirit is mentioned only as the third

experience, but no reference is made to the role of the Holy Spirit in initial sanctification or the need of

the Spirit to continue to impassion a believer to seek further sanctifying grace throughout their Christian

lifetime. The omission of these key components by other nineteenth century pioneers of the Holiness

movement was considered proof positive. The unintentional exclusion of several passages of Scripture

on maturing in holiness promoted the thinking among many that once they were sanctified, no need for a

growing experience was required after the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

In spite of this passion on the initial sanctification experience, there were exceptions that indicated a

need to allow the Holy Spirit to continue this pursuit of holiness. In the tract Sanctification a Second Work of

Grace, A. J. Tomlinson states that “sanctification as a definite work of grace subsequent to regeneration should be

desired by everybody” (page 2). Tomlinson declares that “to get sanctified requires a second trip to Jesus,

because He is made unto men righteousness and sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30)” (page 2). The first

trip to Jesus is to seek justification for forgiveness of sin, and “the second trip gets a work done that was

not touched by the first trip” (page 3). Tomlinson gives several Scripture verses, such as Hebrews 13:12-

13 and 2 Timothy 2:21, to ground his conviction that “Jesus sanctifies definitely when people come to

him properly” (page 3). 98

Even though Tomlinson stated that sanctification is a definite work of grace, he did not hold to the

idea of ‘once sanctified, always sanctified.’ In this same tract he said:

96 Steven J. Land. Pentecostal Spirituality. Sheffield Academic Press: Sheffield, England, 2001, Page 130.

97 A. J. Tomlinson. Sanctification A Second Work of Grace and Sanctification A Peculiar Treasure. White Wing Publishing

House: Cleveland, TN, undated tract.

98 A. J. Tomlinson, Ibid.


In order to obtain this experience, the believer puts himself at once—or by one act of

faith—into the cleansing stream and is immediately made clean. He then continues in that

stream, or continues faithful, and is kept clean. Purity is retained on the same condition

that it is obtained; and to keep under the cleansing wave is to be faithful to the conditions

of purity. Jesus expressed the continual cleansing by the figure of “abiding in the vine”

[italics added for emphasis] (page 4). 99

Personal Experiences of Sanctification

In his little book Answering the Call of God, A. J. Tomlinson relates his personal sanctification


Some time later, I fell into a tremendous conflict with an “old man” who gave me violent

contest. I fought him and wrestled with him day and night for several months. How to

conquer him I did not know. Nobody could tell me or give me much encouragement. I

had some serious thoughts of building a little booth out in the middle of a certain field,

where I could be alone with God and the Bible. Nobody could help me, so I did not want

to be where they were. I was making a corn crop, and I suppose I prayed in nearly every

row, and nearly all over the field. Though I worked hard every day, I frequently ate but

one meal a day. I remember it as if it were but yesterday. I would leave the house at night

at times, and stay out and pray for hours. I searched my Bible and prayed many nights till

midnight and two o’clock, and then out at work again next morning by sunup. It was a

hard fight, but I was determined for that “old man” to die. He had already given me much

trouble, and I knew he must be destroyed or I would be ruined, and my soul dragged

down to hell by his subtle influence and cruel grasp.

At last the final struggle came. It was a hand-to-hand fight, and the demons of hell

seemed to be mustering their forces, and their ghastly forms and furious yells would no

doubt have been too much for me had not the Lord of heaven sent a host of angels to

assist me in that terrible hour of peril. But it was the last great conflict, and I managed by

some peculiar dexterity, to put the sword into him up to the hilt.

It was about twelve o’clock in the day. I cried out in the bitterness of my soul: “Now!

Now! You’ve got to give it up now! Now!” I felt him begin to weaken and quiver. I kept

the “Sword” right in him, and never let go. That sharp two-edged “Sword” was doing

its deadly work. I did not pity him. I showed him no quarters. There we were at that

altitude when all of a sudden there came from above, like a thunderbolt from the skies,

a sensational power that ended the conflict, and there lay the “old man” dead at my feet,

and I was free from his grasp. Thank God! I could get a good free breath once more. It

was an awful struggle, but the victory was won. That was about twenty years ago, but it is

fresh in my memory yet. I was indeed sanctified wholly. 100

Normative and the Exception

Sanctification, whether in the initial experience in a believer’s life, or in the ongoing growth

within a Christian’s life, may not always take place in the same manner as it has in the life of others.

99 A. J. Tomlinson, Ibid.

100 Tomlinson, A. J. Answering the Call of God, White Wing Publishing House: Cleveland, TN (undated booklet).


The normative does not exclude with God the exception, since God is not only Creator but the One

who recreates. In 2 Corinthians 10:7, Paul answering those who questioned his calling and experience

with Christ, gave this profound truth: “Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If

anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, that just as

he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s.” While Paul’s ministry and apostleship was drastically different

from the other apostles like Peter and John, it was no less genuine because it was an exception from the

norm. We see also in Acts 15:8-9 the same observation by Peter who in retelling the events in Cornelius

household, points out this exception that radically differed from what he and others saw and heard on

Pentecost. He says, “So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit,

just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” The

manner and outward manifestations that appeared on Pentecost became the exception rather than the

norm that is found in the rest of the Book of Acts and even in our churches today.

Having examined how the exception to the norm works in other places in the Bible, the experience

of initial sanctification does not always occur in believers in the same way. In fact, the story of A. J.

Tomlinson’s experience of sanctification, as well as many others, are without question an exception to

what thousands of others have experienced as they have sought and received an initial sanctification

that helped usher them into an ongoing cleansing, a growing relationship that stimulates the heart to

pursue holiness. We must respect this truth of the norm and exception because our Creator God is still

recreating in the hearts and lives of Christians today.

Culture and Holiness

Authors and bookshelves are replete and brimming with divergent views on holiness; it is inevitable

to mention some of the most popular ones here. Some Christians regard holiness as a very desirable

virtue, and a very lovely thing to gaze upon and to think upon, but they also assume, without trying to

attain it, that it is impossible to attain. To them holiness is a beautiful theory but wholly impossible as

an experience to attain, and wholly impracticable as a lifestyle. There are others who believe that the

subject is totally utopian and as such, those who desire it or even claim it are either cranks, deluded and

spiritually proud or all of those put together. While, yet another group disdains outright the subject of


One of the tensions that exist within the Holiness movement is recognizing the influence of culture

while maintaining the integrity of the message of holiness. Undoubtedly, the holiness message will

intersect with culture because humans are beings that are shaped within a particular cultural context. The

challenge is how to mediate the holiness message in ways that are relevant while at the same time not

losing the integrity of the message. One of the questions we must ask is, “How do we engage cultures

and subcultures in ways that are relevant and that embody the power of the holiness message to achieve

transformation of lives?” Similarly, we must ask, “What would holiness look like for a church in different

socio-economic and political contexts as well as in other cultures who accept the message of the gospel?”

For instance, the cultural view of sanctification in the African culture comes from a different point of view

than that of Western culture. Holiness is not a strange word or doctrine in Africa and in African religion.

Many deities and gods are worshipped in traditional African religion. As a matter of fact there are gods of

almost everything and every endeavor—god of trade, god of war, god of harvest, god of marriage/fertility,

god of iron, god of safety and so on and so forth. There are also deities in lands and territories, to which

total oversight of that land or territory is submitted, thus “god of our land.” 101

101 James Kolawole. Observations shared with the BDP in consultation with Bishop Kolawole from Nigeria.


Most of those deities have sacred trees, pots, rivers, stones, and days or even months. There are

maids, slaves, servants and even clans separated to deities. They were chosen by such deities as a

reward for their prowess at war or as a dancer, or as a loyalist or as a beauty. Sometimes the individual

offered himself or herself to such deities motivated by gains of being consecrated to the deity or by the

protection the one received from the said deity. Some may be given to such gods and deities by their

parents, perhaps after a protracted illness or condition to which it’s healing or change is attributed to the

particular god or deity. Always there was great length of ceremonial cleansing, ritual, and separation

before induction into the cult or order. When inducted, the candidate will be distinguishable from all

others through their attitude and conduct. When this process is completed such a one is considered

consecrated and separated for the deities’ service.

Similarly, gods and deities are sent on errands to fish out and punish by maiming or even killing

the person(s) who commit particular offenses in particular time space or place. That is, ‘god of thunder’

could be sent with a curse or other specific injunctions against a theft or a rape or a murder. Those gods

are said to have capacity to unravel mysteries. Although we know that such unction’s are available in

most situations of the African life, the demystifying of the so-called mystery is with the inducted and

consecrated members of the particular order. For one ordinance has it that because the communities

operate on personal basis i.e. every member of the society knows each other at face-to-face level they

are able to by intricate webbing, puzzle solving and extrication of story, information, illusion and

enigma piece together answers and solutions to hard debates and issues. 102

Be that as it may, communities, clans, and kin were peaceful, and orderly in most cases, except

for the drastic and draconic conveyance of justices. In fact, some people who are ardent to African

traditional religion say that since the coming of the Christian religion and its attendant ‘civilization’ in

our society and communities, evil and sin has aggravated. Adultery, fornication, robbery, indecency,

kidnapping, genocides, political wars, and such vices are rampart and on the increase. The point we wish

to make here is not that Christianity has absolutely brought vices and/or woes, but that Christianity not

lived out fully is an aberration, a license to moral decadence and licentiousness. Paul warned against

using Christian liberty as an occasion to commit sins: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty;

only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13 [note

also James 1:25, 1 Peter 2:16]). To this then, we dare say that to bring back on the radar of spirituality

in our culture, consecration and holiness is not only a great welcome but a revival and restoration of

values and accreditation of virtues with which we can readily identify and associate. Cognizant of the

fact that culture affects the holiness message and churches because man is a socially shaped being; the

challenge is how best to appropriate biblical holiness in an African cultural milieu that has become very

much influenced by western modernism and postmodernism. Culture challenges us to mediate holiness

in ways that are relevant and transforming without losing the integrity of the message.

Biblical Sanctification versus Sanctification in African Culture

Here let us place these virtues across each other not as equals but that we may obtain a juxtaposed

view or comparison of both sanctifications:

1. Biblical sanctification is separation to Almighty God who then places a blessing of total peace and

reconciliation upon the recipient, but sanctification in African culture is a separation unto a deity

who then places a burden of ownership upon the recipient and a fear of death if any of its ordinances

are not fully met. Jesus said, “…my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

2. Both sanctifications require consecration and purity. Biblical sanctification antecedes holiness and

wholesome life resulting in positive purity and good conscience, African cultural sanctification on

102 James Kolawole, Ibid.


the other hand debilitates and results in negative purity ultimately being the end of the means.

3. Sanctification in African culture is most times conscription and a community decision, but biblical

sanctification is also a personal private affair and voluntary.

4. Biblical sanctification is by grace and is administered by God, the other is by law of men and

administered by men as a cult.

Culture often played a significant role in how the moral imperatives were understood and applied.

Often, the cultural distinctives of the first century which produced the particular tensions within the first

century believers are not easily translated into contemporary contexts. Therefore, the distinctive moralethical

demands relating to Christians have required some re-interpretation throughout the history of

the church, especially as it relates to the doctrine of holiness. This is especially true regarding ‘external

distinctives’ such as apparel, adornment, and secular activities.

Chapter nineteen of Leviticus deals primarily with holiness in social ethics. The chapter begins with

the divine declaration, “. . . Be ye holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:1 NIV).

The chapter defines and describes holiness in all areas of life. The following quote captures the spirit in

this section of the Holiness Code:

Holiness stands as the foundational principle in the long list of precepts set forth in this

chapter. Holiness is the object of all of the moral and ceremonial law. But since God sets

the norm and defines just what holiness does and does not include, God’s holiness acts

both as model and as motivating force in the development and maintenance of a holy

character. To make sure that the point is not lost, fifteen times the sixteen subsections end

with the reminder that, “I am the Lord your God.” 103

It is obvious that many of the culture-specific injunctions of Leviticus cannot be translated into

contemporary social conditions and therefore necessitates some cultural re-interpretation in order to

maintain the relevancy of the principles to contemporary readers as well as those whom they were

originally presented.

The Holiness and Pentecostal movements were birthed out of an American “cultural cradle” and thus

reflected a culturally distinct view of the social aspects of personal holiness. This culturally distinct view

produced certain prohibitions that were targeted against some of the pervasive social ills. Similarly, the

position of women in society during this time informed some of the doctrinal positions as well. Many

of the prohibitions which became part and parcel of holiness doctrine in America and other Western

cultures reveal little or no relevance when placed in different cultural contexts around the globe. Social

issues such as apparel, adornment, social activities, and others are sensitive issues that are inextricably

bound to culture and may not have identical applications in relation to defining holiness.

The obvious challenge faced when holiness and culture are juxtaposed is coming to some

determination of the “necessary things” (see Acts 15:28) of holiness, regardless of culture, while

avoiding perceptions that the decisions are simply the result of some kind of ‘cultural compromise.’

Acts chapter fifteen is considered to be a watershed event in the book of Acts. In this chapter,

the Lucan account provides the narrative surrounding the events of the so called Jerusalem Council.

Although this narrative is usually interpreted in a soteriological context, there is a salient sociological

context with accompanying cultural implications. The cultural aspects dealt with whether or not it was

necessary for the Gentiles to observe the Jewish cultural observances - many of which were inextricably

bound to their identity as God’s holy people.

103 Walter C. Kaiser. New Interpreters Bible (Volume 1). Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1994, page 1131.


The consensus of the council (“it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us”) was to recognize

the ‘cultural specificity’ of the gospel message in certain social contexts. Consequently, they were

careful to identify certain non-negotiable elements (“necessary things”- KJV, “essentials”- NRSV) that

were required to live holy lives regardless of the cultural context. It is the identification of the ‘nonnegotiables’

in contrast to the cultural-specific ‘negotiable’ elements that will aid in dealing with the

tension that exists in maintaining the holiness standard in a culturally diverse Christian context.

Dynamics between Personal and Corporate Sanctification

In Transformed by Grace, J. Ayodeji Adewuya offers the following poignant quote from the work of

Joel R. Beeke:

The call to holiness is, in a real sense, wholistic, for our whole life is involved – soul and body,

time and eternity. It involves every sphere of life in which we are called to move in privacy with

God, in the confidentiality of our homes, in the competitiveness of our occupation or work, in

the pleasures of social friendships…The call to holiness is a seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year

call. It is radically comprehensive; it belongs to the core of religious faith and practice. 104

Although the personal aspect of sanctification is usually the most emphasized aspect, the corporate

aspect (as we observed earlier in this study) is equally important in God’s salvific work in the world.

The call to holiness both includes and transcends the individual response to the work of grace. Personal

sanctification deals primarily with the experience and expression of sanctification in the area of personal

ethics and morality while corporate sanctification involves the interaction of the entire community of faith.

The Pietist, Revivalist, and subsequent Holiness movements highlighted the individual responsibility

to fulfill the requirements of holy living. The focus on personal holiness of the New Testament and early

church seemed to have lost its fervor and became subsumed in the corporate focus of the Western church

which eventually became the Roman Catholic Church.

In the New Testament all believers were called saints or ‘holy ones.’ Eventually saintliness or

holiness was only selectively ascribed to a few living Christians or those who had suffered or became

martyrs. This shift became a “narrowing from the witness of all members down to the extraordinary

achievement of a few.” 105

Personal holiness lost the force it had as a catalyst for the propagation of the Gospel. Consequently,

holiness was relegated to the realm of the clergy under the close control of the church. The responsibility

of personal holiness was mediated through the system of penance. McClendon writes:

The elevation of some church members to distinctive roles of holiness, to sainthood,

implied that not all were saints, and before A.D. 100 it appeared that there were two

Christian paths to heaven, a superior path taken by the saints, the way of the perfect, and

an inferior path for ordinary Christians – the practice of penance. 106

The quest for personal holiness is a pursuit that unites the believer with God in a transformative

relationship. The following terms are important in the understanding of personal holiness:

Consecration is a volunteer surrender, an act by man to separate himself to God. It is more than

104 J. Ayodeji Adewuya. Transformed by Grace. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2004, page 14.

105 James W. McClendon. Systematic Theology (Volume 1 – Ethics). Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press,2002, page 56.

106 Ibid, page 58.


surrendering something, whether it is money, or job, or whatever, to God. It is the surrender of the self

and all its appurtenances to Him. It is a choice to be separate to God no matter the cost. Although it is an

offering or surrender of the self to Him, it also involves His acceptance of the offering: “I beseech you

therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable

unto God, which is your reasonable service”(Romans12:1 [bold letters added for emphasis]).

Those who desire to be holy must and will separate themselves in pursuit of God from the majority

who are satisfied with a deistic existence at best. The pursuit of God and His holiness necessitates that

we refuse to let the majority determine and shape our standard or pursuit of God. Believers must pursue

God and desire to see what God shows, hear what God says, and be where God sends: “I will stand upon

my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall

answer when I am reproved”(Habakkuk 2:1).

Sanctification is subsequent to regeneration. Note: This does not imply a timeline or chronological

order as if these could not happen in some people as a simultaneous event; at least in the experience

of initial sanctification. Regeneration is the impartation of spiritual life to a previously dead, albeit

spiritual, individual. Sanctification is the cleansing of the individual from the pollution of inbred sin.

Sanctification is received by faith that imparts a desire to live a dedicated life of consecration and a

pursuit of right living. The evidence of sanctification is holiness, because sin is abolished by the blood of

Jesus in the life of the sanctified person (Hebrews 9:22; Revelation 1:15).

Holiness is the attitude of agreeing and confessing what God upholds in Words and judgment; the

habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the

habit of agreeing in God’s judgment: that is, hating what He hates and loving what He loves and so

measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. He who most entirely agrees with God,

he is the most holy man.

A holy man will endeavor to shun every known sin, and to keep every known commandment. He will

have a mind skewed towards God, a hearty desire to do His will, a greater fear of displeasing Him than

of displeasing the world, and a love to all the ways of God. He will feel what Paul felt when he said, “I

delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Romans 7:22); and what David felt when he said, “I

esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right and I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:128)

A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. He will not only live the life of faith in Him,

and draw from Him all his daily peace and strength, but he will also labor to have the mind that was in

Him, and to be “conformed to His image” (Romans 8:29). It will be his aim to bear with and forgive

others, even as Christ forgave us; to be unselfish, even as Christ pleased not Himself; to walk in love,

even as Christ loved us; to be lowly-minded and humble, even as Christ made Himself of no reputation

and humbled Himself. He will remember that Christ was a faithful witness for the truth; that He came

not to do His own will; that it was His meat and drink to do His Father’s will; that He would continually

deny Himself in order to minister to others; that He was meek and patient under undeserved insults; that

He thought more of godly poor men than of kings; that He was full of love and compassion to sinners;

that He was bold and uncompromising in denouncing sin; that He sought not the praise of men, when

He might have had it; that He went about doing good; that He was separate from worldly people; that

He continued instant in prayer; that He would not let even His nearest relations stand in His way when

God’s work was to be done. These things a holy man will try to remember. By them he will endeavor

to shape his course in life. He will take to heart the saying of John, “He that saith he abideth in Christ

ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (1 John 2:6); and the saying of Peter that, “Christ

suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Happy is he who

has learned to make Christ his ALL, both for salvation and example! Much time would be saved, and

much sin prevented, if men would oftener ask themselves the question, “What would Christ have said

and done, if He were in my place?”


The journey to a personal sanctification begins when the individual repents. Upon repentance,

justification and regeneration are imparted to the person in a single instantaneous act of God. Both are

two aspects of the same work of grace which follow saving faith. Justification refers to the pardoning

act of God in which the repentant sinner is freed from the guilt of sin and brought into a new and right

relationship with God. It is objective and refers to the one’s status before God. Regeneration is the other

side of the same coin in that spiritual life in Christ is imparted to the repentant, forgiven person who has

reposed believing faith in the accomplished work of Christ. It is the new birth. Here, the concerned is

said to be born again.

As the person remains in faith doing His good pleasure, he grows gradually but steadily being

formed in the image of Christ. “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should

abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification

and honour” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4). Paul here was taking the brethren to task to go further in grace

by separating themselves from all sins, thereby possessing themselves in a sanctified state and in an

ongoing sanctifying process. This duty is individual and personal decision. This is right and relevant far

more today since the end is drawing nearer.

Peter recorded similar admonition as he wrote, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the

Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:

Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied”(1 Peter 1:3). Both passages among others affirm the duty

and obligation upon the Christian to “present your body a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto

the Lord,” who then by His grace sanctifies by the washing of the blood. “Be ye holy, for I am holy,”

is on the first person singular which then specifically adjures the believer. Here is therefore the truth

that we, one by one, need to be set apart from the world, and unto the LORD. We need to live by God’s

standards, not the world’s. Personal sanctification requires the Christian man to set himself apart from

the world unto God.

The concept of corporate holiness is found in the fact that holiness cannot be limited to only the

personal (individual) relationship with God, but it also incorporates the relationship with people in the

context of corporate bodies (i.e. organizations, nations, or families). Dieter writes, “As we grow closer to

Christ, we grow closer to each other. We are sanctified through fellowship with those who are in Christ

with us.” 107 This concept is initially seen in Israel’s relationship with God. After the deliverance from

Egyptian bondage, God established a covenant with them in the wilderness. The following narrative is

found in Exodus 19: 3-6:

And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus

shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did

unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now

therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar

treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom

of priests, and an holy nation.

Israel’s holiness was established based on their obedience to the word that God had spoken. The

corporate holiness was to be exhibited in the requirements for a social holiness which prescribed the

responsibility of the nation to issues such as justice and equality as seen throughout the Old Testament,

especially in the prophetic writings.

God’s will for His chosen Israel was to be holy. Yes, for every being brought forth its kind. So being

God’s people must fully engender holiness in His people for He is holy. The nature and character of God

107 Melvin E. Dieter. Ibid, page 64.


is holiness. He wants His people as a community to be holy. He required Israel by Moses to sanctify

them as they appeared before Him (Genesis 19:10, 14).

In Joshua 7:13, God commanded Joshua:

Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow: for thus saith the

Lord God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst

not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

God forever will require His people to be holy, so that He usually made a difference between them

and any other. In the account in Joshua chapter 7, Achan had brought an accursed wedge in the midst of

His people, Israel. So, the camp had been desecrated and made unholy. In this state God cast off from

among them: for “He cannot behold iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13). The way to get God on their side was to

sanctify the camp by taking away the perpetrator of the defilement in question—the accursed wedge!

In the plagues of Egypt, the first three plagues affected both Egypt and Israel; the rest were on

the Egyptians only (Exodus8:22). So that could make a distinction between them and His own. God

changeth not (Malachi 3: 6); such that today as ever He demands His people to be separate from the

world. Continually, we see God asking His servants to sanctify His people who were always being

polluted by the vagaries of everyday life, “Then said he unto me, this is the place where the priests shall

boil the trespass offering and the sin offering, where they shall bake the meat offering; that they bear

them not out unto the utter court, to sanctify the people” (Ezekiel 46:20).

In being the ultimate sacrifice and sanctifier of God’s people, Jesus was crucified outside of the

city gate, that is, “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered

without the gate” (Hebrews 13:12). Christ’s church must even more so now bear the true marks of God’s

holiness; for Christ is not coming back for a suffocating, wasting, polluted, and sick church; rather He

is coming back for a going, doing, prevailing, vibrant, and holy (without spot, without wrinkle, without

blemish) church, His body.

In the New Testament, Peter picks up the corporate theme in 1 Peter 2: 9, “But ye are a chosen

generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation. . .” Peter’s focus on holiness in the corporate context

again underscores the fact that holiness transcends individual responsibility and identity. One of the

more contemporary metaphors for the church is that of a community of faith. As we reflect on this

ecclesial understanding, we are forced to consider the issue of holiness in this context. One question that

is engendered by this consideration is, “How do we relevantly define holiness within the context of a

multi-ethnic, multi-cultural community whose members are trying to live out their faith in the world?”

Vital Nature of Prayer and Holiness

“To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love.” 108 This quote by A.W.

Tozer underscores the continuous nature of the pursuit of holiness. Holiness is not a static state, but it is

a dynamic relationship with God that requires constant interaction with God’s grace. One of the catalysts

of this dynamic relationship is prayer. In his groundbreaking work on prayer, E.M. Bounds wrote:

Prayer is related to all the gifts of grace. Its relationship to character and conduct is

that of a helper. Prayer helps to establish character and to fashion conduct. Both, for

their successful continuance, depend on prayer. There may be a certain degree of moral

character and conduct independent of prayer, but there cannot be any distinctive religious

character and Christian conduct without it. Prayer helps where all other aids fail. The

108 A.W. Tozer. The Pursuit of God. Philadelphia, PA: Christian Publications, 1982, page 14.


more we pray, the better we are, and the purer and better our lives become. 109

Prayer, without a doubt, is the quintessential element in the pursuit of holiness. When we understand

that holiness is more than a state, but a dynamic relationship, we will also understand that it is the

relationship that produces and maintains the life of holiness. There is a certain irony in the fact that

while prayer purifies the heart, a pure heart empowers the life of prayer. Prayer both fulfills the desire for

holiness and at the same time recreates and fuels the desire. It is from this creative tension that emerges

the “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Undoubtedly, this is why the Bible, especially the New

Testament, consistently emphasized the need for prayer in the life of believers.

The Holiness movement was a movement grounded in prayer. The history of the movement shows

a total dependence on prayer to effectuate the grace of God in their lives. Their rejection of human

efforts in relation to what God was doing in their lives became the foundation for much of their doctrinal

formulations. The Pentecostal movement also grounded the experience of the Spirit in the life of prayer.

The narratives in the book of Acts of the Apostles underscores the role of the Spirit in prayer as the early

church sought to pursue the holiness modeled by Jesus.

Holiness – A Love Relationship

The doctrines of grace and faith are inextricably bound to the concept of love. This is especially true

as it relates to holiness. John Wesley’s view on sanctification was very much influenced by his insight

into the relationship between love and holiness. “The concept ‘faith working by love’ (see Galatians

5:6), as the ultimate hermeneutic for understanding God’s entire plan of salvation strongly shaped his

teachings on sanctification.” 110 According to Wesley, “perfection is the humble, gentle, patient love for

God, and our neighbor, ruling our tempers, words and actions” 111 Wesley understood the requirements

of believers under grace as fulfilling the “royal law of love.” In Five Views on Sanctification – The

Wesleyan View, Dieter writes, “The Christian life is designed under grace to be a progressive movement

from the new birth to entire sanctification and perfection of love. The end result of Christian perfection

is not an inner spirituality but works of love.” 112

The life of faith is essentially love in action. Obedience flows out of love for God and his word.

Holiness is a manifestation of the love relationship with God. Dietier continues, “Since love cannot

exist without the action of a moral being, the bent of Wesleyan theology is decidedly ethical; the essence

of sanctification is love in action.” 113 So then holiness finds its greatest expression in our love for God

and others. John’s proclamation that “. . .God is love” (1 John 4:8) underscores the centrality of love in

biblical theology. Paul also emphasizes the quintessential nature of love in Christian spirituality and the

operation of spiritual gifts, “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and

all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am

nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).

Christianity can be essentially defined as a movement that flows out of the Great Commandment and

motivated by the Great Commission. The Great Commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with

all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And

the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37- 39, emphasis added).

Love always denotes relationship because there can be no love without an object to which it is directed.

Christianity transcends religion. The basis of Christianity is relationship – a relationship born out of love

109 E. M. Bounds. Prayer. Philadelphia, PA: Whitaker House, 1997, page 148.

110 Melvin E. Dieter. Ibid, page 13.

111 John Wesley. A Plain Account of Christian Perfection. London: The Epworth Press, 1952.

112 Ibid, page 27.

113 Ibid.


for God and His creation. Holiness is love relationship with God that results in right relationship with

the rest of His creation.

Holiness doctrine must, by necessity, have love as its foundation. Without love, any holiness

doctrine will become self-serving, self-righteous, and legalistic. Our pursuit of holiness must be a pursuit

of a deeper love relationship with God. Sanctification, in all it aspects, is part of the movement toward

that love relationship.

Initial Sanctification/Ongoing Sanctification

Several Pentecostal scholars have alluded to this departure from the more accurate and full

definitions given by John Wesley and other holiness preachers. We see this revealed by comments like:

Where the Wesleyan-Arminian teaching stresses the crisis aspect of sanctification to

the neglect of the post-sanctification development and problems, the Keswickian (later

Calvinistic ministers) tends to stress either the separation aspect (distinction between

nature and grace and the conflict between them) or the growth aspect, to the neglect of

the critical crisis aspect…the Scriptures to which both cling hold both crisis and process

in creative unity and encourage deep involvement in life. 114

Furthermore, we read the following observation made after examining those phrases instantaneous

sanctification and entire sanctification:

Righteousness speaks of the ordering of all of life according to the will of God. It

describes the structure, limits and contours of that relationship. There can be no peace

with God and no true joy without righteousness. But righteousness will never be

perfectly realized in this world because of human fallibility and worldly rebellion. The

interim fulfillment of the Law and thus of all righteousness is love…The awareness of

this struggle, the vigilance, consecration and the travail of praying through to peace, all

contribute to the compassionate drive of Pentecostals toward the world; their neighbors

are not only transgressors, but also, like themselves, are defiled and inwardly alienated

from the life of holiness and happiness. This peace borne of perfect love and reverence is

a moment-by-moment abiding in Christ through the Spirit and the Word. 115

Therefore, the pursuit of holiness should always be the focus rather than theoretical phrases that can

often be misleading and discouraging to the believer who desires to walk holy before God. It was Paul,

the most theological of apostles, who teaches the followers of Jesus Christ by his own admission:

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but

that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

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. Not as though I had already attained, either were already

perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended

of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do,

114 Mildred Bangs Wynkoop. Foundations of Wesleyan-Arminian Theology. Kansas City, KS: Beacon Hill Press, 1967,

Page 107.

115 Steven J. Land. Pentecostal Spirituality. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001, Page 176.


forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are

before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus

(Philippians 3:9-14).

More Biblical Explorations of Sanctification/Holiness

It is true that we are caught up into a unique relationship as newborn creatures in Christ Jesus.

Within the Bible there are pivotal truths that are essential to a believer’s understanding and growth.

These include two concepts that we cannot ignore: 1) the truths related to our salvation, including what

God has already done for us, and yet what He will still do; and, 2) the imperatives that reveal how we as

Christians should live as a consequence of His ongoing work of sanctification. The beginning point of

sanctification is our belief in salvation—that believes what God has done for us in salvation. Therefore,

our relationship entails what He has done in the past and what He will yet do for us in the future. Both

require an infusion of the Holy Spirit to open for us the way that we should walk. A voice that came out

of the nineteenth century Holiness movement fire, Horatius Bonar, wrote so applicably:

The gospel does not command us to do anything in order to obtain life, but it bids us live

by that which another has done; and the knowledge of its life-giving truth is not labor but

rest—rest of soul, which is the root of all true labor, but we rest in order to work. 116

In reality, our sanctification is reliant upon believing the truth of “who we are in Christ,” resting in

His finished work at Calvary, and then living out through the help of the Spirit the implications of this

new standing in Christ Jesus.

For many years, there has been too much contrasting of instantaneous sanctification against

progressive sanctification. Instead, these ill-fitting terms could be better rendered as initial sanctification

and ongoing sanctification, which are always to be held in close association. As we move from a

dogmatic phrase like ‘sinless perfection’ to a more complete understanding of the work of the Holy

Spirit, we will not dilute or weaken the complete work of Jesus Christ, but will enlarge upon our

understanding to see the Triune nature of God operating more perfectly through the continuing operation

of the Holy Spirit in the believer from the moment of conversion until the final change has moved us

from mortality to immortality (i.e. 2 Corinthians 3:18, 1 Corinthians 15:52-53).

A little known book stated the beauty of this juxtaposition that takes place in the believer:

Our sanctification is dependent upon believing the truth of who we are in Christ, resting

in His finished work, and then living out the implications of this new perspective…

In actual practice, it is the dawning of this perspective which is the foundation for all

practical sanctification. Hence Paul’s emphasis on ‘knowing’ that this is the situation

(Romans 6:3-9) leads to his summons to believers to ‘count’ themselves dead to sin and

alive to God in Christ Jesus (v. 11). Sanctification is therefore the consistent practical

outworking of what it means to belong to the new creation in Christ…We believe that

God’s desire for us in the ongoing process of sanctification is for us to experience in real

life who we really are in Christ. This necessitates choosing to believe who we are on a

daily basis. 117

116 Bonar, Horatius. God’s Way of Holiness. New York, NY: Robert Carter & Brothers Publishing, 1865, Pages 41-42.

117 Neal Anderson and Robert L. Saucy. The Common Made Holy. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1997, Page 177.


No issue has been more debated or misunderstood than the conflict about positional and relational

sanctification (Note the appendix at the end of this study). During the late nineteenth century, this was

the conflict that divided and hindered the pursuit of holiness and planted seeds of internal strife that

crept deceptively into the powerful awakening to the moving of the Holy Spirit in the early years of

the twentieth century. In fact, the transition to Pentecostalism that was birthed through the Holiness

movement can continue to blossom in the twenty-first century if churches and theologians will not allow

elitism to push them toward one of the extremes of sanctification and holiness. 118 As in the crux of time

that wedded the Holiness and Pentecostal movements together, our ‘pursuit of holiness’ must be initiated

and cultivated by answering the call of the Holy Spirit that embraces both the positional and relational

aspects of sanctification.

This brings us to the powerful statement of Hebrews 10:14 that has both a positional and ongoing

sense in the original language: “For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are being

sanctified” (NKJV). Unfortunately, the KJV version did not catch this two-fold work of the Spirit’s

sanctifying power through Jesus Christ, but this truth-formula appears in the original Greek text and an

overwhelming majority of other reliable translations. This certainty was expounded upon in 1894 by

the renowned Andrew Murray who wrote during the heart of the transition between the Holiness and

Pentecostal movements:

The chief thought of the passage is: He hath for ever perfected them that are being

sanctified. The words in verse 10, In which will we have been sanctified, speak of our

sanctification as an accomplished fact: we are saints, holy in Christ, in virtue of our real

union in Him, and His holy life planted in the centre of our being. Here we are spoken

of as being sanctified. There is a process by which our new life in Christ has to master

and to perfect holiness through our whole outer being. But the progressive sanctification

has its rest and its assurance in the ONCE and FOREVER of Christ’s work. He hath

perfected for ever them that are being sanctified. 119

Where does this lead us? Hopefully, in a sincere earnestness to have faith to seek both an initial

sanctifying experience, and yet to continue through the self-same Spirit an ongoing pursuit of His


This unfortunate past of contrasting the two classical viewpoints over sanctification did not benefit

the Holiness movement in the nineteenth century and it undercuts even today any real and effective

outcome in the lives of those who seek to walk in holiness. Subsequently, we must do as Paul declares in

Ephesians 4:14-16:

As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and

carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in

deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects

into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and

held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each

individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love


118 Synan, Vinson. Spirit Empowered Christianity in the 21 st Century. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House (Strang Co.), 2011,

Pages 198-204.

119 Murray, Andrew. The Holiest of All. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co, 1894, Page 344.


Washing of the Blood/Water/Spirit

The image of Jesus Christ at Calvary informs us a great deal about the proper relationship of the

believer through the suffering and mediated death of Christ on the cross. When the soldiers came to him

and found the Savior dead on the cross, they did not break His legs as customary. ..................

But without full comprehension that they were fulfilling Scripture, one of them took a spear and pierced

his side from which flowed both blood and water (John 19:34). It is more than coincidental that the

next verse (35) records a remark that John is a witness to this particular action and that he rehearses this

truth to cause others to believe. As one comes to understand the beauty of this symphonic act of divine

provision, you will come to appreciate this vital illustration of how the work the Holy Spirit will perform

this cleansing in our lives and usher us into a life of holiness. The Scriptures clearly follow this truth by

giving evidence of the initial act of sanctification in the believer through the blood (i.e. Hebrews 13:12,

Colossians 1:19-20), yet gives ample witness to the ongoing work of sanctification through the Word of

God (i.e. Ephesians 5:25-26, Hebrews 10:19-22). Both of these are a glorious and harmonious act that

will be continually played out through centuries in the life of every believer who looks upon Christ for

the hope of holiness. As the Holy Spirit applies the shed blood of Jesus as the initial act of sanctification

to bring us into good standing with the Father through the Son, so will the Holy Spirit apply the

“washing of the water by the word of God” (Ephesians 5:26) to continually sanctify the believer in

Christ as an onward movement toward the Father. Since the word of God is always clean, it acts like

the pure water that washes us holy before the Lord. Here is a brief description of this glorious work of

sanctification that ushers us toward the holy:

Making real who we are in Christ is enlivened not only by looking at the realities of the

past and present in Christ, but also by exercising faith in the promises of the future. As

life grows out of the seed in which it is started and the soil in which it is planted, so it

is drawn to the sun beyond it. Because God’s promises are grounded on what He has

already done in Christ, they are gospel indicatives as sure as the realities of the past. Our

effort to be holy is fueled by the ‘living hope’ (1 Peter 1:3) that one day we will be like

our Lord (1 John 3:2-3) and we will live in a new creation that Peter describes as ‘the

home of righteousness’ (2 Peter 3:13). 120

Dynamics between Sanctification and Holiness

If we overlook the pneumatological aspect of sanctification and holiness, we will always find

ourselves looking back rather than forward. Our reception of the Spirit by faith and not by the law has

thrust us into new territory that those before the Resurrection and Pentecost could never have understood

or experienced. As believers, we must go further than believing that there was just one historical day

on which we were sanctified, we must embrace fully the reality that “we are to walk in the Spirit”

(Romans 8:9-14; 1 John 1:6, 7). While every believer needs to understand and experience the initial

sanctifying experience through the shed blood of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2, 6:11; Hebrews 10:29),

the work of the Holy Spirit continues the ongoing application of sanctification—through the Word of

God that washes us continually (1 Timothy 4:5; Hebrews 10:22). Yet, we cannot separate either of these

applications, whether past, present, or future from the Holy Spirit that sanctified us and remains the

sanctifying agent to open our hearts and lives to the light of God’s Word. Simply said, this is the entire

impetus of John 15 and the teaching of Jesus on the vine and the branches. The flow of the Spirit must

120 Murray, Andrew. Ibid, page 180.


always be fed continually into every part of every branch if there is to be a life-producing relationship

that bears fruit for the Vinedresser. This reminds us of the New Testament dynamic of the “already, not

yet” principle.

The clearness of the constant and ongoing Trinitarian influence on our lives is imperative. In many

ways, this writing sums it up succinctly:

Of course, justification, sanctification, and Spirit baptism cannot be reduced to a specific

experience or a momentary phase. These terms can also function as lenses through which

to view the entire eschatological span of the Christian life in the Spirit. They overlap and

mutually illuminate each other. The concentration on consciously becoming the dwelling

place of God and on Spirit Baptism as the most telling metaphor of this experience is the

distinct blessing that the Pentecostal movement has given to the larger body of Christ. 121

There is an irreplaceable, uncompromising dynamic between righteousness, holiness, and

sanctification. While there are many Scripture verses that clearly indicate a synergy among these vital

essentials in the life of the believer, the Scriptures project holiness as a result, a milestone, or steps

along a journey toward Jesus Christ (Romans 6:22; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 4:24; 1 Thessalonians

4:7; Hebrews 12:10). On the other hand, Scripture tends to use sanctification as an action taking

place in one’s heart or life; it designates the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing us into a holy place

or relationship. It is more than just an instantaneous one-time event; the one who is being sanctified is

constantly under the influence and purifying process that can be described by water and by fire (John

17:17; Ephesians 5:26; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:12).

Righteousness (Where Does It Come From?)

How Does It Relate to Holiness and Sanctification?

This brings us to the term righteousness; that relates rightfully to the nature and work of God,

through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The remarkable scholar Alexander Cruden defined it as:

[1] That perfection of the divine nature, whereby God is most just, and most holy in

himself, and in all his dealings with his creatures and observes the strictest rules of

rectitude and equity. [2] The clemency, mercy, and goodness of God. [3] His truth and

faithfulness in fulfilling and making good his promises. [4] The active and passive

obedience of Christ, whereby he perfectly fulfilled the law, and propitiated the justice of

God: which obedience being imputed to the elect, and received by faith, their sins are

pardoned, their persons accepted, and they are brought to eternal glory. 122

There you have the foundation and essence of sanctification and holiness. They are both the response

to the unparalleled gift of God to humanity. Righteousness belongs to God and believers can only

experience and produce it by faith in the One who is perfect and altogether righteous. We are simply

caught up through His power into something we could never produce without faith and the power of the

Holy Spirit. The following describes and challenges us to seek God to discover this rich blessing:

121 Macchia, Frank D. Justified in the Spirit. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2010, page 92.

122 Cruden, Alexander. Cruden’s Unabridged Concordance. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co, 1976,

Page 402.


Righteousness speaks of the ordering of all of life according to the will of God.

It describes the structure, limits, and contours of that relationship. There can be

no peace with God and no true joy without righteousness. But righteousness will

never be perfectly realized in this world because of human fallibility and worldly

rebellion. The interim fulfillment of the Law and thus of all righteousness is love.

The heart of Pentecostal spirituality is love. A passion for the kingdom is a passion for

the king; it is a longing, as has been shown already, to see God and to be at home. When

the heart is whole in its love for God there is a profound peace. It is the peace purchased

on Calvary and applied through the blood of Jesus to the believer to Calvary and applied

through the blood of Jesus to the believer to cleanse from all filthiness of flesh and spirit,

perfecting holiness in the fear of God. This deep fear and reverence for God, with the

realization that salvation is a dynamic relationship and not a static inevitability, gives

an edge to Pentecostal spirituality. There is little peace and rest for the double-minded

person who regards iniquity or resistance in his or her heart. The awareness of this

struggle, the vigilance, consecration and the travail of praying through to peace, all

contribute to the compassionate drive of Pentecostals toward the world; their neighbors

are not only transgressors, but also, like themselves, are defiled and inwardly alienated

from the life of holiness and happiness. This peace borne of perfect love and reverence is

a moment-by-moment abiding in Christ through the Spirit and the Word. 123

In 2 Peter 2:1-4, the aged apostle writes:

Partakers of the Divine Nature

Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained

like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus

Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of

Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain

unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and

virtue: 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 (emphasis added).

The natural must give way to the divine. This is no casual exercise of fleshly efforts as Paul

demonstrates in Romans 7:13-25. Paul recognized like Peter the importance of having the mind

transformed and protected from all fleshly appetites (12:1-2). The word “partakers” comes from the

Greek word, koinonos. It is an adjective used to describe one who is “a companion or partner, having

something in common.” Peter tells the early believers in Christ that by their “like precious faith” (v. 1),

they are partners or companions of Jesus; therefore, since He is resurrected unto life, they too have been

resurrected unto life. But it goes beyond just having a second chance to live again; rather it signifies the

privilege as His companion or partner through faith to have His same divine nature. He is not speaking

about some futile reincarnation into another creature or being subjugated to the same difficulties and

weaknesses that all other fallen creatures have suffered since the Fall of Adam. Peter is not speaking of

living in the same human body enslaved to sin, rather he writes of having been delivered from the carnal

123 Steven J. Land. Ibid, page 176.


or human nature that forces us to sin and live an ungodly lifestyle. But he is not saying, we will in this

flesh be freed forever from failing, making mistakes or even committing a sin; but, we now have the

power to choose not to sin. As Christians, we want to have the faith to be a full partner or companion of

Christ’s divine nature. Therefore, we need to understand that God’s power provides everything we need

to live a godly life through a relationship with Jesus.

This desire to be a ‘partaker’ or partner with Christ is expressed simply this way:

The intense pursuit of holiness is to be the predominant priority of every Christian.

Actually the pursuit of holiness is a spiritual mindset. The Greek word for pursuit (dioko)

means “an intense or passionate effort.” If someone is Spirit-filled, there will be a burning

thirst to experience Christ’s holiness in every corner of his being. 124

The Pastoral Call to Holiness

When the Holy Spirit moved upon Zacharias, he prophesied that God was visiting His people and

sending a redeemer that we “. . . might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before

him all the days of our life” (Luke 1:74-75). The writer of Hebrews said that “. . . without holiness, no

one would see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14 NIV). From these and numerous other passages in the New

Testament it is clear that holiness is an important doctrine regardless of the fact that many fear legalism

on the one hand and fanaticism on the other anytime the subject is addressed. Nonetheless, even though

the definition may be debated, the New Testament is clear that holiness is expected and required of all


Biblical holiness has to do with the inner character or condition of the human heart. Righteousness

which is rooted in holiness has more to do with ‘right conduct’ in an ethical sense of uprightness. Any

right conduct which does not grow out of holiness can be a form of legalism. For example, the Pharisees

were meticulous about tithing the tiniest herbs (right conduct) but neglected the holiness of the heart. Thus

Jesus condemned them for washing the outside of the cup while leaving the inside full of corruption. His

imperative to them was to first clean the inside of the cup or the heart (holiness) so that the outside of the

cup (righteousness) would be clean also. A person may behave exemplary in many ways and yet have a

rotten heart. For example, a person may be outwardly faithful to his/her companion and be an adulterer in

the heart. Such a person would not be living a holy life even though appearances suggest otherwise. Thus

one can live uprightly and not be holy, but one can never be holy and not also live uprightly.

Therefore, we might add that holiness is not something that we humans can measure in one another

because only God knows the heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Nor can we impose or force one another to obtain

holiness. However, we can study the characteristics of holiness and encourage one another to hunger and

thirst after it and thus to be filled.

The psalmist states of God in 51:6, “You desire truth in the inward parts” and then in a few more

verses he says, “Purge me….wash me….create in me a clean heart, O God.” These verses tell us what

God desires in us is “a clean heart” and that a pure heart is a work of God. It also suggests that our role

in the pursuit of holiness is to allow the Spirit of God to show us where we are inwardly untruthful or

conflicted. For example, a person may be inwardly jealous of another individual and fail to admit such a

thing to themselves or to God, let alone to anyone else. In fact, outwardly he/she may be very nice to that

person, act kindly, and have only good things to say and, yet, be eaten up with inward jealousy. The God

who desires truthfulness in the inward parts wants that individual to slow down and listen to Him in prayer

so that He can reveal to him/her the cruel jealousy that has taken hold in his/her heart. Only then, after

confession and repentance will God purge, wash, and cleanse that heart of jealousy.

124 Gregory R. Frizzell. Returning to Holiness. Memphis, TN: Master Design Ministries, 2000, pages 21-22.



The Controversy over the Three Blessings

I. The Holiness Seeds of Pre-Pentecostalism

a. Pietism, Moravians and the Methodists

b. The Paradoxical Views of John Wesley and John Fletcher

II. The Roots of Pentecostalism—A Divided Holiness Movement

a. The Splintering of the Wesleyan Holiness Revival

b. Instantaneous, Progressive or Both

III. The Growth of the Schismatic Tree—Controversy Deepens and Spreads

a. Distortions of Calvin and Wesley’s Doctrines

b. The Influence of American Perfectionism and the Keswick Revival

IV. The Controversy Blossoms and Propagates as the Latter Rain Falls

a. Azusa and Seymour- Three Distinct Groups of Holiness Adherents

b. Durham and the “Finished Work” Movement

V. The First Blessing Theology

a. Conversion and Sanctification

b. “Oneness” Theology

VI. The Second Blessing Theology

a. Progressive or Ongoing Sanctification

b. Baptism of the Holy Spirit as the Second Blessing

VII. The Third Blessing Theology

a. The Origin of Sanctification as the Second Definite Work of Grace

b. From Instantaneous Sanctification to the Continuing Work of the Spirit

Conclusion- “A Call for Essentials”

a. The Danger of Dogmatism

b. Essentials Versus Non-Essentials


The intent was pure, the means questionable, the results divisive. The history of the Holiness

movement, as well as the Pentecostal movement fits this ironic yet simple one-line description.

Beginning with the Holiness movement that burst on the religious scene in the early nineteenth

century and later when the Pentecostal movement awakened in the start of the twentieth century, there

developed one central underlying issue that divided both movements regardless the amazing spiritual

contributions that resulted for mankind. There is no questioning the intent of the major players, they

wanted to promote and foster an increased spirituality within people (especially Christian believers). Yet

their actions and doctrinal persuasions often became questionable. Whether the divisions that followed


were within God’s providential will, the Lord will be the judge of the results. But unbelievers and many

believers who observed such fractures were almost always confused by it and regrettably sometimes

turned away from the greatest Christian movement since the Reformation. It was the historian of Azusa

Street that sums it up so appropriately:

What the people need is a living Christ, not dogmatic, doctrinal contention. Much harm

was done the work in the beginning by unwise zeal. The cause suffered most from those

within its own ranks as always. But God had some real heroes He could depend upon.

Most of these sprang from the deepest obscurity into sudden prominence and power, and

then as quickly retired again, when their work was done. 125

Throughout the subsequent pages, there will be an examination of the enduring controversy that

began to split the earlier Holiness movement in the middle of the nineteenth century, and then in the

Pentecostal movement in the early twentieth century. Yet, to rightfully examine the controversy over the

‘Three Blessings’, the sincere seeker of truth must understand both the sincerity of those early Holiness

pioneers and their human weaknesses that sometimes divided them. From the inception of the seeds

that produced the Holiness movement, much can be learned. These seeds of the Holiness movement

came from the Moravians who were a product of German Pietism. No group had a greater impact on

John Wesley than the Moravians and their particular brand of Pietism. 126 Pietism’s basic beliefs are well

chronicled and were very influential in the development of the Holiness movement. These included:

affirmation of the ‘new birth’ by the Holy Spirit; the experience of God that effects the way in which

a Christian lives (sanctification); the necessity of a Christian community that sets itself apart from

the society at large; the insistence on a definite set of steps based on a development of a confession in

orthodox beliefs; and, a near-exclusive use of terms to denote a particular Protestant group. 127

The Roots of Pentecostalism—A Divided Holiness Movement

John Calvin and John Wesley’s theologies have surely been misrepresented and modified by all

sides, even among Holiness theologians and preachers. Wesley must be credited with the emergence of

the doctrine of a “second blessing,” a crisis experience subsequent to conversion that eventually would

have a powerful influence on Pentecostalism. Yet, he was often misread and reinterpreted by others

who did not always reflect his true thoughts. 128 Throughout his life he expressed an ambiguity in his

writings as to what he meant by his “perfect love” doctrine and his “second blessing.” In fact, it was a

spiritual state to which he never professed to have reached. In his sermon “A Plain Account of Christian

Perfection,” he wrote that in some cases it is not instantaneous. 129 By the nineteenth century, Methodism,

Holiness, and Pentecostalism movements did not represent him well.

Wesley’s chosen theologian John Fletcher was the first to use the phrase Baptism of the Holy Spirit

and he also began to differ imperceptibly with Wesley by teaching that this baptism was a distinct

125 Frank Bartleman. Azusa Street (The Centennial Edition). Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos Pub., 1980, page 113.

126 Bill Diehl Jr, Editor. “Protestant Revivalism, Pentecostalism and the Drift Back to Rome.” Julian, CA: Present Truth

Magazine, Volume Five, Article 5, 2011, page 3.

127 Stanley Burgess and Eduard Van Der Maas. The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal Charismatic Movement.

Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003, page 610.

128 Allan Anderson. Spreading Fires (The Missionary Nature of Early Pentecostalism). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2007,

page 19.

129 Peter Althouse. “Wesleyan and Reformed Impulses in the Keswick and Pentecostal Movements.” Wyoming, MI: The

Pneuma Foundation, October 2003, pages 8-9.


experience. 130 Much could be written about the relationship and differences between these two peers, but

they were heavily influenced by Pietism. Early signs of a dividing Holiness movement were beginning

to surface. Neither Calvin’s doctrine of predestination nor Wesley’s perfectionism survived the breaches

that were beginning to appear among people who believed in holiness. As the movement encompassed

more believers, Holiness and Pentecostal leaders would unsuspectingly allow the ‘two or three acts of

grace’ to fracture the growing movement. 131 But doctrinal theology about conversion and sanctification

were not the exclusive reasons or impetus behind the splits, often the motivation was less than holy

(such as who would control institutions or groups). 132

The Growth of the Schismatic Tree—Controversy Deepens and Spreads

In researching the development of the Holiness movement, one disturbing socialistic or national

consciousness had sway over the development of holiness theology. American Revivalism and later

Pentecostalism were heavily impacted by the effects of the Enlightenment and Romantic beliefs

in human self-fulfillment. 133 This may not seem a significant fact, but escaping from the strict

predestination doctrine carried over from European monarchicalism, American Christians were just as

hungry to experience their religion with color and excitement. 134 Entering into this mix was the teaching

and preaching of such revivalist as Charles Finney and Phoebe Palmer. Finney was now using freely

such terms as “sinless perfection” and “entire sanctification.” He attacked those who disagreed through

letters and in the pulpits where his dynamic deliverance attracted the masses. 135 But Finney used more

rhetoric and almost no exegesis of Scripture to support his sharply dividing messages.

While Wesley and Fletcher had spoken of ‘sanctification’ and the ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit’ as

“two sides of the same coin,” Phoebe Palmer preached the second work of grace as a “shorter way” of

completing the perfection and ecstasy that early saints had taken an entire lifetime to reach. She began to

insist that it was an instant crisis experience, but she also taught passionately that the ‘Second Blessing’

was realized by what she called the ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit.’ Several resources document her firm

belief that sanctification and the Holy Spirit were accomplished in the same instantaneous experience. 136

With the spawning of the Great Welsh Revival and Keswick Revival, the Reformed wing of the

Holiness movement was significantly influenced, but also was the Pentecostal movement. Keswick

was devoted to scriptural revival and this development brought about the Higher Life conferences. The

concept displaced the Second Blessing as ‘eradication of the sinful nature’ in favor of the ‘Baptism

of the Holy Spirit’ and as an ‘enduement of power for service.’ Finally, sanctification was not seen as

a ‘state of perfection,’ but a ‘maintained condition.’ Men like D. L. Moody, R. A. Torrey, Adoniram

Gordon and Wilbur Chapman opened the divide in the holiness camp by adopting this belief about the

Second Blessing. 137 By end of the nineteenth century, the seeds were planted and the roots had grown to

produce a major outpouring of power that blossomed into a beautiful season of ‘Latter Rain.’ Yet, Azusa

Street would welcome both the problematic and powerful over the next 20 years.

130 Allan Anderson. Spreading the Fires. Ibid, page 19.

131 Peter Althouse. Ibid, page 13.

132 Frank Bartleman. Azusa Street (Centennial Edition). Ibid, page 196.

133 Frank Bartleman. Azusa Street (Centennial Edition). Ibid, page 4.

134 Bill Diehl Jr, Editor. “Protestant Revivalism, Pentecostalism and the Drift Back to Rome.” Ibid, pages 4-5.

135 Charles Finney. Reflections on Revival (Compiled by Donald Dayton). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Fellowship, 1979,

pages 80-81.

136 Vinson Synan. Spirit Empowered Christianity in the 21 st Century. Ibid, pages 26-27.

137 Vinson Synan. Spirit Empowered Christianity in the 21 st Century. Ibid, pages 29-30.


The Controversy Blossoms and Propagates as the Latter Rain Falls

As the twentieth century opened, the predicament on the edges of the Holiness movement was a

fluid one, vulnerable to a multitude of interpretations and methodologies beyond any inquiry of one

ecclesiastical or academic oversight. Although many great leaders stood ready to lead into new spiritual

experiences, these Holiness people were so marked by the rifts which preceded Azusa that they were

destined to separate and be permanently redirected. 138 The soon-to-be Pentecostals were bringing a rich

diverse legacy of Holiness doctrine and worship that would unite but also divide them.

With the rise of Seymour and the fantastic displays of spiritual power poured out at Azusa

Street, the past differences seemed to melt away in the glorious and fresh rain of Pentecost.

Nationalistic, doctrinal, racial and even color lines vanished as the Holy Spirit manifestations came

abundantly upon all those who attended those first two years at what seemed to be never-ending

revival. Yet, there was a constant troublesome undercurrent among these new Pentecostals of the

importance of ‘walking in all the light you had.’ Some felt and others preached that believers

‘would not go up in the rapture’ if they had not received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. 139 Proper

time or space cannot be given in this kind of document to William Seymour, but he will forever

be credited as the real catalyst of the great Pentecostal revival of the twentieth century. Yet even

Seymour could not prevent himself from being caught up in the fray and divisive attitudes that

eventually spread like irritating pollen. 140

Basically, the Holiness movement had been divided into three main factions. The first group

became known as Holiness independents who taught that an “entirely sanctified membership would

result in blameless conduct and peace in the church.” As their teachings evolved, many adopted the

‘three blessings’ motif, but this did not remain intact as schisms over the teaching of being ‘entirely

sanctified’ resurfaced again to divide them. This was followed by several splits which did little to

cause anyone to believe in the blameless conduct and peace it promised. There were also the Keswick

Holiness churches that continued to teach the two blessings. The last group of Holiness believers

reverted back to the one blessing theory that was greatly modified to include the Holy Spirit baptism

as a sign of conversion. 141 More on this group will be examined later.

One of the most prominent names of the early Pentecostal movement after Azusa Street was

William H. Durham. While he had attended the Azusa Revival later on, he was the first to challenge

what had evolved into the three blessing theology. After some time of searching the Scriptures, he

stopped preaching instant sanctification and developed the theology called the ‘finished work of

Calvary.’ This teaching believed that the work of Christ was sufficient on the cross for both salvation

and sanctification. It was for this very belief and preaching that William Seymour locked him out

of the Azusa Street church. Subsequently, the ‘Finished Work’ doctrine came to stress a gradual

sanctification, not an instantaneous one, in which the sanctifying work of Christ is ‘appropriated’ over

a believer’s lifetime. 142 This position came to be embraced by the Assemblies of God, the world’s

largest Pentecostal denomination, as well as a majority of Pentecostal churches. Certainly, there were

still many Pentecostals who did not agree.

138 Stanley Burgess and Eduard Van Der Maas. Ibid, page 728.

139 Steven J. Land. Pentecostal Spirituality (A Passion for the Kingdom). Sheffield Academic Press: Sheffield, England,

2001, page 77.

140 Frank Bartleman. Ibid, page 170.

141 Stanley Burgess and Eduard Van Der Maas. Ibid, pages 726-727.

142 Vinson Synan. Ibid, pages 121-126.


The First Blessing Theology

Entering into the fray of the disagreements over questionable passages, an honest observer first

recognizes that often more opinion and theology has been written and preached than proper exegetical

study. While many condemn the Nicene Creed and the Apostle’s Creed, these documents resulted from

serious minds who engaged in exegetical work before engaging in decision-making arguments. 143 In

the instance of the holiness debate, favorite passages were used by all three Holiness groups mentioned

earlier, often with either poor or no proper hermeneutics used to answer the key verses that many used to

justify their doctrinal positions.

Several passages were used with multiple interpretations. Such classical passages included Romans

8:1–32, 15:16, Galatians 5:1–8, Ephesians 5:26, Titus 3:5–7, and Hebrews 10:10–14. These Scripture

Passages have been sorely pressed to come up with partisan doctrines that would put ‘a camel through

the eye of a needle.’ The ‘Trinitarian of Pentecostal Systematic Theology’ and editor of Pneuma, Frank

Macchia, has correctly reminded us that these passages are accurately understood only when the reader

knows that “regeneration, sanctification, and justification are overlapping metaphors of new life in the

Spirit, each with its own unique theological nuance.” 144 In light of this, even the ‘first blessing’ was both

wonderfully applied and just as often tragically misused. While most in the Holiness and Pentecostalism

movements would be in agreement on the first blessing, as we will see, there were variants that assured

that not all would be in unity on this rudimentary point of faith.

At this point, it must be noted that while we have discussed William Durham, the outgrowth of some

of the things he taught led to groups often called ‘Oneness.’ Basically, Durham “declared that everything

a believer would ever need was included in the work of Christ on the cross” and the outcome led him to

include sanctification and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. 145 Because of its Christocentric nature, it paved

the way for others who later began to pull away from the Assemblies of God. ‘Oneness Pentecostalism’

today is by no means a unified church or single organization. It emerged as an alternative to Trinitarian

doctrine and baptismal practices of earlier Pentecostals. They have embraced tritheism, deny the eternal

‘Sonship’ of Christ, and a dual nature for Christ. But their most identifiable teachings are: baptizing in

water only in the name of Jesus and their belief that you are not saved until you have spoken in tongues

(although some groups do not even accept this point). 146

The Second Blessing Theology

This school of thought within Pentecostalism has become the most common theology. William

Durham who popularized this view did not particularly adopt the Keswick view of progressive

sanctification, which tended to deny the second instantaneous experience of holiness. 147 He believed

that one was sanctified when they were converted and that the ‘Second Blessing’ was the Baptism of the

Holy Spirit with the sign of speaking in tongues. To him it was a two-stage ‘work of grace’ (justification

and Spirit Baptism). 148

Raised as a Methodist, Phoebe Palmer claimed to have been sanctified as early as 1839; but later

in 1874 (before her passing) she joined the movement that believed in the Second Blessing. Palmer

143 Justo, L. González. The Story of Christianity. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010, page 188.

144 Frank D. Macchia. Justified in the Spirit. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2010, page208.

145 Vinson Synan. Ibid, page 64.

146 Allan Anderson. An Introduction to Pentecostalism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004, Pages 49-51.

147 Ibid, page 45.

148 Allan Anderson. Ibid, page 46.


eventually insisted on “an instant crisis experience of what she came to call the ‘baptism of the Spirit’

that was an important development in producing the Pentecostal movement in 1901.” 149 By the influence

of Durham and Palmer, this theology flourished.

The Third Blessing Theology

After leaving the Baptist Church, Benjamin Irwin founded the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church, when

he received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. In 1895 he had experienced what he called a “baptism of

fire.” After this experience, he changed his stance completely and adopted the theology of the ‘Third

Blessing,’ which by the turn of the twentieth century was being spread throughout the South wherever

he preached. 150 It needs to be added that it was his ‘fire-baptized’ movement that initiated the Holiness

revival that later broke out in western North Carolina at the Schearer schoolhouse in 1896.

Soon afterwards, Charles Parham was greatly impacted by the healing ministry of John Alexander

Dowie; he was later healed of rheumatic fever in 1898. Ironically, he was ostracized by the Holiness

movement for his harsh criticisms of it. As he began his own healing ministry in Topeka (Kansas),

Parham challenged his students to discover in the book of Acts some evidence for the Baptism of the

Holy Spirit. They eventually reached the conclusion that it was speaking in tongues and they, along

with Parham, began to seek for it until one of them (Agnes Ozman) was the first to receive it. 151 What is

important to this subject of the Third Blessing is that this turned consideration toward ‘glossolalia’ as the

evidence of the Spirit and to some degree distracted others from the prior emphasis on holiness.

This subtle transition regarding glossolalia is rarely noted in most historical books on Pentecostalism

or Holiness. Some authors while recognizing the belief of many Pentecostals about the ‘instantaneous

operation of the heart purification,’ also make the distinction that it is the manifestation of the Spirit’s

presence and accompanying sanctifying power that continues to help clean the believer. 152 This premise

is why Steven Land writes: “Indeed, in keeping with the earliest Pentecostal soteriology of justification,

sanctification, and Spirit baptism, the basic theological challenge and most pressing pastoral need is

to show the integration of righteousness, love, and power in this apocalyptic movement of spiritual

transformation.” 153

A Call for Essentials

Frank Bartleman tells the story of General Allenby and his army’s taking of the Church of the Holy

Sepulcher in Palestine. Since he could find no Christian council or person to entrust with the care of

it (because they often despised one another), he was forced to appoint an old Muslim to coordinate

with the different groups and set up times for the various Christian sects to worship there. In the past,

the Turks had kept order through force. The old Muslim once told a visitor that he was there to keep

the Christians from killing one another. 154 This same tragic separation or fear caused believers in the

Holiness and Pentecostal movements to mistrust and even perpetuate conflicts that remain to this day.

This doctrinal dogmatism over the second and third blessing has been like a skeleton in the closet

of Pentecostals as it was for the Holiness Movement. As far back as 1905, Mr. Bartleman—who was an

intricate part of the Azusa Street revival—warned about the danger of becoming too rigid about even

149 Vinson Synan. Ibid, page 27.

150 Ibid, page 34-35.

151 Allan Anderson. An Introduction to Pentecostalism. Ibid, pages 33-34.

152 Stanley Burgess and Eduard Van Der Maas. Ibid, page 358.

153 Steven J. Land. Ibid, page 23.

154 Frank Bartleman. Ibid, page 192.


doctrinal issues that cannot always be easily interpreted or applied. He wrote: “The Holiness people are

loaded down to the water’s edge with a spirit of prejudice and pharisaism…The work of revival seems

to have started outside the Holiness churches proper. God can perfect those whom He chooses. The

Holiness people are too proud of their standing (too confident of their position and condition also). He

may need to pass them by. They must also repent. God may humble them by working in other places.” 155

Such a warning is applicable to us as Pentecostals today. A dogmatic attitude to force sanctification into

our finite knowledge is counterproductive to encouraging all believers to pursue a holy God.

Voices are calling out to us to be understanding of the present eschatological shift within all

Pentecostal movements today. It is imperative to realize this is not a shift away from Christ and the

cross, but an embracing of the Holy Spirit, which can work both initially and gradually. This reality is

an ‘effusion’ of the Spirit’s apocalyptic vision and power which “alters the way in which Christ, Church,

the Christian life and change are seen.” 156 If this is true, hopefully this will help us as Christians and

church movements to stretch ourselves beyond the rigid definitions and understandings of the past that

have separated the various churches and believers within Pentecostalism itself. Dr. Justo González


Justification must be followed by and manifested in sanctification. Furthermore,

sanctification is not something one does on one’s own after one is justified. Sanctification,

like justification itself, is a work of the Holy Spirit, and not of the believer. 157

Finally, Dr. Hector Ortiz, in his course on the History of Global Pentecostalism makes an insightful

presentation called “Essentials and Non-Essentials.” 158 In this discourse, he expresses the danger of a

movement of Christians not developing an understanding of those things which need to be placed in a

non-negotiable category and those other things which are not really that critical to the development of

Christian maturity. Does it matter if two believers have what the first one describes as an ‘instantaneous

experience’ of sanctification and the other Christian believes in and adheres to a ‘progressive’ or an

‘ongoing sanctification’? As long as both parties have a desire to continue to pursue the holy God

of the Scriptures, does it require one of them to be considered a heretic and the other a holy person?

For that matter, why the straining at testimonies of those who believe they were baptized in the Spirit

through a second blessing or those who profess it to have been in a third blessing? As long as both have

experienced sanctification and the Spirit Baptism (even speaking in tongues), why can’t both experience

an effusion that propels them into a lifetime pursuit of their holy God! This is the reality that too many

make non-essentials into essentials that separate believers who really love Jesus Christ and want to do

what is right. God give us all more grace and wisdom as the movement of Holiness and Pentecostalism

continues in the humble pursuit of the holy God.


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158 Hector Ortiz, “History of Global Pentecostalism” (Course Notes). Boise, ID: GCTS, September 25, 2011.


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