Sanctification: Is It an Obsolete Doctrine?
Fifty or sixty years ago the ‘Holiness’ Churches taught sanctification. The debate was whether it is a second work of grace, or is it an ongoing process. Whichever it was, they taught that it must precede the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, for the Holy Spirit will not dwell in an unclean temple. The mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the early twentieth century came upon those who had taught and practiced Holiness unto the Lord.
The Church of God, (Cleveland), of which I was a member, taught that it is the second work of grace and requires total commitment. That is, it requires the crucifixion of the Flesh and total dedication, nothing reserved. Some of their practices are now belittled and often ridiculed, like modesty in dress and style, disciplined sexuality, forbidden use of addictive substances, non-participation in worldly entertainments such as movies, dancing, gambling, etc. These practices are now seen as legalisms but they did furnish a great deal of protection from the spirits and powers that have now brought our culture to ruin.
I still believe that true Christianity requires sanctification. This is the truth that should be restored to our teachings and doctrines and practices. These things that seemed so hard and grievous to us now were actually easy compared to that Baptism of the death of the Flesh, sanctification.
As to the debate, I now realize that sanctification must also be an ongoing process. Like when a baby is first born, it must be washed thoroughly and the mucous removed from its throat. But after a day and night, it must again be cleaned up and mollified with ointments, salves and powders and changes of garment. In the Christian experience, we find that the old crucified Flesh tries to resurrect quite often and has to be severely dealt with and put down under the control of the Holy Spirit.
“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway,” I Corinthians 9:27.
What is ‘sanctification’?*
First of all it is Holiness: Leviticus 11:44:
“For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves and ye shall be holy; for I am holy.”
It is God’s will: I Thessalonians 4:3-8:
“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; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no [man] go beyond and defraud his brother in [any] matter: because that the Lord [is] the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man but God who also giveth unto us his holy Spirit.”
Second, sanctification is total commitment and dedication:
Romans 8:10, 13:
“And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”
“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”
Romans 12:1: “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.”
Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
The meaning of Baptism: Death, Burial and Resurrection,
(1) “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
(2) God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
(3) Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
(4) Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
(5) For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also [in the likeness] of [his] resurrection:
(6) Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
(7) For he that is dead is freed from sin.
(8) Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
(9) Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
(10) For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(12) Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
(13) Neither yield ye your members [as] instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness unto God.
(14) For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
(15) What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
(16) Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
(17) But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
(18) Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
(19) I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
(20) For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
(21) What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things [is] death.
(22)But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
(23) For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
It is a Covenant
You make a Covenant with the Lord by the sacrifice of yourself: “Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice,” Psalm 50:5. The Old Covenant sacrifices were but a shadow of the New Testament reality of the sacrifices of oneself, sanctification.
*Strong’s Concordance: sanctification (Hebrew #6942) “Make… pronounce, or observe as clean, (ceremonially or morally), dedicate, hallow, be/keep holy, … purify, sanctify.”