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These terms, it is generally believed and taught, represent the same moral state. Let us endeavor to find their Scriptural meaning. Perfection is from â€śkatartizoâ€ť and â€śteleiosâ€ť in the Greek. The first of these terms is defined by our standard lexicons of the New Testament as follows: â€śTo make perfect,â€ť â€śto put fully in order,â€ť â€śto make complete,â€ť â€śto furnish fully,â€ť â€śto refit and repair.â€ť This word is applied to Christian perfection in the following Scriptures: Luke 6:40; 2 Corinthians 13:9-11; Ephesians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; Hebrews 13:21; 1 Peter 5:10.
â€śTeleiosâ€ť is defined by â€śperfect, finished, complete, entire, without spot or blemish.â€ť â€śTeleiosâ€ť is used to represent the advanced Christian state in the following instances: Matthew 5:48 and 19:21; 1 Corinthians 2:6; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Galatians 3:3; Philippians 3:15; Colossians 1:28, 3:14 , 4:12; Hebrews 6:1; 1 John 2:5, 4:17-18.
From the foregoing definitions and Scriptures it is clearly seen that perfection, as applied to redeemed souls, denotes the complete moral restoration of man from the effects of the fall. Not physical or mental restoration, for that will not be until the resurrection; but, as David says, â€śHe restoreth my soul.â€ť Restore means to bring back to its original condition. And as the fall of man effaced the image of God from the soul and sent a current of depravity down through the entire race, the perfect restoration of the soul must necessarily reinstate its former purity and divine likeness.
Christian perfection is, therefore, in kind and not degree. In other words, it is the perfection of our moral nature and not the development or full growth of our powers. This position is well established in Hebrews 10:14-15. "For by one offering he (Christ) hath perfected forever them that are sanctified: whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness unto us.â€ť The state of perfection we are here told is entered by the work of sanctification. And we read that Christ sanctifies the people with his own blood (Hebrews 13:12). And the â€śblood of Christ cleanseth us from all sinâ€ť (1 John 1:7). Hence perfection is the state of being free from sin.
Observe that when Paul tells us that Christ has forever perfected them that are sanctified, he immediately adds â€śwhereofâ€ť (of which perfection) â€śthe Holy Ghost is also a witness unto us.
Surely no one ever yet received the testimony of Godâ€™s Spirit that he was perfect in degree; or had reached the summit of Christian growth beyond which he could never become more wise, strong or fruitful. But thousands have received the Spiritâ€™s witness to perfect heart purity. It is generally believed that our moral and mental powers are susceptible of endless development.
But the Bible teaches a perfection in this life that can never be improved upon: â€śHe hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.â€ť Perfection, then, as attainable in this life, is confined to manâ€™s purity and what is necessarily therein included. Consistent with the Bible and universal experience, it cannot be otherwise defined. While our physical and mental defects remain until the resurrection, our moral nature alone is susceptible of perfection now, and that only in quality, leaving all the powers of the soul free to enlarge in magnitude. Being â€śmade free from sinâ€ť and â€śrenewed in the image of God,â€ť as first created, the soul cannot become more pure and is therefore â€śperfected forever.â€ť (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:23â€”24, 5:26-27; Colossians 3:10)
Many stagger at the term perfection. They are forced to admit that it is promised and enjoined in the Bible: recognized in ancient saints: and, in the plenitude of Gospel grace, provided for all believers. Yet, as if to come short of the divine will and profess less than the Bible standard were a mark of true piety and meekness, they shrink from the thought of being made perfect in this life, is from blasphemy. There is no reason for this. Our kind, heavenly Father has placed nothing in his word to thus terrify his children: nothing, indeed but what we should blush to come short of. All this reproach so generally attached to a profession of perfection, grows out of the extravagant notions of what it is. But there certainly can be nothing wrong in receiving and professing this grace in its Bible sense.
How, then, does the â€śmore sure wordâ€ť define it? In Luke 6:40 we have this answer. â€śEvery one that is perfect shall be as the Master.â€ť Christ commands us to be â€śperfect even as our Father which is in heaven is perfectâ€ť (Matthew 5:48).
But to be like God and Christ in every respect would make us equally gods and is therefore impossible: hence we turn to the word again and ask in what particular points of divine resemblance does our perfection consist? â€śThus saith the Lord,â€ť in answer. It is in purity. â€śHe that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself as He is pure.â€ť In holiness. â€śHaving these promises dearly beloved let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.â€ť â€śThat we might be partakers of His holinessâ€ť (2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 12:10). It is perfection in love. â€śHerein is our love made perfect that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, for as He is so are we in this world.â€ť (1 John 4:17)
Peter represents our perfection as â€śpartaking of the divine nature.â€ť As â€śGod is loveâ€ťâ€”is perfectly pure and holyâ€”the latter includes the other three elements. I would add that Christian perfection is a work divinely wrought in the heart. In enjoining this higher grace upon such as had not yet attained it in the Ephesian church, Paul tells them to â€śput off the old man . . . and put on the new man which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holinessâ€ť (Ephesians 2:24). The â€śold manâ€ť evidently means the old fallen nature, or inherited depravity, the new man, the pure â€śdivine nature,â€ť which, we are told, is â€ścreated after God.â€ť Now, creative power belongs to God alone, hence this new nature is the work of the Lord. The Hebrew Christians, after they had â€ścome to Mount Zion the city of the living God, the Church of the First Born,â€ť received orders to â€śgo on to perfectionâ€ť (Hebrews 6:1). Sanctification was designated as the point of its attainment (Hebrews 10:14). And, at the close of the epistle, the Apostle offers this prayer for these brethren: â€śNow the God of peace, that brought again from the dead, our Lord Jesus: that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant make you perfect.â€ť This is conclusive. Perfection, as well as regeneration, is the work of God.
Thus we have briefly shown that perfection is a doctrine of the Bible and the privilege of every child of God. That it is perfection in kind and not degree: that it consists in the soulâ€™s likeness to God in purity, holiness, and unmixed or perfect love; and that it is Godâ€™s prerogative to make us perfect.
I now proceed to examine the terms,
HOLINESS AND SANCTIFICATION.
We take up these words conjointly because they are both derived from â€śhagiosâ€ť in the Greek and consequently mean the same thing. Both words are uniformly rendered â€śheiligungâ€ť in the German version.
The word â€śagios,â€ť in its several forms, occurs about two hundred and eighty-five times in the New Testament. It is rendered â€śsanctifyâ€ť twenty-six times; â€śsanctificationâ€ť five times; â€śsaintsâ€ť sixty-six times; â€śhallowedâ€ť twice; â€śholy,â€ť â€śholinessâ€ť and â€śholilyâ€ť one hundred and eighty-six times.
Robinsonâ€™s Lexicon of the New Testament defines it thus:
â€śHagious.â€ťâ€”1st, pure, clean; 2nd, consecrated, sacred, holy; set apart from a common to a sacred use: belonging to God.
â€śHagiasmos.â€ťâ€”sanctification, purity of heart and life; holiness.
Smith and Barnumâ€™s Dictionary of the Bible defines sanctification, â€śproperly a making holy, or a state of being holy; to make clean or holy; to set apart as sacred, to regard as holy.â€ť
Joseph Angus, D.D., in Bible Hand Book, page 172, gives the following:
The idea of holiness, for which, in its Christian sense the heathen have no word, was suggested to the Jews by means of a special institution. All animals common to Palestine were divided into clean and unclean. From the clean one was chosen, without spot or blemish; a peculiar tribe selected from the other tribes was appointed to present it; the offering being first washed with clean water, and the priest himself undergoing a similar ablution. Neither the priest nor any of the people nor the victim however, was deemed sufficiently holy to come into the divine presence, but the offering was made without the holy place. The idea of the infinite purity of God, was thus suggested to the minds of observers, and holiness in things created came to mean, under the law, purification for sacred uses, and under the Gospel, freedom from sin and the possession, by spiritual intelligences, of the divine nature.
Holiness in the Gospel is understood by this biblical scholar to mean freedom from sin and the possession of the divine nature.
George Campbell of Scotland , translator of the four Gospels says:
In regard to the word â€śhagios,â€ť its primitive significance appears to have been clean, first in the literal sense as denoting free from all filth, dirt, or nastiness; second, as expressing what, according to the religious rituals was accounted clean . . . Again as things are made clean to prepare them for being used (and the more important the use, the more carefully they are cleansed), the term has been adopted to denote, thirdly, prepared, fitted, destined for a particular purpose. Fourthly, and more specially consecrated or devoted to a religious use. Fifthly, to honor, to reverence, to hallow. Sixthly, and lastly, as outward and corporeal cleanness has, in all ages, and languages, been considered as an apt metaphor, for moral purity, it denotes guiltless, irreproachable; which is, at present, among Christians, the most common acceptation of the word.
This learned Presbyterian agrees with the preceding writers in making â€śhagiosâ€ť primarily denote purity. Speaking of holiness in another place he says, â€śThe exhortations to holiness in the New Testament are evidently to be understood of MORAL PURITY, and of that only.â€ť
James McKnight, also of Scotland , a pious, learned translator of the New Testament epistles, defines as follows:
Holy primarily signifies that which is clean, or free from defilement. (Deuteronomy 23:14) â€śTherefore shall thy camp be holy, that He see no unclean thing.â€ť Holy and holiness often denote moral purity.
To sanctify, to make holy, to hallow; in the writing of the Hebrews, signifies, to cleanse a thing from those defilements which render it unfit for sacred use.
John Winebrenner defines sanctification, â€śa perfect conformity of heart and life to the will of God.â€ť
Websterâ€™s Unabridged Dictionary defines sanctification: â€ś1st, the act of sanctifying or making holy; or the state of being sanctified or made holy; the act of Godâ€™s grace by which men are purified, or alienated from sin and the world, and exalted to supreme love to God; also the state of being thus purified or sanctified. 2nd, the act of consecrating or setting apart for a sacred purpose; consecration.â€ť
Holiness is therein defined about the same. The same authorâ€™s High School Dictionary defines holiness by, â€śPURITY; FREEDOM FROM SIN; SANCTITY; PIETY.â€ť
Authorities might be multiplied, but I deem it unnecessary. â€śTo the law and testimonyâ€ť of the Lord, we must appeal after all; and what is not thereby sustained must fail; no matter who is in its favor. I have selected the above human authorities as among the most competent, and of different religious beliefs. They all point to perfect purity; â€śsupreme love to God,â€ť and godlikeness, as the primary meaning of â€śhagios,â€ť or sanctification; and this is the Scriptural meaning generally.
In the Old Testament it is sometimes used in the sense of consecration but when applied to men, more commonly denotes moral purity. That its New Testament meaning is freedom from sin; as Joseph Angus and George Campbell have both declared, is very evident. In 2 Corinthians 7:1 we read: â€śHaving therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.â€ť
This is clear; perfect holiness is the result of cleansing, hence is purity.
That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor. (1 Thessalonians 4:4.)
This denotes the state of purity in which all should keep themselves.
For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. (1 Thessalonians 4:7.)
The Apostle here makes holiness the opposite to uncleanness, which, of course, is cleanness or purity.
The very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul and body be preserved blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23.)
The work of entire sanctification is here represented as imparting a blameless state and the means of its constant preservation. Now, a blameless state, in the sight of a holy God, must necessarily imply absolute purity, or freedom from sin.
If a man, therefore, purge himself from these he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, etc. (2 Timothy 2:21.)
Here again the sanctified state is secured by the purging or cleansing of the vessel, or member of God's â€śgreat house,â€ť the church.
For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ purge your conscience. (Hebrews 9:13.)
If the legal cleansing, as here stated, is typical of sanctification; then that which it is said to typify, i.e., our cleansing in the blood of Christ, is real sanctification. Or, in other words, Gospel sanctification is purification from all sin, â€śWherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gateâ€ť (Hebrews 13:12.).
These Scriptures are very conclusive, and well sustain the remark of George Campbell, that, â€śThe exhortations to holiness in the New Testament are evidently to be understood of purity and of that only.â€ť
As an adjective, â€śholyâ€ť qualifies or points out the moral purity of heaven, angels and our Savior. Ninety-four times in the New Testament it qualifies the Spirit of God, i.e., â€śHoly Spiritâ€ť (in the common version more generally Holy Ghost), and, when applied to the righteous, it necessarily ascribes to them the same moral quality.
But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation: because, it is written, be ye holy, for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:15.)
The same world â€śholyâ€ť describes both the character of God, and the required purity of his children. And since our need of holiness is based upon the holiness of God, proclaimed in the same breath of inspiration, it were an utter confusion of language not to ascribe the same meaning to the work in both cases.
From the authorities quoted, and the testimony of inspiration, it must be clear, I think, to every candid mind that the perfect holiness, or entire sanctification required of us, is â€śpurity of heart and life,â€ť â€śfreedom from sin,â€ť â€śperfect in love,â€ť and holy in nature; or what is equivalent to all these, â€śpartakers of the divine nature.â€ť
I have been the more particular in fixing this point, because some have imagined that sanctification, when enjoined upon believers, only means consecration. This view is anti-scriptural, and contrary to all human authority and experience. I do not deny that â€śhaggios,â€ť includes the idea of consecration. 1st, because, in connection with faith it is our part of the work, and an indispensable condition to the performance of the work, on the part of God. 2nd, because sanctification is not purity in the abstract, but purification for divine use. Hence, we are told, that Christ â€śgave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good worksâ€ť (Titus 2:14.).
Purification, it is here seen, includes consecrations because we are thereby separated from sin and the world unto God. Because sanctification from sin is for the purpose of being set apart to the â€śHoly One,â€ť it is not at all unnatural that the word should sometimes be used in this secondary, or objective meaning.
This, however, does not interfere with the truth established by the foregoing Scriptures, that â€śhagiosâ€ťâ€”holy or sanctifiedâ€”â€śin the Gospel denotes freedom from sin and the possession by intelligent beings of the divine nature.â€ť This is the idea that the unbiased reading of Godâ€™s Word almost universally fixes in the mind. How extremely absurd the position recently taken by some teachers that entire sanctification, as enjoined upon believers, simply denotes consecration when the Bible clearly points it out as a work which God must do in us; as something which Christ does for the â€śpeople with his own blood,â€ť as consisting in â€ścleansing from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.â€ť
Some brethren with whom I am well acquainted, have always thus taught, until they came in contact with those who profess a personal realization of the blessed truth: when the enemy of their souls quickly turned them to advocate the above absurdity.
Growing into sanctification is a still more fatal delusion of Satan. Every newborn soul, sooner or later, discovers a great want in his heart; is embarrassed with a man-fearing spirit, and pained with the consciousness of evil tendencies within. They groan after purity and wonder why their Heavenly Father seems to stint their soul so much.
These are now at â€śKadesh-barneaâ€ťâ€”the fartherest point which the Israelites reached in their direct route from Egypt to the land of Canaan . Here they get to see some of the fruit of the land of perfect victory. Here, too, discouraging reports meet them; not of the land itself, for all admit that to be holy is a good thing. They see great giantsâ€”insurmountable difficulties in the way.
From the day of their conversion, grace had led them to hunger and pray for, and expect a better experience; a deeper work; a complete salvation from sin. But, having no Joshua to lead them into the desired rest of soul; and because, as ancient Israel said, â€śour brethren (the spies) discouraged us,â€ť they finally conclude that they must give up seeking a better experience and become pure by growth.
Is it not astonishing that so many allow the devil to deceive them with such a self-evident delusion? To grow pure is a contradiction of terms. Growth is a process of additionâ€”purification a subtractionâ€”or a removal of all uncleanness.
Growth, in no instance, changes the nature of anything; it only increases its size or degree; while cleansing is a process of diminishing. The first is natural and progressive, the second done at a stroke.
I hope, dear reader, you can see that the implanting of a new life and new nature is one thing (done at regeneration); the removal of every obstruction and antagonism to that new nature another (accomplished by the blood of Christ in entire sanctification); and the growth of that plant still another thing.
The whole is analogous to the implanting of seed; the removal of all noxious seeds, roots and plants from the soil; and the growth of the plant. The fist and second are instantaneous works, produced by an extrinsic agent; the last a gradual and natural process commenced in the first state; but greatly accelerated by the work of purging away the old nature, or inbred sin. The growth of the Christian graces will enable the believer to better control remaining depravity but will never eject it from the heart.
A clear discrimination between purity and maturity is necessary for an intelligent approach to God for the blessing of entire sanctification. Most persons in the merely justified state are much confused on these two points. They identify them, or think them always coetaneous; hence they imagine that Christian perfection, or entire sanctification, precludes further growth. That is equivalent to saying that the removal of all weeds from a field is identical with the maturity or immediately terminates the growth of the grain. This is strange reasoning, yet thousands rashly oppose the blessed work of holiness through such absurd notions.
The perfection, or entire sanctification of the â€śNew Testament is to be understood of moral purity, and that only.â€ť Including, of course, all its concomitant blessings, it is instantaneously wrought in the soul of believers by the Holy Spirit.
O, love, thou bottomless abyss,
My sin is swallowed up in thee,
Covered is my unrighteousness,
Nor bitter root remains in me;
Perfect now in the life of Godâ€”
Saved! Yes saved in the cleansing blood.