Open as PDF
Most writers upon the subject of holiness have quoted largely from human authorities; these harmonious witnesses have doubtless contributed much to establish and advance this most important cause. But, in the preparation of this work I have felt specially called to present to the reader a book of Bible proofs. Nevertheless, finding truth of such vital importance in the Greek verbs of the New Testament, which the tenses of our language are inadequate to convey to the English reader; and regarding a work of this kind as quite deficient without these very important proofs, I devote this chapter to an investigation of this subject. The authorities I quote will, I think, be quite satisfactory to all who possess any knowledge of their standing in piety and scholarship.
In an article in the Church Advocate, about two years ago, from the pen of Elder B. F. Beck of Pennsylvania , the writer observed that the Scriptures usually cited in proof of a second work of grace are in the aorist tense. So they are, but the brother presumed to tell his readers that that tense related only to past time. Thus, he, and I presume many of his readers, rejoiced in the discovery of a plan by which all prayers, promises and commands, setting forth a higher Christian experience were construed into past blessings, hence enjoined no present duty or attainment. To say the least of this theory, it would require an entire revision of the New Testament. So that when Paul says to his brethren, “Present (aorist) your bodies a living sacrifice,” it should be changed to, “You did present your bodies,” etc. “Purge (aorist) out the old leaven,” to “You have purged out,” etc. “Cleanse (aorist) yourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and Spirit,” to “You have cleansed,” etc., throughout the Testament.
I think it much preferable to be changed ourselves “from glory to glory” by a second application of the blood than to change the Word so much to avoid it. It is but an easy, momentary work for God to adjust us to the Bible, but a dreadful task to adjust the Bible to ourselves.
But we have charity as well as good reason to believe that the brother above referred to did not willfully teach error, for his position seems to be taught in Bullion’s Greek grammar. He defines it thus: “The Aorist represents an action simply as past; as “I wrote.”
As to whether this is correct of not will be made plain as we proceed. In fact the author seems to teach otherwise on the same page. “It (the aorist) differs from the imperfect inasmuch as the aorist denotes what is always customary; the imperfect what was customary during the specified period of time.” This agrees with Dr. Steele: “Except in the indicative, it (the aorist) is always timeless,” it may be used in reference to acts past, present, or future, instead of the past only. Had Elder Beck, and I presume his authority, Bullion, confined their remarks to the indicative mood, I presume they were correct; for, says Goodwin, “The aorist indicative expresses the simple momentary occurrence of an action in past time, an “I wrote.” According to this author, it is only in the one mood that the aorist is confined to past time. Harknes’s Greek grammar, a later work, which has quite commonly supplanted Bullion, and, I think, is about the most popular Greek grammar now in use, gives the active voice of the aorist as follows (Aorist, First Book, page 75):
I may advise
I might advise
Surely no one will affirm that “I may advise,” “I might advise,” and the imperative command, “advise,” denote action in the past.
James McKnight quotes Blackwell as saying, “That the first and second aorist in the potential and subjunctive moods, which are futures too, are often, in sacred and common writers, equivalent to the future of the indicative. He also acquiesces in the statement.
We have, then, the testimony of standard authors generally, that the aorist is used with reference to present and future action, as well as past. This, the Scriptures themselves abundantly show.
That our readers may comprehend more fully the force of the Scriptures, we shall herein present, and the arguments adduced there from, we give you the tenses of the Greek verb as defined by the standards of the language.
The present tense denotes what is now going on, and indicates a continuous, repeated or habitual action, as ‘I am writing;’ the imperfect denotes the same continuity or repetition in the past, as, ‘I was writing;’ the perfect denotes an action as finished in the present, as ‘I have written; my writing is just now finished.’ The pluperfect denotes an act, which took place before another past act. The future denotes an act in future time; future perfect—an action as finished at, or before a certain future time.
But as we have already intimated, it is the aorist that particularly throws light upon the distinctive works of grace in the soul; hence I take the greater pains to establish its real meaning in your minds.
Says Bullion, “When actions of both kinds are mingled in a narrative, the continued action is often expressed by the imperfect and the momentary by the aorist, as “He ran forth (the aorist) and continued barking at the (the imperfect). The barbarians received (aorist) the peltastea and fought (imperfect) with them. But when the heavy-armed soldiers were near, they turned (aorist), and the peltastea immediately pursued them,” imperfect. Again, “The aorist does not, like the imperfect, express continuance, it is used to express momentary action.”
“We have,” says Dr. Steele, “in the English no tense like it. Except in the indicative it is timeless, and in all the moods indicates what Krenger styles, ‘singleness of act.’ This idea our translators could not express without a circumlocution in words having no representatives in the Greek. ‘The poverty of our language,’ says Alford, ‘in the finer distinctions of the tenses, often obliges us to render inaccurately and fall short of the wonderful language with which we have to deal.’ His annotations abound in attempts to bring out the full significance of the tenses. For instance, in 2 Corinthians 12:7, to buffet me,’ (present tense) is best thus expressed in the present. The aorist would denote but one such act of insult. This has been noted by both Chrysostom and Theophylact.”
Buttman, in his recent New Testament grammar says, “The established distinction between the aorist, as a purely narrative tense, expressing something momentary, and the imperfect, as a descriptive tense, expressing something contemporaneous or continuous, holds in all its force in the New Testament.”
Says Winer, “Nowhere in the New Testament does the aorist express what is wont to be,” i.e., it never expresses a state of being, but a “momentary act.” The later two authors are regarded by scholars as among the most competent New Testament grammarians.
To the above we add yet Goodwin, “The aorist expresses the simple momentary occurrence of an action.” Here we have the united testimony of Dr. Steele, Dean Alford, Krenger, Bullion, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Buttman, Winer and Goodwin, that the aorist tense is always expressive of a singe and momentary act, it never denotes a continuous or repeated action, its distinguishing features may well be described as suddenly and once for all. Says Steele, “The fact which impresses us in our investigation is the absence of the aorist and the presence of the present tense whenever the conditions of final salvation are stated. Our inference is that the conditions of ultimate salvation are continuous, extending through probation, and not completed in any one act.”
But the Scriptures themselves will best satisfy the reader’s mind as to the peculiar force of the aorist. In the following texts, Dr. Steele and Dean Alford are responsible for the designation of the tense, and not myself. The latter, in his valuable translation, has often used such words as “continually,” “persistently,” “repeatedly,” to indicated the aorist tense.
I think it preferable in the main to use the common version, designating the tenses as they have.
Luke 13:24. Strive (present tense—persistent action) to enter in (aorist tense—once for all) at the strait gate.
Luke 18:13. But smote (imperfect, smote repeatedly) upon his breast, saying, God be merciful (aorist—pardon instantly) to me a sinner.
Hebrews 11:6. For he that cometh (present, persistently) to God, must believe (aorist, definitely grasp two facts) (1) that He is, and (2) that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.
John 5:41. How can ye believe (aorist), which receive (present, continually, habitually receive) honor one of another, and seek no the honor that cometh from God only?
“This interrogatory implies the impossibility of a single genuine act of faith, springing up in a heart persistently courting human applause.” (Dr. Steele)
John 11:26. And whosoever liveth and believeth (present, perseveringly) in me, shall never die (aorist)
The use of the aorist, in speaking of death, is in accordance with its specific force, since that is an event that is once for all.
Matthew 8:2. And behold, there came a leper and worshipped (imperfect, kept worshipping) Him saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean (aorist, cleanse me once for all). And Jesus put forth (aorist, instantly) His hand and touched (aorist) him, saying, I will: be thou clean (aorist, be thou instantly, and once for all cleansed).
The leper prayed not for gradual, but instantaneous cleansing, and it was once at a single stroke according to his faith.
Touch and cleanse me blessed Savior,
Take away my inbred sin;
I am longing for this favor,
Longing to be pure within.
Matthew 14:36. And besought (imperfect, kept beseeching) Him that they might only touch (aorist, just once) the hem of His garment; and as many as touched (aorist, but once) were made (aorist, instantaneously) perfectly whole.
Luke 17:14. And it came to pass, that as they went (present, progressive action—were going) they were cleansed (aorist, instantaneously).
John 2:16. Take (aorist, instantly) these things hence; make not (present, be not continually making) my Father’s house a house of merchandise.
1 Corinthians 15:34. Awake (aorist, at once) to righteousness and sin not (present, be not sinning).
These examples abundantly establish the position of our New Testament grammarians that “the aorist tense never indicates a continuous, habitual, or repeated act.” Let us now note the use of this tense in enjoining the higher Christian experience of entire purification.
Matthew 23:25-26. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean (present, are constantly cleansing) the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse (aorist, ‘at a stroke,’ Alford) first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean (aorist, may become instantly clean) also.
Observe that Christ taught an inward and instantaneous purification, which immediately wrought outward purity; it is the cleansing of the “flesh and spirit;” and had He commanded a gradual cleansing, He would have used the present tense—cleanse by degree.
John 17:17, 19. Sanctify (aorist, once for all) them through thy truth . . . And for their sakes I sanctify (present tense) myself that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
Let it be remembered that Christ was sanctified with His own blood, Hebrews 10:29, and made “perfect through sufferings.” Hence it is evident that He was then being sanctified, or was then suffering out the conditions of a perfect Savior, that we might be entirely sanctified by an instantaneous application of His blood.
The word “sanctify” in verse 17, as Daniel Steele has observed, and as all can see by reference to the Greek Testament, and the case endings given by Harkness, is in the imperative mood. It may seem strange that Christ should petition the Father in the imperative, which is virtually commanding Him. But, when we take into consideration that the Redeemer of our lost race was then enduring the inward “pains of death” and “sorrows of hell,” the awful conditions imposed by divine justice in the eternal covenant, it was meet that, in view of the speedy consummation of His death for our redemption, He should now claim His hard-earned and dearly-purchased trophies, that He should demand the fulfillment of the covenant of the part of justice: even the complete emancipation of all believers from the power and inbeing of sin. However that may be, it is certain that Christ in the above text puts in a claim before the Court of Heaven for the sanctification “of all them that believe on Him through the word” and presents the same in the imperative aorist. Says Winer: “In the New Testament the obvious distinction between the imperative aorist and the imperative present is uniformly maintained. The imperative aorist denotes an action that is rapidly completed and transient or viewed as occurring but once. The imperative present denotes action already commenced and to be continued, or an action going on, or to be frequently repeated.
Thus, all can see that in the use of the tense, the Holy Spirit represented Christ’s sanctification, i.e., by His suffering, as then going on, but that of the disciples to be effected in the future, by the power of God, and a rapidly completed work never to be repeated. And such it was, when, on the Day of Pentecost, the Sanctifier came “suddenly” and they “were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Dean Alford renders Acts 5:11 as follows:
But we habitually believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we were saved (aorist, by a momentary and completed act) even as they.
Philip Doddridge also translates this verse in application to present salvation, instead of final, as in the common version. Judging these to be correct, we have here a beautiful representation of the distinct and instantaneous work of entire sanctification; for the salvation here referred to is purification of the heart by the full reception of the Holy Spirit. (See verses 8 and 9)
When I wrote on the believer’s consecration, I had not seen Dr. Steele’s exposition of the tenses from Alford’s translation. Please compare what I have written on Romans 6:13 with the following.
Nor render repeatedly (present imperative) your members as instruments of sin, but render (aorist, by a final act of unreserved surrender, once for all) yourselves (not your members by a repeated and piecemeal consecration) to God, (or for God’s cause, says Tholuck) as alive from the dead.
Alford here remarks, “The present imperative denotes habit; the exhortation guards against a recurrence of a devotion of the members to sin; this, the aorist imperative, on the other hand, as in chapter 12:1, denotes an act of self devotion to God once for all, not a mere recurrence of the habit”
The common version employs the same form of expression in both the negative and positive commands of this text, and as yielding the members unto sin naturally involves the habit of sinning, we might reasonably suppose that “yielding yourselves unto God” denotes continual or habitual devotion; but here the common version misleads the mind, the two “yields” are entirely different: the fist being present tense expresses prolonged action, and demands abstinence from the practice of sin all through life; the second being an aorist, centers the mind upon a single point of time and a definite act of absolute and once for all abandonment to God, in which our entire “self” is transformed into the image of the Creator and all our power devoted in pure love service to God. Dean Alford, the profound scholar and English translator, is no advocate of the “second grace” of which he has in the above rendering and note brought out such a striking proof.
Romans 12:1. I beseech you, therefore by the mercies of God, that ye present (aorist) your bodies—entire, as a single act, never needing to be repeated.
The body is specified because, says Tholuck, it is the organ of practical activity, or, as Olshausen, Dewette and Alford say, “as an indication that the sanctification of Christian life is to extend to that part of man’s nature which is most completely under bondage to sin.”
If, in Paul’s conception, believers were to be sinning and repenting all their days, as the best that grace could do for them, he would have used the present imperative, “Be presenting your bodies again and again.”
In Alford’s note on 1 Peter 2:5, he says, “the aorist is here used because no habitual offering, as in rite or festival, is meant, but the one once for all devotion of the body, as in Romans 12:1, to God as His.” Both of these are therefore proof texts of a sharply defined transition in Christian experience called entire consecration, the human part of entire sanctification. That neither of these texts refer to justification is shown (1) by the fact that the persons addressed are already Christians; (2) by the requirement that the sacrifice be holy (Romans 12:1), that is accepted, as the lamb was examined by the priest, and pronounced fit for the sacrifice, or acceptable to Jehovah; and 1 Peter 3, 5 require a holy or accepted priesthood, both of which requirements symbolize a state of justification before God.” (Steele) I may add that the divine part, the all saving result of this believer’s consecration is expressed in the following verse: “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” As soon as the sacrifice “toucheth the altar it is made holy,” wherein God “makes known unto us the mystery of His will”—the glories of full salvation “which He purposed in Himself.”
Romans 13:14. But put ye on (aorist, a single definite act) the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not (present, quit making) provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.
Acts 15:9. And put no difference between us and them: purifying (aorist) their hearts by faith.
Alford renders “instantaneously purifying.” Here Steele observes, as we have also in a previous chapter, that “This verse is a key to the instantaneous sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, wrought in the hearts of believers on the Day of Pentecost, since the words “even as He did unto us” refer to that occasion (See Acts 14:45-47).
1 Corinthians 5:7. Purge out (aorist, a final and instantaneous purification) therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump.—All “renewed,” the old nature entirely removed.
1 Corinthians 6:11, as translated by Alford, and commented upon by Steele: “But ye washed yourselves (aorist, middle) by submitting to outward baptisms; ye were sanctified (aorist, ye were justified).” Here the sanctification is a momentary and completed act, the same as the justification. By the figure called the inverted chiasmus, the words “were justified” are placed last. The natural English order would be “were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and were sanctified by the Spirit of our God. See Meyer.”
Romans 6:6-7. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified (aorist, was crucified once for all) with him, that the body (being or totality) of sin might be destroyed (aorist, at a stroke), that henceforth we should not serve sin (present, habitually). For he that is dead (aorist, died once for all unto sin) is freed from sin.
The aorist here teaches an instantaneous death stroke to inbred sin, and that there is no need of a slow and painful process, lingering until physical death or purgatorial fires end the torment. Men are not crucified limb by limb—after one part is dead finding a hand, or arm, or finger alive—but the whole life is extinguished all at once. A class of interpreters who are afraid of entire sanctification in this life and are especially horrified at an instantaneous purification by one stroke of omnipotence, tone down “destroy” to “render inoperative or powerless.” The strength of this verb will be seen by studying the following texts where it is rendered by “abolish” or “consume” or “destroy.” 2 Corinthians 3:13; Ephesians 2:15; 2 Timothy 1:10; 1 Corinthians 6:15, 26; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Hebrews 2:14.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22. Now he which stablisheth (present, continually) us with you in Christ, and hath anointed (aorist) us, is God; Who hath also sealed (aorist) us, and given (aorist) the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
The anointing, sealing, and endowment of the Spirit are different phases of the one instantaneous work of salvation.
2 Corinthians 6:13. Be ye also enlarged (aorist).
The aorist in this place distinguishes it from an ordinary and gradual growth of the Christian. It clearly points to a sharply defined experience, the sudden baptism and complete infilling of the Holy Ghost, and they having been already inducted into the church of God , this is necessarily a second gift of the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 7:1. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse (aorist) ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.
Had the Apostle referred to a gradual purification by self culture, etc., he would have used the present tense, but the aorist emphatically teaches a moral change to be wrought instantaneously, and one that never needs repetition. This is so apparent that we feel assured on one can fail to see it.
Galatians 1:15-16. But when it pleased God, who separated (aorist) me from my mother’s womb, and called (aorist) me by his grace, to reveal (aorist) his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen.
After the Apostle’s birth and calling, or conversion, there was an instantaneous revelation of the Son of God within, to the spiritual eye, as there had been an objective revelation of the form of the Son of man to Paul’s physical eye on his way to Damascus . Both Elliott and Alford insist that the sequence of tenses here teaches that this inward revelation of Christ was after conversion. (Steele)
Had Paul used the present tense, which expresses continued action, this revelation of Christ might apply to the preaching and exemplification of Christ in him, but the aorist will allow no such construction, it absolutely points to a momentary experience. It is, indeed, just what Christ promised to the church, “He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21).
Notice, also, the object of this full revelation of Christ to the soul, i.e., “That I might preach Him among the heathen.” This was Paul’s Pentecost, as Christ had said to the disciples, “That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem .” “But,” He adds, “tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye shall be endued with power from on high,” yea, he “commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem but wait for the promise.” For only those vessels in the Lord’s “great house” that purge themselves entirely are “sanctified and meet for the Master’s use.” God can bear more salvation to a lost world in a clean vessel of one-quart capacity, than in a bushel measure in whom “His Son” is not yet “revealed” as sanctifier, and the all pervading life.
Ephesians 4:22-24. That ye put off (aorist) concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts . . . And that ye put on (aorist) the new man, which after God is created (aorist) in righteousness and true holiness.
Here is affirmed the negative, positive, and divinity of a great work of grace, an absolute moral transformation enjoined upon members of the “household of God;” an instantaneous change in which the old man—Adamic nature—is laid off in toto, and Christ is fully invested once for all.
Galatians 2:19. For I through the law am dead (aorist, “died” suddenly) to the law, that I might live to God.
Here is a perfect answer in Paul’s testimony to the advocates of a lingering death of the old man continuing up to the separation of soul and body. There was a time when Paul died to sin by a crucifixion—a short and sharp kind of death—and the old man lived no more.
Some people are forever on the cross, always dying, but never dead, because they do not grasp the sin-slaying power. (Steele)
Galatians 5:24. And they that are Christ’s (have given themselves a living sacrifice to Him) have crucified (aorist) the flesh (sarka—evil nature) with the affections and lusts.
Here is a striking proof of the second work, for, in the 17th verse the Apostle represents the Galatians as possessing the Spirit of adoption, and yet encumbered by the flesh, it not having been crucified while in this first state of grace. Therefore the experience taught in verse 24 is subsequent to regeneration and an instantaneous transition into an entirely new moral state.
Galatians 4:19. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed (aorist) in you.
The great Apostle to the Gentiles once travailed in soul for the spiritual birth of those “little children: and because they are now all “children of God by faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 3:26). He “also labored, striving “to “present every one perfect in Christ Jesus.” The aorist in the above text portrays the King eternal “coming suddenly to his temple,” which He had afore prepared unto glory,” and entering in once for all. Here is a new and wonderful influx of divine life and light and glory.
Ephesians 1:13. After that ye believed (aorist), ye were sealed (aorist).
Here an interval is place between the first act of appropriating faith, which secures pardon and that grasp of faith by which the seal of the Holy Spirit is divinely impressed upon the soul. And by the use of the aorist tense, each is declared to be a distinct and momentary experience, never to be repeated, each placing the soul on a new and higher plain of life.
Ephesians 3:16-19: Here, says Dr. Steele, we have seven aorists in four verses: “grant,” “be strengthened,” “dwell,” or take up his abode, “may be able,” “to comprehend,” “to know,” and “be filled.” May we not infer that Paul chose this tense to convey most strongly and vividly the ability of Christ to do a great work in a short time, to save believers and to endow them with the fullness of the Spirit in an instant? If gradual impartations of the Sanctifier had been in his mind, is it not strange that he did not use one present tense to express endowment by degrees? How strongly and positively the second, distinct experience of divine grace is seen at every advance step in the examination of the Greek tenses.
Ephesians 4:13. Till we all attain (aorist) unto the unity of the faith, and of the perfect knowledge of the Son of God, unto the full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Alford’s Version)
The perfection of the saints is here expressed by a definite and momentary arrival at a point where faith merges into knowledge, where a Savior believed becomes a Savior fully realized. See Olshausen’s full comment. This transition from faith to full knowledge is a crisis expressed by the aorist. It is when the Paraclete purges the film of inbred sin from the eye of the soul, and Jesus, as a living, loving, glorified and complete Savior, is manifested to the spiritual vision. The child, the imperfect believer, becomes a perfect man, [changed from the first or babe state, i.e., “in Christ, yet carnal”] and reaches the fullness of Christ; that is, the abundance which He has to bestow, a fullness excluding all sin, but capable of eternal increase. That this point is before death is shown by the consequences which follow in the present life, as detailed in verses 14-16. (Steele)
Ephesians 5:25-27. Husbands, love (present tense, be constantly loving) your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave (aorist) himself for it; That he might sanctify (aorist) and cleanse (aorist) it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
On this text, Ellicot, Bishop in the Church of England and Professor of Divinity in King’s College, London , thus comments: “Both sanctification and purification are dependent on the atoning death of Christ. There is thus no necessity to modify this plain and natural meaning of the verb, to sanctify. Here it neither implies simply consecration, on the one hand, nor expiation, absolution, [pardon] on the other, but the communication and infusion of holiness and moral purity.” This blessing, being bestowed upon the church and not sinners, does not, as Ellicott has well observed, refer to pardon. It is therefore a second, or higher attainment of grace, and, as set forth by the aorist, it is a definite and momentary act of purification.
Colossians 1:9. That ye might be filled (aorist) with the knowledge of His will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.
Full knowledge of His will. (Alford)
Exact knowledge of His will. (Emphatic Diaglott)
That ye may fully attain to the knowledge of His will. (Conybear & Howson)
The Apostle had just “heard of their faith in Christ Jesus” and “love in the Spirit,” when he prays that they might have this additional gift of grace, even the fullness of spiritual light and knowledge, bequeathed in the “will” of their heavenly Father. Compare Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:10. This complete filling of the soul, expressed in the aorist, is a momentary work, and instantaneous enduement.
Colossians 3:5. Mortify (aorist, kill outright) therefore, your members which are upon the earth fornication, uncleanness, etc.
Again, we refer you to Bishop Ellicott. “Let nothing live inimical to your true life, hidden in Christ. Kill at once (aorist) the organs and media of a merely earthly life.”
Some think that this process of mortification must be carried on through life, that they must ever keep a little sin on hand in order to be mortifying it. But “nekrosate”—mortify—does not mean repress, but to make dead, to destroy, and the use of the aorist denotes a sudden and final death stroke to inbred sin and all its manifestations.
Colossians 3:8. But now ye also put off (aorist) all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
“The aorist imperative,” says Steele, “is a broom that sweeps the heart clean at one stroke of omnipotent power.”
Verse 12: Put on (aorist) therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved bowels of mercy, kindness, etc.
By the incoming of the abiding Comforter all the excellencies of the Christian character are to be at once assumed. This is the positive side of entire sanctification, the negative being the mortification of sin in verse 5. (Steele)
1 Thessalonians 3:13. To the end He may stablish (aorist) your hearts unblameable in holiness before God.
Here the tense denotes an instantaneous work in the heart by which it is, by the power of God, stablished in perfect holiness; and the recipients already “knowing their election of God,” the second work of grace is in this verse most emphatically asserted.
1 Thessalonians 5:23. And the very God of peace sanctify (aorist) you wholly. (A momentary and once for all work, most assuredly.)
2 Timothy 2:21. If a man therefore purge himself—purify himself instantaneously, the works “sanctified” and “prepared” in the same verse are both in the perfect tense to denote the permanent result of the definite act of purging.
Titus 3:5. Which He shed (aorist) on us abundantly.
A very true description of the “sudden” sanctification of the disciples on the Day of Pentecost; and, since Paul lays down this Holy Spirit renewal, preceded by regeneration, as the uniform order of salvation, it follows that there is to be a personal, distinct, and momentary Pentecost for every regenerated believer.
Hebrews 4:11. Let us labor (aorist) therefore to enter into that rest.
Having examined the word here rendered by “labor,” we observed, in the chapter on Hebrews, that it should have been translated “haste.” Dr. Steele has noted the same fact. “The word “labor,” says he, “in the Greek is radically the same as haste in Joshua 4:10. ‘And the people hasted (aorist) and passed over.’ The fact that the word labor is in the aorist positively precludes the idea of an effort prolonged through life, as we have very clearly shown that that tense always points to an act of momentary duration. There is, therefore, perfect agreement between the meanings of the word “spoudasomen”—hasten—and the aorist tense, in which it is used, which never denotes any thing by instant action. The exhortation, therefore, enjoins an immediate and vigorous effort to enter at once into the rest of faith.
Hebrews 12:12. That He might sanctify (aorist, once for all, by an instantaneous application) the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate.
1 Peter 1:15. So be ye holy (aorist), i.e., become ye holy by one momentary, all-surrendering act of faith. Verse 16, according to the received text, translated word for word in the Emphatic Diaglott reads as follows: “Holy one, become (aorist, instantaneously) you.”
The aorist in these verses indicates a speedy transition from indwelling unrighteousness to perfect holiness; and the injunction being addressed to “new born babes” necessarily involves a second moral change.
Hebrews 13:20-21. Now the God of peace . . . through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect (aorist).
Here is Christian perfection attainable now, not maturity, but expurgation, through a single momentary touch of the blood, by the finger of God.
1 John 1:9. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive (aorist) us our sins, and to cleanse (aorist) us from all unrighteousness.
Now we know that the flesh (“sarka”—corrupt human nature) is unrighteousness. We know also, by the Word of God, and universal experience, that this vein of inborn sin remains after pardon has taken place. Therefore these two aorists do not denote one complex act, but two insolated and successive works of grace. The cleansing is just as definite and instantaneous as the forgiveness. Pardon takes place at the threshold of the kingdom, by cleansing, while “walking in the light” and enjoying Christian fellowship. (Verse 7)
1 John 2:27. But the anointing which ye have received (aorist) of Him abideth in you.
The purifying and illuminating baptism of the Holy Spirit, John expresses in the aorist, as a sudden and marked crisis to each individual, as at the beginning. Many think it impossible to live in this world, free from corroding and perplexing cares, and restless anxieties. What saith the will?
1 Peter 5:7. Casting (aorist) all your care upon Him.
The following in Alford’s note: “casting (aorist, once for all, by an act which includes the life) all your anxiety, (the whole of, not every anxiety as it arises, for none will arise if this transference has been effectually made) upon Him.
Oh, the wonders of full salvation! The very moment a “finished” and all comprehensive faith embraces the atonement of the uttermost Savior, “the days of our mourning are ended,” “sorrow and sighing flee away,” and the holy soul traveling on this “highway” “comes to Zion with songs of everlasting joy upon their heads.”
We have now followed the “second grace” from Matthew to the Epistles of Saint John, and we find that, in all its phases, it is a transition expressed by the aorist tense; whether called purging, cleansing or purifying. Whether it be crucifixion, mortification, or destruction of the body of sin. Whether putting off the old man, or investing the new. Whether baptism anointing, or sealing of the Holy Spirit, or entire sanctification, or whether it is being made holy or perfect, or entering the rest of faith, it is invariably set forth as a distinct, instantaneous, and never to be repeated crisis, or moral change in the Christian’s heart.
There seems, indeed, to be the greatest care and the finest precision in the use of the tenses in the New Testament. Take for instance the third chapter of Colossians, verse 5: “mortify,” (aorist kill instantly); verse 8—“put off,” (aorist instantly divest); verse 12—“put on,” (aorist by one distinct act of faith); verse 13—“forbearing (present) one another, and forgiving (present) one another,” i.e., exercise these virtues constantly; verse 15—“let the peace of God rule (present, constantly) in your hearts . . . and be ye (present, always) thankful” verse 16—“let the word of Christ dwell (present, perpetually) in you richly” verse 18—“wives submit (present, constantly) yourselves” verse 19—“husbands, love (present, at all times) your wives” verse 20—“children obey (present, in everything) your parents” verse 21—“fathers, provoke (present, at any time) not your children.”
Says Steele: “Thus a series of present imperatives extends through this chapter, and to verse 6 in chapter 4, enjoining daily recurring duties. But the aorist imperative is always used when the duty of putting away sin from the heart, and putting on the fruits of the Spirit is commanded. Let the candid reader examine this chapter, and he will see that the reason for the use of the aorist is that entire sanctification, and fullness of the Spirit, are viewed as a work to be finished at a stroke, while duties to our fellow men are to be constantly repeated. No other account can be given for the alternation of the tenses in the imperatives in this chapter.” Again, in the close of his invaluable chapter on the Greek tenses, this writer observes that “the verb “hagiazo,” to sanctify, is always aorist or perfect. See Acts 20:32; 26:18; Romans 15:16; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:21; Hebrews 10:10, 29; Jude 1.
The same may be said of the verbs “katharizo,” and “haguizo”—to purify. Our inference is that the energy of the Holy Spirit in the work of entire sanctification, however long the preparation, is put forth at a stroke by a momentary act. This is corroborated by the universal testimony of those who have experienced this grace.
What honest lover of truth can conclude otherwise? Many thanks to Dr. Steele and others for the precious truth they have brought out of the original text.
The advocates of a false doctrine are always compelled to take refuge in the most obscure portions of Scripture; and as these are properly interpreted by clearer light, they fail to answer their purpose. But while the distinct experience of Christian perfection stands out in bold relief in all the Holy Bible, each additional ray of light increases the magnitude and multiplies the number of proofs; and when we look into the pure, original Word, every apparent line of whey is resolved into distinct and harmonious luminaries of this full and instantaneous work of divine grace in the soul. Hallelujah!
Jesus speaks the second time, “be clean;”
His touch now removes my inbred sin.
Suddenly glory from heaven above,
Ushers at once the Sabbath of love.