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Sanctification by J. W. Byers

CHAPTER XII Questions and Answers

Question. How may we know definitely that we are sanctified?

Answer. We may know it by knowing that we have met all the conditions. This grace is obtained upon the conditions of consecration and faith. When we are sure that we have measured up to a true Bible consecration, we will have no difficulty in knowing that we are sanctified. The depth of meaning of this consecration does not necessarily need to be fully comprehended by the seeker, as we enter into this covenant, but there is a yielding up of ourself and entire all, to the known and unknown will of God, to an extent that covers everything. God knows when we have reached and passed this point, and it will not be long before the Holy Spirit will definitely witness to us that the consecration is complete, and the covenant ratified by this glorious indwelling consciousness.

This consecration may be illustrated by the contract and union of holy matrimony. When the bride and groom enter into the covenant according to God's word, they have little knowledge of the obligations they are taking upon themselves. They know nothing of the detailed realities of life; its joys and sorrows, hardships and trials that are before them; but they know that they dearly love each other, and have not the slightest fear in yielding themselves to each other completely and exclusively, so long as they both shall live. They enter into this covenant with all good confidence that the object of their love will not require anything hard or impossible, and as the future realities of life unfold and one by one they meet the many responsibilities that the covenant implies, they find that their love is equal to the responsibility, and as long as they continue to love each other they will never have the slightest disposition to break that marriage covenant.

So the heart which makes the consecration for sanctification will not comprehend the great scope of its meaning at the time of entering into this covenant, but if we love Jesus as we should we will not fear what he may require of us in the details of his will in the future. We are already enraptured with his love. He has proved himself to be a loving and faithful Redeemer in dying for us, and now as we see he requires us to yield ourselves even to death for him, we can confidently enter into the conditions of this covenant with the assurance that he will demand nothing of us beyond the power of the love to fulfill.

Yes, we will know definitely when our consecration is complete, and then we will have no trouble to believe in the promises for the cleansing. As Bible repentance is the believing ground for justification, so Bible consecration is the believing ground for sanctification.

Ques. How may we keep sanctified?

Ans. By abiding in the conditions by which we obtained the experience. As long as our consecration remains intact, and our faith remains firm in the promises, we are sanctified, no matter what the assertions of our feelings may be. To cease believing will forfeit our experience. To cease obeying in any respect will produce the same effect; but |if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another; and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.|

Ques. If Jesus was not sanctified until his death, how can we be?

Ans. Jesus was sanctified before his death. He testifies to it in John 10:36. There is a sense in which he was sanctified by his death; that is, he became a perfect redeemer by his death. He set himself apart for this specific purpose. This is the meaning of the saying of Jesus in John 17:19 -- |And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.| Another scripture, Heb.5:9 has the same meaning. |And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.| In the use of the terms |sanctify| and |perfect| we could by no means infer that Jesus was not pure and holy before his suffering on the cross. He became a perfect Saviour by his death and through suffering. It is absurd and casts a reflection upon the redemption plan, to say that Jesus was not holy until resurrection. In this sense only was he made |perfect| by his death. As to his people being holy and sanctified in this life, we have the whole word of God in favor of such a life. Thank God, it is his will that we should live |in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.| It does require a death on our part to obtain this glorious grace. In this respect we must die to get it. Jesus died to purchase it for us. We must die to receive it -- not a literal death, but a death to sin and the world. The river of Jordan truly signifies a death, but we can cross over it and remain in this mortal life. The land of Canaan is the land of holiness, which all of God's people can enter into and possess in this life.

Ques. Does not the Bible say, |If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us|?

Ans. Yes, but this does not teach us that we cannot be free from sin. If we were to take this verse by itself without its context we might have a scripture contradictory to the word of God, but if we read the seventh and ninth verses with the eighth verse of 1 John 1, we see plainly by these three verses connected that we can be cleansed from all sin and unrighteousness. This verse implies that if any one who has not been cleansed from sin should say he has no sin to be cleansed from, he deceives himself.

Ques. Do we not grow into sanctification and therefore reach it gradually?

Ans. No; this would be contrary to the plan of redemption. We do not grow =into= any of the graces. We are commanded to grow IN grace. The grace of pardon and justification is imparted by the Holy Spirit. We can grow in this grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour which, if we do, will soon bring us to the knowledge of our need of purity and sanctification, and we will see that this is a grace which is intended for us. We gladly comply with the conditions for the same, and enter into it by faith. God now performs the work in our hearts by the power of his Holy Spirit. We cannot do it ourselves, only in the sense that we meet the required conditions. It is impossible for us to grow into purity. This is beyond our individual power; it requires the power of God. We purify ourselves by making the separation of everything outwardly; God then purifies our hearts by an instantaneous work of grace. This grace by no means implies a maturity in growth. It only brings us into a position where we can the more rapidly grow up in spiritual things.

Ques. Why do we not get it all when we are justified?

Ans. Because the conditions for the two graces are not the same. The penitent sinner cannot, in his sinful condition, meet the requirements for sanctification, and God does not mean that he should. All that the sinner can possibly do is to repent. When he has fully repented, then he can believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and receive his pardon. This is justification. He is justified from all his sins through true repentance and faith. Those are the Scriptural conditions for justification, but the conditions for sanctification are consecration and faith. Repentance and consecration are vastly different. The first means to give up all sinful things, with a godly sorrow for all sins committed, and a solemn determination that by the grace of God all sinning shall forever cease. The second means to yield up to God all our good things, every sacred treasure of our heart and affections, with our body and every ransomed power, as a living sacrifice. The first is God's requirement of every sinner. The second is his requirement of every justified believer. The first is all that the guilty sinner can possibly comprehend. The second is that which only the justified believer can comprehend. Therefore it is utterly impossible for us to get sanctified at the time of our justification. The two are distinct and separate works of grace, obtained upon distinct and separate conditions.

Some people have vainly believed, and some vainly teach, that there is but one work of grace; but such a doctrine is contrary to the word of God, the conditions of the plan of redemption, and the glorious testimonies of thousands of saints who have lived in the past and those who are living witnesses today. It is perfectly natural and logical to every honest and willing child of God who is not yet sanctified to soon believe that there is a second work of grace. Perhaps it will take a few months for some to find out their need, but it is only a question of time till every one will find an inward longing for something more, to satisfy the inward condition of the heart. To prove this statement let us listen to the testimonies of those who are simply justified and have had no teaching on sanctification, whether their Christian life be one of years or but a few months. Everyone who stands in this justified relation with God gives expression in some respects according to the following: |I thank God for salvation and am not sorry that I ever gave my heart to God, but I do feel the need of a deeper work of grace.| Another will say, |Pray for me that I may have a clean heart.| Another will request prayer for perfect love; another will confess to having been overcome by sin, and having made some crooked paths, and feels sorry and wants to get nearer to God and get a better experience.

Now we cannot doubt the sincerity of these hearts, neither their experience. Their experiences are those of honest, willing children of God who are anxious to do the whole will of God. Such expressions would not be given by professors who are void of salvation. The fact is, the experiences of these hearts teach them the need of the second grace, and unless they should be deceived by some false doctrines, they would keep on with such testimonies until they should obtain that perfect love, or a clean heart, or a deeper work of grace.

Do they not testify that the first work of grace is not deep enough? They are glad for the first work, but they want something deeper. They are glad that grace has found their heart, but they want a clean heart -- one that is free from those conscious uprisings of evil which, if unrestrained, would bring them into condemnation and guilt, and perhaps have already overcome them and produced such an effect in their lives. They are glad for the sweet love of God that has found its way into their hearts, but they long for perfect love. They are conscious of some obstacles which hinder that love from being perfect, and yet they do not understand just how those obstacles can be removed. Someone may tell them that they have all they can get from God and to ask for more would be presumption, and yet their souls cry out for that which is natural in the grace of God, and how ready they are, when they hear sanctification taught, to meet the conditions and enter into the rest for their souls -- this perfect love, this deeper work of grace, and this experience of a clean heart, and this baptism with the Holy Ghost.

Now let us listen to their testimonies. What do we hear? Ah, we hear them praising God for this they were so longing for. One will praise God for a clean heart; another will say he has found the perfect love; another will testify to the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Others will thank God for sanctification, and others will call it this sweet soul-rest, etc., which all mean the same blessed experience of sanctification. Now if we ask them if they believe in a second work of grace, what will they answer us? Ah, there is no question about it. They have it in their hearts, and they are spoiled for any argument upon the subject.

So it is with all God's people who have met the definite conditions for sanctification and have come into this precious grace. We know it is a second work.

Ques. How can one keep free from evil thoughts?

Ans. The pure heart and mind do not entertain an evil thought. As soon as such thoughts are presented they are banished. In 2 Cor.10:5 we read how such things are dealt with. |Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.| An evil thought thus captivated does not enter into the heart and therefore does not become a sin to us. The apostle James says, |When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin.| The evil thought must first enter into the heart and be conceived into a desire before it becomes sin.

This world is full of sin and iniquity on every hand. We may hear profanity as we pass along the street, or we may see iniquity before our eyes daily as we come in contact with the world, we may pick up a secular paper and read of murder and theft, and thus these evil thoughts may enter into our minds, but they do not conceive or take root in our hearts. They are brought into captivity and banished from us. If when reading or hearing of a murder or theft, someone should see an opportunity to commit a similar deed and resolve in his heart that he would do so at his first opportunity, that person would have conceived the thought in his heart, and in the sight of God he would be a murderer or a thief, even though he never had the opportunity to carry out the design. The heart that is purified by the cleansing blood of Christ and momently kept in the efficacy of that blood, is the sacred dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit, who has the full and exclusive control of the heart.

As long as our will is kept in line with the will of God the Holy Spirit will abide. The word of God says, |Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world,| and, |No man can enter into a strong man's house and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man.| The strong man -- the Holy Spirit -- is in his own house, and it is impossible for sin to enter in unless we by our own will consent to it. The word of God speaks of the Holy Spirit as the seal. This thought is practically illustrated by the common use of a seal in canning fruit. We may be ever so careful with fruit in getting it properly prepared for the can, but if we set it away without the seal, it will not be long until the fruit is spoiled. It requires the seal to keep the fruit from spoiling. There is something in the air which, if not excluded, will spoil the fruit. The use of the seal is to exclude the air.

So it is with our heart. Justification inducts us into Christ; sanctification purifies our hearts and seals us in him; now when sin would come in contact with our hearts and defile it, there is something there, the Holy Spirit, the seal, which keeps sin from entering in. |If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.| -- 1 John 1:7. Notice the word |cleanseth.| It is in the present tense. By our walking in the light, which signifies our perfect obedience continually to all the known will of God, our heart is kept in line with God's will and hence under the provisions of his grace -- the sin-cleansing blood of Jesus. Thus the perpetual cleansing keeps our heart pure. By the inwrought work of sanctification we =obtain= this purity, and by our obedience to God, walking in the light, we =retain= it.

In this blessed grace, no evil thought can enter our heart unless by our consent. We have willed it so that we forsake all sin and turn to God; thus his grace of justification has found its way into our heart. Then by a definite consecration we willed it so that the cleansing blood of Jesus should purify our heart from inborn depravity, and his grace of sanctification has found its way within, and has brought the glorious heavenly guest, the Holy Spirit, there to abide. Now as we continue to walk in this light we are kept from sin. By our will we either open or close our heart toward God. The will is the entrance and door. The grace of God is free, and more abundant than the sunshine that lights and warms this earth. All of this sunshine may be kept out of the room if we will to have it so. We can darken the windows and doors, and keep every ray of light out, or we can have abundant sunshine if we will, by simply removing the obstacles. So it is with the illimitable grace of God. If we open up wide the door of our heart -- our will -- and keep it open continually, the grace will flow in and keep out everything that is not like heaven. |For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.| -- 2 Cor.4:6, 7.

If we close the door of our heart toward God, it will be opening it toward sin, and the result will be darkness. Depravity will at once have entered in, and then as every evil thought comes into the mind it will find no obstruction to its way into the heart, where it will find a fruitful soil in which to germinate and bring forth evil work.

Ques. Does not the word of God say that |from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts,| etc.?

Ans. Yes, this is true; but we must consider what kind of heart Jesus is speaking about. Let us turn to Mark 7. The Pharisees and certain scribes found fault because they saw some of Jesus' disciples eat bread without washing their hands; not that their hands were not clean enough to eat with, but because they did not serve the traditional ceremony, thinking that thus the hearts of the disciples were defiled, but Jesus explained that nothing can defile the heart except that which enters into it. Ver.19. |And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornication, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.| -- Verses 20-23.

We see that this is a true picture of the unregenerated heart, which has no good thing in it. We also see that it is not an evil thought presented to the mind from without which defileth the man, but it is the evil thought that comes from within a corrupted heart. There are two sources of evil thoughts.1. The devil himself directly.2. A corrupt, unregenerate heart, which is a hotbed and nursery of the devil. From either of these outward sources evil thoughts may be presented to the mind of a child of God, but from neither can our hearts be defiled if they are brought into captivity and banished, as will be the case with every obedient soul.

Ques. Is not every mistake a sin?

Ans. No; there are many mistakes which are not sinful. There is no doubt that every sin is a serious mistake, but God's people do not make such mistakes. The word of God teaches what sin is, and if we abide in Christ we will not commit sin. The scriptural definition of sin will help us to understand this. |Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.| -- Jas.4:17. |All unrighteousness is sin.| -- 1 John 5:17. |When lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin.| -- Jas.1:15. |Sin is the transgression of the law.| -- 1 John 3:4. |Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not.| -- 1 John 3:6. Any mistake that would be a violation of God's law would be a sin, but aside from this, a simple error in judgment is not a sin. Salvation does not warrant an experience beyond the probability of error in our human nature, and Christian perfection is not infallibility.

Ques. Did not Paul say there was sin dwelling in him?

Ans. Yes. This expression we find in Rom.7:17. The apostle when writing this chapter was not describing his sanctified condition. It is a description of his condition when he was in the flesh, or carnal state. |For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sin, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.| -- Ver.5. And in Rom.8:8, 9 he says, |So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.| |For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.| -- Ver.2. Paul's condition when under the law is described in the 7th chapter of Romans. In chapters 6 and 8 he describes the condition of the child of God under grace.

Ques. But does he not say in Rom.3:10 that |there is none righteous, no, not one|?

Ans. Yes. But he was not describing the condition of the child of God under grace. He refers to the world under the law. No Bible Christian can conscientiously apply Rom.3:10-18 to himself.

Ques. How about Solomon, who said, |There is not a just man upon the earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not|?

Ans. This also was spoken of the condition of the people under the law. |The law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did by the which we draw nigh unto God.| -- Heb.7:19.

In order to properly apply scripture it is very helpful to always consider: 1. Who wrote it? 2. When was it written? 3. Of whom or to whom was it written? In this manner it is easy to determine the meaning of such scriptures as here have been mentioned and many others, which would otherwise render it impossible to harmonize the whole word of God. The two dispensations, the law and grace, are vastly different in many respects. The first was but the shadow of the second. In the first there was no power to take away sin, or to change the inward moral condition of man but in the second there is the power and provision in the redemption of Christ to save us to the uttermost.

Ques. But did not Paul say of himself when under grace that he kept his body under and brought it into subjection? Does not this indicate that his body was yet sinful?

Ans. Let us turn to 1 Cor.9:25-27. We see here that he makes no reference to his body being sinful, but tells how he practices temperance in all things. Like one who prepares himself for a race, in training himself physically, bringing his body into subjection in everything, that he may be able to win the prize. In sanctification the sinful and depraved nature is destroyed, and everything unholy cleansed out; therefore there are no sinful propensities to be kept down and under, but all sin is kept out. The sanctified body is not sinful but holy (1 Cor.3:17) and is designed for God for the dwelling-place of his Holy Spirit.

Every propensity and appetite is now restored to its condition of purity, in which it was created before sin entered into the world, but yet we are human. Sanctification does not destroy our human nature, but simply brings it into easy control, with every propensity in harmony with the design of its Creator. But we are yet in this world and the creature -- our physical nature -- is yet subject to vanity.

Satan with all his malicious and crafty devices is lying in wait to deceive and lead astray. He comes to us and appeals to our physical nature in many respects, and it is necessary that we keep in a watchful and prayerful attitude |lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.| -- 2 Cor.11:3. Even through our appetites would Satan gain the advantage over us, and finally bring us into bondage, if he were permitted to do so. In this respect the apostle Paul kept his body under and brought every appetite and propensity into subjection to serve him, rather than he should serve them, and all his ransomed powers were bent upon his faithful obedience to the one object of his existence -- the ministry of the gospel.

Ques. Can a person lose the experience of sanctification?

Ans. Yes, it is possible to lose it.

This experience does not place us beyond temptation. It only fortifies us more strongly against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and greatly diminishes the probability of falling.

Ques. Does not the word of God teach that |Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not|; and |Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin|?

Ans. Yes; this is certainly true. There is no possibility of sinning in Christ. It is only when a person gets out of Christ that it is possible to commit sin. The term |born of God| includes both justified and sanctified. No justified person can commit sin and retain the justified experience; therefore, no one who is born of God and retains this divine relationship in him will sin. Everyone who commits sin must do so outside of this life in God. The apostle John says, |Whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him,| which signifies that in the act of committing sin a person gets entirely outside of Christ. In such an act he has not seen, nor known him. The apostle also says concerning those who are born of God, that they |cannot sin,| because they are |born of God.| This statement agrees with the one just quoted, and proves that it is not possible to commit sin in Christ; but it does not infer that it is not possible to get out of Christ and commit sin. The expression |cannot sin| simply signifies that there is no disposition in the heart to commit sin. We are constrained by love to him who gave his life for us, to do nothing to displease him. We have the privilege and power to displease him if we will, but we have no will to do so. We |cannot| do it and abide loyal to him. A mother may be requested to take a weapon and slay her child, but she at once answers, I cannot! Yea, she can if she will; but the answer would in every case be repeated |I cannot!| It is not difficult to see why she cannot do such a deed. She has no disposition to do so, even though she has the power to do it. Her love for her child renders it impossible so long as that love continues.

Ques. Can a person be restored to this experience of sanctification if it should be lost?

Ans. Yes, by complying with the conditions; but the same act of sin which would cause us to lose our experience of sanctification would also forfeit our justification, and bring us into condemnation. Therefore the conditions necessary to get back into Christ would be first, repentance and faith; then by a definite consecration, or a renewal of our consecration which has been broken, and a definite faith in the all-cleansing blood of Christ we will be restored to sanctification.

Ques. In case a person shall unfortunately sustain such a loss, how long would it take to become restored?

Ans. Just as long as it would take to meet the conditions. No one in such a case should wait an hour, but knowing just what conditions are required, they should be complied with at once.

Ques. How can we understand the seventh chapter of Romans to harmonize with the doctrine of holiness?

Ans. From the seventh verse of this chapter the apostle describes his experience when under the law, before he had been brought into the grace of God. From the seventh to the fourteenth verse he speaks of his experience, making use of the past tense. From the fourteenth verse through the rest of the chapter he makes use of the present tense, but still continues the description of his past experience.

It is held by holiness opposers that this chapter is a description of the apostle's experience under grace, and that this is the highest possible experience attainable in this gospel dispensation. But such an experience is not consistent with grace at all. If this were all that grace can do, there would be no encouragement in it for any one to accept. No sinner could do worse than the experience described here, except that he might deliberately choose to sin and do everything wrong. This chapter describes the sinner as having a desire in his mind to do right but no power within him to carry out his desires, in any respect. He is awakened to the requirements of the law of God, but finds he is held fast by another law which holds him with such power as to render him helpless, utterly helpless, to do anything good. This does not apply to the justified experience under grace. It applies perfectly to that under the law, because the Mosaic law had no other power, nor design, than to awaken the conscience; and this is just what the apostle here describes concerning himself |For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.| -- Rom.7:9. He died in trespasses and sin. This was the condition of all men under the law, and this is where grace found the world. |Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.| -- Rom.3:19.

Ques. Is every child at birth sinful by nature?

Ans. The race of mankind has descended from Adam through Seth, who was born not in the image of God as Adam and Eve were created, but in the image and after the likeness of Adam as he was after the fall. It is evident that our first parents lost the image of God through their disobedience, and it is also evident that this image of God has never been regained through the first Adam. The word of God plainly teaches that Christ, the second Adam, is the image of God, and by the power of his redemption grace, he will restore this image to every son and daughter of Adam's race who will meet the conditions for the same. The first Adam is depraved and a sad failure. He has no power within himself to change his moral condition. The second Adam (Christ) is a glorious success. He possesses all the moral characteristics of purity and holiness that the first Adam did before the fall, and also has the power to impart this image of God to all who come to him.

The image of Adam is entailed upon the race through the fall, and evidently, though mysteriously, affects mankind through the natural law of generation. The image of God is provided for the race through redemption in Christ, and is imparted to each individual through the divine law of regeneration and its accompanying grace. It is compatible with the word of God, with reason, and with observation, that every child born into this world through the natural law of generation, very early in life in a greater or lesser degree manifests some of the characteristics of this image of Adam. Just how, when, and where the child partakes of this nature would be a subject of conjecture and speculation. The psalmist says he was conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity (See Psa.51:5.) and according to the condition of the unregenerate world this is as true today as it was in the days of David. The innocent child, of course, is not accountable for this inward condition of its nature, but as it grows to the age of accountability it becomes an easy prey to the powers of sin because of this condition. While innocent, it is unquestionably acceptable in the sight of God and comes under the provisions of the redemption of Christ unconditionally: for |sin is not imputed where there is no law.| -- Rom.5:13. The apostle says |I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.| -- Rom.7:9. He no doubt had reference to the innocent period of his life. The principle of sin was in his nature, but |without the law sin was dead|; it had no power to bring him into condemnation. As soon, however, as he became able to know what the law required of him, sin revived and made him a transgressor by causing him to disobey the commands of God. There is no room to question the fact that sin was in his nature; for he plainly states it so, and the expression, |sin revived| indicates that it had been in him during the period of his innocent state.

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