We Believe in Entire Sanctification

We Believe in Entire Sanctification

by David J. Felter

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David J. Felter (Attig Photography)

In what is being called the “historic” 27th General Assembly this past June [2009], delegates once again affirmed Article X-Entire Sanctification, from our Articles of Faith. It is important that every Nazarene understand what many call, “our distinguishing doctrine.”

Scriptures remind us that all who are in proper relationship with God are called to be holy. Christian holiness obviously points to Jesus Christ and is descriptive of those persons who exist in a dependent relationship with Jesus. Christians are at once a holy people, and are also called to pursue holiness in expressions of their relationship with Jesus Christ.

The word sanctification is different from the word holiness. We might say that sanctification is the means to the end, which is holiness. The Christian Church believes in the sanctifying work of God, (1 Peter 1:2) We believe this call to holiness originates in the First Testament’s call to holiness (Leviticus 11:44-45) and continues on into the New Testament (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Bible scholars have understood the term sanctification as an “umbrella” term with differing levels of meaning. The term may refer to something we do, as well as to something God does. It has both the element of process and crisis inherent within its range of meanings. We believe that Christian holiness requires the entire sanctification of believers and that this involves both a process whereby we express our deepening devotion to God and our willingness to experience a “moment” of total submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Also, we believe the Holy Spirit is doing the work of sanctification-setting us apart as the exclusive property of God-and cleansing our interior being of all that conflicts with love for God and our neighbor.

Further, we believe the best definition of Christian holiness is the simplest one: Christlikeness. Christian holiness is about love and the renewal of God’s image in our being. It was summed up by our Lord when He stated: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’, and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:27).

dove_with_flameWe believe entire sanctification is that act of God following our conversion experience by which Christians are freed from competing loyalties that hinder or obstruct uncontested love for God and one’s neighbor. Further, we believe the heart is cleansed from the principle of sin, which is undeniably selfishness. By the power of the Sanctifying Spirit, we are enabled and empowered to love God with the totality of our being, and our neighbor as ourselves.

Entire sanctification is provided for every Christian by the blood of Jesus. It is by grace through faith and follows our willing, complete surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The sanctifying Spirit affirms this gracious relationship to our consciousness, commonly known as the witness of the Spirit.

We believe that there is a difference between a pure heart and a mature character. The former is obtained in an instant, the result of entire sanctification; the latter is the result of growth in grace. The sanctifying Spirit motivates us toward spiritual growth and Christian maturity. Our responsibility is to nurture this impulse by incorporating all the means of grace.

Our distinguishing doctrine, drawn from the inspirational insights of Wesley and a long line of Scripture students, back to the apostolic New Testament Church, has never been more important or relevant. It stands the test of scriptural scrutiny, and responds to the spiritual and social needs of every culture, in every location. Every Christian can experience what John Wesley called, “an entire renewal in the love and image of God.”

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David J. Felter is editor in chief of Holiness Today, though just this week he announced his retirement. This article was originally published in Holiness Today, November/December 2009; it can currently be  found at Holiness Today.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Donna Newkirk Stamm on December 12, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Isn’t it Christ Jesus who makes us “holy” through his sacrifice? Through the shedding of his blood to cover us? We, if we accept him take on his holiness, not ours. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves holy. No matter how hard we try, we can never be “holy” or sinless enough to be in the presence of God. This is why Jesus died!

    Reply

    • Thank your for reading this post and for your comment! Let me see if I can try to explain where we are coming from:

      Certainly, God does the work in us. True, no matter how hard we try in our own strength, we cannot make ourselves holy. True, on our own we can never be sinless enough to come into the presence of a holy God. However, neither can we ignore both Leviticus and 1 Peter when God’s people are told to “be holy, for I am holy.”

      What needs to be understood is that Nazarenes are Wesleyan-Arminian in theology, which presents a couple of beliefs that come in contrast with your comment:

      1. Nazarenes accept John Wesley’s definition of sin as a good one. He defined sin as, “a willful transgression against a known law of God.” Accepting the “sin” for which we are responsible in this way, since it is “willful” then with the help of God we are able to choose to not sin.

      This definition is in contrast to that of Calvinist or Reformed Christians who say that “we can’t help but to sin in every word, thought and deed.” There is some truth to this definition if we define sin as any human frailty, imperfection, mistake, or poor judgement. Christian holiness doesn’t automatically cause us to rise above these human imperfections, though I believe growth in holiness should begin to soften those edges of the sanctified believer. Holiness Christians believe, however, that we are not accountable for these human imperfections, being un-willful, but only for those sins which we willfully choose to commit.

      2. The second contrasting belief is the power of the infilling of the Holy Spirit subsequent to regeneration. Nazarenes believe in this second work of grace which is preceded by the believers total consecration to God and accomplished by grace through faith. This experience allows the Holy Spirit to release the believer’s bondage to their sinful nature so that instead of being inclined to sin (as all humans are born with), they are inclined to love (as God originally designed). With our inclination being toward love, and with the help and power of the Holy Spirit, “entirely sanctified” believers are then able to choose to not to sin, when we view sin as described above.

      A more detailed description of what the Church of the Nazarene believes about holiness can be found in the article “We are a Holiness People” on this site.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Donna Newkirk Stamm on December 13, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Thank you for taking the time to explain this. My only disagreement would be with the phrase, “a second work of grace”. .But I think we agree that a believer must grow in grace led by the Holy Spirit.

    Reply

    • Absolutely! We should always be growing in grace! The testimony of “entire sanctification” does not presume instant perfection.

      Don’t let the “second work of grace” provision give you too much heartburn. Many holiness scholars wisely admit that we can’t prescribe to God how and when He does things. He could easily “entirely sanctify” a person immediately after saving them, making the timing apparently instantaneous. Although we do believe there is a need for full & complete consecration prior to that. Theoretically, that would be possible, though.

      I often have to remind myself that theology is our attempt to explain God and his actions, not our instructions to Him that he must fulfill.

      Reply

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