Views of Sanctification
By: Navigator Smile Gome
The doctrine of sanctification has been one of the most misunderstood doctrines in Christian circles. Many people have used the word “sanctify” wrongly, and as a result different views of sanctification have been expressed. Others teach that, with sanctification man must live a perfect life and sinless. In this paper we are going to see what these views are and their faulty understanding sanctification, and then talk about the right view and its nature of growth expected. God sanctifies a believer beginning at regeneration a life long battle with sin and a process of growth into Christlikeness.
“Sanctification is something that we must pursue, or seek earnestly, if we are to obtain it.
While it is God’s work we have our part in it; viz: to make it the object of our earnest desire and pursuit” (Torrey, p. 345). To understand how people use the word differently Dr Naselli summarizes the five views on sanctification and he labels them Wesleyan view, Keswick view, Pentecostal view, Chaferian view, and Reformed view (Naselli p. 4-5).
In the Wesleyan view of sanctification the ultimate goal is “to renew men’s and women’s hearts in God’s image” (Sullivan, p.1). Those who hold this view believes that at conversion, that person is not sanctified. They believe that sanctification starts later in life of that believer. There must be a crisis known as second of grace that will usher that person into sanctification process following the first grace which was at conversion. Once a person enters the sanctification process, he will live a sinless life and perfect while he is in this life; he will have perfection Christianity, perfect love toward God and the people. Entrance is also based on certain conditions, “that teaches that the sin nature is completely removed at a crisis experience when one meets the condition of the particular group of teaching it” (Ryrie, p. 184). This means that the person will no longer have to struggle with sin again in this life.
The Keswick approach says man is not required to do anything for his sanctification but only God has to do it all. The view claims to offer a message of hope to backsliders. “Since 1875, proponents of this view have offered four and five-day conferences focusing on the spiritual renewal of those who attend (Sullivan, p. 9).” Their slogan is “let go let God” a sign of a victorious life. Like the first view, there must be a crisis that will lead this believer into the sanctification process. This crisis is known as “surrender.” This is the point now the believer becomes a spiritual man because he is spirit-filled and become victorious in Christian life.
According to the Pentecostal view, sanctification is evidenced by the speaking in tongues. And in absence of speaking then sanctification is not taking place. They believe and emphasize that a believer must be baptized by the Spirit to start the process of sanctification; and they call this “the second work of grace.” This will lead a believer to a life of service and perform miracles, (Acts 2; 10:46).
The Chaferian approach of sanctification which is simply description of the teaching of Chafer, believes that a believer is a born again carnal man at conversion as he received Christ as his Savior. And is not filled with Spirit this time and he is a defeated Christian. A believer starts the process of sanctification through a crisis known as “dedication.” This man upon his dedication becomes a spiritual man, and this time around he receives Christ again not as the Savior but his Lord. The key word here is “Spirit-filled.” A number of very well know theologians holds this view, including Scofield, Chafer, Walvoord, and Ryrie believe in this view of sanctification (Naselli p. 2)
The Reformed view believes that sanctification begins at the very moment of conversion. At that moment he starts his long life battle with sin, on his way to be conformed to the image of Christ. Those who hold to this view believe that though a believer submits to Christ as both Savior and Lord, he may sometimes live like a carnal man; but his progressive growth is through active spiritual disciplines (Naselli, p. 5). The growth of the believer is that of ups and down, showing that a believer will surely struggles in this life with sin.
Having seen all these five views and the way how they are using the term sanctification, it is necessary to evaluate them according to Scripture.
The first three views (Wesleyan, Keswick, and Pentecost) though different beliefs but have similar approaches to the teaching of sanctification, in that they all believe that sanctification does not start at the moment of salvation.
According to the Wesleyan view a believer is not set apart on his first work of grace. But this is not what the Bible teaches. We are reminded by the apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 6:11, that Christians are washed, sanctified, and justified in the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. A believer does not start the process of sanctification because of some kind of crisis has happened to usher him into sanctification. Our sanctification is not entire, not perfect in this life, but it is a long battle, “a continuation of what was begun in regeneration when a newness of life was conferred upon and instilled within the believer” (Erickson, p. 313-14), Paul shares the struggle which is there with the flesh (Rom. 7:18; Gal. 5:17). Perfection in this life is self deception, (Phil. 3:12-16).
The Keswick and Pentecostal views of sanctification are not correct just like the Wesleyan view, because the views indicates that a believer is not filled with the Spirit of God upon receiving Christ, a believer is just carnal man. He must wait crisis for him to be a spiritual man; this is when he will just let things go and let God do His work in him for Keswick view.
This is not true we have a part to play in our sanctification (Phil. 2:5-7; Jn. 13:14-15). The believers are not called spiritual because of surrendering to service but they are called spiritual people because they have been given the Spirit upon receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. The Pentecostal views sanctification as something for the future as well just like Keswick. “The charismatic fail to identify that God’s process of sanctification is a three-fold process, which takes place in our past, present, and future” (Swartzwelder, pdcpastort.com). There evidence of sanctification is not biblical; we cannot use speaking in tongues to gauge the spiritual growth of a believer. In 1 Cor. 12:13, refers to the placing in of a new believer in the body of Christ and indwelling of the Holy Spirit on a new believer.
The view of Chaferian is that a believer is not filled with the Spirit at the moment of salvation, he is just carnal person. This view does not differentiate sanctification and one being dedicated for the ministry. They are put the dedication point as the beginning of sanctification which looks to ignore the purpose of sanctification. Ryrie wrote about how to achieve the goal of Christian life as, “a continuous and life long process” (p. 185). He continued to say, “There never comes a time for any Christian when he does not need to grow more in Christian life. Although this [dedication] is not a requirement for salvation, it is the basic foundation for sanctification (p. 186).” And Crenshaw wrote about this view in opposing Ryrie, “beginning sanctification in dedication and continuing it in the filling of the Spirit, thus making sanctification conditioned on one’s obedience. Once this is granted, it is obvious that he has made temporal separation between them, making sanctification optional (p. 99).” The process of sanctification for this view agrees that it will not be easy road of sanctification; there will be ups and downs on the road. However the problem also rises with putting dedication as the starting point of sanctification and not regeneration. When a person believes in Christ, he is regenerated, justified, and positionally sanctified.
The Reformed view of sanctification is a sound view, it states that a believer starts his long battle journey of sanctification just the same moment he believes in Christ. This to me is the right view according to the Bible. In Philippians 1:6, Paul writes, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
The views in this paper is Reformed view, we must see the levels of sanctification. We must know firstly that our position as children of God we are all sanctified (I Cor.1:2). The Scripture in this verse is very clear that all who are in Christ are sanctified, positionally set apart for God. In Romans 6:17-18, Paul reminded the believers who were in Rome how they were “made free from sin and became the servants of righteousness.”
Secondly sanctification itself is not a onetime events but progressive one. Sanctification is progressive because sin still exists in a believer’s flesh. So this brings the need for us to be changed into Christ’s image as Paul puts it in 2 Cor. 3:18, “from glory to glory” show that there is a degree of growth which we must experience. This happen through the Holy Spirit, studying the Scripture (John 17:17), chastisement (Heb. 12:5-10), and many more ways which the Lord feels is good for us. The third level is perfectness or completion; the long journey of our sanctification must come to an end. This is when our sinful bodies will be made perfect (Heb. 12:23). “But once we die and go to be with the Lord, then our sanctification is completed in one sense, for our souls are set free from indwelling and are made perfect” (Grudem p. 749).
So we can say that death brings us to completion of our sanctification. We are not free from sin in this life because we are still in the same body and same world. Therefore we must cooperate to the, leadership of the Spirit toward Christlikeness (Eph. 5:18).
Navigator Gome is a third year student at CABC
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