I have had the privilege of meeting John Henderson in the Concerned Nazarenes Facebook Group. This Group is primarily concerned about the invasion of postmodern heresies into the Church of the Nazarene denomination. But the Group is also working for the revival of born again, biblically sound, “fundamentalist” Wesleyan Holiness. Following is a repost of John’s combined articles on Entire Sanctification, originally posted here.
I am in the process of adding links to John’s articles below, as well as emphasizing certain points by bolding, and inserting comments in [brackets].
Combined Articles on Entire Sanctification
By John Henderson
The following are articles and portions of articles I have posted recently on Concerned Nazarenes. Since a discussion has arisen about it, I thought it proper to repost this information.
There has been a neglect of Scriptural holiness in a general sense throughout the Wesleyan holiness movement. The drift has been going on for some time as revealed by the now well-known message of Dr. Keith Drury of the Wesleyan Church, “The Holiness Movement is Dead!” It was a message that alarmed and challenged those of us in attendance at that Presidential Breakfast of the Christian Holiness Association in 1995 at First Church of the Nazarene in Nashville, Tennessee. It was a message that completely redirected my perception and determination of what I already instinctively knew was happening.
Dr. Millard Reed, Trevecca Nazarene College’s new president, was to be the next speaker in a late morning service. He went to his home nearby and completely re-wrote his message to supplement what Drury had just presented in order to show the possibilities of holiness renewal. It was a perfect supplement. With the disease of a dead holiness movement now fully exposed and the possibilities of recovery encouraged, I felt compelled to try to do something about it in some way. What could a powerless, uninfluential aging nobody do? That was my starting point.
We continued the slide as bemoaned by Dr. Drury some ten years later when he observed that, although there was an initial response that day that seemed positive and enthusiastic, nothing was actually done over that period to raise us from the deathbed of the movement.
As we are in 2014, almost another 15 years later, we see that not only have we remained dead and the corpse is now rotted, but the skeleton has been bleached and re-fleshed in the progressive new age apparel of mysticism and doctrines of demons. Even John Wesley has been morphed into the postmodern mold to the point that Scriptural holiness is counterfeited in a fabricated frame of reference, thus becoming a false doctrine itself. They have become words without substance and void of life. What could be worse than neglected holiness? Could it be hypocritical holiness or counterfeited holiness?
Drury predicted that if the heirs of the Scriptural holiness movement did not turn it around, God would seek out other venues and other people. I think He is doing just that at this point in time because the caretakers of the holiness movement have abandoned it and gone over to the enemy, even opposing in deed and word the very truth of the matter. In the very midst of “holiness apostasy” (my term), God is, at this very moment, raising up the dry bones, as it were, to once again become His mighty army of Scriptural holiness.
Although Scriptural holiness is defined in doctrinal statements and exegetical teachings, it is more than how we define and explain it. It is the very heart of the victorious Christian life and a necessity for all believers who would follow their Lord in total commitment.
Scriptural holiness is just that—Scriptural—and it transcends all philosophical and theological expositions of it. If it is only of the head, that is not enough! It must be more and also be of the beating heart of the soul. It is the epitome of Christ in us, the hope of glory. It is His life in us on the highest plane of spiritual living through the fullness of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying grace, a grace that is first instantaneous and then progressive throughout a life of obedience to the will of God. It is the sanctified believer following Christ, walking as He walked; walking with Him. It is being made pure as He is pure, righteous as He is righteous, and, yes, perfect as He is perfect. “As He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). Being in this world we are not of this world!
Consider this comparison. Adam was created as a perfect man. That was God’s design for the human race. He was to multiply and replenish the earth with his kind. Instead, Adam sinned and sin came upon his descendants. He then reproduced fallen humanity with a carnal nature—a deformity of the creation of God.
Jesus reverses that on a higher level. He saves from sin, then sanctifies us wholly through the fullness of the Spirit (baptism of the Spirit), thus returning us to what John Wesley correctly calls Christian perfection. Just as Adam was able at all times to obey or disobey, so is the sanctified believer. I should hasten to remind us that Adamic perfection and Christian perfection are not the same. Adam’s was perfection by creation and the sanctified Christian’s is made perfect (a spiritual sense of perfection) by grace through faith. Both are tempted to sin but both needed not yield to temptation. Both were granted the gift of free-will. Adam failed. We need not! The sanctified can still sin but are not under bondage to sin. Any sin must be forgiven.
Sin has never resided in the flesh. All the affections of the “flesh” are spiritual, not bodily. It is only in the spirit of man and there it infects the human soul. The host (the mortal body) does indeed suffer because of the sins of the spirit but is not responsible for those sins.
Scriptural Holiness, a Practical Experience
I watched a video several years ago of a camp meeting service where the evangelist was preaching on Scriptural holiness. As the cameras panned the audience and the preaching continued, I noticed two things: (1) the evangelist was “cut and dried.” Each point was like a lecture preparing you for the exam to follow; and (2) the audience was bored out of their “gourd”.
Scriptural holiness is much more than a doctrinal system or a systematic outline. There is a holiness doctrine for sure because there is a dynamic reality we call by various terms but all referring to the same grace of God. The terms are generally interchangeable, usually describing some comprehensible aspect of Scriptural holiness. Even Scriptural holiness is one of the terms. Some will parse the words, but they actually are so interchangeable as make that unnecessary. A Scottish educator of the mid-20th century, Stanley Banks, provides some of the thoughts for this article. Aside from Scripture quotes, direct quotes will be his comments.
Banks’ use of concise concepts proves very useful for our purposes here. Recognizing that it is possible to so mishandle the loftiest statements in the Scriptures on holiness in such an objective and prospective manner that the actual realization of being entirely sanctified is missed, it is necessary to always be Scriptural rather than merely theological or philosophical. Philosophy and theology serve the Scriptures, and not the other way around.
The life of Christ is our example of this holy life in Christ. His life is our pattern for living in holiness. We are to be Christlike, not analogous to Christ. It is His nature in us, not something to merely mimic. A Christian is neither almost saved nor almost sanctified. It is always complete salvation and entire sanctification.
We should understand that there is “a sin that dwelleth in me,” as Paul says it. “It is something distinct from the acts of sin, and is related to those acts as is cause to effect.” Banks says it is the “infection of nature” that remains in the regenerated.
Romans chapters 6-8 provide several descriptions of the same nature: the old man (hereditary evil); the body of sin (accumulated evil); inward enmity (hostility to God); the law of sin (downward drag); and the inward moral corruption (carnality from the fall of Adam). It is the “germ of sin that has caused all disruption and perversion in the human nature, and that causes us to be so un-Christlike, and which in its very essence is antagonistic to the operation of the Holy Spirit’s activities within us to make us Christlike.”
There is no hope of our being Christlike in the fullest sense unless God does something about this indwelling sin nature that is incurably hostile towards God. There cannot be a fight going on. Suppression only leads to eventual explosion. There has to be full surrender on our part and the “old man” must be crucified so that Christ reigns unchallenged in our hearts. It is all His work in “destroying” the old man. We cannot do a thing about it any more than we can save our own souls. It is as much an act of faith as it is of being born again, relying solely on His work in us.
This deliverance can only be enacted by God in the believer. The unredeemed are in no position to deal with the carnal nature or for God to deal with it. They are disqualified from this until they are regenerated. They are lost and need first to be saved. Once they have been saved by grace, they are in position to “go on unto perfection” as the Scriptures admonish. Thus, entire sanctification is attainable only by the born-again. This is clearly shown to be so in the prayer of Jesus in John 17 when He prayed, “sanctify them through Thy truth.” The “them” are all believers of all time, just as Jesus made it clear in John 17.
The Executor of all grace is the Holy Spirit. He brings us to salvation and He brings us to sanctification. Being born of the Spirit is a crisis of faith and being purified in our hearts is a crisis of faith. Both are instantaneous and both are definite and drastic works of grace enacted by the Holy Spirit in response to our faith. Salvation is the rescue and sanctification is the empowering. Someone once said that in salvation we have the Holy Spirit and in sanctification the Holy Spirit has us.
In sanctification we move from the realm of struggling with the sin nature as described in Romans 7 to full liberty in the fullness of the Spirit in Romans 8. We have not been paroled from carnality; we have been set fully free.
We speak of being filled with the Spirit. It is a simple thing to understand that if we are filled with the Spirit, there is nothing else there. Our having been emptied of self, He has the whole heart to Himself. The potential at salvation is made actual in sanctification. We are now empowered (His power working in us) to a life of dependence—a constant reliance on the Blood of Christ for continual cleansing and strengthening. “We must abide in the place where the precious blood goes on cleansing.” Those who really know the mind of John Wesley may recall that he once wrote Adam Clarke that “to retain the grace of God is more than to gain it” and “this should be strongly urged upon all those who have tasted perfect love.” (Perfect love was one of Wesley’s favorite terms for Scriptural holiness.)
It continues as a life of discipline and development. In full cooperation with the Holy Spirit, the sanctified person necessarily launches into a life-pattern of the discipline of body, mind, emotions, and will. Nothing is held from Him in reserve for self-indulgence. The purity of the heart develops into maturity of character and experience. The world can see the difference. They will know that we have been with Jesus. It is rightly called a mountaintop experience as compared to Moses being on Sinai with God and his face shining when he returned.
Do you want to see a real revival? This will bring it about. The world and the backsliding church are plunging headlong together into perdition and there is no rescue possible other than the faithful evangelistic drive by a sanctified Church that is committed to holiness of heart and life-style and that is followed by boldly witnessing to that world and apostate church without fear or favor.
NOTE: While it is sadly true that the holiness movement has had more than its fair share of shallow and often hypocritical “testimonies” of entire sanctification, I believe there have been much more that were genuine such as those presented in the following:
Understanding Entire Sanctification Through Testimonies
This matter that we in the Christian community variously refer to as sanctification, being filled with the Holy Spirit, holiness; and other terms is being, in my opinion largely neglected for any number of excuses, even by those who hold to sanctification as what is often called a second work of grace.
The general concept of Christian holiness is not merely a pet doctrine of those who hold to the doctrines of Wesley or the Keswicks. There is ample evidence that it is generally accepted among evangelical Christians as an integral part of the Christian experience, however defined and taught. It is not my intentions here to delve into the doctrine all that much, if at all. That can be for another time if needful. I want to go directly to the experience of what I choose to call entire sanctification, that moment after the new birth when the believer is endued with the power of the Holy Spirit—the divine baptism of the Holy Spirit—and cleansed from the dominion of inbred sin through the crucifixion of the old man or carnal nature. I use as a guide the testimonies of several Christians in a single meeting of a day of prayer at Emmanuel Bible College in Birkenhead, Scotland Wednesday, March 6, 1946. Reporting was the college founder, J. D. Drysdale.
Important aspects involved in the testimonies speak, I think, to us today in a very significant and challenging way. Drysdale sets up the testimonies with the statement: “When one has experienced the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire (Matt. 3:11), as I did in 1906, one can never be satisfied with formal religion, or lukewarmness in one’s own heart.”
I offer excerpts from four testimonies together in the hopes of providing a thread of what we face in our own lives in 2014. All those speaking appear to be long-term Christians. I number each speaker for clarity.
Speaker 1: “I became conscious that the old lusts and passions were beginning to take hold upon me, and were bringing me into captivity.” [This person had sought the blessing of entire sanctification several times in the past and deeply longed for holiness and purity. The person then stated:] “Suddenly the Holy Ghost fell upon me, and I felt within myself that I had been liberated from the power of indwelling sin, that the old man had received the death blow, and that, at long last, I was free within.”
Speaker 2: “For a long time I had been conscious that God had something better for me than I was experiencing . . . I wanted to plan my own life. I was in utter agony for the blessing of a clean heart.” [He (I use the editorial “he”) continued until he then said,] “I, too, cried out for deliverance from the bondage from within, and glory to God, He set me free. . . . The Word of God is alive to me now and it is easy to get through to God in prayer. Oh, how long I have been trying to reform myself but now the Lord is transforming me by the power of His Holy Spirit.”
Speaker 3: “He faithfully revealed to me that everything must be put upon the altar, then the fire fell and burned up indwelling sin.”
Speaker 4 [an especially significant testimony]: “I knew that some needed the blessing of a clean heart, but never thought that I myself needed it. I often professed to have it, and it was this old profession to which I was so tenaciously clinging that blurred my vision and kept me from acknowledging my need. And yet, how powerless I was! Many a time I longed to be free, and was often perplexed because I had no more liberty. . . . I began to pray, and tried to praise like others, but in my heart I was as dry as a stick. . . . I kept on praying for others, and even sought to help others through; but all the time, deep down in my heart, I knew there was not complete satisfaction; and as questions arose in my heart, I tried not to yield to them, and kept looking back to the time when I got the experience, in the hope that I would get peace in that way. At last, when nearly all the others had got through, the Lord broke me down. Oh, the pride of past professions! When I had opened my heart to the Lord, confessed my state and laid all on the altar, my trouble now was to claim the blessing by faith, and this I did by taking God at His word. Immediately I did so, the witness came and my heart was filed with praise.”
There were many other testimonies, each powerful and convicting. That was a great day for that Bible College. God is no different today. That blessing is for us here and now as it was in 1906 for Drysdale and 1946 for those at the college day of prayer. It is there for the receiving if we but forsake our pride and seek only Him. Know Him in His fullness first, then seek out the explanations.