The first step for the sinner is to repent. When on Pentecost men were pricked in their hearts and cried, "What shall we do?" Peter answered, "Repent." It is in accordance with God's plan of redemption, also with nature and reason, that man should repent of his sins in order to receive pardon. Repentance was the theme on which John preached in the wilderness of Judea. It seems also to have been the first subject on which the Lord preached. Mark 1:15. It is the will of God that men should repent of their sins. "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." 2 Pet.3:9. It is here implied if man does not repent he shall perish. Jesus says, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish," even as did those whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices, and those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell.
The first round in the ladder that reaches to eternal rest is repentance. If man never takes this step upon the way he can never reach that happy end. Because repentance includes so much, many men would gladly overstep this first round and begin their Christian life on some round higher up. This they can not do; they must take this first step, or perish. And should they strive to climb up some other way they are dishonest, and the Savior calls them "thieves and robbers."
When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to the baptism of John he said unto them, "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance." Mat.3:8. There are fruits of repentance. The tree is known by its fruits. When man really repents of his sins, by his fruits or manner of life it will be made known. One of the fruits of repentance is sorrow. We might have said that repentance is sorrow, for "godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death."
A well known politician became an embezzler of the county fund, and was sentenced to a few years in the state's prison. After having received his sentence he, in the sheriff's charge, passed out of the court-room, and with tears flowing from his eyes said, "My reputation is gone forever." That was a sorrow of the world and is not the way to salvation. Had the tears been flowing because he had sinned against God, who loved him, it would have been sorrow that "worketh repentance."
The apostle says in 2 Cor.7:11, "Behold this self-same thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge!" These are the fruits of repentance. The first here mentioned is "carefulness." The impenitent lives a reckless, careless life; but a watchfulness comes into the heart of the penitent. He becomes mindful of his acts and carefully avoids the ways of sin. He turns away from sin. Oh, what carefulness it works in him. He complies with the commandment of God, "Let the wicked forsake his way." The marginal reading of Mat.3:8 is "bring forth fruit answerable to the amendment of life." The penitent carefully turns away from sin, and there is therefore an amendment of life.
The second fruit of repentance mentioned in 2 Cor.7:11 is "clearing of yourselves." Men usually in their sinful life do many a wrong deed. When they have a godly sorrow they are very willing to do all they can to "clear away," or right the wrongs they have done. For instance, a man has in conversation with one neighbor spoken evil of another neighbor and injured his character. When he repents of his sins he will acknowledge to his neighbor that he spoke falsely, and will do what he can to repair the injury he has done. Debts he has long neglected he will pay when he repents of his sins, if it is possible. Wherein he has stolen or defrauded in any way he will restore as far as he is able. Zacchaeus, when he came down from the sycamore tree, had a penitent heart, and said: "The half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold." Luke 19:8. God does not command a fourfold restoration, but he does demand a restoring of an equal amount of what has been taken. If the penitent is unable to do this he can, no doubt, make confession, and promise to restore as soon as possible.
It is very consistent and reasonable that God makes such demands of the penitent. No man can rightly object to such requirements. It establishes confidence in the hearts of unbelievers. They see a beauty in the Christian religion. It not only saves a man from doing wrong deeds in his future life, but calls upon him to repair as far as possible the wrongs and injuries he has done in his past life. In talking about two of the leading members of a certain religious denomination an unbeliever recently remarked: "If these men would pay me what they owe me I would have more confidence in Christianity." We saw then how consistent it was that God requires man to correct his past life as far as he can. It forces confidence in the hearts of the unsaved and gains their attention. This is the "clearing of yourselves."
The penitent gladly turns away or forsakes his evil ways. He abhors sin. Ah, what "vehement desire" to be free; what zeal! He gladly does all he can to repair the injuries he has done. When he has defrauded man of money he will confess it and restore it. When he has contracted debts and long neglected them he will confess his negligence and strive to pay them. Where he has misrepresented any one and thereby done him an injury he will make confession. And wherein man has wronged him and he has hatred in his heart against him, he will freely forgive. Jesus says, "If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Mat.6:15.
When the penitent has met all the requirements of the Scriptures, and confesses all to God, he has promised to forgive him. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." 1 John 1:9. After the forsaking of sins and the restitution of wrongs and the forgiveness of injuries, and confession to God, there remains yet for man to
A prison-keeper inquired of Paul and Silas: "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." Acts 16:30, 31. At this point Satan has succeeded in confusing many an honest soul. They have forsaken all to follow Jesus, but have not that perfect confidence that God forgives and accepts them. Satan will allow them to believe that God will save them in some future time, but struggles hard to prevent their believing that Jesus saves them now. The apostle says, "By grace are ye saved through faith." Eph.2:8. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." 1 John 5:1. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." John 1:12. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God." Rom.5:1. It is not by enthusiasm or excitement that we are saved, but "by grace through faith."
Jesus on one occasion said, "Which of you intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it." Luke 14:28. He uses this illustration to teach us the manner in which we should come to him. The cost is "a death to sin and the world." The prize is heaven and eternal glory. When you have carefully counted the cost and deliberately decided in your soul to follow Jesus, then believe on his name, "and thou shalt be saved."
The term justification is used both in the Old Testament and the New. There is a difference between the justification under the law and the justification by grace. The one was obtained by the blood of animals and the other by the blood of Jesus. Since we are writing upon the glorious themes of the New Testament we shall say but little of the justification by the sacrifices of animals.
Justification implies a forgiveness of sins. The sense of guilt resulting from a transgression of God's law is removed. The justified therefore experience a safety, a peace and rest. Fears and uncertainties are banished, and the soul is filled with confidence and hope. "Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God." Rom.5:1. Peace is the natural result of justification. It is sin that destroys the happiness of man. Before sin entered into this world man lived in a delightful Eden. His heart was open and frank before God, and he rejoiced in his presence. Sin brought a sense of shame and guilt, and he hid from the presence of God. All men admire the innocency of childhood. The peaceful countenance of an infant, its freedom from care, anxieties and unrest but remind us of the peacefulness of pardon.
There was a justification by the law, but the law day has passed away. We have come to the gospel day in which no flesh shall be justified by the works of the law, but by "the faith of Jesus Christ." Gal.2:16; 3:11. The Bible promises nothing more in justification than a full pardon of all transgression and restoration to childhood innocency. "And Jesus called a little child unto him and set him in the midst of them and said, Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Mat.18:2, 3. A justified man is as innocent and free from transgression as a little child. Is it not a just cause of surprise that men will teach the forgiveness of sins necessary to the experience of justification, and yet teach that the justified commit sin? "O Consistency, thou art a jewel."
It occurs to our mind that if men would use consideration, mingled with reason and judgment, they would see the inconsistency of the above teaching. Should a man who had used abusive language to you come and penitently ask your forgiveness, you would forgive, but that does not give him liberty to continue his abuse. When the penitent comes to God he will pardon, but this does not give him liberty to continue in sin. God created man with an intelligence, a reason and common sense. The ravages of sin have greatly impaired these qualities of the mind that believes that justification necessitates a forgiveness of sins, yet the experience can be retained while committing sin. A sound writer has said, "Common sense is a quality of mind not so common as the words imply. Many claim it who have no right to its possession. It is a high standard of mental worth. The brain coin that bears its imprint has a par value wherever man is governed by pure reason." No true Christian believes he can live in sin and be a Christian. Even those who are governed by pure reason do not believe such. By the blood of Jesus "all that believe are justified from all things." Acts 13:39.
Justification by grace through faith in Jesus does not end with a forgiveness of past transgressions only, but includes the impartation of the divine, or eternal life to the soul. The blood of animals offered for sins in the Jewish economy was unable to impart this life to the offerer of the sacrifice. Jesus says, "I am come that ye might have life." "Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." "He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." "God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son."
The process by which man enters the natural life is termed a birth or generation. The process by which man enters the spiritual life is expressed by the words, "being born again," or "regeneration." With the words "being born again" we naturally associate life. When Nicodemus heard the words he thought the process of bringing into physical life was to be repeated. The Savior told him, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." John 3:6. In life there is activity and power. Not only are the transgressions forgiven, but by regeneration life and power come into the soul, which gives man strength to resist sin. The Israelite only hoped for a forgiveness of his past sin through his offering. That beautiful hope of constant victory over sin was not his to enjoy. He knew the power of sin and the weakness of his offering; consequently he expected naught else but to offer his sacrifices over and over, day by day, and year by year continually. He who to-day comes to God pleading for forgiveness of his sins through the offering of the eternal Son and expects to still continue in sin enjoys no better hope than a Jew. He dishonors the great sacrifice of God's Son by counting it no more than the sacrifice of animals.
In regeneration the holy, pure, divine life comes into the soul. Man passes from "death unto life." The dominion of sin has come to an end. Sin is dethroned and its kingdom destroyed. Regenerated man is crowned a king. The royal robes of white enshroud him. The scepter of righteousness he sways triumphantly and reigns a mighty conqueror, "a king and priest unto God." Praise and honor to his name!
This new life within man's soul finds expression in a new life without. Since the new life within is holy and pure the new life without is holy and pure. "Make the inside of the cup and platter clean and the outside will be clean also." The apostle John tells us the manner of life that follows "being born again." "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not, but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not." 1 John 5:18. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him: and he can not sin, because he is born of God." 1 John 3:9. This text does not teach the impossibility of committing sin as some have supposed, but the impossibility of committing sin and retaining the spiritual birth. In 1 John 2:29 we are clearly taught that righteousness of life succeeds the regeneration of man. Sin belongs only to Satan and sinners. It is not found in the life of God, nor of the angels, nor of Christ, nor of the Christians.
The term "adoption" is a few times used in the New Testament. It is that part of justification which places us in the family of God. In the apostolic days the Romans were accustomed to adopting the children of some other family into their own. The law on these occasions demanded a full surrender of the child with all his possessions to his new governor or father. The father received the child as an heir to all his possessions, equal with his own children.
So we in justification give ourselves to God with all our talents and possessions, and he receives us into his family, and we become joint-heirs with his Son. This is true, and very precious because it is true. The apostle in speaking of adoption says, "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." Rom.8:15. We are here taught that it is in adoption that we look upon God as our Father. We are taught the same in Gal.4:5, 6. By the Spirit of adoption we look unto God as our Father and consider ourselves his own children. As members in the family of God we yield ourselves unto his service and "our members as instruments of righteousness unto him." This prohibits sin. To live impure, or to commit more or less sin, and have the yoke of Christ upon us, or to be a joint-heir with him is indeed very disparaging.
Since the word conversion is used in connection with justification we will give it only brief notice. Jesus said, "Except ye be converted and become as little children," etc. Peter said, "Repent and be converted." Justification properly implies a pardon or forgiveness of our transgressions or sins. Regeneration implies a bringing into the spiritual life. Adoption implies the reception of the new-born child into the family of God. Conversion, the turning about, or a change in life. Any one of these terms include all the others. These are all accomplished in what is known as the first work of grace, and is most frequently and properly termed justification.
Sanctification is one among the clear and positive doctrines of the New Testament. Justification, regeneration, adoption, and conversion are terms used to signify the same work of grace, or the same experience in the Christian life. Sanctification has reference to a higher work of grace, or higher life. It is an experience obtained subsequent to justification. The Savior in praying to the Father for his disciples said: "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." John 17:17. Before making this petition he told the Father of their separation from the world and of their persecution by the world, which are certain evidences of justification.
Sanctification is defined thus in Webster's Unabridged Dictionary:
1. Sanctification is the act of God's grace by which the affections of men are purified or alienated from sin and the world and exalted to a supreme love of God; also the state of being thus purified or sanctified.2. Sanctifier. One who sanctifies or makes holy, specially the Holy Ghost.3. Sanctify. To set apart to a holy or religious use; to make holy or free from sin; to cleanse from moral corruption or pollution; to make holy.
Sanctification is the destruction of the body of sin or depraved nature. The work of sanctification, or the sanctifying process, is expressed as a cleansing or purging or refining. It is the restoration of the soul to its original purity or holiness by the removing of the depraved nature incurred by the transgression in Eden. We will conclude this subject by a Bible lesson.
1. Sanctification is the will of God. "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification." 1 Thes.4:3.
2. Sanctification is effected by God. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thes.5:23. "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ, and called." Jude 1.
3. Sanctification is effected by the Lord Jesus. "For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." Heb.2:11.
4. Sanctification is effected by the Holy Spirit. "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Cor.6:11.
5. Sanctification is through the Word of God. "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." John 17:17.
6. Sanctification is through the atonement of Christ. "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate." Heb.13:12.
7. Sanctification is perfect salvation. "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." 2 Thes.2:13.
8. Sanctification as a cleansing removes spots, wrinkles, and blemishes from the church. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse 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." Eph.5:25-27.
9. Sanctification prepares men for the service of God. "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work." 2 Tim.2:20, 21.
Because this text is very generally misunderstood we feel like giving an explanation of it. It was long misunderstood by us. Only very recently the Holy Spirit interpreted it to our heart. One evening we asked God to give us an understanding of this difficult passage of Scripture, and the next morning we fully understood it. It is very simple. In a great house there are vessels of gold and silver, wood and earth, some to honor and some to dishonor. This house represents man in his natural state. There are some good traits of character in most every unregenerated man, and also some evil traits. He has some honorable dispositions and some dishonorable. Full salvation, which includes both justification and sanctification, will save and purge him from every dishonorable inclination and evil trait of character, and fit him for the Master's use. He will be used only to the glory of God. All his fruits will be holy unto the Lord.
10. Sanctification prepares man for heaven. We have quoted from 1 Cor.6:11. By reading the two preceding verses we learn that sanctification is necessary to the entrance of heaven.
There is a sweet melody in the word "holiness." We associate it with everything that is heavenly. It is frequently used synonymously with sanctification, yet not always with all the forms of the word sanctification. On the whole there is a slight difference in the meaning of the two terms. Holiness is the consummation of the work of sanctification. By transposing a few words in Heb.12:14 we would have it read, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Holiness is here a noun objective to the preposition without. In some translations this sentence would read, "Without sanctification no man shall see the Lord." Sanctification is here a noun, the object of the preposition without. As nouns these words are used interchangeably.
In Jude, first verse, we have this sentence, "To them that are sanctified by God the Father." The word "sanctified" is here used as a predicate adjective, and describes the people addressed. It would not alter the meaning of the text were we to translate it thus: "To them that are made holy by God the Father." The word holy is here used as a predicate adjective, and describes the people addressed. In the sentence, "Sanctify them through thy truth" (John 17:17), the word "sanctify" is a verb, denoting action, of which we have no form of the word holiness. The word holiness can not be used as a verb. The word sanctification frequently expresses action; the word holiness never. They are synonymous when they express the pure state of man. Sanctification is the act that brings man into a holy state, which is also the sanctified state. Sanctification may be applied to the holy state, and also to the action that brings us into that state. Since the word sanctification contains action it is positive proof there is a cleansing in it.
Now we desire by a few Scriptural texts and a few suggestions to deepen the reader's conception of the state of holiness. Everything in the realm of Christianity, or the kingdom of God, from heaven to earth is holy. Let us here give you a brief Bible lesson, kindly asking you to carefully read each text.
1. God is holy. "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." Isa.6:1-3.
If the reader here obtains a just conception of the holy character of God it will give him an understanding of the true nature of Christianity and the manner of life of a Christian. A gentleman once asked me if it was wrong or unbecoming to a Christian to attend the present day street carnivals. We replied in about these words: "If you gain a true conception of the holiness of the Almighty you will not need to ask me such a question."
2. Heaven is holy. "Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand." Psa.20:6.
3. Christ is holy. "For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." Heb.7:26.
4. The angels are holy. "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory." Mat.25:31.
5. God's commandments are holy. "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." Rom.7:12.
6. God's arm is holy. "The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God." Isa.52:10.
7. God's mountains are holy. "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem." Isa.27:13.
8. God's hill is holy. "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?" Psa.15:1.
9. God's name is holy. "My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord; and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever." Psa.145:21.
10. God's works are holy. "The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works." Psa.145:17.
11. God's people are holy. "For thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth." Deut.7:6. Read Eph.1:4; Col.1:22; 1 Pet.1:15; 2 Pet.3:11.
12. God's people are his holy temple. "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." 1 Cor.3:17.
13. God's church is a holy church. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse 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." Eph.5:25-27.
14. The way to heaven is a holy way. "And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; ... the redeemed shall walk there." Isa.35:8, 9.
Let us repeat: God is holy; heaven is holy; the angels are holy; Christ is holy; the Spirit is holy; God's Word is holy; the way to heaven is holy. Reader, we want you to picture before you a holy heaven and the holy way that leads to heaven. Read this text: "Follow peace with all men, and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord." Heb.12:14.
Looking into the Word of the Lord we find that man was chosen to holiness. Eph.1:4. That God calls him to holiness.1 Thes.4:7. That God designed that man should serve him in holiness. Luke 1:75. That God chastens man in order that he might be partaker of his holiness. Heb.12:10. That God purposes that man shall be saved from his sin and bear fruit unto holiness. Rom.6:22. That God commands him to be holy in all manner of conduct.2 Pet.3:11. God commands him to be holy because he is holy.1 Pet.1:15, 16. Looking unto God's great and holy plan in redeeming man, and the holiness of heaven, and God sitting on his holy throne, and Christ the Holy One at his right hand, and the holy angels shouting praises, how can you entertain a hope of ever entering that glorious land without holiness?
Many have stumbled at the command to be perfect. That finite man may be perfect in this sinful world sounds ridiculous to many unregenerated hearts. This is because they do not understand God nor his power to deliver man from sin. With the many exhortations and commands to perfection contained in the Holy Scriptures is it not singular that man will yet say, "We can not be perfect in this life"? Many people who oppose the doctrine of Christian perfection do not at all understand it. They consider it to be an end of all growth, consequently they do not understand its nature. There is a perfection of celestial beings not to be experienced by mortal man; but there is a perfection unmistakably taught in the Scriptures which Christians are privileged to experience and enjoy in this life.
Christian perfection relates to right desires and actions and purity of affections. Paul in closing his epistle to the church at Corinth says: "Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you." Surely every one must concede that there is a perfection to which Christians can attain. When Christians are exhorted to be perfect is it not folly to say, "They can not be perfect"? Could we not with equal propriety say, "We can not be of good comfort"? "We can not live in peace"? "The God of love and peace will not be with us"? etc.
The apostle in writing to the Philippian brethren uses language which clearly implies that some of them had attained to the experience of perfection. He says, "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded." Phil.3:15. Some of them certainly were perfect. In verse twelve he does speak of a perfection to which he had not attained. This he expected to attain in the glory world. Christian perfection is a life that accords with the Holy Scriptures. Whosoever receives the correction, and reproving and the instructions in righteousness contained in the Scripture will become a perfect Christian.2 Tim.3:16.
Whosoever lives as the Word of God says that Christians should live, the same is a perfect man. Paul prays that God would make the Hebrews perfect. Heb.13:20, 21. Peter petitions the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after we have suffered a while to make us perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle us.1 Pet.5:10.
Jesus was made perfect through suffering. God chastens us that we might be partakers of his holiness. The gold and silver to be made pure and perfect must be refined in the crucible. We to reflect the beauty and glory of God must, too, pass through the refiner's fire. The apostle Paul in writing his first epistle to the church at Corinth says: "Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect." 2:6. Certainly there were perfect Christians in the church at that place. To the Ephesian brethren he says that God "gave some, apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints." 4:11, 12. Now we at once know that this work of instruction and perfection is to be accomplished in this life.
He further says, "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Ver.13. By stature is meant the height of any one. Christ is the stature or height of perfection, and we are to measure up to it. This accords with what the Savior himself said: "The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master." Luke 6:40. To the church at Colosse the apostle says: "Whom [Christ] we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." Col.1:28. Again he says, "Epaphras who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." 4:12.
What Is Christian Perfection?
As we have before said, There is a perfection only attainable after the resurrection, but there is a perfection attainable in this life, and it is the nature of this perfection that we wish to understand. It is holiness of nature, right desires and actions and purity of affections toward God and man. It implies an entire consecration to God. A young man came to Jesus inquiring what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus said unto him, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me." Mat.19:21. This teaches a resignation of all to God, which is necessary that we might be refined and polished to such a brilliancy that will make us a light in the world. Christians are termed jewels in the Scriptures. "And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels."
Oh, to be a brilliant jewel,
Christian perfection includes soundness and inoffensiveness of speech. "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." Jas.3:2. We consider this a very strong text, and an abundance of grace is required to enable us to perfectly fulfil it.
God's Perfection Is The Standard Of Christian Perfection.
"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Mat.5:48. The perfection which God designs that Christians shall have equal with his own relates to the purity of his nature and affection. In the immediate preceding verses the Savior commands Christians to love their enemies, bless them that curse them, do good to them that hate them, and pray for them which despitefully use them and persecute them. As Christians this is our nature. We will not "render evil for evil." We will befriend our persecutors, feed our enemy when he hungers, and give him drink when he thirsts. In verse forty-five the Savior tells us of the Father's behavior toward his enemies: "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." Here we behold the merciful nature of God and how he does good for evil. If we love only those who love us and do good only to those who do good to us (ver.46, 47) we are not in the nature of God; we are no more than publicans and sinners. But if we love our enemies and do good to those who hate us, we are reflecting the character of God. In this respect he would have us to be "perfect, even as he is perfect." O beloved, see that you entertain right feelings toward all men. Do good to your enemies; love them, pray for them, and convince them that you are more than the ordinary sinful man, and God will bless you now and eternally.
In the parable of the sower and its explanation the Savior said the seed which fell among thorns are they which hear the word and go forth and are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to perfection. Luke 8:14. Christian fruit is loving our enemies, doing them good, doing good unto all men, speaking evil of none, manifesting love, faith, meekness, gentleness, joy, etc. This is Christian fruit, and may God help every reader to bring it forth to the highest degree of perfection.
"Keep thyself pure." 1 Tim.5:22. In such commands there is something animating and ennobling. To enable us to have some conception of purity we have only to think of heaven and of the angels. This world has been betimes visited by celestial beings. They are spoken of as being clothed in white and having countenances shining as the light. Mat.28:3; Mark 16:5; John 20:12; Acts 1:9, 10. White is an emblem of purity. These transient visitors from above robed in white raiment represent the purity of heaven. Purity is not ascribed alone to heavenly beings, but it is a characteristic of the redeemed upon the earth. Purity is effected through the atoning blood. The sweet singer David said: "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
The beloved John in a vision saw "a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and the Lamb." Rev.22:1. This "river of water of life" is the cleansing stream of God's salvation. "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Rev.22:17. This means salvation. "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." Rev.21:6. This is the cleansing fountain of salvation. This stream is pure. It flows from the throne of God. It is as pure as its source. Whosoever enters this crystal stream will be made as pure as its waters.
Though the soul be stained with scarlet stains,
The prophet Isaiah in speaking of the cleansing fountain of salvation in that day, said: "And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy sin." Isa.1:25. The cleansing stream will remove all the dross and leave the soul pure. These are garments of salvation. This is not literal, but the cleansing away of sin and the infusion of righteousness is represented by the taking away of filthy rags and being clothed in the garments of salvation. The Lamb's wife, which is his church -- which is his people -- was "arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." Rev.19:8.
We will now give a Bible lesson describing the purity of man through the blood of Jesus.
A pure soul. "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently." 1 Pet.1:22.
A pure heart. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." Mat.5:8.
A pure mind. "This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you, in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance." 2 Pet.3:1.
A pure conscience. "I thank God whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience." 2 Tim.1:3.
A pure language. "For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent." Zeph.3:9.
Pure thoughts. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Phil.4:8.
A pure religion. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this. To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." Jas.1:27.
When man is made thus pure in all the faculties of his being he is said to be pure even as Christ is pure (1 John 3:3), and is then a perfect example of purity to the world.1 Tim.4:12.
The question is asked, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?" Psa.24:3. The answer is, "He that hath clean hands and a pure heart." Purity is a requisite for heaven. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." In this language there is indubitably implied the impossibility of seeing God without purity of heart. God is pure, and heaven is a pure place, and without purity of soul and heart and life you can never enter heaven nor see God.
This is one of the terms used in the Scriptures describing the character of God and his people. "The Lord is righteous," and the source of all righteousness. Man can not possess righteousness independent of God. It is beautiful to contemplate the righteous character of the Almighty as revealed in the holy Scriptures. It enables us to better understand our own nature when we are "filled with all the fulness of God." The Savior in his prayer addresses God as "righteous Father." John 17:25. The Revelator in his vision heard an angel proclaiming, "Thou art righteous, O Lord." Rev.16:5. The Psalmist in exalting the righteousness of the Lord said: "Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high." Psa.71:19. It is far above the ways and life of natural man: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isa.55:9. All of God's ways are in righteousness: "The Lord is righteous in all his ways." Psa.145:17. God's acts are done in righteousness: "Now therefore stand still, that I may reason with you before the Lord of all the righteous acts of the Lord which he did to you and your fathers."
Oh, the sublimity of the righteous character of God! How lofty and high. How far above the ways and acts of natural man. Man in his natural state does not possess any of the righteous principles of God: "There is none righteous, no not one." But God in the incarnation of his Son is both God and man, and through this means the righteousness of God is delegated unto man. In Jesus Christ we have the combining of man and God -- the righteousness of God and humanity of man. Through the death of the man Christ Jesus and his resurrection the way was prepared for mankind to receive the righteousness of God. "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin: that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." 2 Cor.5:21. Jesus in his innocency and righteousness bore the sins of the guilty, so that in him we can experience a cleansing "from all unrighteousness" and receive instead "the righteousness of God."
Jesus likens himself and his people to a vine and its branches. He says, "I am the vine, ye are the branches." It is through the vine that the branches receive substance and strength and life from the soil. It is through Jesus that we receive righteousness, grace, and strength from God. It is only in Jesus' name that we receive anything from the Father. The branches bear the fruit. Receiving the righteousness of God through Jesus we bear the fruit of righteousness. The more of this fruit we bear the more we show forth the praise of God. When there is a large yield of grain we conclude it was sown in good soil, and thus the soil gets the praise. We "being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ" do show forth "the glory and praise of God." Phil.1:11. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit." John 15:8. Though the grain be planted in good soil, cultivation is necessary to a bountiful harvest. Though we be planted in Christ cultivation is necessary to the production of rich fruit. "And every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." John 15:2. Sin -- all sin must be purged or cleansed away in order to bear fruits of righteousness.
"A tree is known by its fruits." Should there be a tree bearing promiscuously throughout apples, pears, peaches, plums, grapes, etc., who could tell what kind of a tree it was? Should it bear apples alone we at once know the kind of tree. All sin is therefore purged away from the heart of a Christian that he may be "filled with the fruits of righteousness," and be known as a light in the world. Sin and righteousness do not grow upon the same tree. How clearly and plainly this is taught in the sixth chapter of Romans. Except they be blinded by prejudice and false teaching all the world must understand this. Verse eighteen says, "Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." There are two things plainly taught in this text that we wish to call your attention to. First, to become a servant of righteousness necessitates a freedom from sin. "Ye can not serve two masters." Second, this experience of being made free from sin and becoming servants of righteousness the Roman brethren had received some time in the past. "Ye became the servants of righteousness." Ver.20. "For when some time in their past life ye were the servants of sin ye were free from righteousness."
In the face of these two texts how can man be so daring and proud and self-conceited as to teach the impossibility of Christians living a pure and sinless life in this world? Surely, there is no fear of God before their eyes. Verse eighteen declares that to become servants of righteousness necessitates freedom from sin; and verse twenty declares that to be a "servant of sin" necessitates freedom from righteousness. "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?" Ver.21. Of the things of sin they once engaged in they are now ashamed. "What fruit had they then?" Ans. -- "No fruit of righteousness." "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness." Ver.22. Praise God! You must be made free from sin to be capable of bearing fruit unto holiness or righteousness. The fruit of the righteous is to the praise and glory of God. The Lord makes use of the fruit of the righteous to induce sinners to seek him. In this way the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life. How blessed and noble to be a tree planted by the river of waters richly laden with righteous fruit. Amen.
The authors of the dictionaries define the word redemption as "the act of deliverance, release, repurchase," etc. The redemption through Christ is the deliverance or repurchase of man. Man in his original, primeval state enjoyed unity and an affinity with God. Because of transgression on the part of man this natural agreement between God and man was destroyed. All creation -- herb, and tree, beast and fowl, and man -- was pronounced very good by the Creator as he beheld it in review after creation. Gen.1:29-31.
But because of Eden's sin the very nature of all things became changed. The ground became cursed, and thorns and thistles sprang up. Gen.3:17, 18. The nature of the beast creation, no doubt, became affected by man's transgression. Gen.6:7, 11-13. The transgression in Eden was the entrance of sin into this world. Rom.5:12. Previous to this, all in the world was sinless harmony, and the earth itself uncursed by thorns and thistles. By the entrance of sin man's nature became changed, and since the nature of man became depraved there has not been a single individual born of the flesh but has possessed a depraved nature, except the child conceived by the Holy Spirit. The Psalmist says: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." Psa.51:5.
This same is true of every child. The nature of the child in its formation in the womb is depraved. The moral condition of the parents may modify to an extent, but never wholly change that nature. The child does not inherit a depraved nature from its parents. It is not because the parents are depraved that the child is conceived in sin, but because nature is depraved. It required a supernatural conception to beget a pure child, everything in nature being depraved. The child does not inherit either physical or moral image directly from its parents. It is true, the child generally bears a marked resemblance to the parent, both physically and morally, but on the whole it is born in the image of Adam, morally and physically. It is generally the case that if a parent have three arms, or possess but one, his offspring will have two, receiving its physical image from the first created man. Should the parents be holy, the child will possess a carnal nature, because it is the nature of all the race.
How holy parents beget children depraved in nature is a puzzling problem to some minds, especially to those who are busying themselves about the intricate matters of God. This need be no more puzzling than a deformed parent begetting perfectly formed children. Nature, in embryo, begins its work of forming both the physical and moral image of the child, which is after the similitude of the original parents and not the immediate ones. While justification, which is the forgiveness of actual transgression, the inevitable result of a depraved nature, is a wonderful and glorious achievement of grace, it is but a very small part of the redemption of Christ. The supernatural overthrow of the depraved nature by the power of the Holy Spirit is the principal and real redemptive work. The pardon of committed sins is the clearing away of the rubbish, or preparation work, for the Third Person in the Holy Trinity to effect a revolution in the nature of man. Halleluiah to God! This change in nature is more wonderful than the revolting of nature at the command of Joshua. Man now, instead of being depraved in nature, is restored to his original holy nature.
This destruction of the carnal nature and the restoration of the original nature is accomplished by the Holy Spirit at the moment of his reception as an indwelling Comforter. Peter teaches this truth when he says: "God, which knoweth the hearts [or nature], bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us [at Pentecost]; and put no difference between us and them [Gentiles], purifying their hearts by faith." Acts 15:8, 9. Purifying the heart is the purification of man's affections, or nature. This is accomplished at the time of the giving of the Holy Ghost as declared in the last text; and this purifying of the hearts of the Gentiles at the giving of the Holy Ghost, is just what was done for the apostles at Pentecost. This is a plain, undeniable fact taught in this text. To turn to philosophizing upon how we can be conceived with a carnal nature, or how we can be converted and yet be depraved in nature is to soon become spoiled through vain deceit after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ. Col.2:8. In the very nature of things, and according to the Word of God, pardon of sins necessarily precedes the destruction of the carnal, depraved nature by the Holy Spirit. In the fall of man there was the act of transgression and also a change in man's moral image. In his restoration there must be a pardon of transgression and subsequently a change in nature.
It is a law of God that the redemption of man be accomplished through faith, by his grace. Our faith can not reach beyond our knowledge. By knowledge we mean a real soul-consciousness or conviction and not an intellectual knowledge. At this point many a dear soul has erred from the truth. They have endeavored to bring their faith up to their intellectual knowledge, which ends in presumption. True Bible faith is grounded in the soul. It results from a soul-knowledge, or conviction. To accept pardon of sins or healing of the body with only an intellectual knowledge of these blessings and not a real heart-conviction is mere presumption, and ends in failure and disgrace. To follow the comprehensions of the intellect, and not the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit upon the soul, concerning the mysteries of God's salvation is to be led into error, because the intellect can not fathom the things of God. We do now emphatically say, according to God's established law, that no unregenerated heart can have a comprehension or conviction of a corrupt moral nature and its purification. Why? Because transgression stands between it and purity. The awakened guilty soul knows nothing but its guilt, and for forgiveness only does it plead. After being pardoned, the soul gains a knowledge of carnality, and it is then convicted for the second cleansing.
Those who believe that purity of heart is attained in pardon take as a basis of such belief the language of Paul in 2 Cor.5:17; Rom.8:1-7; and similar texts. Now the apostle often speaks of full salvation, or complete redemption of the soul, in a general way. He says that "salvation is by the grace of God through faith." By this he does not mean justification only, but sanctification as well. He has not specified the two works, but has spoken of full salvation in a general way of being by grace through faith. Thus Eph.2:8-10 includes full salvation. In 2 Cor.5:17 he again speaks of full salvation in a general way. It is true we are in Christ when converted, but we are none the less in him when sanctified. To say that Paul is referring to the justified only in this text is an error. By the two preceding verses we have reason to believe he is referring to those who are wholly sanctified. This then is no proof text that carnality is destroyed in justification, because you can not prove that he is referring to those who are only justified. In conclusion we would say that Christ came to redeem man only. Beast and bird have no part in the redemption. They shall perish. The earth is not redeemable, but being under the curse -- spotted by sin -- it shall be destroyed.