from a sermon by Darrel Lee on July 13, 1999
In 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 we read, “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. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”
Let us take a look at sanctification. We have heard that sanctification is the hub of the Gospel, and it certainly is true. This teaching of sanctification did not begin in the Apostolic Faith Church. It did not begin with Sister Crawford back when she walked into those meetings on Azusa Street in 1906. The people there taught her about sanctification, but the teaching of sanctification did not begin with those folks; they learned it from those who taught them. John Wesley is credited with reviving the teaching of sanctification, but it did not begin with him. It began with God!
I like the way the doctrines are stated in the Higher Way magazine. It does not say, “The doctrines of the Apostolic Faith Church.” It says, “Bible Doctrines taught by the Apostolic Faith Church.” These are not Apostolic doctrines; these are Bible doctrines. So here we have it stated very clearly, almost as a prayer, as Paul gets to the end of this epistle. He says, “the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.”
As a new convert, I came into these meetings and would hear this text, and every time it was used the preacher would spell out the word wholly—w-h-o-l-l-y—to differentiate between the words wholly and h-o-l-y. The meaning of the word wholly is “entirely.” That is where we get the phrase “entire sanctification.” We were not the first to use that phrase; it has been used for generations. Sanctification is complete. In fact, this verse could be very accurately read to say “The very God of peace sanctify you complete to the end,” or “The very God of peace sanctify you through and through in every part.” What we do not read is the thought that the very God of peace sanctify you by and by, or part way as you go along and hope to get it. Sanctification is complete and entire. It is an experience that you receive and you know when you get it. “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” Paul must have scratched his head and thought to himself, “Even though the word is very expressive, I want to make sure they get it,” so he continued on and said, “I pray God your whole (there is that word again)— spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” If God sanctifies your spirit, your soul, and your body, what is left? It is entire sanctification.
Paul continued, “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” Will do what? He will sanctify you wholly, and preserve you blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. You know what it is to be preserved. “Preserved” communicates the idea that something will last, that it will be maintained in its original state. To be “preserved blameless” is to be kept in a perfect or unaltered condition, to remain intact, and free from decay or spoilage. So the prayer is that the very God of peace will sanctify you wholly and preserve you blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The thought here is that you get it, for one thing, and you get it before the Lord Jesus Christ returns. Then after you get it, you keep it. And you keep it like you got it. It actually keeps you. “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” God will give it to you and He will keep you blameless; He preserves the heart. The teaching of sanctification is that it addresses the needs of the heart.
In Ephesians 5:25-27 we read again the purpose of sanctification. It says, “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.” The purpose of sanctification is to make the Church what it ought to be in the sight of God. Sanctification is not for the world. Sanctification is for those who have been saved. They know their past sins have been forgiven, and they go back to the Lord with the need of having the old adamic nature of sin cleansed. If we are in that state when the Trumpet sounds, we will be part of the “glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing,” but “holy and without blemish.”
Let us look at Genesis, chapter 1, verse 26. Here we have the account of Creation. It says, “God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” We were made in the image of God, not in physical appearance, in the sense that God has two arms, two legs, and two eyes, and two ears. But we are in the image of God in the sense that we are immortal; we will live forever somewhere. We have an immortal soul. God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). We are eternal creatures, and God is eternal.
We are also in the image of God in the sense that we are moral creatures, unlike the animals that came to Adam to be named. We can experience a sense of guilt, remorse, and joy. We can reason, and can choose between right or wrong. We have that moral capacity. So we were made in the image of God, and created in holiness and true righteousness when He said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).
In Genesis 5:3, the Scripture tells how after the fall of man Satan put doubts into the hearts of Adam and Eve. Though they had a pure, holy bias or inclination, they still had the ability to overrule it and do wrong. Sadly, they chose to overrule and do wrong, and by that act plunged all of humanity into a depraved condition. Genesis 5:3 says, “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image.” He was born in Adam’s likeness and image. Everyone who is born into this world has Adam’s depraved nature as a starting point.
In Genesis 8:21, we see again the results of man’s marred image. This is after the Flood. God said, “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” God saw that the bias of man was to do evil. In the Gospel of Saint John 3:6, Jesus told Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” after stating, “Ye must be born again.”
One of the things we learned in the first chapter of Genesis is that like produces like. Repeatedly Scripture states that its seed was in itself to reproduce after its kind. That is true of the offspring of fallen man too. We inherited our mannerisms and our hair color. In fact, sometimes we even hear it said, “He walks just like his dad walks.” In our family, we either lost our hair, or turned gray prematurely. My hair is not gray; it is missing. I did not get that from Adam, and you did not get your characteristics or traits from Adam either, but you did get your moral nature from him. You inherited his sinful nature. That is why two sanctified people do not beget a sanctified child. They beget a fallen, a depraved child who needs to be saved and later sanctified. So that which is of the flesh is flesh, and that which is of the Spirit is spirit. We need to be born of the Spirit. We need to have our hearts regenerated, our past sins forgiven, and our hearts cleansed and made holy through the sanctifying power of Jesus’ Blood.
The Gospel of Saint Mark 7:20-23 remind me of the political, scandalous world where you hear the expression, “Follow the money trail.” If somebody has thought to have illegally profited, you see if you can locate the money trail. Perhaps you find out it ended up in some account in Switzerland. Further investigation reveals a trail of money exchanges that eventually leads to the perpetrator. Well, in the spiritual realm we follow the behavior trail and see where it leads.
In Mark 7:20 it says, “That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” If you follow the behavior trail, you will find that it does not lead to the mind, though the mind may have implemented how the deed would be carried out. The behavior trail does not lead to the hand, though the hand may have held the weapon. If you follow the trail, it will always lead back to the heart where the plan was conceived. It is the heart of man that has the problem. Sanctification goes to the heart of man and solves the heart problem. If you can solve the heart problem, you will solve the behavior problem.
Jeremiah 17:9-10 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, …to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” God sees that the fruit of man’s doings and stubbornness always lead back to the heart, so He has provided a way to address the heart problem.
We need to be saved—that is to have our sins forgiven. When we pray through and get saved, we know our sins are under the Blood and have been forgiven. The Lord will not hold those sins against us. Obviously, there remains that carnal nature from which those deeds sprang forth. That is where sanctification comes in. The heart needs to be cleansed. Over and over again in the Bible we are instructed of the need for cleansing, purging, and purifying. That is speaking of sanctification. It is speaking of the need for the old man, the carnal man, to be put off. You put him off just like you take off an old work shirt and throw it to the side. Do not just throw it aside; carry it outside and put it into the garbage! Do not recycle it. Let the garbage man come by and take it away forever.
It is important to know what sanctification does, but it also helps to know what it does not do. We hear about Christian perfection. Sanctification provides a perfect heart. Sanctification provides a state of living where you love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and where every deed is motivated by devotion to God.
Genesis 2:19-20 says, “Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field.” I looked at that, and it made me consider: What kind of a man was Adam? This was before the fall. How would you have done, even in your sanctified state, if God would have set you in the Garden and paraded several rows of animals past you and had you name them? It might be fun at first. What strikes me is that Adam was very intelligent. Perhaps the first one named was a cow—then a horse, then a chicken, then a pig, then a rhinoceros, then a zebra, and then a camel. After a few hundred animals were named, you would start thinking, “Have I used cow yet? Have I used horse yet?” Or the next day there may have been confusion as to whether a certain animal was a camel or a cow. Actually, I do that with humans. I try to be bold and introduce myself to individuals that I do not know. I walked up to a group of three recently and introduced myself, and I asked the third person, “Have I met you yet?” And he said, “Yes, twice.” Later, I actually walked up to him for the fourth time and I still did not remember his name, so I asked him, “Are you the one I have met twice?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “I do not really know your name.” It is Brother Ralph from Mobile, Alabama.
Do not expect sanctification to raise your I.Q. Now the loss of I.Q., if I understand this correctly, was the result of the fall. But God’s provision for restoration does not address man’s head. The provision for man’s restoration deals solely with his heart. So do not get discouraged along the way and think, I must not be sanctified. Look at your heart!
Genesis 5:5 says, “And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.” This is after the fall; before the fall it was not part of God’s plan that Adam would die. So after the fall God provided for man’s redemption. One might think man’s restoration ought to deal with everything that was included in the fall. However, sanctification does not deal with physical man. I suppose that Adam even got sick before he died. He might have shaken his head and thought, “Well, God, I thought Your plan provided for restoration to the way it was before the fall.” No, not at all: it did not provide for Adam’s I.Q., nor did it provide for his physical being to live forever. Certainly the Blood of Jesus can bring healing, but even those who have been healed have gotten sick again and died. Sanctification deals with man’s moral nature and man’s moral need for restoration. That is why a sanctified individual will continue to face the physical, mental, even emotional limitations imposed upon us as a result of the fall. It is important to not search the head or the mind when you are going through a trial or a challenge, but rather to search the heart. If the motivating and underlying theme of your life is to “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength,” that is what God put there when He sanctified you. If that were not true, people would not fall asleep during church or get distracted when they pray. They would never bounce a tithe’s check, but such things happen and there is no evil motive at all. Though there may be some behavioral shortcomings in what you do, the proof of sanctification is when you see those limitations and you go to your knees and say, “God, help me to do better next time, because I love You with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and I want to please You in every way.” That is not an excuse for behavior that springs from a carnal nature. God knows the difference. Sin is sin, and it is dangerous to call every behavior a mistake and just the result of your human nature. Rather then spending too much time trying to tag it, we just go to our knees and say, “God, help me next time it comes around to do better.” God will help us.
Sanctification is an instantaneous work. This realm of human nature is where Christian growth occurs, and it began when you prayed through and got saved. It continues up until you get sanctified, and after you are sanctified. In fact, Christian growth will continue until you step into Heaven. We are not mentally, emotionally, or physically perfect in this world; we are morally perfect with hearts that are continually only after God and His will. That is why we can still be tempted. Sanctification does not stop temptation. Consider Adam who was created in a pure, moral state. He still was subjected to temptation but had the power to overrule evil. The sanctified person with that pure, moral condition can still choose to overrule what is right, and fall back into sin. But that is certainly not necessary. God forbid that we even need to go there because we have victory in the Gospel.
Turn to 1 Thessalonians 3: 2 where Paul is saying that he sent Timothy, “our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith.” Paul had a desire that these believers be established. In verse 10, he says, “Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith.” If you read the whole book you will see that these people got a good start, but they still needed to be sanctified. It is good to get a good start! You can tell when you have a good start because you want more of the Lord. You are not satisfied with having your past sins forgiven; you press in. That is part of the evidence of being saved; you want more. Paul’s concern was that they be sanctified.
As we go on to 1 Thessalonians 4:3, it says, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.” God created us with certain natural desires. They were put there by God to serve a purpose. Think of Adam and Eve. There was nothing wrong with pleasant food outside of it being their stumbling block: there was nothing wrong with desiring to be wise. God gave them that appetite, that desire. Here he is speaking of the desire planted by God whereby the human family would be propagated. But no matter what human behavior you are talking about, you need to be sanctified in order for your behavior to be properly channeled.
I am reminded of the time our car broke down when we were living in Eureka. When we showed up at the car rental agency, they did not have the size we wanted or the next size up, but they did have a Lincoln Continental. So for no extra charge, we rented that. As we headed up to Chehalis for some meetings I noticed that you could only go almost to the speed limit. They had evidently put a governor on that car which basically stopped you from going beyond a certain speed. Every time I wanted to go a little faster, I was subjected to that governor. It was imposed upon me against my will. Well, sanctification is basically a governor through which all behavior is channeled. But it is not against our will; we want it there. That is the difference. With sanctification, He puts within you the “want to”— the proper desire. When he says, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication,” He is telling you why you need sanctification. The Lord is good. He does not have to tell us why. He could have said, “You need it,” and that would have been enough, and we would not even have asked Him why. We would have just said, “Okay, Lord, You say we need it, so I want it.” But here He is gracious enough to say, “I am not only going to tell you that you need it, but I am going to tell you why you need it. You need it because it is an implanted governor that will control your life, your decisions, and your motives. It is there all the time.”
What a blessing it is to serve the Lord with that sanctified life! Without it, those appetites, and desires basically run rampant through lives. Just look into society and see the behavior of fallen man, and look at the result of that behavior. We see God-given appetites and desires gone wild. Fallen men need to be forgiven for the past deeds and then sanctified so their lives can be lived according to the way God intended man to live. God did not intend that man live like barnyard animals. To avoid it, we need to be sanctified. When we are sanctified it is not hard to live holy. It is spontaneous. It is automatic. You do not have to step back and say, “Okay, how do I assess this? Let us run it through the governor and figure out how we should handle this.” It just happens. That is what the Gospel does in a life.
1 Thessalonians 4:7 tells us that “God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” You might be interested in knowing that “holiness” and “health” come from the same root word, so holiness is soul health. When you are healthy in your body, you feel good, and you feel right. When you are sick in your body, you do not feel good; something is wrong. Well, holiness is soul health. Holiness in the heart makes you feel right, makes you feel good, and know everything is clear between yourself and God. The extension of that is you are clear between yourself and your fellowman.
Holiness is more than morality. What is morality? Some people think it is immoral to hunt a whale with a spear, to catch too many steelhead, or cut down a redwood. The problem with morality is: Morality according to whom? But holiness is holiness according to God. Holiness is something that is in the heart, and that is what we want. Sanctification provides it.
How do you get sanctification? The way in which you approach God for salvation is altogether different from how you approach Him for sanctification. When you come to God to be saved, you come as a wretched sinner with a stack of sins so high that you cannot see the top, and you feel horrible about it. So you come to the Lord and repent and say, “God, have mercy upon me, a sinner,” and the Lord floods your heart with peace and gives you new life. When you come to God to be sanctified, you are presenting your life a living sacrifice to God. You don't come with a stack of sins anymore. We are admonished to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. We come consecrating. Now, instead of trying to get rid of what is bad, we come giving to God what is good: He put it there. That is how we come to God to receive sanctification.
In Mark 8:22-25 we read the account of a blind man who was healed. It says, “And he [Jesus] cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. And he looked up, and said, I see ....” That is what salvation does. Salvation helps you to see things you did not know existed before. You see life. You see hope. The man in this Scripture said, “I see men as trees, walking. After that Jesus put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.” That was a second touch. Sanctification is a second touch. Sanctification clears away the fogginess. Sanctification puts things in proper focus. You are no longer dominated by the old man when you have been sanctified. There is a new man and he helps you live according to the way God would have you live. You live in a more sensitive way. You are more guarded than you would be otherwise. You are more open to the prompting of the Spirit of the Lord. Sanctification narrows your views in terms of your focus on God. You will be less extreme in your views. You will be less apt to express your views about all kinds of things. You will be less apt to even have views about all kinds of things, because you really only want what God wants. That is the sanctified heart. I have always figured I am not paid to think; I will let God do the thinking and I will just follow. That is what sanctification does. You just say, “Lord, You just figure it all out and let me know when You have it figured out,” and then move forward.
In Acts 16:25 we read, “At midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” Now these two men were in a rough condition. They had been arrested, beaten, put in stocks, and chained, because they had healed a woman possessed by a spirit of divination. At first glance you think, how could they sing in that condition? But if you look a little closer at the sanctified heart, you might ask yourself, How could they not sing? That is what a sanctified heart does! It just happens. What do birds do? They chirp. Stars shine. The sanctified heart sings. It cannot help it. It just does. At times I have heard somebody, who thinks nobody else is around, singing. The sanctified heart cannot help but sing. If you are sanctified, it is there. That is the way it was with Paul and Silas. They could not help themselves.
I remember the first camp meeting I attended when I received my sanctification. As I returned to my cabin, coming and going quickly, I slammed my fingers in the hinge of the door. Yes, it hurt! But I remember what immediately came out of my mouth was, “Praise the Lord.” There was a time when the air would have turned blue with profanity. There was an object lesson to me that salvation took care of the profanity, but sanctification said, “Praise the Lord.” That is what sanctification does. Salvation takes out the old life of sin and sets you on the victory road, but sanctification gives you, “Praise the Lord!” It is there when times are dark and uncertain. Why would it not be there? All is clear. There is also a song in the heart and praise unto the Lord in a sanctified heart when one kneels down at the altar of prayer. You can expect the Holy Ghost to descend upon that pure vessel and baptize with His Spirit. That is what happened in the Bible when they were all in one accord in one place, and there was a praise springing out of their hearts.
When you realize what sanctification does, you will be in anticipation of that power descending because that is what the Holy Ghost does. He comes down on a pure sanctified life, endues that one with power from on high, and sends him on his way to win souls for Jesus.
Sanctification provides unity too. You need it for unity. Think of the many Old Testament stories we could rehearse. When Jonathan and his armor bearer were going up a steep spot to do battle, I do not think Jonathan had to look over his shoulder to see if the armor bearer was coming. They were unified. Jesus prayed in John 17 that we might be sanctified—that we might be one. We are one in our desires for the furtherance of the Gospel. It would have been a different story if the armor bearer had gone up halfway and thought, This is a little too steep for me; I think I will circle around this other way. No, they were in it together. They were pulling the same way. That is what a group of sanctified people does. They are all going the same direction. It is not like a tug-of-war or some sense of restraint against the direction that God would go; it is a unity, a harmony, and it is an experience that God has for you today.
You wonder, well, how do I get it? You get it the same way you get anything else from God. You pray until the experience comes. There is no other way. You just bring your life to the Lord and say, “Lord, here it is. Send down the fire,” and you will sing that song, “I never shall forget how the fire fell when the Lord sanctified me.” Open your heart today. God wants to do it.