Many people do not have a clear understanding of the doctrine of sanctification. Some are quite confused and cannot even form a proper concept of the experience of entire sanctification. They are in the dark regarding this experience because they lack proper teaching. But is this uncertainty and insecurity necessary?
Many would say in response to the question, “Are you sanctified?” that after their conversion they went forward to the altar again, and therefore they assume they have attained sanctification. However, this is no proof, nor does it give any assurance that we are sanctified. But then, how can we know that we are truly sanctified?
Sanctification is called a second work of grace. This dualism in salvation is due to the fact that sin is present in the human heart in two forms: namely, in the inherited tendency to sin that we possess since natural birth, and through sin that we have actually committed. In all of us, there is an inherited inclination to sin, and then we have also willingly and knowingly done evil after reaching the age of accountability. These two forms of sin are different from each other, and they must not be regarded as one and the same.
Adam and Eve were created righteous, just, and holy, but they fell from their high position, thereby plunging all of humanity into sin. All their descendants inherited sin, the evil nature, from them. From this, it is clear that we had already fallen short of complete holiness, although we came into the world completely innocent.
Jesus teaches that the born-again person is like a child in one sense. “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). So whoever has repented, confessed his sins, and obtained forgiveness is converted. He has returned to the innocence from which he had fallen. But just as the innocent child is one step below the original state of true holiness, so is the convert, who is now like a child. Scripture now exhorts us to “go on to perfection.” It also tells us that “by one offering [Christ] has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).
The Apostle John clearly teaches that one must be born of God. He also teaches that those who have become children of God through the new birth still need further purification. “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And every one who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). In Ephesians 5:25-26, Paul says that Christ gave Himself for the church “that He might sanctify her.”
The promise of a second work of grace was given to the disciples by Jesus Himself three times in very specific ways, first by “being pruned” by the “vinedresser.” “I am the true vine, and My Father the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2). The second promise is that Jesus would ask the Father to sanctify them, to give them the Holy Spirit. And then Jesus asks the Father, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
We are sanctified when we receive the Holy Spirit. And Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to all who believe in Him. Before His ascension, He said to His disciples, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8).
The Holy Spirit purifies the heart from the innate inclination to sin, and He also gives us power to live and work for the Lord. Therefore, the question we should ask ourselves is, “Have I received the Holy Spirit?” If we have received the Holy Spirit, then we are also sanctified.
Paul tells us what the fruit of the Spirit is: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). If we have the Spirit of God, then we have His fruits. To determine if we are truly sanctified, we must examine ourselves to see if we are producing the fruit of the Spirit.
Some people say that this is not so easy to determine. It seems to me that the Apostle Paul anticipated this problem. To make it easier for us to test ourselves, he wrote 1 Corinthians 13. He has taken one fruit of the Spirit – love – and dissected it, so to speak. He has shown the nature and characteristics of love.
If we are sanctified, we have the Holy Spirit. And when we have Him, we also bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. Paul tells us that love is long-suffering, patient, free of envy, it does not boast, it does not puff itself up, it does not seek its own advantage. It is not embittered, it bears no grudge, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing. Rather, it rejoices when it sees truth and justice prevail.
What does your life look like when you look at it in the light of these scriptures? Can you find the fruit of the Spirit in it? If you do not possess that which brings love into your life, you do not have love; and if you do not have love, it is clear that you have not received the Holy Spirit, and then you are not sanctified.
If you are born again and are a child of God, lay yourself completely on the altar of the Lord as a living sacrifice. Give yourself completely to the Lord with all that you have and are, and He will give you the Holy Spirit if you ask Him.
Robert P. Loudermilk