What We Believe
THE NATURE AND BEING OF GOD
“… We trust in the living God.” I Tim. 4:10.
We, the Holiness People confess faith in and worship a personal supreme Being whom we call God. Him we affirm to be Creator, Sustainer and Governor of the Universe. He is self sufficient and Eternal, of one nature, substance and essence, yet existing in Three Sacred Persons, the Everlasting Father, the Eternal Son, and the Holy Spirit — The ever blessed Trinity. Besides Him there is none other and in His absolute attributes and prerogatives none may share.
This God has created all things for His glory by His own omnipotent word. He upholds all things by the word of His power, and in the realm of Providence He rules and overrules so that all things work together for good to them that love Him.
Nor does He only inhabit the distances. He is an interested Presence always at hand to help those who trust Him. He is the Father of Infinite Majesty, yet, approachable with boldness through the merits of His redeeming Son by the aid of the Holy Spirit.
This God is our God for ever and ever.
THE BIBLE AS THE WORD OF GOD
“… The holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” II Tim. 3:15-17.
We, the Holiness People, believe the Bible to be Divinely inspired. To us, it is the undisputed Word of God, carrying its own evidences of inspiration. We regard it as more than a book. It is a Sacred Library, having thirty-nine books in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New — sixty-six books in all completing the one amazing volume, the Holy Scriptures.
These have come to us through the pens of approximately forty different writers and cover a period of about sixteen hundred years.
Measured by social position, these writers are wide apart ranging from the palace on the one hand to the plow handle on the other, and from the priestly office to the fisherman’s hut.
In temperament and culture they are very different, yet withal, every book bears unmistakable evidence of the same governing mind. That mind we believe to be the Spirit of God.
Nor is the Book lacking in its credentials. Both within and without there are proofs of its heavenly origin. When allowed to speak for itself, the appeal it makes to the conscience is amazingly convincing. Its miracles and fulfilled prophecies, its harmony the one part with the other, its prophetic portraiture of Christ and detailed fulfillment, its drastic exposure of sin and great plan of redemption. All go to prove that the hand that made it is Divine. The characters of the men it has produced, no less than the characters of those who produced it argue for its reliability.
We recognize, of course, that the Book as we now have it, has of necessity come to us through the hands of many copyists and translators. In this process of centuries, allowance is made for the human element involving the possibility of minor defects in the work of copying and translation, although, even here consecrated scholarship has assured us of a reasonable reproduction of the original.
We, the Holiness People, insist however, that as given in the original manuscripts — both the Old and New Testaments in all their parts — we have the full and final revelation of God to man which is inerrant and complete. This is accepted by us as the Divinely given authority to govern both faith and practice.
Wesley’s statement concerning the Bible will crystallize our position.
“I beg leave to give a short, clear and strong argument for the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. The Bible must be the invention of good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of God.”
a. It could not be the invention of good men or angels for they would not write a book and tell lies all the time of writing, saying, Thus saith the Lord when it was their own invention.
b. It could not be the invention of bad men or devils — for they could not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell for all eternity.
c. I therefore draw the conclusion that the Bible must be of Divine inspiration.
Having affirmed our belief in its Divine inspiration we must not leave this statement without a brief word about its interpretation. We acknowledge no single infallible human interpreter, but believe that any normal individual with humble mind and obedient will may approach this Book and find therein that saving truth which is essential to his present and eternal salvation.
This faith is based on the promised continuous ministry of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Scriptures which He has already inspired. When each is rightly interpreted we see no contradiction between God’s revelation in nature and that given us in His written Word. Hence there are no conflicts between true science and the Bible. Any seeming contradictions we believe arise out of erroneous interpretations, either by scientists or theologians, or by both.
THE LOSTNESS OF A SINNING WORLD
“They are all sold under sin…. There is none righteous, no not one.” Rom. 3:9, 10.
According to what is conceived to be the plain teaching of the Word of God, We, the Holiness People believe and teach that the whole world without Christ is hopelessly and irrevocably lost. When we say this we say it not with the jaunty air of theological opinion, but with an inward sob. We wish it were not true, yet we are conscious that no denials of men, however scholarly they might try to make them, can alter the Divinely declared fact:
“The whole world lieth in the wicked one.” I John 5:19, R. V.
We are not unmindful of the splendid human qualities possessed and manifested by the many men and women whose characters and achievements the world has rightly come to respect. Intellectually, scientifically, and even morally, giants have trodden the earth. Every passing year new accomplishments are being added to those already recorded, and marvels of science continue to come forth. There have been those who have claimed to be on the very verge of the discovery of the origin of life itself. They have looked for that origin, however, not skyward, but in other directions, and each time their quest has failed.
There are also to be found men of optimistic mood who see amid all the recorded events of the historic past and in the painful happenings of the perplexing present, an evident token of human progress; to them it is a pledge of man’s ultimate freedom from the fears, follies and fetters which through the ages have held the human mind in their tyrannical grip. The human race began, they insist, not with a regal earth-lord, divinely created, to whom dominion was given, but with the emergence of a lowly cell which, now having reached its present state of development, is a monument to its own evolutionary power, and a prophecy of the perfection to which it will ultimately come.
Needless to say, We, the Holiness People, have no such delusions. We possess a Book, believed by us to be the revealed Word of God and therefore the only authoritative source of information concerning human origin. Thus we reject the theory of theistic evolution, insisting on God’s special creation of man as the basis of our faith.
We believe that man is a fallen creature.
Both the Word of God and Divinely enlightened human consciousness assign to man a past that was better than his sinful present. The idea of ancient mud puddles, fish fins, monkey shines, and tree top dwellings does not appeal to the devout mind. Deep down within the inner consciousness of man there is something which endorses the Divine announcement:
“And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them; and God blessed them, and said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” Gen. 1:27, 28.
That, to us, is the Divine declaration of man’s origin, the description of the state from which he has manifestly fallen. The fact of that fall our Divinely given Guide Book also clearly states.
We shall not attempt to compile anything in the nature of a complete list of Scripture references concerning this. It is better that every interested student should make his own. This, as the result of his personal study, will be far more valuable to him than any general list complied for him by others; although if for any reason such research should not be possible, any good Bible text cyclopedia will supply him with all the information he needs.
We, therefore, place before the reader the open Book, inviting him to read it for himself, being assured that a candid, unbiased reading can lead only to one conclusion, namely, that man as we now know him, even at his best, is in a depraved and fallen state, and is powerless to rectify his condition in the sight of a holy God.
Three leading Scripture references will suffice to state the fact for us. They are key passages, central to the entire theme, while around them cluster the numerous references in both Old and New Testaments like planets around a central sun. Beyond these is what we might state as the general drift of Scripture teaching — trend marks, shall we call them, indicating direction.
What the key passages say and their sustaining passages indicate is confirmed by what might be called the general sentiment of the Book from beginning to end, namely, that human nature apart from Divine grace is fallen and is irrevocably lost.
The key passages are: Gen. 3, Rom. 5: 12-21, I Cor. 15:21, 22. Added to these, see also. Gen. 6:5; Job 14:4; 15:14; Psa. 51:5; Prov. 22: 15; Jer.17:9; Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21-23; John 3:6; Rom. 5:19; 8:5-8; Gal. 5:17-21; Eph. 2:3 and many others. We believe that in this fallen condition man justly merits the displeasure of a holy God.
Again we fall back upon our twofold argument, the fact of our own consciousness and the plain teaching of the Word of God.
Three stanzas from Thomas Binney’s arresting hymn will express our inner consciousness concerning this:
“Eternal Light, Eternal Light;
How pure the soul must be;
When placed within Thy searching sight It shrinks not, but with calm delight
Can live and look on Thee.
“Oh, how shall I, whose native sphere Is dark, whose mind is dim,
Before the Ineffable appear
And on my naked spirit bear
The uncreated beam?
“The Spirits that surround Thy Throne May bear the burning bliss,
But that is surely theirs alone
Since they have never, never known A fallen world like this.”
Any man who seriously thinks at all, giving time for any degree of careful consideration, will soon become solemnly conscious of the fact that in his present condition, fallen and contaminated by sin, he can merit only the deep displeasure of a holy God.
The Scriptures also declare with no uncertainty the Divine attitude toward man in his sin. By reason of his relationship to a fallen race and his personal endorsement of this fact by willful transgression, every man is viewed in the Divine revelation as condemned by Divine decree:
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Rom. 3:23.
“By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Rom. 5:12.
Fallen man has been driven from the Divine Presence and a flaming sword has been placed between him and his Maker to bar the way back. Unless he can find a standing ground somewhere outside of himself, there is no way back to God; he is therefore irrevocably lost.
Should the question be raised concerning the Divine attitude toward infants and other non-responsible persons tainted by hereditary evil, We, the Holiness People, answer that Divine Mercy has amply provided for them in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
GOD'S PROVISION FOR MAN'S SALVATION
“They are all sold under sin…. There is none righteous, no not one.” Rom. 3:9, 10.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:8.
While We, the Holiness People, believe it to be true that by reason of its sin the race of which we are a part left to itself is irrevocably lost, we believe also that God has provided a way back to Himself for all men. Through the atoning sacrifice of His incarnate Son, all who will come to Him in repentance and faith may be saved. Further, they may become fully assured of this fact when it is made real within them. John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; Rom. 8:15.
We believe that a full redemption has been provided by God in the Person of Jesus Christ through the blood of His Cross.
“Having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself.” Col. 1:20.
This we regard as the only ground of our confidence, and trust as the only hope of our safety. We claim no personal merit and have no good works to plead. It is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.” Titus 3:5. It is only by grace that men are saved, through faith; not of themselves, it is the gift of God; not of works lest any man should boast. Eph. 2:8, 9.
We believe that our acceptance with God is assured through the merits of His crucified, risen and exalted Son.
“He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Eph. 1:6, 7.
We know no other way of access to God except by a complete renunciation of sin and a simple faith in the atoning merits of Jesus Christ. With an earlier writer, we boldly declare: “Had I a Seraph’s righteousness I’d throw aside that glorious dress And wrap me up in Christ.”
We believe that our security in Christ is guaranteed by His present High Priestly ministry of intercession in the Glory and governed by our abiding life in Him.
“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Heb. 7:25.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” John 10:27, 28.
Here is security indeed — co-operate security, having of necessity two distinctive sides. It is certified on the one hand by His power and willingness to keep, and conditioned on the other by our continued willingness to be kept. There is no place in the scheme of Redemption where man’s free moral agency is not respected. Concerning the kept ones, two things are stated: They hear His voice; and they follow Him. As these conditions are fulfilled, the Divine Keeper is declared to do the rest. Imperfect as the best among men may be and measured by the absolute standards of a holy God, imperfect as we ever shall be until we see Him face to face His blood cleanses and His grace much more abounds.
THE NATURE OF SIN
“Sin that dwelleth in me.” Rom. 7:17, 20.
We, the Holiness People, believe that the tendency to evil is inherited by every member of the human race.
This is seen in the plain declarations of Holy Writ, both in the Old Testament and in the New.
In the Old Testament such passages as these stand out:
“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Gen. 6:5.
“Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.” Job 14:4.
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psa. 51:5.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jer. 17:9.
In the Gospels our Lord’s declarations are emphatic:
“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.” Mark 7:21-23.
We further believe that this sinful virus remains even in those who are born again, and are thus the recipients of God’s pardoning grace. Few who are evangelically minded will question this statement even though some may differ from us concerning the deliverance from it of which we shall later speak. From the time of the apostles onward, the Church in general has taught that within the believing soul there has remained, after conversion, a nature tainted with evil.
In the Epistles, especially those of the Apostle Paul, all this is fully endorsed. Turning to his letter addressed to the Christians at Rome, it is important to notice the word, sin, used so freely as a singular noun, found seventeen times in chapter six and in many other places. Corollary with this are other expressions such as “the body of sin,” “The body of the sins of the flesh,” “The body of this death,” “our old man, the carnal mind,” and so forth, for which see Rom. 6:6; 7:17; 8: 8,9,12,13; Gal. 5:17; Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9. All of this has clear reference to the believer’s remaining sin problem.
Beyond these specific passages is the general trend which every careful reader cannot fail to notice. Throughout the entire range of Scripture the soul newly born and consciously living in the realm of grace is viewed as being ”yet carnal having within it tendencies to evil which become a painful drag upon the spiritual life. An example of this is seen in the Corinthian Church:
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” I Cor. 3:1-4.
Down through the years the Church in general has acknowledged this condition; the notable exception being the Moravian leader, Count Zinzendorf, who insisted that when a repentant sinner received Divine pardon, he was in that instant made free from sin of every kind — both the act committed and the tendency inherited — his heart in that moment becoming as pure as the heart of his Lord.
It was this teaching which Wesley so vigorously withstood, declaring that within the believing soul, even after conversion, there remained the seed of sin which even the fact of God’s forgiving grace did not remove.
Wesley’s position with regard to this is that which is found in the creeds of practically all the churches, Catholic and Protestant alike. Likewise the testimonies of God’s people in general, as they express their consciousness after conversion, witness to the fact, that though Spirit-born, the nature of sin remains within them.
This nature of sin is not ours through personal action but is imparted to us by hereditary processes; therefore it is something for which God’s forgiving grace is not applicable since forgiveness implies responsibility. As later we shall see the Bible reveals another method by which God deals with this phase of the sin problem.
GOD'S ATTITUDE TOWARD SIN
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” 1 John 3:9.
“Even babes in Christ are so far perfect as not to commit sin.” -John Wesley.
We, the Holiness People, believe that since God in His nature and character is holy, His face is unalterably set against sin. This being so, He cannot condone in the believer what He condemns in the sinner. We are convinced that the atoning merit of the outpoured blood of God’s crucified Son is intended to be a cure for man’s sin — for all sin. Him, “God hath set forth to be a propitiation.” Rom. 3:25; I John 2:1. Lit: An expiatory sacrifice; a meeting place where the sinful soul and a holy God; a Mercy Seat where the sinner has right of approach. His blood has made a way into the Holiest — it is the new and living way whereby the vilest sinner is invited to come.
This fact, however, in no sense becomes a license for continued transgression. The blood of Calvary’s Cross, while a Divinely provided covering for the soul repenting of its sin is nowhere declared to be a cover while the soul persistently continues in its sinning.
God’s Word has plainly declared that the soul that sinneth shall die, and that solemn declaration holds good whether that soul be a worldly sinner or a sinner of a more religious hue. The purpose of the Saviour’s coming and the object of His dying were not to make it possible for man to sin without penalty, but rather that in heart sin should be dealt with so that in his life it should be made to cease.
“Thou shalt call his name Jesus,” said the angel, “for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matt. 1:21.
“Sin shall not have dominion over you,” wrote the apostle, “for ye are not under law, but under grace.” Rom. 6:14.
The “must sin theory” has no place in the New Testament. There is no Scripture anywhere within the covers of the Sacred Book which can be rightly interpreted as sanctioning such teaching. Many stock verses are quoted by the must sin advocates, but when these are carefully and candidly examined in the light of their context and historical setting they are found to teach exactly the opposite of what those who so glibly quote them would have us believe. We have no hesitation in declaring that all these Scripture passages when read in the light of their obvious context, their historical setting, and in comparison with the wider teaching of their authors, very definitely teach either the need, the possibility or the possession of full Salvation.
GOD'S ATTITUDE TOWARD SIN
“God ……. called us… unto holiness.” I Thess. 4:7.
We, the Holiness People, believe that the call of God to fallen man is essentially a call to Holiness, and that this experience is designed for man’s enjoyment in this present life. This the following Scriptures, coupled with many others, will plainly show:
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom. 6:6-11.
“For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit.” I Thess. 4:7, 8.
“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.” I Thess. 5:23, 24.
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Titus 2:11-14.
“As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance; but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, be ye holy; for I am holy.” I Pet. 1:14-16.
“And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” Acts 15:8, 9.
These, and kindred Scripture passages, clearly indicate the radical nature of the work which God is prepared to do. It is to be a complete deliverance, a clean cut from the world and from the bondage and contamination of sin.
Our changed relationship Godward is but the preliminary step to a changed inward condition. Thus, Wesley wrote:
“What is our calling’s glorious hope
But inward holiness;
For this to Jesus I look up,
I calmly wait for this.
I wait till He shall touch me clean
Shall life and power impart,
Give me the faith that casts out sin
And purifies the heart.”
The call of God is a call to complete deliverance. What else could be worthy of a God like ours? If He made a full atonement thereby providing a full Salvation, how can we expect anything short of a deliverance that is full and complete?
God’s greatest concern for His people is that they should be spiritually clean. It is a small matter that they should be successful, wealthy, popular or even happy, but if ever they are to see the inside of heaven’s gate they must be free from sin.
Strangely enough there are many people professing they are the Lord’s who with evident sincerity, shudder at such a suggestion, seemingly regarding it as a standard too high for ordinary mortals to contemplate.
“From all sin?” they question. How is it possible to be delivered from all sin in this life?
Since this question so frequently arises, it is well that the issue be squarely faced. Why not deliverance from all sin in this life? What is there to hinder it? If God can deliver the soul from sin’s condemnation, why should He not also be able to deliver it from sin’s contamination?
Numerous answers have been given, suggesting environment, heredity, and the fact of our humanity, but none of these provide a convincing argument in the face of the plain declarations of the Word of God and the humble but testimonies of His trusting and triumphant people.
GOD'S METHOD OF DELIVERANCE FROM INDWELLING SIN
“He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” Matt. 3:11.
We, the Holiness People, believe that deliverance from indwelling sin is promised to the believing soul. It is to be realized subsequent to regeneration and is to be experienced in this life. This crisis is to be accomplished within the believer by the work of the Holy Spirit as He comes in Pentecostal measure, purging out the carnal mind and filling the soul with the fullness of God.
The basis for such a position is considered by the Holiness People to be both broad and clear, namely, the plain teaching of the Word of God and the testimonies of those who have trusted God to make real that teaching in their lives.
The Scriptures clearly teach that Indwelling Sin is to be destroyed from within the believing soul by a Second Work of Grace. There are personal examples of this. Of these we shall quote only three; others will readily be found by those who are interested enough to seek them.
The case of David the King. Psalm 51. “Have mercy on me…” vv. 1-13. Here is the pathway trodden by a backslidden soul, back to the place of restoration and communion with God. By reason of his dark and daring sin this man had lost all consciousness of Divine relationship and had known only spiritual blackness for an entire year. Nathan, the God-sent messenger, had stung him into the realization of the heinousness of his sin and had started him on his way back as a seeker after God.
His first cry is a call for mercy. Verse 1. That is where a penitent must always begin. The reasonable assumption is that his cry was heard and answered. Isaiah 55:6, 7.
His further cry is a claim for cleansing, as the rest of the Psalm will show. Now being consciously reconciled, his awareness of inward corruption becomes overwhelmingly acute, while the Divine demand for inward purity is seen to be imperative. This consciousness drives him to make a further claim, the creation within him of a clean heart
If we are correct in assuming that the prayer for pardon was heard and answered, may we not also assume that the cry for purity was answered, too? God delivered this man, David, from his sin, and that by two distinct and successive steps, forgiveness and cleansing, both of which were consciously received.
The case of Isaiah the prophet Isa. 6.
“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. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” Ver. 1-8.
Here is a prophet, a servant of the Lord, a man whom God has already called into His service and honored in His work. Hitherto his concern has been for others; now it is very definitely for himself. He is shown the deep inner recesses of his own sinful nature and God’s remedy to meet his needs purging as by fire. The performance of this drastic work was certified by God Himself. Isaiah was cleansed and knew it.
The case of the waiting Disciples. Acts 2:1-4; 15:8, 9.”And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Ch. 2:1-4. “And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” Ch. 15:8, 9.
As is clearly set forth in the Gospel records, these men and women now waiting in that Upper Room were already vitally related to Jesus Christ. Among many other definite proofs of this, the Saviour’s statements concerning them in John 17 will suffice.
“I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.”
Ver. 6-9. “I have given them thy word: and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word. That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou has sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” Ver. 14-23.
These men, given to Jesus by the Father out of the world, and declared to be not of the world even as He is not of the world, waited for the promise of the Father. Upon these waiting disciples the Holy Spirit came, purifying their hearts. As Peter in the assembly at Jerusalem afterward declared, that Pentecostal fire was a purifying flame. It destroyed carnality in those on whom it came.
These are but selected incidents supported by a wide range of general Scripture statements which any can verify. The message of the entire Bible is a message of complete deliverance from indwelling sin and this experience is offered to every believing child of God.
Nor are the Scriptures our only ground of assurance, for reliable witnesses through the centuries declare that they have put God’s Word to the test and have found it to be true. Outstanding
among these are the early Methodists; the founders of the Salvation Army, the numerous Holiness Churches, and many others since their day.
Putting the claim for the experience into verse for his followers, Wesley wrote:
“Refining fire, go through my heart,
Illuminate my soul;
Scatter thy life through every part
And sanctify the whole.”
William Booth penned the expectancy thus:
“God of Elijah, hear our cry,
Send the fire!
He’ll make us fit to live or die;
Send the fire!
To burn up every trace of sin,
To bring the light and glory in,
The revolution now begin,
Send the fire.”
As to whether these petitions were answered, the old-fashioned Methodist class meeting and the early Salvation Army Holiness meeting are their own witnesses. That line of spiritual witnesses extends to our own day.
THE PERFECT LIFE
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matt. 5:48.
Like every other doctrinal group, We, the Holiness People, are not without a distinctive phraseology, and this, we insist, is strictly Scriptural, being either the words of Scripture or phrases suggested by Scripture. Among the expressions thus used are the terms Christian Perfection and Perfect Love; expressions not of our own making except that in the first of the two a qualifying adjective has been added by which the Perfection is defined.
This word, perfect, however, despite all definitions, continues to be the ground of controversy. The difficulty arises from a misunderstanding of the thought content which the word is used to express, and often from an adjective either mistakenly or maliciously supplied by the critics of the doctrine. These critics have chosen to call it Sinless Perfection. Because of this, some have suggested that the word Perfection should be dropped from the Holiness vocabulary; but those who make this suggestion obviously do not realize what would be involved thereby.
To begin with, this word is not the property of the Holiness People, nor of any other people, to use or not to use as they may desire. They did not originate it. It is God’s Word, and would not have been used by Him, had He not intended it to be used by His people. It is used in Scripture vocabulary along with other words and phrases such as “pardon,” “justify,” “cleanse,” “born again,” “atonement,” “reconcile,” “propitiation,” “holy,” and “sanctify,” each with their respective derivations.
To us there is no more difficulty with the word perfection than with the word justification. Certainly it is used more frequently in the Word of God. All that is needed, so far as we can see, is a thorough investigation with a view to a clear understanding of the actual word.
It is surely a commonplace we utter when we say that a Bible word is not necessarily explained by its modern dictionary meaning. Sometimes this occurs by reason of changes in the English language since the translation of the King James version, and sometimes by reason of the poverty of the English language as compared with the Greek, in which case one English word is often made to do service for more than one word in the original.
A glance for a moment at some of these changes of meaning which have developed through the years will not be without interest. Take, for instance, the words, letteth and let (2 Thess. 2:7). Their meaning today is to allow. On the contrary, their meaning in the minds of the King James translators was to hinder. It is evident then that the only way to make sure as to the correct meaning of a Bible word is to have recourse to the original language or the use of a reliable lexicon.
To some minds the word perfect seems to be capable of only one possible meaning, namely, that which is final, absolute, and unalterably complete. The Bible words translated perfect, however, have a much wider meaning.
When we begin to examine even simple Bible words, it is surprising to find how many of them have as their background two or more Greek words which admit of very different interpretations. Take, for instance, such words as “life,” “love,” “power” and “perfect,” the Greek words behind each of which are illuminating.
A frank study of this offending word perfect will immediately prove the case. Turning to the original, two outstanding words are found to be used with two obviously different meanings, and for obviously different reasons. One of these has to do with consummation and finality beyond which it is impossible to go further. The other has to do only with quality and therefore admits of unlimited expansion and continual increase. The quality word is the customary term used concerning the believer with regard to present experience, whereas the other word is used concerning development, and also concerning resurrection glory, although there are places where they appear to be interchangeable.
That quality word, as we have called it, is the word “katartizo,” indicating quality of experience as contrasted with “teleios,” indicating quantity, completeness, consummation. The thought content is that of quality when the term is used by the believer indicating that he has trusted God to make real within him this experience of Perfect Love as a definite work of grace. Concerning it, as a general rule, the context will be a safe guide to a sound interpretation.
Two passages, illustrative of many, will serve to show the difference in the use of these two ideas, both indicated by the one word perfect The first is in the Epistle to the Philippians:
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already PERFECT: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us, therefore, as many be PERFECT, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” Phil. 3:7-15.
Here, in two different verses, the word perfect is used, and unless the meaning is carefully noted in each case, confusion will ensue. The first use of the word obviously has to do with a perfection which does not belong to this life. It is the perfection of resurrection glory, and this, of course, the apostle at that time ardently disclaimed, as do all others who have any intelligent idea of the things of which they speak:
“. . . The resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect.” vv.11, 12.
The second use of the word, however, has to do with present experience, which the writer not only claims for himself as a present experience but which he also assumes to be the experience of some to whom he is writing: “Let us therefore as many as be perfect, be thus minded.” Ver. 15.
Not perfect! verses 11, 12. Certainly not, not until this mortal puts on immortality. Yet among “as many as be perfect,” verse 15. To be sure! There is no contradiction. The Apostle John supplies us with the key for interpretation here:
“And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us.” I John 4:16-19.
It is a perfection of divine love in the Christian’s heart.
The second illustrative passage is in the Epistle to the Hebrews:
“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Heb. 13:20, 21.
There, at the very center of the passage is that quality word perfect introduced, not as a nebulous ideal, but as something which God is prepared to make you. It is an interesting fact that this same Greek word here translated perfect is found elsewhere in the New Testament not only in entirely different settings, but also with a very different translation. Take, for instance, the following incident.
“And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” Matt. 4:21, 22.
What, asks the casual reader, has such a general passage to do with this doctrinal discussion concerning Christian Perfection? The answer is, only by way of illustration, but that very definitely, for here we find again the very word we are discussing, that same quality word as used in the Hebrew passage, there translated perfect but here translated mending.
All this surely throws light on the thought before us. The nets were being mended to make them ready for the job for which they were originally intended. So with the soul that is perfected in love. That is all that God demands of any soul, and what He demands He is prepared to actualize. Just as a mended net will catch fish, so an adjusted soul will do the will of God.
Common sense assures us that any thing is perfect in its own field and degree if it does that which its designer had in mind when he made it. In mechanics it might be a watch, a clock, a scale, a fountain pen, a railroad train, or anything else. The watch is expected to keep perfect time; the clock likewise, with the additional fact of larger proportions and probably additions such as chimes. The scale is made to weigh a definite amount: consequently, there are various kinds of scales, some to weigh babies and some to weigh bullocks, neither of which would be judged imperfect because it did not exactly do the work of the other. The pen is essentially and only a writing instrument, and would not be judged imperfect because it did not supply its owner with the correct time, while the railroad train has its special function for travel and would not be judged imperfect because it did not register the correct weight of the passenger who sat in it.
Similar observations may be made concerning the world of nature. There is the perfect seed, the perfect bud, the perfect flower; the perfect lamb and the perfect sheep. In its respective degree the newborn babe is pronounced perfect, but that perfection is of necessity a temporary and relative thing, for if the child should remain in that condition beyond the allotted span of babyhood, its protracted infancy would become a tragedy. Consequently, we are correct in saying that present perfection, while complete in its degree, is only the groundwork for a perpetual perfecting.
Christian perfection then, is that experience demanded of the Christian in the Word of God. There it has its carefully considered content and its clearly defined limitations. It is never confused with the perfection of deity, angels, matured believers, nor of the redeemed in their heavenly
Home. It indicates simply a heart cleansed from indwelling sin and set with all its powers to do the will of God as that will becomes intelligently known.
Quotations from some of the recognized leaders among the Holiness People may help us understand their teaching with regard to this experience.
- REV. JOHN WESLEY
“Christian perfection, therefore, does not imply (as some men seem to have imagined) an exemption either from ignorance, or mistakes, or infirmities, or temptations. Indeed, it is only another term for Holiness. They are two names for the same thing. Thus everyone that is holy is, in the Scripture sense, perfect. Yet we may observe that neither in this respect is there any absolute perfection on earth. There is no perfection of degrees, as it is termed; none which does not admit of continual increase. So that how much soever any man has attained, or in how high degree soever he is perfect, he hath still need to grow in grace, and daily to advance in the knowledge and love of God his Savior” (Sermon on Christian Perfection).
- DR. ASA MAHAN
“He is perfect in Holiness whose love at each successive moment corresponds with the extent of his powers. ‘If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.’ Hence I remark that perfection in holiness does not imply that now we love God with all the strength and intensity with which redeemed spirits in heaven love Him. The depth and intensity of our love depends, under all circumstances, upon the vigor and reach of our powers, and the extent and distinctness of our vision of divine truth. In each and every sphere, perfection in holiness implies a strength and intensity of love corresponding with the reach of our powers and the extent and distinctness of our vision of truth in that particular sphere.
“The child is perfect in holiness who perpetually exercises a filial and affectionate obedience to all the divine requisitions, and loves God with all the powers which he possess as a child. The man is perfect in holiness who exercises the same supreme and affectionate obedience to all that God requires, and loves Him to the full extent of his knowledge and strength as a man.
“The saint on earth is perfect when he loves with all the strength and intensity rendered practicable by the knowledge and reach of his powers in his present sphere.
“The saint in heaven will be favored with a seraph’s vision and a seraph’s power. To be perfect there, he must love and adore with a seraph’s vigor and burn with a seraph’s fire.” (The Doctrine of Christian Perfection, pp.8-9)
- REV. JOSEPH H. SMITH
“We submit three reasons ‘why’ we should treat of this subject of Perfection. First, Man’s mind is so constituted as to demand perfection. And this is most emphatically so in things of which he believes God is the author. Yes, even in Arts and Sciences of his own he has a perfect mark by which, for instance, he grades students up to 100 per cent. He rates Commercial products according to certain fixed standards of purity, weight and measure; and awards premiums at the Fairs and Expositions accordingly. And most particularly is this true as to man’s (and woman’s) mind with regard to Social and domestic relations of life. Here nothing short of a complete devotion and a perfect fidelity will satisfy the requirement of expectation. And in Ethics it is the same; for not approximate but absolute truthfulness and honesty are the standard by which men at least judge their fellows and decry all graft and deception in public and business life.
“And, Secondly, Men’s hearts need and cry for a perfect solace and satisfaction. And when these hearts turn to Christ, is it not true that we all, either from instinct or intuition or a measure of inspiration, expect to find such a perfect satisfaction and salvation in Him? We think this is universally so. . . The hearts of all true believers in Christ are born to long for and look for just what we shall trace in Paul as Perfection. Anything less than a perfect alignment with God’s will does not meet our expectation in Christ, nor satisfy what we feel is Christ’s expectation of us. .
“And, Thirdly, because the Bible does unmistakably present such a perfection. Observe, we say ‘such’ a Perfection. And let us keep in mind that in any of the other lines of Perfection to which we have alluded there is a distinct limit as to what it is that is perfect: and there is also a margin allowing for many other imperfections outside that limit. Thus, for instance, the boy who makes 100 per cent, or a perfect mark in his mathematics, may still be a physical cripple, unable to walk. The wife, whose perfection of love to her one and only husband is never questioned but can be proved in twenty different ways, may nevertheless be an altogether unskilled seamstress or an inexperienced and an imperfect housekeeper. Christian Perfection is like hers in that it is a perfection of the heart, though making no claim to perfection of the head or hand. This may explain that very significant remark of a deeply spiritual man who said, ‘One high mark of Christian Perfection is patience with our imperfections.’ For the Perfection presented in the Bible is not a perfection of physical or mental state, nor of temporal circumstances or conditions, but rather a perfect acceptance of an adaptation to the probation that is involved in the imperfections of our lot…..
“Thus, in a word, Christian Perfection is limited to the perfection of that which Christianity contemplates for man while on earth and in the body… “(Pauline Perfection, pages 2-5).
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities.” Rom. 8:26.
We, the Holiness People, while declaring the possibility of deliverance from sin, are fully aware of our human frailty with its infirmities and limitations. All these entail humiliation, confession, and regret, but need not bring condemnation. They demand the efficacy of the atoning blood of the crucified, risen, and ascended Redeemer, but they are not accounted to us as sin. On this point we quote four reputable historic leaders among the Holiness People, whose teaching we wholeheartedly endorse.
“Question: Do you affirm that this perfection excludes all infirmities, ignorance, and mistakes?
“Answer: I continually affirm quite the contrary, and have always done so.
“Question: But how can every thought, word, and work be governed by pure love, and the man be subject at the same time to ignorance and mistake?
“Answer: I see no contradiction here. A man may be filled with pure love and still liable to mistake. Indeed I do not expect to be freed from actual mistakes until this mortal puts on immortality. I believe this to be a natural consequence of the soul’s dwelling in flesh and blood. For we cannot now think at all, but by the mediation of these bodily organs, which have suffered equally with the rest of our frame. And hence we cannot avoid thinking wrong, till this corruption shall have put on incorruption.
“We may carry this thought further yet. A mistake in judgment may possibly occasion a mistake in practice. For instance, Mr. DeRenty’s mistake touching the nature of mortification, arising from prejudice of education, occasioned that practical mistake, his wearing an iron girdle. And a thousand such instances there may be, even in those who are in the highest state of grace. Yet where every word and action springs from love, such a mistake is not properly a sin; however, it cannot bear the rigor of God’s justice, but needs the atoning blood.
“Question: But how can a liableness to mistake consist with perfect love? Is not a person who is perfected in love every moment under its influence? And can any mistake flow from pure love?
“Answer: I answer, 1. Mistakes may consist with pure love. 2. Some may accidentally flow from it. I mean love itself may incline us to mistake. The pure love of our neighbor springing from the love of God, ‘thinketh no evil,’ ‘believeth and hopeth all things.’ Now this very temper, unsuspicious, ready to believe and hope the best of all men, may occasion our thinking some men better than they really are. Here is a manifest mistake, accidentally flowing from pure love.” (Plain Account of Christian Perfection)
“An infirmity is a breach of Adam’s paradisiacal perfection, which our covenant God does not require of us now; and evangelically speaking, a sin for a Christian is a breach of Christ’s evangelical law of Christian perfection; a perfection this, which God requires of all believers.
“An infirmity, considering it with the error which it occasions, is consistent with pure love to God and man; but a sin is inconsistent with that love: an infirmity is free from guilt, and has its roots in our animal frame, but a sin is attended with guilt, and has its roots in our moral frame, springing either from the habitual corruption of our heart, or from the momentary perversion of our tempers: an infirmity unavoidably results from our unhappy circumstances, and from the necessary infelicitous weakness of our present state; but a sin flows from the avoidable and perverse choice of our own will: an infirmity has its foundation in an involuntary want of light and power; and a sin is a willful abuse of the present light and power we have. The one arises from involuntary ignorance and weakness, and is always attended with a good meaning, a meaning unmixed with any bad design or wicked prejudice; but the other has its source in voluntary perverseness and presumption, and is always attended with a meaning altogether bad; poor at least, with a good meaning founded on wicked prejudices.”
J. A. WOOD
“Question: Does Christian perfection exclude the infirmities of human nature?
“Answer: It does not. Freedom from these is not to be expected in this world. We must wait for deliverance from these until this mortal puts on immortality. These infirmities, so numerous and various, are the common inheritance of humanity. They are not sins; they are innocent; although they may be our misfortune, they are included in the ‘all things’ which, by the grace and blessing of God, shall work together for our good. Although Christian perfection does not admit of any outward or inward sin, properly so called, yet it does admit of strong convictions of numberless infirmities and imperfections, such as slowness of understanding, errors of judgment, mistakes in practice, erratic imaginations, a treacherous memory, etc. If it be claimed that these innocent infirmities need the blood of atonement, praise the Lord, the blood of Jesus meets every demand.
“Question: Is it important to distinguish between inbred sin and the innocent infirmities of fallen human nature?
“Answer: It is; otherwise we may on the one hand blame and afflict ourselves needlessly; or, on the other, excuse ourselves from blame when we are really culpable. An intelligent, faithful Christian will wisely discriminate between them, and seek the extirpation of the one, and patiently endure the burdens of the other. Mr. Wesley says, ‘Let those who do call them sins beware how they confound those defects with sins, properly so called.’
“Inbred sin is a carnal principle or root remaining in the unsanctified heart, sending up sprouts of bitterness which cling to the desires and appetites. It is the source of moral evils, such as envy, pride, stubbornness, malice, anger, jealousy, unbelief, fretfulness, impatience, revenge, covetousness — everything opposed to the will of God.
“Human infirmities are various and numerous, such as mental aberrations, sophistical reasonings, treacherous memory, erratic imaginations, involuntary ignorance, and all those frailties and defects which may co-exist with the very best intentions.
“St. Paul recognizes this distinction; he writes to Timothy, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others may also fear,” and yet he writes to the Romans, “We that are strong should bear with the infirmities of the weak.” Here are two plain commands; the first, not to bear with sins, and the second, to bear with infirmities.
“Many who reject the doctrine of Christian perfection confound infirmities and sins. Infirmities may entail regret and humiliation, but not guilt. Sin always produces guilt” — Perfect Love, pp. 65, 66).
“Infirmities are failures to keep the law of perfect obedience given to Adam in Eden. This law no man on earth can keep, since sin has impaired the powers of universal humanity. Sins are offenses against the law of Christ, which is epitomized by John, ‘And this is the commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another’ (1 John 3:23).
“Infirmities are an involuntary outflow from our imperfect moral organization. Sin is always voluntary.
“Infirmities have their ground in our physical nature, and they are aggravated by intellectual deficiencies. But sin roots itself in our moral nature, springing either from the habitual corruption of our hearts or from the unresisting perversion of our tempers.
“Infirmities entail regret and humiliation. Sin always produces guilt.
“Infirmities in well-instructed souls do not interrupt communion with God. Sin cuts the telegraphic communication with heaven.
“Infirmities, hidden from ourselves, are covered by the blood of Christ without a definite act of faith, in the case of the soul vitally united with Him. On the great Day of Atonement the errors of the individual Hebrew were put away through the blood of sprinkling, without offering a special victim for himself. ‘But unto the second (tabernacle) went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people.’ (Heb. 9:7). Sins demand a special personal resort to the blood of sprinkling and an act of reliance on Christ.
“Infirmities are without remedy so long as we are in this body. Sins, by the keeping power of Christ, are avoidable through every hour of our regenerate life. Both of these truths are in Jude’s ascription, ‘Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling (into sin, or as the Vulgate reads, sine peccato, without sin) and present you faultless (without infirmity, not here, but) in the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.’ Jude understood the distinction between faults, or
infirmities, and sins. In this scheme of Christian perfection, faults are to disappear in the life to come, but we are to be saved from sins now.
“A thousand infirmities are consistent with perfect love, but not one sin.
“Thus we see on undisputed authority we may be conscious of human weakness yet well pleasing to God.” (Mile-Stone Papers, pp. 44-47).
MANIFESTATIONS AND GIFTS
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” 1 Cor. 12:7.
We, the Holiness People, do not subscribe to the theory that spiritual experience is to be measured by physical manifestation; neither do we allow that any outward phenomenon is to be regarded as the authentic sign of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Within the present generation a type of teaching has appeared which dodges the issue concerning the possibility of sin’s destruction, and as a substitute, offers the seeker a sensational experience for which he is directed to seek and wait. All this has brought about an unfortunate confusion of thought, and some, without the courtesy of a due investigation, have rolled up into one bundle tongues advocates, snake charmers, rollers, poison drinkers, and whatever other fanatical hue may appear, placing them all under the generous title, The Holiness People.
Such a classification has not only been unfortunate; it has been decidedly unjust. The truth is that wherever any such hysteria has appeared, the Holiness People have been the first to refuse to countenance it, and they have not hesitated to denounce it.
That the New Testament has its distinctive teaching concerning spiritual gifts, all who have a working knowledge of their Bibles will readily agree, but that these gifts are offered for indiscriminate claiming serious students will emphatically deny, recognizing the Divinely inspired caution as it is given in 1 Corinthians 12:11:
“All these worketh one and the self same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”
The teaching of the New Testament makes a very clear distinction between the gift of the Spirit which is for all believers, and the gifts of the Spirit, that is, the gifts of which the Spirit is the Sovereign Giver, which are not for all believers to claim.
The gift of the Spirit is offered without reserve to every believing soul. It is the enthronement-gift of our ascended Saviour since He is now our exalted Lord. Concerning it, the Divinely pledged word for ever stands:
“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” Luke 11:13.
The gifts of the Spirit, however, are very different. They are reserved under the strict vigilance of Divine Sovereignty, the Holy Spirit Himself dividing them within the Church severally as He will. 1 Cor. 12-14.
THE SOUL'S ABIDING LIFE IN GOD
“Let us pass on then to what is mature, leaving elementary Christian doctrine behind instead of laying the foundation over again.” Heb. 6:1 (Moffatt)
The two crisis-works of grace about which We, the Holiness People, so freely speak are not by any means to be regarded as the sum total of the experience we enjoy. These two distinctive “blessings” are simply the two-leaved gateway into the larger life which stands as the blood-bought inheritance of every child of God. The Scriptures are redundant in their teaching concerning such a life, as any unprejudiced person with an open Bible will readily see.
We, the Holiness People, wholeheartedly believe, steadfastly teach, and gladly witness from personal heart knowledge, that such an experience is possible to the wholly yielded soul in this life. It has become known to many as The Higher Life, but it is, in reality, the normal experience of the Christian. All else is below Bible standard and consequently below the Divine purpose for the believing soul.
We shall state this experience in three simple propositions:
1. It is a life of unlimited fulness.
To some, such a declaration will be startling, and therefore needs to be hedged about with careful explanations. We shall quote first, three of the many Scripture passages on which we base such a sweeping statement, and then shall seek to say some things which will clarify our thinking concerning them:
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10.
“Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power; which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Eph. 1:15-23.
“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.” Eph. 3:14-21.
We begin by saying that the experience received through the baptism with the Holy Spirit is not independent in its Origin. It is not a gift to be received from the Giver, but is rather to be regarded as the Giver’s gift of Himself. Among men a thing may be transferred from one person to another, and that thing may remain the property of the one to whom it is transferred without the recipient ever seeing the giver again. It is not so, however, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, for the gift and the Giver are one. The Blessing abides only as the Blesser is recognized and honored. It is retained only on this condition, “If ye abide in Me…”
We must further state that this is a fulness which must always be Divinely sustained. The crisis Blessing is an experience instantaneous in its nature, but the balancing truth is seen in the fact that while there is one baptism, there are many fillings maintained only by a close walk with God; these alone can guarantee the fulness level in the Spirit-filled soul.
An example of the teaching of the Scripture concerning this is found in the Ephesian epistle from which we have already quoted. The fact of the experience of the reception of the Holy Spirit by the readers of the epistle is recorded in the opening chapter.
“Christ… in whom also, after ye believed ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” Eph. 1:13.
Then, on throughout the epistle, this indwelling Spirit is recognized, until toward the close the reader is faced with this exhortation: “Be filled with the Spirit.” Ch. 5:18.
But already they are recognized as having been filled with the Spirit! There seems to be reasonable evidence that the reference of Ch. 1:13 is to the incident recorded in Acts 19:1-7. In these Ephesian believers the crisis work of the baptism with the Holy Spirit had been definitely known. Why then this repeated exhortation to be filled? The answer is not difficult, for the fulness to which they are now exhorted is not by way of crisis but rather in the nature of process. Those qualified to interpret the passage have suggested a translation which to the English reader would make a clumsy reading; “Be being filled with the Spirit.” Dr. Weymouth has translated it, “Drink deeply of God’s Spirit.” Here then is suggested a maintained faith contact, which assures a perpetual fulness of the Holy Spirit but only through a constantly abiding attitude of the soul.
All this now leaves us free to emphasize the amazing spiritual fulness which is available to the Spirit-filled soul. Who can measure it? Who will dare to restrict it? The very power that raised up Jesus from the dead, “the exceeding greatness of His power,” is “to usward who believe.” Eph. 1:15-23. Oh! poor faithless hearts, to have believed so little. All the Divine fulness is at our disposal. We may be “filled unto all the fulness of God.” Eph. 3:19. R. V.
2. It is a life of unbounded Satisfaction.
There is, of course, an ultimate satisfaction which we shall never know until that glorious resurrection morning when, changed into His glorious image, we see our redeeming Lord face to face. Hence the psalmist wrote:
“As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake with thy likeness.” Psa. 17:15.
Yet while for this resurrection satisfaction we must of necessity yearn and wait, there is a present satisfaction which every believing soul may here and now enjoy. The Scriptures proclaim the possibility. Take, for instance, the following:
“For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” Psa. 107:9.
“I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” S. of S. 2:3, 4.
“And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the Lord.” Jer. 31:14.
“I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.” Hosea 14:5-7.
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” “They will be satisfied” — Moffatt. “They shall be completely satisfied.” — Weymouth. Matt. 5:6.
“That your joy may be full.” John 16:24.
“We are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Rom. 8:37.
What can these, and so many other similar Scriptures mean except that in the experience offered to the believing soul through the merits of Calvary there is a satisfaction to be obtained which nothing else can offer — a satisfaction which needs no supplementation from anything which a God defying world can give.
Yet how strange it is that within the Christian Church, so many are content to live on a lower level of dissatisfaction and defeat, and seek to justify their failures by quoting — or more often misquoting, misapplying, misinterpreting, and misrepresenting — the sacred Word of God. Scripture verses are wrenched from their context, and their historical setting is utterly disregarded, in the vain endeavor to prove the necessity of continual sinning as long as they remain in this life
Paul’s wretched man and the lusting flesh are prime favorites, while John’s “if we say we have no sin” quotation is hugged to the heart with such amazing tenderness as to make it appear that the fact of retained carnality is more to be cherished than the delivering power of God.
We, the Holiness People, confidently assert that in no case does the statement of Scripture go beyond the possibility of personal experience. “He satisfieth the longing soul.” We find it to be true.
3. It is a life of unending Progress.
We, the Holiness People, while insisting on the possibility of spiritual soundness and soul satisfaction in the experience of the wholly yielded child of God, go on confidently to affirm that all this in no way precludes a life of spiritual development, but rather becomes the essential prelude to it. The normal experience of a soul wholly yielded to the will of God is essentially a life of unending progression.
The soul satisfied in God will of necessity make progress in the knowledge of the things of God. The suggestion made by some that if sin were destroyed within the soul there would then be neither room for growth nor incentive to it is as thoughtless as it is false.
What, we ask, is the foundation of true growth? The answer surely is obvious: growth is facilitated by constitutional soundness. The child, the plant, the lamb, the sapling, the ripening fruit — surely none of these require an inner corruption in order that a reasonable development might take place. On the contrary, it is that very corruption, when there, that arrests development. The sick child weakens instead of growing strong. The diseased fruit rots instead of going on to ripen. The worm-eaten tree does not flourish; it quickly decays. Likewise the sin-infested soul does not and cannot develop as it should. Sin is not conducive to spiritual growth; it never was and never will be. Yet of the soul that is wholly yielded to God it is written:
“The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to shew that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” Psa. 92:12-15.
“The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Prov. 4:18.
Concerning this need and possibility of spiritual development, the teaching of the New Testament is unmistakably plain. The soul cleansed from indwelling sin and satisfied with the Divine favor is then urged and encouraged to maintain a constant development in the grace which has been received… One word from the apostle Paul will suffice: “We all . . . beholding . . . the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same likeness, from one degree of radiant holiness to another, even as derived from the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor. 3:18, A. V., and Weymouth.
The apostle Peter also had no doubt about both the need and possibility of the soul’s perpetual development in this Divinely bestowed grace. Concerning it, both the opening and closing chapters of his second epistle are emphatic. Having reminded his readers of the exceeding great and precious promises which were basic to the fact of their partaking of the Divine nature and consequently escaping the corruption that is in the world, he exhorts them to diligence in what he terms adding to their faith, or in other words, seeking the development of those virtues which go to make up a well rounded Christian character. Then again, as he closes his epistle, he returns to his earlier emphasis with this concluding word:
“But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2 Pet. 3:18.
The soul delivered from the virus of carnality is thereby set free for growth and development in Christian virtues such as could not be possible while indwelling sin remained. It has capacity for unending growth in the grace which God bestows and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We, The Holiness People The Things We Believe and Teach by Harry Edward Jessop Original Publication
Chicago Evangelistic Institute, 1948
Used by permission of Holiness Data Ministry