The Doctrine of Sanctification


When John the Baptist spoke about Jesus, he said: "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, ... He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matthew 3:11). Here we see the promise of a baptism of Spirit and fire. Jesus also preached repentance (please read Matthew 4:17) and baptized with water (John 3:22, 26; 4:1-2). Just before He ascended into heaven, He said to His disciples: "for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5).

In Acts we read of the fulfillment of this promise. With the apostles: "When the Day of Pentecost had 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 the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:1-4). We read about a similar experience with Saul (Acts 9:17), with Cornelius (Acts 10:44-46), and with the disciples in Ephesus (Acts 19:2-6).

In 1 Peter 1:2, Romans 1:4, and Romans 15:16 the Holy Spirit is associated with sanctification. Also, in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 we see that God produces sanctification. We can conclude that baptism of the Holy Spirit was already referred to as sanctification at that time. But what does this sanctification mean?

Brother Byrum writes in the book Holy Spirit Baptism and the Second Cleansing: "The best Greek authorities hold that the Greek hagios and its derivatives are properly translated by the following English words in their various forms – sanctify, holy, pure, chaste, clear... However, the more common use of the Greek hagios is, to cleanse. Likewise the primary meaning of sanctify is 'to cleanse.'" He continues: "We define 'entire sanctification' at this point as a definite cleansing, subsequent to conversion, from the depravity of the nature, which condition remains in the regenerated until the time of this entire sanctification."

At the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem, Peter arose and spoke about his experience in the house of Cornelius: "So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:8-9). Again we see a connection between sanctification and purification. Specifically, he speaks of the purification of the heart. Of what has the heart been cleansed if Cornelius, by the account described in Acts 10, was already saved?
We need to understand that sin exists in two forms: the sin of commission and original sin. One refers to the sins that we have committed ourselves, the other is our corrupt nature - the sin in the heart, which is the main cause of sin in our life. Brother Byrum wrote: "Since it is a fact that native depravity does remain in the heart of the converted, a subsequent cleansing is necessary. There is no Scriptural proof of any time or place where depravity is removed except at the time of the baptism of the Holy Spirit."

It must be clarified that sanctification does not make us infallible. It does not make us absolutely perfect in every way. It does not save us from the possibility of sinning.

Through sanctification we are purified. That which sin has spoiled in our human nature is straightened out again. For example, through sanctification the sin of pride becomes ordinary self-respect. It may not always be possible to draw a specific line between the natural and the corrupted, either in our own experience or in someone else’s, however, of utmost importance is that we have experienced sanctification. But how can we attain it?

A prerequisite for sanctification is our consecration. It is described in the Old Testament as a consecration to the service of God. And in Acts chapters 2, 8, and 15 we see again and again that sanctification was obtained through prayer. More specifically, it is received by faith in response to our prayers. And Jesus Himself gives us a promise that we can rely on when we pray: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13)

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