Chapter 9 - Sanctification as a Bible Doctrine

Conversion and a subsequent life of holiness are indeed a high state of grace. Nevertheless, it is not the complete sum of Christian experience as set forth in the New Testament. As my object is to set forth the true Bible standard, I shall proceed to show that the New Testament clearly teaches a second, definite work of divine grace wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit—holiness perfected, or entire sanctification. The Bible writers speak of it from various standpoints, sometimes emphasizing one phase of the subject and sometimes another and therefore using a variety of terms. All these, however, are resolved into the same thing. When the subject is considered from the standpoint of entire sanctification, a result is thereby expressed, and the cause of this result may or may not be stated in a given instance. We shall consider sanctification first as a result, or work in the soul, and then proceed to show the cause that produces this effect.
The Apostle Paul states that God hath “chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (II Thess. 2:13). Sanctification is therefore a part of the work of salvation and belongs to all God’s people. Christ prayed earnestly that his disciples might have this experience, as we read in John 17:17. He did even more than pray for it; he gave his life that it might be accomplished (Heb. 13:12). But it is his own people that are to be sanctified; for Paul informs us that “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it” (Eph. 5:25-26). (See also I Thess. 5:23-24; II Tim. 2:21.)
This doctrine was also taught by Peter who states that our election is “through sanctification of the Spirit” (I Pet. 1:2). These texts, and others that might be cited, show clearly that sanctification is a New Testament doctrine.

What Does Sanctification Signify?

Sanctification signifies two distinct things: first a consecrating, or setting apart to a holy or religious use—a legal or ceremonial holiness; second, a definite cleansing and purifying of the heart and affections of men—a moral work.
Now, the term is used in the Bible with both of these significations; therefore we must be careful to “rightly divide the word of truth.” In the Old Testament, under the law dispensation, sanctification is often mentioned, but it was merely a legal sanctification, or a setting apart to a religious use. This was before the time when full salvation could be wrought in the soul through the blood of Christ, and a moral change was not under consideration; in fact, the objects of that sanctification were in many cases wholly incapable of receiving any moral change, for inanimate objects, as well as animate, received it.
In the New Testament the term “sanctification” includes the other signification—a purging or cleansing of the moral nature of man. We must observe, however, that according to the definition already given, and according to its use in the Bible, “sanctification” applies to all religious consecration and to all moral cleansing, irrespective of degree. Christ referred to the brazen altar—the altar upon which gifts and offerings were placed—when he declared that it “sanctifieth the gift” (Matt. 23:19).
The term “sanctification,” in its broad sense, covers the whole of the Christian experience, irrespective of degree, and is thus used without distinction in many texts. However, the term is also used in a specific sense, referring to a second work of divine grace wrought in the heart of the Christian believer—a work known as holiness perfected, or entire sanctification. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly entirely” (I Thess. 5:23 ). It is in this latter sense that I shall now employ the term. Therefore, specifically, sanctification is

For Justified People Only

None but human beings can receive this glorious experience of sanctification, and not all of them obtain it; for it is reserved for those who have already been justified from their actual transgressions through the blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, people must be genuinely converted to God, born again, and living the holy life required by the New Testament before they are scriptural candidates for entire sanctification. In Christ’s prayer for his disciples, he said, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me.… Sanctify them” (John 17:9, 17). (See also Eph. 5:25-26.) People must first “receive forgiveness of sins” before they can obtain the “inheritance among them which are sanctified” (Acts 26:18). It was to the brethren at Thessalonica, to those who were “in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thess. 1:1), that Paul wrote when he said, “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly” (5:23).
From these scriptural statements it will be seen that sanctification is

A Second Work of Grace

There is a definite reason for this twofoldness in the redemption of the individual believer. Sin exists in two forms—actual and inherent; that is, there is a disposition to wrong received through natural generation, and there are willful acts of wrong which we commit after reaching the age when we have a knowledge of right and wrong. “Native depravity” properly expresses the first form and “transgression” or “sin” the second; but since theologians usually term the evil tendencies of human nature “Adamic sin,” or “original sin,” I shall adopt that terminology and speak of sin in two forms—inherent and actual. We are in no sense individually responsible for possessing the evil nature that we inherit; but we are wholly responsible for our own sinful acts committed later. Repentance can apply only to our own individual acts of wrong; hence forgiveness and conversion are of necessity limited to that aspect, as we shall soon see by the teaching of the Scriptures. Therefore, any attempt to identify in redemption these two distinct forms of sin is a mistake.
We have no need of proving that men are guilty of actual transgressions; the fact is well known and acknowledged. However, the Scriptures assert that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Concerning inherent sin, we must give the more exact statements of the Scripture for although it is generally admitted, it is sometimes denied.
“The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies” (Ps. 58:3). While the psalmist is here simply describing a fact, the verse contains at least a strong intimation of an inward bent to evil. Again, he says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (51:5). This text shows that an evil disposition is a part of man from the earliest moment of his existence. And the Apostle Paul distinctly affirms that we are all “by nature the children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).
In relating his own experience, Paul gives a clear description of sin in these two forms (Rom. 7:7-13). Here the Apostle speaks first of his experience as an infant, when he had no knowledge of God’s law, did not even know that it said, “Thou shalt not covet.” At this time, although he was “alive without the law,” he had in him something that he calls sin, but “without the law sin was dead.” Later, “when the commandment came” to his understanding, and he transgressed it, then, he says, “sin revived, and I died”—he became “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). How clear this twofoldness of sin! And this has been the experience of all who have reached the age of moral responsibility.
Our foreparents were created “in righteousness and true holiness,” but from this lofty estate they fell, thereby plunging the world into the darkness of sin; for as a result all have received an evil nature, as we have already shown. From this fact it is evident that when we are born into the world, though we are perfectly innocent, we are one degree below the line of perfect holiness, since we possess the nature of sin. When we reach the age of moral responsibility and take upon ourselves a sinful life, we fall another degree lower, so that we are now two steps below the original plane of holiness.
Now the design of Christ is to restore mankind in salvation to the high plane from which they fell; and since they have descended two degrees into sin, there must of necessity be two steps upward in redemption. Are there not the same number of steps in a stairway when a person ascends as when he descends? And the last step taken coming down will be the first one to take going up. So in redemption. The last step in the descent was our willful departure from God into actual sins, so our first step in salvation is willingly to return to God leaving behind all the sins that we have committed (Isa. 55:7; 1:18). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This confession and pardon relate solely to our own sinful acts, and this is what Peter terms conversion: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19).
Jesus teaches that the converted man is like a little child once more (Matt. 18:3). While this language doubtless refers directly to the humility and innocence of childhood, it certainly implies a moral restoration of the individual. In other words, the person whose individual sins have been confessed, forgiven, and blotted out is “converted” and has regained the moral condition of innocency from which he departed at the age of accountability (Rom. 7:9). But as the infant is one degree below the plane of perfect holiness, so also is the converted person. He is even called a “babe” (I Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:13) and is exhorted to go on unto perfection, “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Cor. 7:1); he is informed by the Bible that so far as moral purity is concerned God hath “perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14).
The Apostle John, in that epistle in which he speaks so often about being born of God, teaches most clearly that these “sons of God” still stand in need of purification. (See I John 3:2-3.) Again I call attention to Paul’s words, “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it” (Eph. 5:25-26).
Furthermore, this need of cleansing can be tested in the experience of the Apostles themselves. In John 1:12-13 we read that those who received Christ during his incarnation and believed on his name became sons of God by being born of God. Christ said to the seventy disciples, “Your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Yet we have in the gospel narrative clear evidences that these apostles still possessed the nature of evil, as when the ten were “moved with indignation” against the two who sought positions of authority over the others. (See Matt. 20:20-24; Mark 9:34.) Since, therefore, they needed a cleansing from this inbred sin, Christ prayed to the Father, “Sanctify them” (John 17:17).
This twofoldness of salvation work is also shown under the figure of a vine and its branches (John 15:1-2, 5). The individual Christian is a branch of the true vine—Christ. If he ceases to bear the fruit of the Spirit, he is taken away; but if he is a fruitful branch, he is to be purged, so that he can bring forth more fruit.
The promise of a second work was given to the Apostles in a threefold form:
1. The purging already mentioned.
2. “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17).
3. In his prayer recorded in John 17, Jesus did not say a word about the Father’s giving the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, but he did say, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (vs. 17).
Now, his threefold promise is gathered up in one experience to be received by them, the Holy Spirit being cause, and purging, or sanctification, being the result. “Being sanctified by the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 15:16). So Christ’s asking the Father to sanctify the Apostles was virtually asking him to give them the Holy Spirit; for when the Holy Spirit was received as their Comforter they were sanctified—“sanctified by the Holy Ghost.”
So also the purging promised is the same, being the work of the Holy Ghost when received. “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). This text refers to the time when the household of Cornelius was baptized with the Holy Spirit (chap. 10). So it is a scriptural fact that there is a purging of the heart, or entire sanctification, to be received subsequently to regeneration, and that it is obtained when the Holy Ghost is received as the abiding comforter. Sin is twofold and salvation also is twofold. “He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly” (Titus 3:5-6).
The twofold aspect of salvation was typified by the tabernacle of the Mosaic dispensation. This ancient structure, the dwelling place of God on earth, consisted of two apartments surrounded by a court. In the court, directly in front entrance to the first apartment, stood the brazen altar, or altar of burnt offerings, and a laver containing water. The first apartment, which was entered from the court and was termed “holy place,” contained a table of showbread, a candlestick, the golden altar, which stood just before the entrance in second apartment. This second, or inner, apartment was the “holy of holies,” or “holiest of all.” It contained the ark of the covenant, wherein were deposited the stone tables of the law.
The two apartments in the type must have their counter-part in the antitype. In the tabernacle there were two altars, as already observed, and the blood of sin offerings was placed on both altars (Lev. 4:7), thus clearly typifying twofold cleansing. For a full discussion of the two works as symbolized by the tabernacle, see pages 124-126 of the large edition.

Conditions for Sanctification

This blessed state of perfected holiness cannot be entered by sinners. The Holy Ghost is given, not to the world, but to those who are chosen out of the world—to those who are God’s believing and obedient children. Therefore the first essential is that the candidate for sanctification possess a clear, definite experience of Bible justification, but this is not all.
It is in our effort to live a holy life that we are made painfully conscious of the presence of that evil nature within. Realizing that while the soul is fighting the devil on the outside there is also “a foe in the temple not subject to God,” one cries out for an experience of heart purity. The first disciples were earnestly praying when they received this experience (Acts 1:14; 2:1-4). So was Cornelius when the way was opened for him to receive the Holy Ghost (10:2-3). Without strong desire and earnest prayer one will never obtain this definite work of grace.
The seeker must make a complete surrender to the whole will of God, a perfect consecration of time, talents, and all to His service, and of himself to be sacredly the Lord’s for time and for eternity (Rom. 12:1-2). When this perfect consecration is made, God will be pleased to send his Holy Spirit in sanctifying power, purging the heart from the very nature of sin, and will himself take up his abode in the pure and devoted soul.

The Holy Ghost Baptism

The baptism of the Holy Ghost taught in the New Testament is a special endowment of the Spirit of God in the hearts of his believing and obedient children. Different expressions are used to convey this idea—baptism of the Holy Ghost (Matt. 3:11); the Holy Ghost given (John 7:39); receiving “the Spirit of truth” (14:17; 16:13); “Comforter” (14:16, 26; 15:26); receiving the Holy Ghost (20:22; Acts 8:17; 10:47); “filled with the Holy Ghost” (2:4; 4:31); “gift of the Holy Ghost” (2:38); the Spirit poured out upon men (2:17; 10:45). These expressions all refer to one and the same thing, as will be shown later. They simply represent different aspects of the one subject, just as the different expressions used for the first work of grace convey various shades of meaning, though meaning essentially the same thing.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

The work of the Holy Ghost in the heart of the believer who receives him is twofold—negative and positive. His negative work, as we have already shown, is to purify or sanctify (Acts 15:8-9). The reception of the Spirit is compared to fire—“Baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (Matt. 3:11)—fire being a destructive and purifying element; and those who have thus been “sanctified by the Holy Ghost” are “pure in heart” (5:8), for he “hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness” (Heb. 10:14-15). No element of impurity remains in the moral nature of one who has received the Holy Ghost: he is in this respect “perfected forever.”  Praise God for heart purity!
The positive work of the Holy Spirit is: (1) to give power (Acts 1:8), (2) to guide (John 16:13), (3) to comfort (14:16-18), (4) to teach (14:26), (5) to increase spiritual fruits (15:2 with Gal. 5:22-23), (6) to unify God’s people (John 17:20-23 with Acts 4:31-32), (7) to fit for service (Luke 24:49; II Tim. 2:21).
The baptism and work of the Holy Spirit are of great importance, both to the individual believer and to the work of God. To the individual it is the perfecting grace, “the grace wherein we stand” (Rom. 5:2); therefore, it completes our moral preparation for heaven. “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).
As to the work of God, this divine experience is necessary in order properly to fit us for the Lord’s service. Christ commanded his apostles to tarry in the city of Jerusalem until they were “endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). Paul teaches that by being “sanctified” we are “meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (II Tim. 2:21.) Alas, how many ministers even are destitute of this sanctifying grace, this baptism of the Holy Ghost! Considering this, it is not surprising that the world is filled with conflicting doctrines and beliefs. It is the function of the Holy Spirit to teach men and “guide them into all truth.” Since the dispensation of the Holy Ghost began at Pentecost, God desires that all his ministers be “filled with the Holy Ghost.” His command to them is to tarry until they are “endued with power from on high.” What the world needs today is a Holy Ghost ministry. However, all of the saved are “workers together with” God (II Cor. 6:1), and all need this infilling of the Holy Spirit, that they may indeed be vessels “unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (II Tim. 2:21).
People have preached and written much about the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. But to ask for our evidence that we have the Holy Spirit is like asking for an evidence of the existence of the sun overhead. The sun does not need a witness to testify for it, it stands for itself; and the work which it performs—illuminating the earth and kissing the face of nature with its genial rays of light and warmth, causing vegetation to spring forth, bringing life and joy, happiness and health, to the sons of men—proclaims unmistakably, without further witness, the sun and his glory. Likewise the Holy Ghost stands for himself as the witness. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit” (Rom. 8:16; Heb. 10:15); while the works which he performs—purifying the heart, teaching, comforting, guiding, unifying—show forth his power and glory.
The foregoing contains briefly the New Testament teaching relative to the Holy Spirit—what he is to every individual who receives him. The Holy Spirit himself, being bestowed by the Father upon the individual believer, is “the gift of the Holy Ghost.” This is shown clearly in the case of the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-45).
In addition to performing his regular office work in the heart, the Holy Spirit confers upon certain people who receive him the ability to perform special works, and these special endowments are termed “gifts of the Holy Ghost.” We read of these particularly in 1 Corinthians 12.
In verses 1, 4-7 we find that these spiritual gifts are simply manifestations of the Spirit, and that they are not given to all alike, even though all be in possession of “the same Spirit.” Notice the next verses: “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues; but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (vss. 8-11). (See also vss. 27-30.)
Now, if we will study the apostolic church as revealed in the New Testament, we shall be able to see all these special gifts manifested, some in one person and some in another; for all were necessary to the completeness of the church. Viewed as individuals, not every one who received the baptism of the Holy Ghost received the special gift of prophecy or the gift of working miracles or the gift of tongues. It is only by perverting the Scriptures that people can build up a claim that any one of these gifts was manifested in all who received the baptism of the Spirit.

Some False Opinions

1. All who receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost speak in tongues as the evidence. The verses quoted from 1 Corinthians 12 plainly contradict this position, for they show that the gift of tongues is no more general among those who have received the Holy Ghost than is the gift of prophecy or the gift of healing or the gift of miracles or any other of the special gifts mentioned. Nor is there any difference between the gift of tongues and speaking with tongues; these expressions are used interchangeably in this chapter, referring to exactly the same thing, just as the gift of prophecy and “are all prophets?” or the gift of miracles and “workers of miracles” are equivalent expressions. (Compare verses 4-11 with verses 29-31.)
The Word does not say that the gift of tongues, or speaking in tongues, is the evidence of the Spirit’s reception; it is mentioned here simply as a “manifestation of the Spirit,” in common with other special manifestations that may or may not belong to any particular individual.
The Holy Spirit must not be confounded with one of his works, so that he himself is denied unless he chooses to manifest himself in some particular manner. He himself is the satisfactory evidence. “Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness” (Heb. 10:15). “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit” (Rom. 8:16).
In the New Testament we have records of three occasions on which people spoke with tongues when they received the baptism of the Holy Ghost: on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2)—one hundred and twenty believers (1:15); certain disciples at Ephesus—twelve in number (19:1-7); and the household of Cornelius—number unknown (chap. 10). The total number on these three occasions was probably less than two hundred. In the Book of the Acts we have the record of many, perhaps thousands, who received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, in which no mention whatever is made concerning tongues. Some say that that part was omitted. If people desire to build up a Bible doctrine they should establish it on what the Bible says, and not on what was left out.
2. There are three works of grace. This teaching says that people are first converted, afterwards “receive the Holy Ghost,” then still later are baptized with the Holy Ghost. This is entirely false, as will be shown by many Bible texts. The only apparent proof of that position seems to be John 20:22, where it is recorded that Christ, after his resurrection, appeared to his disciples and “breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” This occurred several days before they were baptized with the Holy Ghost on Pentecost.
But a particular examination of the circumstances connected with John 20:22 shows that the disciples did not at that time receive the Holy Ghost, but that the verse is an allusion to Pentecost; for this was the same occasion described in Luke 24:33 ff., where the reference to the Spirit is given in other language, as follows: “But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (vs. 49). We know that this refers to Pentecost. (Compare Acts 1:8.)
The crowning proof that there is no difference between receiving the Holy Ghost and being baptized with the Holy Ghost is the fact that in the labors of the Apostles themselves the two are identified as one and the same thing. Paul asked the disciples at Ephesus , “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” (Acts 19:2), and they replied that they had not even heard of the Holy Ghost; therefore, they did not have him in this sense. “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied” (vs. 6). Now, this baptism of the Holy Ghost, accompanied by tongues and prophecy, was identical with receiving the Holy Ghost. Thus these disciples experienced only two works of grace.
When Peter and John came down and prayed for the disciples at Samaria “that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them).… Then laid they their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money” (Acts 8:15-20). There is no possible way of evading the fact that in this case the “gift of God,” the “gift of the Holy Ghost,” “receiving the Holy Ghost,” and the Holy Ghost “falling” upon disciples are all one and the same thing—a second work in believers.
So also with the household of Cornelius, as recorded in Acts 10:44-47; 11:15-17; 15:8-9.


I would not have the reader think that the sanctified life places the individual beyond the reach of temptation. Entire sanctification does not deprive us of that which is essentially human, but we are purged from sinful, carnal elements received through the Fall, and our human natures are brought into line with the divine, so that our desires are wholly to please God. But we are capable of temptation along natural lines. Christ himself “was in all points tempted like as we are,” but he overcame every temptation as our example, and we should take courage and move forward. One of Christ’s special temptations had a perfectly legitimate basis in the natural desire for food (Matt. 4:1-4); and another involved that which was not right—great possessions for the purpose of worldly honor (vs. 8).
God has a definite purpose in allowing us to be tempted. It is for our good. Be encouraged, for “there hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Now, we cannot be tempted and tried without feeling tempted and tried. Peter says that “for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations” (1 Pet. 1:6). There is no mistake about this matter: the sanctified person who is being deeply tempted or tried does not feel just the same as at other times. On certain occasions Christ himself felt “grieved,” and his soul was stirred within him; but the records of these occurrences fail to show any carnal stirring or actions proceeding from an impure heart. So, reader, it must be with you. In seasons of trial and trouble, remember that the Lord “giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:6-7).

The Spirit-Filled Life

This experience of entire sanctification is indeed a blessed one. While the justified life must be kept free from outward acts of sin, the wholly sanctified life is the complete harmony of the individual, both internally and externally, with the perfect will of God. All evil affections, our spiritual enemies, are gone; the soul is pure. The Lord grants unto us “that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:74-75). Yea, it is his will that “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 Savior 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 2:12-14).
In this happy condition we are able to “bring forth more fruit”; therefore the fruit of the Spirit is developed in us abundantly. The first thing mentioned in Paul’s catalogue of the fruits of the Spirit is love. Love is felt by the justified soul, but when we enter the second, or standing, grace (Rom. 5:1-2) “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (vs. 5).
What a blessing is this life of entire sanctification! What a power in the hands of God is a Spirit-filled church! Someone, commenting on the baptism of the Holy Ghost, said: “‘When he is come … unto you’ … you will become a storm center of a new and mighty evangelism, and all the forces of evil cannot keep back the incoming tides of saving grace.” “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

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