Christian Perfection – 20: What Is It To Be Sanctified?
By: Frank L. Hoffman
Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
(Wesley’s writings are in bold)
In the seventeenth part of A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, John Wesley discusses the substance of four Annual Conferences. With the exception of the fourth Conference, Wesley lists only the questions and summarized answers. Because I don’t believe that this does justice to our understanding of the complexity of some of the questions and answers, I have broken down this Chapter into several parts, the first being 20: What Is It To Be Sanctified?
Let’s begin this portion of our spiritual journey by reading what Wesley wrote:
On Monday, June 25, 1744, our first Conference began, six clergymen and all our preachers being present. The next morning we seriously considered the doctrine of sanctification, or perfection. The questions asked concerning it, and the substance of the answers given, were as follows:
“Question. What is it to be sanctified?
“Answer. To be renewed in the image of God, ‘in righteousness and true holiness.’ [Ephesians 4:24]
Wesley’s quotation is from the King James Version of the Bible. The whole verse reads:
24. And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
In the context of Paul’s letter, this Bible verse becomes clearer. The Updated Version of the New American Standard Bible gives Ephesians 4:17-32 the title “The Christian’s Walk”, which is a way of describing our being sanctified and made perfect. I have chosen the following verses from the NASU, because I believe it is easier to read and understand than the KJV.
17. So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,
18. being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;
19. and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
If Christians are no longer to be like the unbelievers, then how do some churches justify their “health and wealth gospels”? How do some churches justify gambling? How do some churches justify taking pleasure in the suffering and death of an animal, which they do when they hunt, fish, or eat an animal?
How do some churches justify arming themselves and taking revenge and fighting a war? How do some churches justify being like the ungodly people of this world? I personally don’t believe they can justify any of these things and still believe we are to be sanctified.
Likewise, Paul could not justify being like the unbelievers of this world. He emphasizes that we cannot learn Christ, or to be like Jesus Christ, by following the examples of the unbelievers of this world, or by following those believers who still live as they formerly lived. He says:
20. But you did not learn Christ in this way,
21. if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,
22. that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
23. and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
24. and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Previously, we discussed the fact that our Christian perfection begins with our spirit being renewed back into the image of God, who is Spirit, so that we would have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). It is this renewed spirit and mind that works to overcome the imperfections and lusts of our fleshly bodies. In other words, if we are truly sanctified, then our lifestyle should reflect this change away from the ways of the ungodly.
Paul continues his letter by discussing some of the more common problems encountered in his day and how the renewed Christian is to be different.
25. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE OF YOU WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.
26. BE ANGRY, AND YET DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
27. and do not give the devil an opportunity.
We give the devil an opportunity, when we proclaim our “Christianity” before non-believers, and then proceed to do the things that Jesus would not do, or say what He would not say. Then the devil convinces these unbelievers, and also weak believers, that Jesus must be a “lie”, because we are living a “lie” in Jesus’ name.
28. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
29. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
30. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
32. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
I don’t believe Paul ever envisioned a world like the one we live in today, but even with all our technology, the simple common denominators of Godly living have never changed.