Christian Perfection – 28: Entire Sanctification – Part 5
Even to this very day, I hear many dissenting voices within the clergy and from the congregations. The noisy clamor of their hearts is for “cheap grace” and not for Christian perfection.
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)
The concept of Christian Perfection or Entire Sanctification is still before the attendees at the conference, who like many of us, don’t see all their sins being forgiven.
To us, it’s almost as if the attendees are looking for an excuse for not even trying to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.
This is exactly the same kind of excuses and questions we run into when we talk to people about why it’s against God’s creation and heavenly will to deliberately cause animals to suffer and die to satisfy human greed and appetites.
Common sense, and the Holy Spirit, tells us that we should always strive to be Godlier today than we were yesterday, and to strive to be even closer to God tomorrow, which is the path to Christian perfection.
With this in mind, let’s continue looking at the questions posed to John Wesley at the conference.
“Q. What command is there to the same effect?
“A. (1) ‘Be ye perfect, as your Father Who is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48);
(2) ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind’ (Matthew 22:37).
But if the love of God fill all the heart, there can be no sin therein.
“Q. But how does it appear that this is to be done before the article of death?
“A. (1) From the very nature of a command, which is not given to the dead, but to the living. Therefore, ‘Thou shalt love God with all thy heart,’ cannot mean, Thou shalt do this when thou diest, but while thou livest.
(2) From express texts of Scripture:
(a) ‘The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men; teaching us that, having renounced ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for the glorious appearing of our Lord 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).
(b) ‘He hath raised up a horn of salvation for us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers; the oath which He sware to our father Abraham, that He would grant unto us that we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, should serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life’ (Luke 1:69, etc.).
“Q. Is there any example in Scripture of persons who had attained to this?
“A. Yes; Saint John, and all those of whom he says, ‘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’ (I John 4:17).
In this context, the next verse is also very interesting:
18. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
For example, we may be tempted to participate in an ungodly act because we fear not being accepted by others. We would be excluded by them (punished), if we did not participate. But if we truly have God’s love perfected in us, then we are not seduced by such fears. If such pressures are brought upon us, then we reject them as being unloving to both us and God.
On the opposite side of the coin, we hear from people all the time, whose efforts and desire to achieve Christian perfection has led them to no longer eat or wear or otherwise use the tortured remains of animals; however, their churches continued in the sinful ways of the world including persecuting those who seek to be perfect, because they are no longer a part of their sinful group.
“Q. Can you show one such example now? Where is he that is thus perfect?
“A. To some that make this inquiry, one might make answer: If I knew one here, I would not tell you; for you do not inquire out of love. You are like Herod; you only seek the young child to slay it.
“But more directly we answer: There are many reasons why there should be few, if any, indisputable examples. What inconveniences would this bring on the person himself, set as a mark for all to shoot at! And how unprofitable would it be to gainsayers! ‘For if they hear not Moses and the prophets,’ Christ and His apostles, ‘neither would they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.’ [Luke 16:31]
“Q. Are we not apt to have a secret distaste to any who say they are saved from all sin?
“A. It is very possible we may, and that upon several grounds; partly from a concern for the good of souls, who may be hurt if these are not what they profess; partly from a kind of implicit envy at those who speak of higher attainments than our own; and partly from our natural slowness and unreadiness of heart to believe the works of God.
“Q. Why may we not continue in the joy of faith till we are perfected in love?
“A. Why indeed? Since holy grief does not quench this joy; since even while we are under the cross, while we deeply partake of the sufferings of Christ, we may rejoice with joy unspeakable.” [1 Peter 1:7-8]
From these extracts it undeniably appears not only what was mine and my brother’s judgment, but what was the judgment of all the preachers in connection with us, in the years 1744, 1745, 1746, and 1747. Nor do I remember that, in any one of these Conferences, we had one dissenting voice; but whatever doubts anyone had when we met, they were all removed before we parted.
Yet today, I hear many dissenting voices within the clergy and from the congregations. The noisy clamor of their hearts is for “cheap grace” and not for Christian perfection. Many congregations survive on fear and forsake love, even though they proclaim it. Many spout the untruth that we are already in the image of God and fail to see the Fall or their own imperfections; or they cherish their imperfections and flippantly say that God will forgive them. We, as a Christian society, have fallen a great distance from our beginnings.