Christian Perfection – 25: Entire Sanctification – Part 2
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 based upon our desire to overcome the corruption of this present world as it relates to our soul and spirit. And even though we may become perfected in God’s love, spiritually, we may not be able to overcome the imperfection remaining in our physical bodies; however, perfect love prevents us from acting upon these lusts.
Whatever temptations befall us also remain within us until we are no longer affected by them. When love is perfected within us, whatever imperfections that we exhibit externally are those of omission (accidental and unplanned) and not those of commission (premeditated or planned). And any act of omission would immediately trigger a deep remorse. To do otherwise would not be living in the perfect love of God. As we continue, this is the point that I believe John Wesley and the Conference members are addressing…
“Q. What do we allow them?
“A. We grant:
(1) that many of those who have died in the faith, yea, the greater part of those we have known, were not perfected in love, till a little before their death;
(2) that the term ‘sanctified,’ is continually applied by Saint Paul to all that were justified;
(3) that by this term alone he rarely, if ever, means, ‘saved from all sin’;
(4) that, consequently, it is not proper to use it in that sense, without adding the word ‘wholly,’ ‘entirely,’ or the like;
(5) that the inspired writers almost continually speak of or to those who were justified, but very rarely of or to those who were wholly sanctified;
Wesley added the following footnote:
“That is, unto those alone, exclusive of others, but they speak to them, jointly with others, almost continually.”
This footnote I consider to be just as potentially confusing as his original statement. What I believe Wesley is saying is that the New Testament Biblical writers were writing to believers (those who were justified) who were not wholly perfected in God’s love (those who were wholly sanctified), but that they did not exclude those who were perfected in God’s love.
(6) that, consequently, it behooves us to speak almost continually of the state of justification; but more rarely, ‘at least in full and explicit terms, concerning entire sanctification.’
To this statement, John Wesley also adds a later footnote:
“More rarely, I allow, but yet in some places very frequently, strongly, and explicitly.”
Being justified without desiring to be perfected in God’s love is a form of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace”, which, in my opinion, is not really a state of justification. When we first come to truly believe, we are justified by God, just as He did with Abraham (Abram):
6. Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. NASU
In other words, Abram was justified as being righteous even though he was not wholly righteous, simply because he believed in the Lord. But as we know, Abraham didn’t stop here. He continually sought to serve the Lord, and to mature in His perfect love. Abraham still made mistakes, but his heart was set upon doing the will of God.
We will continue with our discussion on entire sanctification in the next part.