A Brief History of and Explanation of Sanctification

The idea of sanctification (the process of becoming holy or being transformed into holiness, or eliminating intentional sin) as a work of the Spirit was first propagated by John Wesley in the mid to late 1700′s.  “Wesley held that, in this life, Christians could come to a state in which the love of God, or perfection, reigned supreme in their heart.” (1)  Wesley held that this was an additional work of the Spirit secondary to the salvation experience.  Thus. It was coined the “second work of grace.”  This view remained prominent throughout Christianity until the early 1900’s.  It was emphasized during the great Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles.  William Seymour, the leader of the revival, writes in his newsletter, the Apostolic Faith, “Ten here have received sanctification, and five are filled with the Holy Ghost and speaking in tongues.” (2)  They saw sanctification as an event rather than a process and many would, “pray through to sanctification.”  This view was challenged in 1910 by William Durham, who had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Azusa Street.  Durham developed the “Finished Work” theology.  “Durham emphasized that sanctification was a matter of identification with Christ and that by faith in what was accomplished on the Cross, the Christian could live victoriously.  As the believer identified in faith with Christ’s death and resurrection, the sin nature was crucified and the resurrection power was made available.  For Durham and others who adopted his views, sanctification was progressive and ongoing transformation in contrast to an emphasis on a crisis experience.” (3)  This teaching, which is embraced by most Protestants today, while it’s rooted in scripture, it tends to de-emphasizes the need for sanctification.  From the time of Wesley to the early Pentecostals, Christians pursued sanctification.  They prayed for it and many actually received an impartation of the love of God.  In modern times, this need has been de-emphasized by “finished work” theology.  The reality is that both positions, Wesley and Durham, have benefit for today’s Christians.

It is absolutely biblical that Jesus purchased, on the cross at Calvary, our justification (forgiveness of our sins), our sanctification (the power for us to move to holiness), and our baptism in the Holy Spirit (empowerment for ministry).  Nothing else is required by God for us to move into all three of these areas traditionally known as the “Full Gospel.”  It is absolutely possible for a believer to experience all three of these at the time of salvation.   It happens and it is biblical.  However, more often than not, the three are received over time as the Christian continues to grows in Christ.  The concern, in our time, is that Christians have stopped pursuing an experience where they are so filled with the love of God that they desire to stop intentional sin.  Many times the identity crisis of Christians will be solved with an infilling of the love of God.  This infilling of love is a work of the Spirit.  It is recommended that Christians suffering form the identity crisis pursue it.  It has transforming effects.  Worshipers form the Azusa Street revival would encourage us to “press-in” for it.  It will only come from the Spirit and we should put ourselves into a position for the Spirit to impart to us all that Jesus purchased for us.

Endnotes

1.  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wesley.

2.  Hyatt, Eddie, Fire on Earth, Creation House, Luke Mary, FL, 2006, page 97.

3.  Hayford, Jack; Moore, David, The Charasmatic Century, Warner Faith books, New York, NY, 2006, page 116.

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