I’m teaching a class called The Doctrine of Holiness to local pastors through FLAME/District Extension Classes so instead of writing Trinity, Part II, I’m providing a short simple primer on Entire Sanctification for your reading pleasure. Day 1 of class is in the books, I need to get read for Day 2, and then Day 3 (which, thankfully, is only half a day!) Please pray for my students (all busy pastors) and I as we walk through this doctrine.
Wesleyan theology is a theology of hopefulness and optimism. This hope and optimism is base on our understanding of God’s grace as revealed in Scripture. We believe that Christ died not only to cover the guilt of our actual sins (the sins we commit willingly or unintentionally) but also to cleanse/heal our bent toward sin. When this bent toward sin is healed (or our sin nature is eradicated) he concurrently empowers us to live lives free of willful sin. Another way of saying this is that we are freed from our sinful nature and empowered to love God with our whole hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
We’re talking about 3 different solutions to three types of sin:
Original Sin (aka sin nature, the old man, bent toward sinning, etc.)
Willful Sin (when we make a choice to do something that we know is against what God wants us to do. This is what we normally think of when we say “sin”)
Involuntary/Unintentional Sin (these are sins we commit without realizing we’re actually doing anything wrong. This could include things like using a word you don’t know is a cuss word, or enabling an addict when you thought you were just being kind by giving them money, crushing your child’s spirit when you were disciplining them in what you thought was the best way, etc. )
We believe that the what Jesus accomplished at the cross (his atonement) addresses each of these sins:
Involuntary/Unintentional Sins need atonement. They are forgiven for the believer at conversion.
Willful Sins need atonement. They are forgiven for the believer at conversion.
Original Sin: Any guilt associated with original sin is covered for all people at the atonement. But the corruption remains for unbelievers and believers alike until the corruption is healed/eradicated either at entire sanctification (a spiritual event that can happen during your life time) or at glorification (when all things are made right after the you die).
When our original sin (sin nature, bent toward sinning, etc.) is eradicated or hearts are turned toward God and our desire is to please him completely. We are empowered to live holy lives. Holiness is being 1) set apart for God’s use and 2) purity. This purity is a purity of love. We love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength and we love our neighbor as ourselves. Sin is primarily doing something that is not loving God well or not loving our neighbor well.
It is possible for someone to willfully sin, even after their sin nature is eradicated. We know this both from experience and by looking at the lives of Adam & Eve. They had no sin nature, they existed in a state of innocent holiness, and yet they chose to disobey God. An entirely sanctified believer can sin.
When I lack the faith the pray for God to entirely sanctify me I step back and ask him to so fill me with his love that I can love him with my whole heart soul, mind, and strength and love others as I love myself. And I ask him to keep me from sin…which is basically just asking him to entirely sanctify me. Really, who can argue with that?
Here are a few videos that we’ll take a look at in class and other helpful resources.
Articles and Blog Posts:
A Primer on Prevenient Grace by Andrew Dragos
Holiness by the Bible Project
The Image of God by the Bible Project:
John Wesley on Prevenient Grace
What is Holiness? by John Oswalt
Moving Beyond Spiritual Defeat and into God’s Gift of Holiness by John Oswalt
Does Romans 7 Teach that Christians Will Continue Sinning? 7 Minute Seminary by Ben Witherington III
What is Christian Perfection? by Ryan Danker
Holiness as a Life of Christian Victory