WHERE SANCTIFICATION IS SPECIFICALLY TAUGHT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
In this chapter and the next we present for the readers consideration about twenty passages from the word of God. Instead of twenty we could easily give ten times as many. The method pursued in these chapters will be to quote the scripture, and under each passage make a few remarks.
As a proper starting thought, we call the reader’s attention to the fact that you cannot read the Bible without perceiving that there is a “higher life” constantly recognized and brought forward in its pages. It is held up as an attainment; we are expected to come unto it; we are commanded to possess it, and are presented with characters who enjoyed and lived this life. An equally striking fact beheld in Christian life is confirmatory of the Bible fact; and that is that we again and again meet with people of God who declare, and whom we evidently see are in possession of, a religious experience and life not enjoyed by the great majority of Christians. The two facts agree; like the two angels in the most holy place, they bend over and look upon the same blessed truth.
Sanctification is the precious treasure and blessing kept for the Church; the Bible and Christian experience are the cherubim that, with extended wings, cover and protect and preserve the experience. And now let us turn to the word of God. The first passage is: Numbers 16. 3-5: “And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord? And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face: and he spoke unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even tomorrow the Lord will show who are his, and who is holy.” So it seems that the doubt of God’s people being holy is an old one, and the dispute in regard to it and the attack made upon those who profess the blessing are of ancient standing.
It is noticeable, also, that the argument used now was the one used then against Moses–viz., that all of the congregation was holy, every one of them; that every thing had been done in regeneration. The same slur is heard, “You take too much upon you” in saying that God has made you holy; “wherefore do ye lift yourselves above the congregation?” How familiarly all this sounds! Some of us have heard this many times.
And let any one receive and profess the blessing of holiness, and the words directed to Moses will be leveled at him. No one can read this passage or study the life of Moses without seeing that he was in an experience that his questioners and doubters did not enjoy. Either at the burning bush or on the mount with God the man Moses obtained the blessing that obtained for him the privilege of unbroken companionship with God, and a meekness that was above that of all surrounding men.
God grant us, when doubted and assailed, to do as this man! He fell on his face before God; he committed the whole matter to the Almighty, who had sanctified him; his only reply was: “The Lord will show who are his, and who is holy.” And so he will. Let no person possessing this blessing be the least uneasy. God will bear witness to his own work; he will show who has the blessing, and who has it not. Deuteronomy 30. 6: “And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.”
That here is a work and experience subsequent to regeneration is seen from three facts. One is that the promise here made is addressed to believers; another, that regeneration is never likened to circumcision; and third, that the result stated of loving God with all the heart is the feature ascribed all through the Bible to the higher life held up for our attainment. In confirmation study the regenerated life, and see if it impresses you as being such a life of perfect love and devotion to God as appears in this verse. This love is to arise not from growth, but from the circumcision of the heart of the believing child of God.
Psalms 25. 14: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him.” What is this secret? Not the divine presence on earth; the world admits God’s omnipresence. Nor is it regeneration, for the Christian world believes in that and teaches it. There is but one experience covered by that expression–the secret of the Lord”–and that is the blessing of sanctification. The great type and symbol of it–the most holy place–was a secret place, while the experience and life is still today hidden from multiplied millions in the Church. It is so hidden that even God’s people deny it, although Paul prepares them to believe by describing it as being “hid in Christ,” and David declares that by it we are “hid from the strife of tongues,” and in one of the Psalms calls the possessors of the blessing God’s “hidden ones.”
Regeneration is no secret. But there are certain things about sanctification, in that it is peculiarly an interior life, and requires a second faith to come within the veil that entitles it to the description given in the verse. The “fear” mentioned in this connection, by which we obtain the secret, is no ordinary emotion or exercise of the mind. It is such a fear of God that casts out all fear of man and all efforts after his favor, and that leads to perfect consecration and obedience to God. Isaiah 6. 5-7: “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King. the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, … and he laid it upon my mouth and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” The question at once arises: What is this profound spiritual exercise before us? Evidently not the conviction and pardon of a sinner; for Isaiah was one of God’s prophets, and one so deeply pious as to be called the evangelical prophet. Nor was he recovering from a course of backsliding. This appears, first, from his being in the discharge of duty. The fervent chapters preceding spiritually locate him.
Again, his agony of contrition arose not from the commission of sins, but from a vision he had just obtained of the Lord in the temple. This is what comes to every man who is brought into the blessing of the sanctified life; the Lord is revealed to the soul “high and lifted up.” Let the reader turn to the first four verses of this chapter, and see for himself.
Still again, the sin or iniquity that was taken from Isaiah is here placed in the singular number. This shows that it was not pardon of transgressions he received, but the removal of the principle, or body, of sin; or, as it is called, inbred sin. A view of the holiness of God brings this inbred sin to light in the heart, and ushers in that profound agony seen in Isaiah and countless thousands of other devoted followers of God. The coal of fire represents the blessing of holiness.
Fire stands for holiness in God’s word, and never for regeneration. The altar of the temple was made holy by fire. Notice also that this blessing of holiness was brought, came from God, and was not developed within by a long growth in grace. And, furthermore, notice the alacrity, the gladness, and the fearlessness of sanctification, as shown in the experience of Isaiah. “Then said I, here am I; send me.” Ezekiel 36. 25: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.” This has been often quoted as referring to the work of regeneration.
But the fact that it is a promise made to God’s people, and that the blessing is one of purity, and not pardon, ought to be enough to convince the most skeptical that the blessing before us in the verse is sanctification.
Another thing will show it. Let every regenerated man who reads these lines ask himself if regeneration has taken all idols out of his heart and life. What about his ambition and love of place and power? what about the fear and favor of man? What about love of money and love of praise, and the love of some creature that is so powerful as to draw you away from duty, and interferes in certain measures with the commands of God? Are these things gone? or do they remain? If they are still in the heart, then the second blessing is needed, in which all idols shall be removed. Joel 2. 28, 29: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.”
Here is undoubtedly a peculiar blessing promised in the last days to the Church. Certainly no one can think it is conversion that is here held forth. Are we to suppose that up to the time of Pentecost, when this prophecy was fulfilled, that there had been no conversions, and that Joel was inspired to say: “In the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit in converting power, and people shall then be regenerated for the first time?” What was David and Moses and Abraham and the prophets of whom the world was not worthy? In what state was God’s people through the past ages? Had he no people? Were everybody damned before Pentecost? For if not regenerated they were compelled to be lost, according to Christ’s statement to Nicodemus.
Whatever this blessing or pouring out of the Spirit was, it could not be regeneration; for that experience was not new, while the promise in this verse is for something remarkable, unusual, and new. When it finally came to pass on the day of Pentecost, the reader will remember that this long-promised blessing fell upon Christian men and women. So the promised pouring out, or baptism of the Spirit, was not conversion.
Nor was it a simple qualification of one hundred and twenty disciples to spread Christianity. What a narrow view to take of this promise to confine an unspeakable blessing to sixscore people, and make it a mere temporary endowment to meet the emergencies of a few days or years! What a belittling of prophecy to assert that God inspired the prophets nearly a thousand years before to solemnly hold up a great blessing that, after all, was only for a hundred and twenty people, and was to pass away and die with them!
Common sense, as well as Scripture, is against such an interpretation. Moreover, the language of the verse itself contradicts such a view. It plainly says the Spirit in this peculiar baptism was for “all flesh.” It furthermore adds that it was a blessing that should be enjoyed by our servants, while at Pentecost we see not a single slave or servant present. Inasmuch, then, as the work of grace prophesied here by Joel was not conversion, nor a mere qualification for work, we are irresistibly driven to the conclusion that it is one of the many promises of the Old Testament of the gift of the blessing of sanctification .
Remember that sanctification, or holiness, is represented in the Bible by fire, and bear in mind that at Pentecost with the descending Spirit came tongues of fire upon every head. One hundred and twenty symbols, or banners of holiness, were waving over as many persons. And remember that at this juncture Peter, a Christian minister, with one of these celestial plumes of holiness floating over his head, arose from the midst of one hundred and nineteen similarly becrowned Christians, and said: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” Malachi iv. 2: “Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” Those that fear the name of God are his people. In regard to the wicked, the Bible says there is no fear of God before his eyes. So the fact established in this verse is that here are God’s people before us, and to them shall come a second blessing in the future. This blessing is called healing-just what sanctification is felt to be. The remaining sentence of the verse declares the activity of life and rapid growth in grace peculiar to the sanctified soul.