Freedom or ….

I recently watched the 1999 movie “The Matrix” again. In this movie the majority of the population go about living their lives not knowing that the world they are living in is not the real world(In the movie it is a computer based program they’ve been placed in). Everyone is just consumed with their daily lives having no realization that all of the comforts they are currently seeking aren’t even real.

The main character Neo is offered a choice. He may take a blue pill and stay ignorant to the truth and live like everyone else, or he may take a red pill with the only promise being that he will know the truth.

In the movie there is a character who wishes he had never taken the red pill. He believes that life was so much better before he knew the truth and he makes a deal to have his memory wiped in order that he may live once again in the fake world where life just seemed easier.

For those who know that the Matrix is not the real world there is a constant battle as the rulers of that world don’t want them interfering.
At the very end of the movie the character Neo says, “I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.”

How many in our world live as if this is it? Living to find fulfillment and enjoyment in what this world has to offer and are oblivious to the fact that this reality, this world is nothing in comparison with eternity.

There are some who find the truth, but so want to be like the world around them that they live as if they do not know the truth that sets them free as they seek the passions of the world. Mark Twain said, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” Let us be careful not to be fooled and deceived to what we are allowing to shape our heart and desires.

Galatians 5:1 says, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
It is not freedom to be just like the world and enslaved by its pursuits and passions-It is freedom to have relationship with God, to know that we are strangers in this land, and be okay with that because this is not our real home.

We will be tempted and distracted by this temporal world around us-
“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.
Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.” (Colossians 3:1-4 The Message)

May you and I not be absorbed with this life and the things around us. May we truly walk in the freedom that Christ brings knowing, yes, we are aliens in this land, but we will have a glorious homecoming. May we not be distracted and pursue what the majority around us do, but rather may we be so distinctive and different that those around us can’t help but take notice.

You and I won’t make a difference trying to be like everyone else. Pursue Christ and let Him continually mold you and make you distinct and different from those around you in this world as you are made in His image.

You have to be different to make a difference! – Be Lifted High

Sanctification by Beverly Carradine 19

CERTAIN OBJECTIONS TO SANCTIFICATION CONSIDERED AND ANSWERED

When St. Paul was in Rome the Jews residing there said to him, in regard to the Christianity he believed in and confessed: “We desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” The expression “this sect” meant Christianity. In spite of its greatness, fullness, and divinity it was, they said, everywhere spoken against.

Certainly, if the system itself be attacked, we may expect one of its doctrines to be roughly handled. That sanctification is everywhere spoken against is patent to all who listen and read. Indeed, as far as I can judge, it is now the most offensive of all the doctrines of our religion to the people. Many of us are familiar with the expression “offense of the cross.” Can anyone tell me where that offense resides today? You cannot have your attention directed to the matter without perceiving that the offense of the cross shifts as time moves on. It goes from doctrine to doctrine; it is now in one part of the cross and now in another.

In the first century the offense consisted in the being and acknowledging one’s self to be a Christian. But who sees any offense in that today? Is it not felt generally that it is a credit to be a Christian? In the time of Luther the offense of the cross moved again and settled in the doctrine of justification. The Church of that day arose and protested against such teaching. He that embraced it was made to feel his position keenly and bitterly. But who imagines for a moment that the offense of the cross is still to be found in the claim of pardon by faith? Who is made to suffer today by arising in the experience-meetings of the Church and saying that through faith in Christ he enjoys peace with God.

The offense has gone from that doctrine. Like a star it travels, and the next time it becomes stationary we find it abiding in the doctrine of the witness of the Spirit, as taught by our fathers. The reader knows well what reproach and contempt were heaped upon those who professed to enjoy the assurance of salvation. Those that affirmed that truth had to pay dearly for its possession. It was to the world and many in the Church a most objectionable doctrine. It was, in a word, the offense of the cross! But is the offense of the cross in that doctrine today? Who believes it for a moment? Accustomed as we are to hear it on all sides and at all times, in song, prayer, testimony, and sermon, it scarcely awakens a comment. The offense of the cross has moved once more.

Where is it today, and in which truth or doctrine has it settled? Look where you will, and as long as you will, and you will be compelled to admit that it is today resident in the doctrine of entire sanctification. Fifty years from now it may be abiding in another part of the Christian field, but today it is to be found in the doctrine of holiness as obtained instantaneously by faith in the blood of the Son of God. Let a man arise and proclaim by tongue or pen that he is a Christian, that he is pardoned, that he enjoys the witness of the Spirit, and not a ripple of disturbance is created. But let him declare in assembly or in the columns of a religious newspaper that Christ has sanctified his soul, and then comes the storm. For making such a claim Madam Guyon was imprisoned. For asserting that we could be sanctified instantaneously by faith Mr. Wesley was assailed on every side. There is something about the doctrine that seems to arouse antagonism. Satan cannot endure it, nor does he propose that the Church shall come into the possession of the lost blessing of Pentecost.

It is a sweet, loving, blessed doctrine–one, it seems, that should delight and gladden every Christian heart–viz.: a doctrine that teaches the death of sin in the heart, and a perfect love to God and man indwelling and reigning there supreme. And yet its introduction and proclamation in Church and community is the signal of commotion. The reason is that the offense of the cross abides therein. Such are the separations, misunderstandings, and ecclesiastical ostracism that it produces that but one thing can account for a man’s openly testifying to its enjoyment, and that is the fact of its possession. In the face of the opposition and death that came to the disciples but one thing upheld them in preaching the resurrection of Jesus, and that thing was that they knew he had risen from the dead! And so most truly can this writer affirm that in view of what will surely come in the future to him who claims the blessing of sanctification but one fact on earth will enable him to go on preaching the doctrine and experience, and that fact is the enjoyment of the blessing itself.

As the Jews said to Paul: “It is everywhere spoken against.” Many are the objections urged against it. And yet not one but is easily met and explained. Let us notice a few of them.

First, men object to the psychology of the doctrine. The argument against us is that, if we claim that depravity is utterly taken out of the soul by sanctification, this blessing, being enjoyed by parents, will deliver their children from the curse of inbred sin. This deduction, we suppose, in the objector’s mind is that a pure nature is transmitted from father to son; that conversion would thereafter be unnecessary, and all subsequent sin would be like the fall of Adam. In reply we say, if this holds good against sanctification, it will also be valid against regeneration; and especially if the objector claims that in regeneration the heart is made holy. And if he admits that depravity is not taken out at the time of conversion, then does he grant what we contend for, the need of a second work of grace. Which horn of the dilemma will he take? The argument–at first sight formidable–goes to pieces under this simple statement: that depravity is general, coming upon the race judicially, but that salvation is an individual and personal matter. A man may reach up by faith out of this flood of universal evil and obtain the blessings of regeneration and sanctification; but he has done this only for himself–he cannot do it for his son. No one can inherit a holy heart. An individual, accepting deliverance from the curse of depravity, does not stop that dark flood-tide as it rolls down the ages upon and through the human race. A bird has escaped the storm. An individual has come forth from his fellows and obtained what each one must separately and distinctively find for himself.  Depravity will doubtless be coeval with the race of man on earth; it has come upon all by birth; but we escape from it not through our fathers, not as a race, but one by one, through faith in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Second, that sanctification is not scriptural. In reply to this I direct the reader to turn to Chapters XIII., XIV., and XV. of this work, and see whether we have not a Biblical basis for the doctrine. Let him also turn to the prophets in the Old Testament and the Epistles in the New, and see if he does not discover there descriptions of, and facts stated about, a higher life to which we are urged to come.

Let him turn to the fourth chapter of Hebrews and after reading carefully and prayerfully ask himself what is this “rest” that Paul is there urging Christians to enter upon. It is not pardon or conversion, for he calls them brethren and addresses them as God’s people already. It is not heaven, for he tells them to enter in today; and adds: “We, which have believed, do enter in.” What is it but sanctification? the blessing whose marked and most blessed feature is a rest of soul that nothing can destroy. The writer heard a prominent evangelist say in the pulpit this year that regeneration was mentioned in the Bible about twenty-five times, but that sanctification was mentioned one hundred and twenty-five. He then added (and he was not a sanctified man) that if we believed in the first, we ought to believe in the second five times more than we did in the first, because it was taught five times as much.

Third, that it is an unnecessary work; that regeneration has done all for us that is needed. According to the Scriptures the objector has made a great mistake. If regeneration is all God does to the soul, why is it that regenerated people are urged in the word of God to become sanctified? Mind you that to be sanctified is not to grow in grace. “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly,” says Paul. Here is no development, no growth in grace, but a work of God solicited for the soul. The Bible plainly teaches in this and many other passages that there is another work to be done in the soul by divine power.

According to Christian experience the objector has made a mistake. The writer has yet to hear a regenerated person say that he felt that his heart was holy. If the reader doubts, let him institute a series of questions. He will find that the universal experience is that something is still lacking in the sou1–a something to be done by grace, a something to be taken away, a something to fill the nature, that finds descriptive expression in the words, a “clean heart,” a “holy heart.” In a visit to a neighboring State, at a meeting for holiness, a venerable minister arose, whom everybody in the town knew, loved, and esteemed. His had been a blameless life, and he had enjoyed religion for years. For the past three years he had quietly, yet firmly, opposed the holiness movement. Yet suddenly and unexpectedly he gave testimony in the meeting to which allusion has been made. Among a number of things he said he admitted this: “You all know me to be a Christian man, and so I am. I walk with God, and yet I feel that there is something here in my heart that needs to be taken away, a something that is not right.” The writer will never forget the solemnity of the face and attitude, and especially the way in which the old man of God placed his long bony finger over his breast, working it as he spoke, as if he would penetrate his heart and extract that dark, disturbing, worrying something within. Verily, let a man study the Bible and listen to Christian testimony, and look deep into his own soul, and he will never say that sanctification is an unnecessary work.

Fourth, that our best people do not profess it. This objection sweeps us back more than eighteen hundred years into the city of Jerusalem. We find ourselves in the temple. There is a babel of voices around us. The people are discussing Christ, and they are saying the identical thing that appears in the objection: “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him?” In other words, do the best people, the prominent people, take to Christ and follow him? That they did not was sufficient with them to condemn the Son of God, unheard and untried. We grant that there are many most excellent; people in the Church who do not believe in the doctrine of sanctification, but that is no argument against it. If you insist that it is, then with that same argument we can overturn the doctrine of regeneration.

The writer knows some most excellent people in this city, people high-toned and moral, who do not believe in conversion; therefore, according to the objection above, there is no such thing as regeneration. The blessing of sanctification is received by a perfect consecration, and by a special and perfect faith in the blood of Christ to make holy. But suppose an excellent Christian will not thus consecrate, and will not thus believe, what will be the result? Simply this: that, although I may be the highest in the land, I will not obtain that blessing. It is not your excellence that obtains the precious gift of God, but your faith. On the other hand, one may be the weakest, the obscurest member of the Church, and yet, if he complies with the conditions mentioned, he will obtain the great blessing.

The writer has known an elegant woman of the world to be unconverted, while her cook was a devout Christian. And he has also known prominent: lady members of the Church knowing only the experience of regeneration, while their white servant girls were enjoying the blessings of sanctification. Peter said at Pentecost that it was for any and all, to them that were afar off and all that God called. Joel said that the blessing of sanctification would come upon the servants in the last days. The writer has seen this prophecy fulfilled repeatedly. Very humble people are obtaining this high blessing of God, even as once before the common people heard and followed Christ gladly.

It deeply offended many then; it offends many now. But in the midst of all Christ was glad. The Bible said he rejoiced in spirit, and said: “I thank thee, O Father, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them unto babes.” “Ye see your calling, brethren,” said Paul; “how that not many wise, nor mighty, nor noble are called; but God hath chosen the weak, the base, the despised, and things which are not to bring to naught things that are.” Fifth, it leads to fanaticism. This is what many assert and are confident in the assertion. Even where they have not seen the fanatics made by sanctification, yet have they heard of them. They saw a man who saw another man who saw the fanatics. We are told of the “Come-outers,” in Mississippi; the “Body Healers,” *[See the Endnote by L. L. Pickett at the end of this chapter] in Kentucky, and the “Infallibility People,” in Texas.

The argument is that this crankiness, practiced by a few people claiming holiness, proves the doctrine to be false. This argument, if accepted, proves too much, as we say in logic. If the fanaticism of a certain number of sanctified people proves sanctification to be false, then the fanaticism of certain converted people proves the doctrine of regeneration to be wrong. Does the reader know any “Come-outers” among regenerated people? I knew a good old converted brother who left the Church for ten years because an organ had been introduced in the public worship. Did that action of his prove that there was no such thing as conversion? Since the writer has been in New Orleans he has seen a dozen prominent members of the Church who were converted people get in a huff over a little matter and quit coming to church for years. They said they could worship God at home. The evangelist of Georgia has evidently met with some of these people, and he has named them ” Old Brother Quitter ” and “Old Sister Quitter.” Did anyone assail the doctrine of regeneration because of the crankiness of these individuals? In a certain neighboring State, in a community where the doctrine of sanctification was never preached, where only regeneration was taught and believed in, the writer met a man who fancied he was God, and therefore infallible. Who for a moment regarded this as a fruit of regeneration? As for “Body Healers,” there is a certain physician in Louisiana–a converted man–who has no patience with the doctrine of the second blessing, who solemnly affirms that he healed a paralytic man by the power of his own will.

If a man professing the experience of sanctification should say this, he would be assailed on all sides and dubbed a fanatic, and the doctrine of sanctification would be made to suffer. And yet this Christian physician states that he performed a case of healing by an exertion of his will, and nothing is said in ridicule, he remains highly honored, and the doctrine of regeneration is not assailed. The fact is that every religious movement and revival (we might add, every doctrine) is afflicted with some extremists, who are generally weak-minded, unbalanced, and ignorant people. To hold Christianity or any of its doctrines accountable for the erratic course of this class of people is a manifest and gross injustice. Nor is it always done. All recognize the folly of the “Millerites;” but, while we condemn their course, we do not the less believe in the second coming of Christ to judge the world. Simon Stylites, perched on a pillar for years, has excited the contemptuous smile of multitudes; but none the less did the smiling throng believe in the doctrine of self-denial and mortification of the body. Stylites was a fanatic, but the doctrine was divine. It was not the doctrine that made the man fanatical. The weakness was in himself, and would have as readily manifested itself in some other line.

So, when people enter upon the experience of sanctification, and not clearly understanding it, and being uninstructed or unbalanced in some respects, wander into lines of error, the whole occurrence proves but one thing, and that is that the erring brother or sister is simply ignorant, weak-minded, or misguided. When a steam-boat boiler explodes on the Mississippi River no one dreams of saying that the steam was at fault, but that something was the matter with the boiler. As truly there is no fault to be found with the doctrines of regeneration and sanctification, but there is oftentimes something serious the matter with people who profess them. For the sake of common sense and justice let us distinguish between steam and a weak boiler, between a doctrine and a weak human vessel. It is certainly significant that the objectors to the doctrine of sanctification, in leveling their shafts of ridicule, invariably call attention to the fanatical exponents of the doctrine.

Why is it that in opposing and denouncing it they point only to the cranks, and not to the grand men and women who, by countless thousands, are enjoying and adorning this doctrine of God our Saviour? With equal justice a guide might direct the attention of the traveler to the lepers of Palestine as the type of the Asiatic, or the dwarfs of Tyrol as a sample of the manhood of Europe. It is something more than significant–it is suspicious–that the objector only mentions the fanatic, and withholds the names of Wesley, Clark, Carvosso, Asbury, McKendree, Fletcher, Peck, Foster, Lovick Pierce, the saintly Inskip, the holy Finney, and thousands of others who have enjoyed and professed the blessing of sanctification.

*[As to the doctrine of divine healing, we think the beloved writer should not class it with “Come-outism,” “Infallibility People,” etc.; since many very able, earnest Christians believe heartily in it, both professors and non-professors of sanctification. They refer us to Exodus xv. 26, xxiii. 25; Deuteronomy vii. 15; 2 Chronicles xvi. 12; Psalm ciii. 3; Jeremiah xvii. 14; Matthew viii. 16, 17. –L. L. P.]

Pastor Ward  Clinton

Sanctification by Beverly Carradine 20

ADDITIONAL OBJECTIONS TO SANCTIFICATION CONSIDERED AND ANSWERED

Nothing is easier than fault-finding, and no movement of the tongue or pen is less dependent for its exercise upon intellectuality and correctness of information. Indeed, the writer has observed through life that the less knowledge people have of the subject criticized the more do they indulge in fault-finding. The name of one of our sacred songs is “We shall know each other better when the mists have cleared away.” This is true; but it is also true that if we knew each other better the mists would be cleared away now, and indeed never would have formed. Alas for the objections, grounded in ignorance, that are hurled at the holy doctrine of sanctification and the people who profess it!

A sixth objection is that it is nothing but a piece of Pharisaism. The idea is that a sanctified man is constantly parading his own goodness and holiness. Before you believe that, listen carefully to what the sanctified man says. His invariable testimony is that through faith in the blood of Christ God killed the principle of sin within him. Compare his experience with that of a regenerated man, and see where abides the most spiritual pride. The regenerated man, as a rule, looks for holiness to come through growth in grace, and growth in grace we know to be the work of man. The sanctified man has obtained the blessing of holiness not by work, but by faith in the blood of the Saviour. He himself did nothing but surrender to God and believe that the blood made holy. The Holy Ghost did the work. Where is the Pharisaism in this? The constant testifying on all occasions to the possession of a pure heart arises from several facts: First, the joy of such a possession; second, the desire that others might obtain what now gladdens him; and third, there is a divine pressure upon the soul to witness continually to the blessing. Moreover, the man knows that if he ceases to testify to its reality and presence he will lose the blessing. The condition of retaining it is to declare it. It is not given for the selfish enjoyment of the man, but that the Church might know of it and enter in again upon the love and glory and power of Pentecost. This explanation should certainly remove from the mind of the objector the suspicion of the presence of the Pharisee in the testimony and life of the brother claiming sanctification.

Seventh, it depreciates regeneration. Not so. Sanctification has no quarrel with regeneration. They move in different spheres, aim at different things, and accomplish different works. Regeneration breaks the power of sin by the impartation of spiritual life; sanctification destroys sin. Regeneration cleanses the nature from all personal sin; sanctification destroys inherited sin or depravity. Regeneration makes one a child of God; sanctification makes the heart holy. There is no clash or collision between the two, save only in the fancies of misinformed and mistaken men.

Eighth, that men claiming this blessing isolate themselves from their brethren in holiness associations and meetings. Again here is a mistake. Did Wesley and the other young men seeking holiness of heart isolate themselves from the world by their “holy club?” Did they not do more work for humanity? Were they not overflowing with love and good deeds to all men? I notice that we have missionary societies in our Churches and Sunday schools. Is it considered an isolation? Are not all welcome? and is it not done merely to simplify and expedite missionary matters? The Sunday-school and the ladies’ aid societies and parsonage societies are not formed with a view to isolation; but their special meetings apart from other services are felt to be best calculated to achieve the particular end in view. So there is no exclusive and excluding spirit in the holiness associations and meetings now held all over the land. They are held in that name because the men attending have but one object in view at the time, and that is the obtainment of a special blessing. Instead of being an exclusive, self-admiring society, the notice of the meeting is published and everybody invited to come. As for an organization, there is none such. There are several officers, but their only duty is to see about the time and place of meeting. As for Constitution and By-laws, there exists nothing of the kind; there is not the stroke of a pen in that direction. Methodism has not truer and more devoted sons and daughters anywhere than in the people in her midst who enjoy the blessing of sanctification.

Ninth, it teaches that there is no more growth in grace. On the contrary it declares that we never grow so rapidly in grace as when we have received the purifying blessing. The great hindrance to growth in grace in the regenerated man is inbred sin or depravity. He grows in grace, but with difficulty and with much inward fighting. Sanctification removes this obstructing and disturbing principle, and now a swift and uninterrupted development of the Christian graces may be had. When we dig weeds out of a garden that does not hinder or end, but really helps, the growth of the flowers. Let the reader remember that growth is development, while sanctification is an elimination; that growth is life, while sanctification is the death of an evil principle; and, remembering this distinction, the ninth objection will fall into nothing.

Tenth, the doctrine teaches that we cannot sin, and are absolutely perfect. It does nothing of the kind. As long as a man is a free moral agent, and on probation as well, he may sin. If the angels sinned in heaven and Adam fell in Eden, then a sanctified man may fall from holiness on earth. “What, then, is the advantage of being sanctified?” one would ask. Much every way, but mainly this: that the inward inclination and tendency to sin, the proneness to wander movement of the soul, is utterly removed. The only perfection that the sanctified man teaches and claims is a perfect love, that does not sour; a perfect purity of heart, that is constantly realized; and a perfect rest of faith in Christ, that nothing is able to destroy.

Eleventh, it teaches that we cannot be tempted any more. It does nothing of the kind. So far from this being the case, the holders of this doctrine believe that a man is never more violently tempted than after being sanctified. There is, however, this distinguishing mark in his experience under temptation; and that is a marvelous calmness, a poise, and steadiness of the spirit through it all. The struggle is not within, as formerly, but the delightful consciousness is that the pressure and onset is from without. There is a great difference between having an enemy in the room with you, and having him locked outside the door. Sanctification puts the tempter on the outside.

Twelfth, that it leads to oddness and eccentricity. Not necessarily, although in some respects a sanctified man will appear peculiar. Felix thought Paul was crazy, but the world sees today that Paul was the wise man, and Felix the insane one of the two. Even the Saviour appeared to be beside himself to his own brethren and family, and they so expressed themselves. The world has its ways and customs, its pleasures and pursuits. They are all condemned by the Almighty. Now, when a sanctified man comes out altogether from these questionable and prohibited things, he, beyond all peradventure, appears odd and eccentric.

Thus Elijah was very odd in the estimation of Ahab and his courtiers, and John the Baptist was very peculiar in the judgment of Herod and those that lived in kings’ houses. “Why only think,” said the shallow, laughing throng, “what he eats and how he dresses, and how dreadful he is in his denunciations of nice, respectable people! ” So they thought and talked, and yet Christ said: “There has not risen a greater man than John the Baptist.” Moreover, the two Wesleys and Whitefield and the other two young men who formed a Holiness Club at Oxford were thought to be very odd. They were even nicknamed. They were so peculiar that they were called “Methodists.” I can hear the young people of the town laughing about them. “O have you met those odd young men at college? They are so very pious that Sunday service is not enough for them. They believe in being perfectly holy! And, would you believe it? they will not attend our dances and plays, and won’t even throw a card in innocent games. You just ought to see them; they are so odd!” The longer we brood on the subject, the more evident it is that “oddness” is a term with a variable quantity and when sifted down really means that the possessor is different in his spirit, principles, and practices from the people of the world. If an American citizen went to Africa, and there still retained the dress and language of his country, he would be odd in the estimation of the dark-skinned population; and if a child of God moves through the world in holiness of heart and life, in perfect Christ-likeness, he will unquestionably appear to be odd.

Thirteenth, that it makes hobbyists and specialists out of Christians. This again is an unfounded charge. A few individuals may run the doctrine into extremes, but this is not the history of the body of those enjoying this blessing. One of the most active general workers the writer knows of is a sanctified man. He is foremost in his State on the Sabbath question, the temperance question, and every other question that affects the glory of Christ and the good of man. And what is true of him is true of the great body of ministers claiming this blessing. They are active in every good work, the declare the whole counsel of God, and bring up each year to Conference the record of scores of conversions. At a certain famous Holiness campground every doctrine is presented from the pulpit. and last year, among the different subjects handled a most masterly sermon on Church finances was preached by Bishop Key. The thirteenth objection, like the rest, is unjust and incorrect. But we cannot but call the reader’s attention to the consideration of a certain fact which is placed in the form of a question. Suppose you had the blessing of sanctification, suppose you saw that it was the crowning experience of the Christian life, that it brought a rest to the soul and power to the life, that it was a full salvation from not only outward but inward sin, would you not want to proclaim it at all times and everywhere? As you saw your brethren full of inward fears, pain, and unrest, could you keep from calling upon them again and again to come into this great blessing? Could you pray or preach without making some kind of an allusion to it as you swept on? Mr. Wesley, in a letter, says: “Let all our preachers make a point of preaching perfection to believers, constantly, strongly, explicitly.” Bishop Asbury made this entry in his journal during a season of sickness: “I have found, by strict search, that I have not preached sanctification as I should have done. If I am restored, this shall be my theme more pointedly than ever, God being my helper.”

In the judgment of some of our people, Mr. Wesley and Asbury were specialists and hobbyists. Certain it is that if we, who now enjoy the blessing, should give it considerable prominence, we are in most excellent company. The writer is no prophet, but this he can safely predict, and that is that the objectors to sermons and conversations on the subject of holiness will become specialists and hobbyists themselves on the subject at the hour of death. Every man will believe in holiness when the soul is about to take its flight into the presence of a holy God. We will remember then the solemn statement of the Bible that “without holiness no man can see the Lord.” The main purpose of life and the main duty of the soul will be felt then, and the admission will be made in the heart, even though it struggles not to the lip, that holiness is the timeliest, the most appropriate, and most important of all themes. O for a man then who can talk about and lead one on to holiness! Since his reception of the blessing of sanctification the writer had to deal, among others, with a lady full of opposition to the doctrine. So it was in her life; but when she was dying the pastor was sent for, and the first expression that fell from her lips was: “I am so glad to have you with me!” Looking out today at the opposition, I find myself saying: “You will object to sanctification in your life, but you will believe in it when you come to die.”

Fourteenth, that it is such a high and exalted life that it cannot be retained. In reply, we say that the beauty and blessedness of sanctification is that it keeps the man. “Kept” is one of the titles given to the life. It is peculiarly a life of faith, and so long as this special faith in the sanctifying blood of Christ is exercised so long are we kept in the experience of purity. There is no agony of protracted strain and effort; fear that hath torment is cast out, and, of consequence, the experience is one of constant inward rest. There is no feeling of high rope-walking, nor the trepidation of skirting the edge of great precipices. It is a life of broad, green pastures and still waters, and the Shepherd always by the sheep. There is a calm now in the life, and a deep rest in the soul, arising from the consciousness of being momentarily kept by the power of God. Glory to the blood that bought me! Glory to its cleansing power! Glory to the blood that keeps me! Glory, glory evermore! –Louise M. Rouse

Pastor Ward Clinton

The Witness of the Spirit

The Witness of the Spirit

The Doctrine as Elucidated in Romans 8:16

            The Protestant tradition concerning the Witness of the Spirit has been affirmed on a consistent basis.  However, John Wesley developed and emphasized the doctrine within his own theological system, and gave it prominence as perhaps no one else.  M. James Sawyer, in tracing the history of this doctrine within Protestantism, records:

In the context of the First Great Awakening in America and the Evangelical Revival in England, John Wesley picked up on vital Reformed themes seen particularly in Calvin, developed them, and then formally integrated them into his theological method. Particularly, Wesley advocated and further developed Calvin’s doctrine of the witness of the Spirit in the heart of the believer. He insisted with Calvin, and against the Puritan perspective, that the witness of the Spirit is a personal experience prior to rational reflection” (Sawyer).

Wesley was influenced by the Moravians in this doctrine, but soon found he could no longer follow their lead.  He searched the Scriptures, studying them as tirelessly as he was accustomed to do.  “He had proved beyond question that the earlier fathers taught this doctrine, and sustained his position by quotations from Origen, Chrysostom, Athanasius and Augustine; but it was only in the Scriptures that he found the true principles of its defense” (Wiley, Volume 2).  In his sermon “The Witness of the Spirit:  Discourse Two” Wesley said:

It more nearly concerns the Methodists, so called, clearly to understand, explain, and defend this doctrine; because it is one grand part of the testimony which God has given them to bear to all mankind. It is by this peculiar blessing upon them in searching the Scriptures, confirmed by the experience of his children, that this great evangelical truth has been recovered, which had been or many years well nigh lost and forgotten (Wesley, “The Witness of the Spirit, II,” Sermon # 11, I.4).

Lest we think too highly that this is Mr. Wesley’s doctrine, Adam Clarke brings our feet back solidly to the true foundation:  “The Methodists, in proof of the doctrine of the witness of the Spirit, refer to no man, not to Mr. John Wesley himself: they appeal to none — they appeal to the Bible, where this doctrine stands as inexpugnable as the pillars of heaven” (Clarke).

The primary passage that teaches the doctrine is Romans 8:16:  “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”  It conveniently concludes Paul’s section on life in the Spirit, which began in 8:1.  In verses 1-4 Paul contrasts the life lived in the flesh under the law and the life lived under the influence of the Spirit.  Paul reveals what life lived according to the flesh is like in verses 5-8, then describes how Christians are to live according to the Spirit in verses 9-11.

Then in verses 12- 17 Paul employs several expressions concerning the work of the Spirit in the life of Christians, and appears to utilize them to show, in reverse order, how believers may live in the Spirit.  In verse 13, Paul states that believers must live according to the Spirit and not the flesh.  How do believers live according to the Spirit?  They must be led by the Spirit (vs. 14).  The only people who can be led by the Spirit are those who are sons of God (14).  Believers obtain the position of sons through the work of the Spirit of God in adoption (15).  By what means do the people of God know they are adopted into the family of God?  This is the subject of verse 16, and it deserves closer inspection and examination.

The classic, and never-improved, definition of the Witness of the Spirit comes from the pen of John Wesley himself.  In his own inimitable way he succinctly and concisely nails down the essential elements of the doctrine.  “By the testimony of the Spirit, I mean, an inward impression on the soul whereby the Spirit of God immediately and directly witnesses to my spirit, that I am a child of God; that Jesus Christ hath loved me, and given himself for me; that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God” (Wesley, “The Witness of the Spirit, II,” Sermon # 11, II.2).  There are several key elements to help us understand this doctrine.

First, the witness of Spirit is a direct testimony.  Wesley states that the witness of the Spirit is performed “immediately and directly” to the spirit of a man.  When God justifies a person, the act is done in the mind of God.  It is God who knows that a man is justified and pardoned from his sins, and God alone.  Were it not for a direct intervention of God upon a person’s spirit, that person would have no knowledge that such a transaction had occurred.  That intervention is accomplished through the Holy Spirit, because “. . . no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11, NIV) and “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10, NIV).  God the Holy Spirit witnesses or testifies of the very fact of our acceptance by God directly to our inner spirit.

Of what exactly does the Spirit testify concerning?  From the preceding verse Paul informs us that our adoption as sons is witnessed to by the Spirit.  Thomas Horton described it in this manner:  “Now for this it is nothing else but a gracious hint or intimation given to the soul by God, assuring our hearts and consciences of His favour and love towards us, and of our atonement and reconciliation with Him through the blood of His Son” (Excell).  It would stand to reason also that in assuring of their new relationship with God that believers also would be assured of the veracity of the great doctrines which came to bear on their salvation, such as the existence and nature of God, the deity and atonement of Christ, and of the authority and truth of God’s Word.

Some have suggested that the witness of the Spirit is only indirect as He produces His fruit in our lives.  To this line of reasoning Samuel Wakefield objects:

But . . . it has been urged that the fruits of the Spirit, when found in our experience, must be sufficient evidence of the fact, without supposing a more direct testimony of the Holy Spirit. . . . Two things will here be granted, and they greatly strengthen the argument for a direct testimony of the Holy Spirit: first, that these fruits are found only in those who have been received, by the remission of their sins, into the Divine favor. . . . Secondly, that these graces are fruits of the Spirit of adoption (Wakefield).

In order to have fruit produced in Christians’ lives and to be recognized as indeed the fruit of the Spirit, they first must have direct testimony from the Spirit Himself that He has the authority and right to produce that fruit, namely that they have been regenerated by His power and are indeed sons of God.

In an interesting and unique thought, William Lane Craig portrays the witness of God’s Spirit as self-authenticating.

By that I mean that the experience of the Holy Spirit is veridical and unmistakable (though not necessarily irresistible or indubitable) for him who has it; that such a person does not need supplementary arguments or evidence in order to know and to know with confidence that he is in fact experiencing the Spirit of God; that such experience does not function in this case as a premise in any argument from religious experience to God, but rather is the immediate experiencing of God himself; that in certain contexts the experience of the Holy Spirit will imply the apprehension of certain truths of the Christian religion, such as “God exists,” “I am condemned by God,” “I am reconciled to God,” “Christ lives in me,” and so forth; that such an experience provides one not only with a subjective assurance of Christianity’s truth, but with objective knowledge of that truth; and that arguments and evidence incompatible with that truth are overwhelmed by the experience of the Holy Spirit for him who attends fully to it (31).

Atheists have responded enthusiastically to this line of reasoning, dismissing it as disprovable and unsupported.  Not surprisingly, they have missed the point, for that is the point of Lane’s argument.  The problem that the atheists must counter is not Lane’s argument, but his underlying premise, namely that the Holy Spirit exists.

The second element is that of the Spirit’s testimony to my spirit.  The Greek word συμμαρτυρέω (summartureo) is formed from the root word μαρτυρέω (martureo), which means “to testify.”  Affixed to the front of this word is the prefix σύν (sun) meaning primarily “with,” but which may also serve to intensify a word.  The debate concerns whether the phrase τω πνευματι (to pneumati), “our spirit,” is to be interpreted as a dative of association, “with our spirit,” or as a dative indirect object, “to our spirit.”  Daniel B. Wallace authored a lengthy piece debating this subject, arguing on behalf of the latter, stating,

Positively, we can argue from two vantage points: context and correlation. The context of Rom 8 involves especially two themes—assurance of salvation and the role of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s sanctification. These two are not unrelated. The assurance offered seems to come from two sources: inner testimony and external fruit. The one, in fact, seems to be the prerequisite for the other (Wallace, The Witness of the Spirit in Romans 8:16).

Wallace’s argument is convincing, concluding that the direct witness of the Spirit is aimed toward the spirit of man, but that the assurance comes from two sources.

A third element Wesley and others have always pointed out is that this is a two-fold witness:  the direct witness of the Holy Spirit to the spirit, and the witness of the spirit as to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Many theologians refer to the witness of one’s spirit as a reflex action to the work of the Holy Spirit.  This reflex action of the spirit may be what Paul is referring to in the preceding verse when the believer cries “Abba, Father” in response to the work of the Spirit in adoption.  In Galatians 4:4-6 Paul says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’”  Here the Spirit is said to be the one who “calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’”  Bernard Ramm explains these two cries as being only one:  “They are like two forks of the same pitch which vibrate sympathetically and harmoniously together” (Reasoner, 328).  The heart of a believer responds in kind to the call of the Spirit, and these two witness to the relationship that has been established.

The fourth key element concerns how the witness of the Spirit is achieved.  Wesley’s definition enunciates that the witness of the Spirit is “an inward impression on the soul.”  Many, like John Wesley, confess their ignorance upon the subject:  “The manner how the divine testimony is manifested to the heart, I do not take upon me to explain. Such knowledge is too wonderful and excellent for me: I cannot attain unto it” (Wesley, “The Witness of the Spirit, I,” Sermon # 10, I.12).  All agree, however, that it cannot, and must, not be simply a subjective, mystical event.  The relationship is one of subject-object, the touching of the individual by God the Holy Spirit.  Adam Clarke argued that the “spirit” means

In our understanding, the place or recipient of light and information; and the place or faculty to which such information can properly be brought. This is done that we may have the highest possible evidence of the work which God has wrought. As the window is the proper medium to let the light of the sun into our apartments, so the understanding is the proper medium of conveying the Spirit’s influence to the soul (Clarke).

The indirect witness of our spirit is the work of the spirit in our mind and conscience, giving us the knowledge that we are God’s children.  “This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (1 John 3:19-21).  Ralston stated it in this way:

This testimony of our own spirit, we do not possess by intuition, but it is derived through a process of reasoning.  Thus the Bible describes certain moral qualities of the soul, and moral habits of life, as belonging peculiarly to the children of God.  By the exercise of our own consciousness, and a contemplation of our own lives, we may form an opinion of our character; then, by the exercise of our reasoning faculty, we may compare our character with the character described in Scripture as pertaining to the child of God, and rationally draw the conclusion that we sustain that relation.  This is the only plan by which our own spirit can witness to the fact (438).

There are several implications of this great doctrine.  The first and obvious implication is the assurance that is provided to the believer.  This is borne out in the tense of the verb translated “bears witness.”  The present tense here is a customary present, meaning an action that regularly occurs or an ongoing state.  The witness of the Spirit is not a onetime witness at the point of salvation, but is a continual, ongoing witness.  Since the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside the believer, his presence there is a witness to the fact of a continual relationship.  The Spirit is our seal:  “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Cor. 1:21-22).  As a believer perseveres in his faith, the Spirit maintains His witness to him.  God will not leave His child without the witness of the Spirit.  A believer’s own spirit may at times succumb to the wiles of satanic forces seeking to persuade him that he is no child of God, that his works are not good enough, or that his life is not acceptable.  A believer has only to listen to the direct witness of the Spirit to realize that his relationship with God remains unbroken.  “We know that we are saved because of the testimony of scripture and because of the inner witness of the Spirit. I know I am a child of God not just because the Bible tells me so, but because the Spirit convinces me so” (Wallace).

The second implication of this doctrine concerns the perseverance of the saints.  The witness of the Spirit applies only to the present, not the future.  Those of the Reformed tradition would argue that the doctrine of perseverance makes assurance a product of works, and assurance thereby unknowable at the moment of salvation.  This means denying the inner witness of the Spirit and founding assurance only objectively on the Word.  But it is the Spirit who not only offer assurance of salvation, but also sustains and energizes that faith.  The greatest security is found in the life lived in holiness and purity as it is led by the Spirit, and such a continuance is testified to as proof that the life belongs to the family of God.

The importance of this doctrine cannot be overstated.  Today the church is deficient in good biblical preaching and teaching on the important and vital doctrines of the Word of God.  It is imperative, therefore, that the Gospel is preached not just as fire insurance, but as a relationship with Almighty God.  The reality of that relationship is emphasized in the ongoing witness of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.  Thomas Coke warns about the absence of the direct witness of the Spirit:

The absence of the direct witness of the Spirit

  • leads to legalism
  • in time stifles any conviction
  • invalidates the testimony of conscience since God’s Spirit bears witness with our spirit
  • leads to a false peace while he walks in darkness
  • leads to preposterous ideas of faith without evidence
  • conceals the motives from which our actions flow
  • raises the question of why a person could not also be a penitent without knowing it
  • makes reformation and regeneration the same
  • leaves perfect love with no witness
  • brands the inward witness as fanaticism (Coke)

Unfortunately, his warning has gone unheeded, as evidenced by the state of Christianity in America today.  In a 2009 survey, Barna discovered some startling facts concerning American Christianity and belief concerning the Holy Spirit.

. . . most Christians do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a living force . . . . 38% strongly agreed and 20% agreed somewhat that the Holy Spirit is ‘a symbol of God’s power or presence but is not a living entity.’ Just one-third of Christians disagreed that the Holy Spirit is not a living force (9% disagreed somewhat, 25% disagreed strongly) while 9% were not sure” (Barna).

If so-called Christians do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a real person of the Trinity, then there can be no real assurance of salvation in their lives.  A revival of this doctrine would certainly purify the church, edifying true believers and convicting false professors of their need for verification of what they profess.

J. Oliver Jones, Light of Life Ministry is a 501c3 Religious Non-profit Organization based in Nashville, TN that produces Biblical educational material.
LOLM’s materials are based on conservative, Wesleyan-Arminian doctrine. The organization is affiliated with the Southern Methodist Church.

 

WORKS CITED

Barna Group, The.  Most American Christians Do Not Believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit Exist.  barna.org, 2009.  Web.  3 Mar. 2012.

Clarke, Adam.  Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the New Testament.  WORDsearch, 2004.

—.  Christian Theology.  New York: Lane & Scott, 1851.

Coke, Thomas.  Thomas Coke’s Arguments for the Necessity of the Direct Witness of the Spirit.  fwponline.cc, n.d.  Web.  30 Jan. 2012.

Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 1994.

Excell, Joseph S.  Biblical Illustrator.  E-sword.

Reasoner, Vic.  A Fundamental Wesleyan Commentary on Romans.  Evansville, IN:  Fundamental Wesleyan Publishers, 2002.

Sawyer, N. James.  “The Witness of the Spirit in the Protestant Tradition.”  bible.org, n.d.  Web.  20 Feb. 2012.

Wakefield, Samuel.  Complete System of Christian Theology.  WORDsearch, 2007.

Wallace, Daniel B.  The Witness of the Spirit in Romans 8:16.  bible.org, n.d.  Web.  20 Feb. 2012.

Wesley, John.  “The Witness of the Spirit: I,” Sermon # 10. wesley.nnu.edu. Wesley Center for Applied Theology, 1999.  Web.  22 Feb. 2012.

—. “The Witness of the Spirit: II,” Sermon # 11. wesley.nnu.edu. Wesley Center for Applied Theology, 1999.  Web.  22 Feb. 2012.

Wiley, H. Orton (2011-01-01). Christian Theology, Volume 2 (Kindle Locations 7737-7738). Beacon Hill Press. Kindle Edition.

Nature’s Garden

Holiness is a flower that grows not in Nature’s garden.  Men are not born with holiness in their hearts, as they are born with tongues in their mouths: holiness is a divine offspring: it is a pearl of great price, that is to be found in no nature but a renewed nature, in no bosom but a sanctified bosom. – Thomas Brooks, Puritan

pastorwardclinton.com