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            As early as 417, Christians like Critobulus (called an heretic by Catholics) argued in favor that all Christians should live free of sin, holy, set apart and pure (the subject of Romans chapter 6).  Critobulus in debating with Atticus even cited the Christ’s command to “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).  There can be no doubt that Christians are to be “not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).    Paul then reminds us that “all things are lawful” for us (the same Paul that warns us to flee fornication and not let our liberty be an excuse to be sinful).  Paul writes more than once that though Christian liberty makes all things lawful, but, liberty is not a license to sin or live immorally.

            Make no mistake, I do not write this to give any Christian leave to act immorally, impurely or in unrighteousness.    I exhort you, as Paul has, to live above the law.  By that, I do not mean that you should observe the law and all its ordinances.  I mean that we all must live with pure hearts operating in the Spirit having the immutable and perfect moral law of our God etched upon our hearts.  Our Lord spoke of those giving lip service to Him and the His law but not having a love for the law (Matthew 15:7-9).  Many Christians today claim a “second definite work” called “Sanctification” whereby they are purified by the Holy Spirit, but, their actions speak otherwise.  Church men and women are gossiping and destroying other Christians, having affairs, keeping secret sins, envying their brothers, lusting after the flesh, causing divisions in congregations all the while professing “Sanctification”.

            Paul says that those are the “works of the flesh” and not the “Fruit of the Spirit”.  How can a person that is made “pure” by God once and for all be manifesting the works of the flesh?  Either they are lying or the doctrine is incorrect.  Obviously, if “Sanctification” (the making of a person holy) were a second, definite work of Grace (Grace being the Divine provision of God), then, the “sanctified” individual would never sin again.  That is obviously an error as we all make mistakes as Christians.  We are none perfect. 

            Now I could launch into the history of the various roots and variations of this doctrine of “sanctification” as a second definite work that was first put forward by Wesley and taught by the Methodists.  However, my intent is to be short and clear on the nature of the error and the actual teachings of the Word on the subject of being “sanctified”.  I will take a moment and explain that though Wesley put forward this theory of “sanctification” or “perfect sanctification”, he actually taught that few if any ever attained it.  Wesley, himself, did not claim perfect “sanctification” and only cited one man in his opinion as having ever attained such a status. 

            For brevity sake, that will be all we discuss of the history of the theory of sanctification or perfect sanctification.  Moving on, I would like to just deal with the actual doctrine of the purification of the saints as it is explained in the Bible and point out the problems with the false teaching that we are purified after we are saved.  There are some dangerous errors to that doctrine of second definite work sanctification that erode the very foundation of the Biblical doctrine of regeneration which is the very Gospel of the Christ.  We will first discuss what is not in the Bible.

            Despite all the talk of our Lord and Paul and the apostles on holiness and regeneration, there is no reference that ties Biblical holiness and sanctification to the modern doctrine of “Sanctification as a second definite work of Grace”.  On the contrary, the epistles point to sanctification as the “purification” of the believer to the work of God.  While there is no loss of meaning in the translation from the Greek word to the English word, sanctify (i.e. to make holy, purify or consecrate), the rub comes in as man tries to define the order.  The false doctrine of a second definite work tries to redefine the order, sequence, nature and extent of the term as well as the definition of the Holy Spirit’s work of “sanctification”.  There is in fact a difference in holy living and the incorrect sanctification doctrine of a secondary instantaneous work.

            People most often try to marry the instantaneous work of sanctification by the Holy Spirit described in the New Testament with the continued work of living a righteous and holy life, “walking in the Spirit”.  This mistake could be made for several reasons.  I suspect the most common are these.

  1. Ignorance of the Biblical teachings on sanctification
  2. Acceptance of old traditional doctrines without checking them against the Word
  3. The need for a Physical or Public show of “Holiness” without having to actually change the inside or heart
  4. The ease of a public display over a continual dedication to the Christ and righteousness
  5. Lazy Christians putting their responsibility of purity on the Holy Spirit rather than undertaking the prayerful pruning and preening of their habits and thoughts

Several of these points to the outward display over the inward change.  This is the error of the Pharisees.  Read all that the Lord spoke to the Pharisees about their sinful nature.  He pointed out over and over how they made outward shows of religiosity and holiness, but, they were corrupt and unchanged at heart.  Their clothing said “holy”, but, their thoughts and actions said “corruption”.  Obviously, the Lord, Jesus, absolutely hated this hypocrisy.  He even called it so.

            Hypocrisy comes from the Greek stage plays where the actors wore masks.  A hypocrite is one who wears an external mask to cover up their true nature or person.  This is detestable to the Lord, God.  However, we see this practice constantly going on in groups of Christians claiming to be “sanctified”.  The actions do not say the same thing as their claim to be holy.  While this observable fact shows one problem with the “second definite work” doctrine, the first major problem with the doctrine of a secondary purification is its contradiction of the definition of regeneration (salvation, getting saved, being born again).

            If we accept the second definite work doctrine of sanctification, we are left with the following nagging question.  “If we are washed by the Blood of the Lamb and all our sins are cleaned in the moment of our salvation and we die to sin being reborn with the Lord at that moment of our redemption, what sin needs to be purged?”  We know by definition that to be born again we must be washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb.  That is the Gospel!  This is a major doctrinal heresy for second definite work sanctification.

            If the Blood of the Lamb is insufficient to do the very thing it was shed to due, the very Gospel of our Lord and Redeemer is false.  As a matter of fact, if you insist that further cleansing is necessary through a second work of “sanctification” done by the Holy Spirit, you are teaching a grievous heresy as you have made the Blood of God insufficient to cleanse you of sin and have attributed the work of redemption to one other than Jesus, the Christ.  That is high order heresy!

            The teaching, that the work of sanctification is done by the Holy Spirit exclusively and that the believer takes no part in living a holy life, is a simply false teaching.  Remember, though Jesus, the Messiah, shed His Blood for a new testament between God and man, faith, grace and salvation have not changed between the Old and New Testaments.  The New Testament fulfills and agrees with the entire Old Testament (or else the New Testament would be false).  Before you gather stones to “rock me to sleep”, read what the Old Testament tells the believers to do.


“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.” Genesis 17:1,2


For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”  Leviticus 11:44


“Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God.  For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.  The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; according to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.”  Deu 18:13-16


            In these we see the pattern of being sanctified, being perfect and living holy lives.  We see the same commandment of the Lord to be perfect before Him as part of the covenant between God and man.  Is this not the same commandment given by our Lord that we read above?  Yes, it is.  Again, we see that the initial effort to live holy after regeneration is made by the believer.  He chooses to obey God and seek His righteousness.  God even says in Leviticus for the people to sanctify themselves.  There is no mention of God doing the work or the Holy Spirit coming upon them to accomplish the work of sanctification. Also, it is clearly not the Holy Spirit at work in this exhortation in the Old Testament as the Holy Spirit has not been poured out upon all believers as He was after Jesus ascended and sent the Comforter.  It is the choice of the man who seeks to serve the Lord that is at work. 

            And if that is not enough to convince the scoffer that the Holy Spirit alone does not initiate all sanctification, read what our Lord, Jesus, said when He prayed for the disciples.

I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.   Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.  As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.  And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.   Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”   John 17:15-21

Here we see that all of us (because He said “pray not I for these alone but for them…which shall believe”) are sanctified by His Truth, which is the Word (John 1:1 the Word is Jesus, not just the Bible).  We read in this prayer of the Lord that there is more than one manner of sanctification.  The truth of the Word aids us in being holy and living holy.  Our God has prayed that we would be in the world but not of the world just as He was.  This means that we have help to live perfectly through the Word, through the Holy Spirit, and least of all through our own choice and efforts.

            This contradicts the doctrine of a second definite work of grace done by the Holy Spirit accomplished by “praying through”.  This demonstrates a second problem with that false doctrine, elimination of our choice.  Why must sanctification be the choice of the believer?  Why must a Christian choose to live holy when in the end only God can make the Christian holy?  I answer with a question.  Why did God tell all the children of Israel in Joshua chapter 24, “choose ye this day whom ye will serve”?  Why did Jesus have to point out that those who rejected Him were not the children of God? 

            Man has free will.  We do not, in this exposition, have time to get into “free will” in any depth.  However, I will state that true love and a love relationship require that both parties enter into it of their own free will.  BY DEFINITION, if love is forced on the other party in a relationship, IT IS NOT LOVE.  A woman taken by force and not by the choice of the woman is rape not love, not marriage.  If God forced us to serve Him, then we are slaves to Him not His children, not His willing bride.  God tells us throughout the entire Bible that only sin enslaves.  Only the devil takes prisoners and makes men his slaves.  God calls, Jesus knocks, and the Holy Spirit invites all who will come to Him.  Therefore, continued holy living must be a free will choice of the believer not the forced one time “gift” of God.

            If continued holy living did not involve the voluntary participation of the Christian, then, he would be “possessed” by the Holy Spirit not lead of the Holy Spirit.  Possession is the work of a demon who rules the enslaved sinner NOT the Holy Spirit.  Again, a forced compliance to holiness would be slavery not relationship.  There is no free will in that case.  On the contrary, we as Christians must willingly embrace the light of the Lord and embrace holy living that we may possess ourselves in sanctification by walking in the Spirit.  We must hide the Word of God in our hearts that we might not sin against Him who called us to righteousness.

            The third problem with a “second definite work” of sanctification is that, “If sanctification from our sinful past were incomplete at salvation, then, we would not be the habitation or temple of the Holy Spirit.  We would be impure and unworthy of the presence of the Holy Spirit, God.  However, the earlier statement applies.  If the Blood of Emanuel cannot atone for all our sins and wash us white as snow as God has said, then we have no salvation.  It is an incomplete work.

            Does the New Testament support that the believer is sanctified to God at the moment of salvation?  Yes.  Peter said,

“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” 1 Peter 1:2

Peter here plainly states that the believers are sanctified by the Spirit unto obedience to God AND the sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus, the Christ.  This pointedly indicates that when God calls us to repentance by the Holy Spirit, we are actually sanctified by the application of the Blood of the Lamb.  We are plainly told,

“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.”  Hebrews 13:12

AND, by Paul,

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”   Ephesians 5:25-27


“But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14

            This is in keeping with what we know of the order of redemption process.  The Holy Spirit draws us to Christ through conviction.  When we yield to God and ask His pardon through the Lord, Jesus, His Precious Blood is applied and we are washed clean of ALL sin and all impurities so that the Holy Spirit may take up abode within us.  We know that the Holy Spirit is immediately abiding in us at that moment as we cannot proclaim our faith without the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:3 “…and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”).  And, Jesus said that He stands at the door and knocks and if we open the door, He will enter in and sup with us.  This is why no Christian can be possessed by a demon.  We are not empty vessels but are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16).

            Here is another passage from Corinthians speaking to the same issue.

“And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence.  But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”    1 Corinthians 1:28-31

Note that the order is set equally using the conjunction “and”, listing the cleaning up of the believer prior to redemption.  Thus it seems to point to an order even in this instantaneous work not of “sanctification” alone but of redemption. 

            They are several or different acts all taking place in a moment.  We see that sanctification is necessarily a part of the act of saving us from our sins.  The Spirit calls us to Him.  The sinner seeking salvation accepts the calling, accepts the Blood as salvation and in that moment the Spirit cleans the sinner with the Blood of the Lamb and takes up residence in the new believer.  How mighty is our God who can do all this instantaneously.  How mighty is He who gave Himself a ransom for us to allow Himself to do this for us.  And, given John 8:36, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed”, we must acknowledge that the sinner saved by Jesus through the washing of regeneration is no longer a slave to sin.  This is reiterated in Paul’s explanation of the gospel in Romans (also again in chapter 6).  If a sinner needs a work subsequent to regeneration to free them from their sin nature, then, we are claiming that the Blood of Jesus is insufficient for salvation.

     In this we see that the order shouted from many pulpits is backwards (saved, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost).  We see that the Spirit’s work of sanctification comes before the redemption of the sinner.  In fact, as the Spirit called the sinner to God, and entered into the sinner to clean the sinner with the blood, it can be argued with good evidence that the Holy Spirit is clearly entering the believer’s heart first doing the work of salvation through the Blood of Jesus, the Christ.  So, we see that a sinner is “baptized unto new life by the Holy Spirit”, “Sanctified to the new life through the Blood of the Lamb”, “Saved from Hell by the sanctification from sin by the Blood”.  This is the opposite order used by ministers teaching that we are “saved, sanctified, and then filled with the Holy Ghost”. 

            REMEMBER, THE ORDER OR SEQUENCE USED TO SAVE US AND SANCTIFY US FROM SIN DOES NOT AFFECT THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD, JESUS!  This evidence that the teachings of preachers on the “work of Grace” (Saved, Sanctified, and Filled with the Holy Ghost) being out of order does not change anything about the way we are saved from sin!  It may contradict commonly used phrases or clichés that many of us have used for years, but, this discussion SHOULD NOT undermine your faith in the Lord, Jesus, or your salvation.  The only thing that should change is your life style. 

If you are a believer in instantaneous sanctification by the Holy Spirit where you “prayed through” to be sanctified, then, you now have to come to grips with your need to actively work towards living a sanctified life.  You have to take responsibility that though the Holy Spirit cleaned you up when you were saved (true sanctification of the Spirit defined by Paul) YOU must start putting away sinful things or bad habits that could drag you down or contaminate your pure heart.  This, again, is cleared stated by Paul in chapter 6 of the epistle to the Romans.

            Wait a minute.  Why, if a man is made whole by God at salvation, is there any further need for purification?  Well, first, if we never sinned again, we would be perfect and no man is perfect by definition.  Second, though you are transformed at that moment and made a new creature, you are still capable of operating “in the flesh”.  You are still capable of doing something wrong.  As we said before, the Christian has free will and is, therefore, still tempted by the flesh.  After all, we are flesh and blood and only begin to taste of our spiritual side through God.  All we knew was living in the flesh. 

“For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.  But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”    Romans 7:5-6

God must teach us to walk in the Spirit.  The Christian must therefore strive to be holy.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.  But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.

Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”  Rom 8:1-9

            We must be perfect as our Lord has compelled us.  This perfection or holy life style is proof of the change that took place in our heart.  It is proof that we are the children of God because we are keeping His commandments by walking in the Spirit and not the flesh.  The holy life style comes by a conscientious choice of ours and the help of the Holy Spirit.

            How do you do this?  Let us move on to what real “sanctified living" is and how it is accomplished.  First, let our Lord, Jesus, tell us who is holy and good and perfect.  He said that our Father, God, is perfect.  Even though He said that we should “be perfect”, does He say that we can be perfect?

And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.Matthew 19:17

The answer then is “NO”, man cannot be perfect.  He can only strive for perfection.  But, He told us to be perfect.  How can we be perfect?  Paul tells us how.

“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
Galatians 5:16

Sanctified living is our daily effort completed by the present help of the Holy Spirit.  We walk in the Spirit.  If we put away sin from our lives, reject the fleshly desires, AND, embrace the Holy Spirit, we can possess our “vessel in sanctification and honor”.

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor.  1 Thessalonians 4:3,4

Does sanctification mainly refer to abstaining from jewelry, having long or short hair, not wearing shorts, or making some other show in apparel of holiness?  NO.  Paul says that sanctification is avoiding sin!  Read the verses above if you missed that one.  Nowhere in the New Testament is sanctification linked to apparel!  The only ones who are known for their “holy raiments” are the Pharisees.  They made their robes to look especially holy.  How did Jesus, the Son of God, respond to “Holy-Roller” apparel in His day?  First He described their bad habits,

All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.  For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.   But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” Mat 23:3-7

And of these Jewish “Holy-rollers” our Lord goes on to say,

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”   Matthew 23:13

Apparently, God has no part in those who would make a show in the flesh to show off their “holiness” in their clothing or heady behavior.  He even said that they were closing off heaven to the other children of Israel and were not even going to heaven themselves.  Instead, He looks for those who do His Will and have pure hearts.  Sanctification is a state of the heart that happens to manifest itself not in our clothing so much as in our actions!

            While the Christian shows modesty in their apparel and adornment as they are exhorted to do by Paul, a specific dress code is not a condition of the sanctified heart!  Modest dress is a demonstration not of purity but of the willingness of the Christian to avoid conformity to  the world.  If you think that your clothing proves your “holiness” and you are fifty pounds overweight, you may look restrained in your apparel, but, you are not demonstrating restraint in your eating habits.  God is not a God of excesses whether it is the clothes of a harlot, drunkenness or gluttony.  “Judge not according to the appearance, but, judge righteous judgment.”

            If a Christian professing “sanctification” cannot control their tongue, THEY ARE NOT LIVING A SANCTIFIED LIFE!  Paul said,

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Gal 5:19-21

Here we see only three words for sexual sins, but, FIVE words for sins of the unbridled tongue!  If a Christian is deceitful, venomous, mean spirited, rebellious or divisive, THEY ARE NOT LIVING A SANCTIFIED LIFE.  Bitter and sweet water do not come from the same fountain.  Paul said,   

“This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”   Galatians 5:16-18

            You see, we know the tree not by its leaves, but by the fruit it bears (Matthew 12:33, Luke 6:44).  The bark tells us nothing, but, the fruit…it tells EVERYTHING.  What is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.  And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:22-26

There is nothing in that passage that speaks of the outward raiment.  All are traits of the heart that manifest themselves in our behavior.  Sanctification is a purification of the heart.  It should lead to modest dress, but, most importantly it leads to Godly behavior, fruits of the Spirit.  That is the outward appearance of sanctification.  That is the proof of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

            We see from the Word of God, therefore, that “sanctification” is NOT a second definite work of Grace performed by the Holy Spirit instantaneously when a Christian “prays through” at the church one night.  It is performed by the Holy Spirit at the moment of redemption when the Blood of the Lamb is applied.  It is performed by the Word and by the Truth of God through the prayer of our Lord and Saviour.  It must be a free will choice of the believer to continue in bearing his vessel in sanctification throughout his life.  And, this continuance in sanctification is called “walking in the Spirit”.  In that way, we do not glory of ourselves but of the Lord, Jesus, who makes us holy.

            This flies in the face of many doctrinal statements on the subject of sanctification.  Not every church teaches sanctification as a second definite work.  Many churches recognize that it is instantaneous at salvation and maintained through the Spirit by the free will of the believer.  If anyone reading this rejects the clear teaching of the Word, they must examine their motives and their proof texts.  If anyone feels that they can provide contextual proof texts FROM THE BIBLE that refute this doctrine, they can email me.  I will answer every text you provide.  Nevertheless, I exhort you to continue in the sanctification of walking in the Spirit that you may have greater closeness to your God and that the world may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

            God bless you and Keep you.

 © 2006

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