11-12. The Holy Life

Earlier this week the church Life group which my wife and I attend studied Truths 11 and 12 of the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador. Four attended. We opened with Leonora, my wife, leading us in singing and prayer; we considered the sheet on “The Holy Life” that I’d given out in a previous meeting; Ray Noble took prayer requests and brought them to the Lord in prayer; and we closed with lunch.

In our study we considered “12. Sanctification or the Holy Life” before “11. The Believer’s Obedience.” Here is what it says:

Entire sanctification is the will of God for all believers, and should be earnestly pursued by walking in obedience to God’s Word (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15,16; 1 Thessalonians 5:23,24; 1 John 2:6). In experience, this is both instantaneous and progressive. It is wrought out in the life of the believer by his appropriation of the power of Christ’s blood and risen life through the person of the Holy Spirit, as set forth in the Word of God.

To explain what it means by entire, instantaneous, and progressive sanctification, I shared from the section “Sanctification in Assemblies of God Teaching” in Stanley M. Horton’s contribution to Five Views on Sanctification (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1987).

Horton opens his consideration of instantaneous sanctification by quoting this statement by Ralph W. Harris, “Sanctification is instantaneous, for the moment a person believes in Christ he is separated from sin and unto God” (page 115). After discussing this initial sanctification, which he also calls “positional sanctification,” Horton concludes, “By Christ’s sacrifice, sinful persons are put into perfect relationship with God. We are sanctified, dedicated, consecrated, set apart for God and for His worship and service. As we walk with Jesus in simple faith, we are made partakers of the fruit of His obedience. We are set free to do God’s will” (page 116).
Among the Bible passages that Horton cites in his discussion are:
– “Because of him [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30, ESV; all Biblical quotations made by me are from the ESV).
– “By that will [the will of God accomplished in Christ] we have been sanctified through the offering of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).

Horton begins his consideration of progressive sanctification by citing several Bible passages that show that it is needed, such as Paul’s addressing the Corinthians as “people of the flesh [and] infants in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1) and his many exhortations to grow in grace including “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires…be renewed in the spirit of your minds…put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Next Horton identifies means appointed by God to provide for our progressive sanctification: the blood of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Bible. Among the Bible passages that he cites are:
– “But if we walk [keep walking] in the light, as he is in the light, we have [keep on having] fellowship with one another [between us and God], and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses [keeps on cleansing, purifying] us from all sin” (1 John 1:7; the phrases in square brackets are from Horton, but most commentators understand “fellowship with one another” to refer to fellowship among Christians).
– “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)..
– “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).
Horton cautions that we must “respond to both the Word and the Spirit in faith and obedience … for sanctification to become actual and experiential in our lives” (page 123).

Horton observes that Assemblies of God writers and preachers use the term entire sanctification in three different ways. Sometimes they use it of believers who “live up to the light they have” (page 123). Sometimes they use it of believers who “live a life of victory over temptations” (page 124). And sometimes they use it of “the state to which we shall be transformed at Christ’s second coming” (page 125).
Personally I understand it to occur at death for our souls and when Jesus returns for our bodies. Bible passages indicating this include:
– “You have come to Mount Zion … to the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Hebrews 12:22-23).
– “From it [heaven] we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).

I prefaced our consideration of “11. The Believer’s Obedience to God” with the observation that neither the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada nor the Assemblies of God, sister fellowships of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador, includes a similar truth in its statement of fundamental and essential truths. Here is what the truth says:

The dangerous doctrine called Antinomianism, found in the early centuries of the Christian Church, is quite prevalent today (viz., that because grace is free the professing believer is exempt from moral obligation and thus can go on committing sins and living a spiritually indifferent life, still hoping all is well). All who make a Christian profession of conversion and later commit sins and go back into the world must repent of their sins and seek forgiveness through faith in the cleansing blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in order to get right with God. It is true that God has promised to keep that which we have committed unto Him against that day (2 Timothy 1:12), also that we are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed at the last time (1 Peter 1:5). But man’s responsibility is shown in the first epistle of John, where it distinctly states that “IF WE WALK IN THE LIGHT, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1:7).

I asked the group: “Why do you think that the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador includes it? Do you think that it should be included?” They responded by observing that many Christians, including Pentecostals, live as if they believe in antinomianism, illustrating by noting that even within the church which we attend there are men and women living together who aren’t married. Although I agreed that we certainly need to be warned against antinomianism, I questioned whether such a warning need to be included in our Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths when neither the PAOC nor the AG includes such a truth in its statement.
So far I haven’t been able to find out why the PAONL decided to include the truth in its statement. If any reader knows why, I’d appreciate your letting me know either in a comment on this post or by e-mail.

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