II. CHRIST OUR SANCTIFIER.
"And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." John xvii. 19.
The marginal reading of the last clause is, "That they also might be truly sanctified." This seems to imply that there is something, which passes in the world for holiness, which is not true sanctification. There are counterfeit forms of Christian life, and also defective forms, which do not represent all that the fulness of Christ is able to do for us. Sanctification is the second step in the Four-fold Gospel.
1. WHAT IT IS NOT.
We will look first at what it is not. There are good elements and even holy elements in Christian character, which are not sanctification.
It is not regeneration. Sanctification is not conversion. It is a great and blessed thing to become a Christian. It is never a matter of small account. To be saved eternally is cause for eternal joy; but the soul must also enter into sanctification. They are not the same. Regeneration is the be-ginning. It is the germ of the seed, but it is not the summer fullness of the plant. The heart has not yet gained entire victory over the old elements of sin. It is sometimes overcome by them. Regeneration is like building a house and having the work done well. Sanctification is having the owner come and dwell in it and fill it with gladness, and life, and beauty. Many Christians are converted and stop there. They do not go on to the fullness of their life in Christ, and so are in danger of losing what they already possess. Germany brought in the grand truth of justification by faith through the teachings of Martin Luther, but he failed to go on to the deeper teachings of the Christian life. What was the result? Germany to-day is cold and lifeless, and the very hot-bed of rationalism and all its attendant evils. How different it has been in England!
The labors of men like Wesley, and Baxter, and Whitfield, who understood the mission of the Holy Spirit, have led the Christian life of England, and America, her offspring, into deeper and more permanent channels. You will find that the men and women who do not press on in their Christian experience to gain the fullness of their inheritance in Him, will often become cold and formal. The evil in their own heart will assert itself again and will be very likely to overcome them, and their work will bring confusion and disaster to the cause of Christ. If they escape the result, it will be as by fire. You have doubtless noticed young Christians who have seemed to be marvelously converted and filled with the love of God, but they have not entered into the deeper life of Christ, and in an evil hour they failed. They had gained a new heart, but they had neglected to get the deeper teaching and life which Christ has for all His children.
Sanctification is not morality, nor any attainments of character. There is very much that is lovely in human life which is not sanctification. We cannot build up a good human character ourself and then call it the work of God. It will not stand the strain that is sure to come upon it. Only the house that is founded upon the Rock of Ages will abide securely in the wrath of the elements.
Sanctification is not your own work; it is not a gradual attainment which you can grow into by your own efforts. If you should be able to build such a structure yourself, and add to it year after year until it was completed, would you not then stand off with a pardonable pride and look upon it as your own work? No, dear friends, you cannot grow into sanctification. You will grow after you are in it into a fuller, riper and more mature development of life in Christ, but you must take it at its commencement as a gift, not as a growth. It is an obtainment, not an attainment. You cannot sanctify yourselves. The only thing to do is to give yourself wholly to God, a voluntary sacrifice. This is intensely important. It is but a light thing to do for Him. But He must do the work of cleansing and filling.
Sanctification is not the work of death. It is strange that any one should think there could be a sanctifying influence in the dying struggle. Yet many have lived in that delusion for years. They expect that the cold sweat of that last hour and the convulsive throbbing of the sinking heart will somehow place them in the arms of their Sanctifier. This comes in some degree from the old idea that their sin is seated in the body-the old Manichaen teaching that the flesh is unholy, and if we were once rid of the body, the fleshless tenant would be free from sin and would spring at once into boundless purity. There is no sin in these bones and flesh and ligaments. If you cast off your hand you have lost no sin. If both hands are gone you are as sinful as ever. If you cut off your head and yield up your life, sin would still remain in the soul. Sin is not in the body, it is in the heart, and the soul, and the will. Divest yourself of this body of clay, and the spirit will still be left, a hard, rebellious, sinful thing. Death will not sanctify it. It is a poor time to be converted. It will be a poorer time to be sanctified. I would not advise any one to put off their salvation to the dying hour, when the heart is oppressed and the brain clouded, and the mind has need of confidence and rest and a sense of victory to enable it to enter into His presence with fullness of joy. Nor is it a better time for the deeper work of the Holy Ghost. Sanctification should be entered into intelligently when the mind is clear. It is a deliberate act calling for the calm exercise of all the faculties working under the controlling influence of the Divine Spirit.
Sanctification is not self-perfection. We shall never become. so inherently good that there will be no possibility or temptation to sin. We shall never reach a place where we shall not need each moment to abide in Him. The instant we feel able to live without Him, there comes up a separate life within us which is not a sanctified life. The reason the exalted spirits in heaven fell from their high estate was, perhaps, because they became conscious of their own beauty, and pride arose in their hearts. They looked at themselves, and became as gods to themselves. The moment you or I become conscious that we are strong or pure, that instant the work of disintegration begins. It has made us independent of Him, and we have separated ourselves from the life of Christ. We must be simple, empty vessels, open channels for His life to flow through. Then Christ's perfection will be made over to us. And we shall grow ever less and less in ourselves, as He becomes more and more within us.
Sanctification is not a state of emotion. It is not an ecstasy or a sensation. It resides in the will and purpose of life. It is a practical conformity of life and conduct to the will and character of God. The will must choose God. The purpose of the heart must be to yield to Him, to please and obey Him. That is the important thing, to love, to choose and to do His holy will. You cannot have that spirit in you and fail to be happy. The spirit that craves mere sensational joy has yet an unholy self-life. It must get out of that form of self and into God before it can receive much from Him.
2. WHAT SANCTIFICATION IS.
Let us look at the positive side.
It is separation from sin. That is the root idea of the word. The sanctified Christian is separated from sin, from an evil world, even from his own self, and from anything that would be a separating cause between him and Christ in the new life. It does not mean that sin and Satan are to be destroyed. God does not yet bring the millennium, but He puts a line of demarcation between the sanctified soul and all that is unholy. The great trouble with Christians is they try to destroy evil. They think if sin could be really decapitated and Satan slain they would be supremely happy. It is a surprise to many of them after conversion that God still lets the devil live. He has nowhere promised that He will kill Satan, but He has promised to put a broad, deep Jordan between the Christian and sin. The only thing to do with it is to repudiate it and let it alone. There is sin enough in the world to destroy us all, if we take it in. The air is full of it, as the air in some of our Western States is full of soot from the soft coal that is burned there. It will be so to the end of time, but God means you and me, beloved, to be separated from it in our spirit.
Sanctification means also dedication to God. That is the root idea of the word also. It is separation from sin and dedication to God. A sanctified Christian is wholly yielded to God to please Him in every particular; his first thought always is, "Your will be done"; his one desire that he may please God and do His holy will. This is the thought expressed by the word consecration. In the Old Testament all things which were set apart to God were called sanctified, even if there had been no sin in them before. The Tabernacle was sanctified; it had never sinned, but it was dedicated to God. In the same sense all the vessels of the Tabernacle were sanctified. They were set apart to a holy use. Dear friends, God expects something more of us than simply to be separated from sin. That is only negative goodness. He expects that we shall be wholly dedicated to Him, having it the supreme wish of our heart to love and honor and please Him. Are we fulfilling His expectations in this?
Sanctification includes conformity to the likeness of God. We are to be in His image, and stamped with the impress of Jesus Christ.
Sanctification means conformity also to the will as well as the likeness of God. A sanctified Christian is submissive and obedient. He desires the Divine will above everything else in life as kinder and wiser for him than anything else can be. He is conscious that he misses something if he misses it. He knows it will promote his highest good far more than his own will, crying instinctively,
"Your will be done."
"You sweet, beloved will of God,
On you I lay me down and rest,
As babe upon its mother's breast."
Sanctification means love, supreme love to God and all mankind. This is the fulfilling of the law. It is the spring of all obedience, the fountain from which all right things flow. We cannot be conformed to the image of God without love, for God is Love. This is, perhaps, the strongest feature in a truly sanctified life. It clothes all the other virtues with softness and warmth. It takes the icy peaks of a cold and naked consecration and covers them with mosses and verdure. It sends bright sunlight into the heart, making everything warm and full of life, which would otherwise be cold and desolate. The savage was able to stand before his enemies and be cut to pieces with stoical firmness that disdained to cry, but his indifference was like some stony cliff. It was not the warm, tender love of the heart of Jesus, which made Him bow meekly to His painful death because it was His Father's will. It was the spontaneous, glad outflowing of His loving heart. Dear friends, if we are so filled with love to God, it will flow out to others, and we shall love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
3. THE SOURCE OF SANCTIFICATION.
The heart and soul of the whole matter is seeing that Jesus is Himself our sanctification. We must not look at it merely as some great mountain peak where He is standing and which we have to climb, but between us and it there are almost inaccessible cliffs to ascend before we can stand at His side. But Jesus Himself becomes our sanctification. "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be truly sanctified." It seems as though He was a little afraid His followers would get to looking for sanctification apart from Himself, and knowing that it could never reach them except through Him, He said, "I sanctify Myself."
He has purchased it for us. It is part of the fruit of Calvary. By one offering He has perfected forever them that are sanctified. "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
It does not come to us by our efforts, but it is made over to us as the purchase of His death upon the cross. It is ours by the purchase of Jesus just as much as forgiveness is. You have as much right to be holy and sanctified as you have to be saved. You can go to God and claim it as your inheritance as much as you can your pardon for sin. If you do not have it you are falling short of your redemption privileges.
Sanctification is to be received as one of the free gifts God desires to present as an honor upon us. If it is not a gift, then it is not a part of redemption. If it is a part of redemption, then it is as free as the blood of Jesus.
It comes through the personal indwelling of Jesus. He does not put righteousness into the heart simply, but He comes there personally Himself to live. Words are weak; they, indeed, are utterly inadequate to express this thought. When we arrive at complete despair of all other ways we learn this truth. And Jesus Christ Himself comes into the heart and lives His own life there, and so becomes the sanctification of the soul. This is the meaning of the text. It is to His people that Jesus sanctifies Himself, and any who try to live a sanctified life apart from Him are not truly sanctified. They must take Jesus in as their life to be truly sanctified. That is the personal sense of divine holiness. "But of Him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made to us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." Jesus is made to us of God wisdom. He is the true philosophy, the eternal Sophia, far above the deepest philosophy, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. So Jesus in our heart becomes our wisdom. He does not improve us, and make us something to be wondered at. But He just comes in us and lives as He did of old in His Galilean ministry.
When the tabernacle was finished the Holy Ghost came down and possessed it, and dwelt in a burning fire upon the ark of the covenant, between the cherubim. God lived there after it was dedicated to Him. So when we are dedicated to God, He comes to live in us and transfuses His life through all our being. He that came into Mary's breast, He that came down in power upon the disciples at Pentecost comes to you and me when we are fully dedicated to Him, as really as though we should see Him come fluttering down in visible form yonder upon our shoulder. He comes from yonder world to live within us as truly as though we were visibly dwelling under His shadow. God does come to dwell in the heart and live His holy life within us. In the 36th of Ezekiel we have this promise: "I will sprinkle clean water upon you." That is forgiveness; old sins are all blotted out. "A new heart also will I give you"; that is regeneration. "I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them"; ah! that is something more than regeneration and forgiveness. It is the living God come to live in the new heart. It is the Holy Spirit dwelling in the heart of flesh that God has given, so that every movement, every thought, every intention, every desire of our whole being will be prompted by the springing life of God within. It is God manifest in the flesh again. This is the only true consummation of sanctification. Thus only can we enter completely into the life of holiness. As we are thus possessed by the Holy Spirit we are made par-takers of the Divine nature. It is a sacred thing for any man or woman to enter into this relation with God. It places the humblest and most unattractive creature upon the throne with Him. If we know that God is thus dwelling within us, we will bow before the majesty of that sacred presence. We will not dare to profane it by sin. There will be a hush upon our hearts, and we will walk with bowed heads and conscious of the jewel we carry within our hearts. Do you know what it is to have Christ thus sanctified to you, beloved? Do you know personally what it is to be wholly dedicated to Him, and to hear Him say to you, "For your sake I sanctify Myself that you may be truly sanctified"?
4. HOW IT IS RECEIVED.
We must have a Divine revelation of our own need of sanctification before we will seek to obtain it. We must see for ourselves that we are not sanctified, and that we must be sanctified if we would be happy. The first thing God does often to bring us where we will see this, is to make us thoroughly ashamed of ourselves by letting us fall into mistakes and by bringing our frailties to our notice. In these humiliating self-revealings we are able to see where we are not righteous, and we are made to learn that we cannot keep our resolutions of amendment that we make in our own strength. God has let His dear children learn this lesson all through the ages, and learn it by repeated failures, and each of us must ever learn it for himself.
We must come to see Jesus as our Sanctifier. If with one breath we cry out, "0 wretched being that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" with the next we must add, "I thank God through Jesus Christ, my Lord." We must see in Him that great Deliverer, and know that He is able to meet our every need and supply it.
We must make an entire surrender to Him in everything. We must give ourselves to Him thoroughly, definitely and unconditionally, and have it graven in the heart, as if it were written on the rocks, or painted on the sky. Cut it deeply in the annals of your recollection. Always remember that on that day and on that hour I gave myself fully to Christ and He became entirely mine.
We must believe that He receives the consecration we make. He is as earnest and as willing and as real about it as you are. Amid the hush of heaven He stoops to hear your vows, and He whispers when you have finished, "It is done. I will give to him of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcomes shall inherit all things."
Many people make a mistake about some of these steps. Some of them are clinging to a little of their old goodness and therefore meet with failures. Others stumble at the second step. They do not see that Jesus is their complete Sanctifier. And many cannot take the third step and make a complete surrender of everything to Him. Multitudes fail even when they have taken these steps in not being able to believe that Jesus receives them. Keep these four steps clear. "I am dead, my own life is surrendered and buried out of sight. Jesus is my Sanctifier and my all-in-all. I surrender everything into His hand for Him to do with as He thinks best. I believe He receives the dedication I make to Him. I believe He will be in me all I need in this life or in the world to come." I am certain, dear friends, when you have taken these four steps you can never be as you were before. Something has been done which can never be undone. You have become the Lord's. His presence has come into your heart; it may be like a little trickling spring upon the mountain side, but it will become great rivers of depth and power.
5. PRACTICAL STEPS
by which this life of sanctification is lived out day by day.
We are to live a life of implicit obedience to God, doing always what He bids and being from now onwholly under His direction.
We are to be ever hearkening diligently to His voice. We will need to listen closely, for Jesus speaks softly.
In every time of conflict or temptation or testing, we are to draw near to God and give the matter over to Him. Instead of the sweet and happy experiences you would naturally expect after such a consecration, the devil comes and tries to shake your confidence by some trial or temptation. Stand in Him and rejoice that He counts you worthy to receive such trials. If you fail, don't say it is no use to try further. The principle is right. Perhaps you tried to do the work yourself and so you failed. Stop and lay it all at His feet and start afresh, and learn to abide in Him from your very failure. Israel, after their defeat at Ai, were stronger for the next conflict. Try to live out the secret you have learned. In human art there is always stumbling at first. You can learn the principles of stenography in a very little while, a few hours perhaps, but it takes months of patient practice to become expert at it. At one of our Western meetings recently, a lady was taking verbatim reports of the addresses. She was sitting at a little table with an instrument they call a stenograph. By touching the keys of this instrument a little needle cut impressions on a paper ribbon, representing with perfect accuracy the words that were spoken. She was able to learn the principle in a few hours, but it took many more hours of quiet practice before she was so accustomed to it that she could do it easily. The moment we are consecrated to Jesus Christ we learn the secret that He is to be all-in-all to us. But when we try to practice this truth, we find that it takes time and patience to learn it thoroughly. We must learn to lean on Him. We must learn little by little how to take Him for every need. The principle is perfect. It will become absolutely unfailing in practice. Remember the secret is, "Without Me you can do nothing." "I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me."
From the Fourfold Gospel by REV. A. B. SIMPSON, D.D. with an Introduction by REV. FREDERIC H. SENFT, D.D. Published by CHRISTIAN PUBLICATIONS INC. in 1890. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Insights of the past for the present
Fourfold Gospel - A.B. Simpson
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.