The Way of Holiness According To The Epistles

by Chester K. Lehman


Paul began his Epistle to the Romans with the most graphic picture of sinful man found in Holy Writ. We need to look at this picture to see the kind of man that God's grace seeks to save. God's remedy for sin will not become clear until man's undone condition is understood.

Paul began with the bold statement, "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth." (Rom. 1:18). Sin thus appears as deliberate rebellion against truth. Men began their downward plunge by not honoring God as God; "they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened." (Rom. 1:21). In their willful disobedience "God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity"; He gave them up to dishonorable passions"; He "gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct" (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28).

A list of twenty-one sins follows. Paul frequently lists sins, twelve times in all.* There is no need here to examine each specific sin. A total of some One hundred and fifty different sins mentioned in the Bible is clear proof of the sinfulness of human nature. It is incredible that human beings with a sinless nature could pile up sins like this or go to such depths of degradation.

*Rom. 1:19, 31; 13:13; I Cor. 5:10, 11; 6:9, 10; II Cor. 12:20, 21; Eph. 4:31; 5:3, 4; Col. 3:5-8; I Tim. 1:9, 10; 6:4, 5; and II Tim. 3:24. Other New Testament lists are found in Mark 7:21, 22; II Pet. 2:10-14; Jude 11-13: and Rev 9:21; 21:8; 22:15. See Eric H. Wahlstrom, The New Life in Christ, (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1950), for a valuable study of words used in these vice lists, pp. 281-87.

We noted already in the Old Testament that sin lay deeper than sinful deeds. We recall David's confession, "I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm. 51:5); God's arraignment against Judah, "From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it" (Isa. 1:6); God's promise to the captives of Judah, "A new heart 1 will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you" (Ezek. 36:26); and Christ's words, "From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts. . . . They defile a man" (Mark 7:21, 22). These spokesmen attributed sin to a polluted nature. It remained for Paul to say. "As sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Rom. 5:12). Paul had traced all sin to one man through whom sin entered into the world. This is the awful fact which he took pains to make clear in the entire section of Romans 5:12-21.

The fact that sin traces back to a depraved nature best explains the expression "old man" (self, nature, RSV) (Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9, ASV). This truth becomes clearer as we note the remedy prescribed by Paul. The "old man" must be crucified "so that the sinful body might be destroyed." The "old man" which belongs to the "former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts" must be "put off." A treatment less radical would suffice if sin pertained only to bad acts. The positive measures prescribed in each case give further confirmation of man's sinful nature. It is only by a crucifixion of the old man that one "is freed from sin," and becomes "alive to God in Christ Jesus." "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind," Paul said, "and put on the new man, that after God bath teen created in righteousness and holiness of truth" (Eph. 4:23, 24, ASV). In the Colossian context Paul added the idea of renewal in knowledge after the image of the Creator. A spiritual resurrection, a renewal, a putting on of the new man, had to do not merely with the acts of man but with his nature.

Sin is slavery. The Romans had been "once slaves of sin," Paul wrote (Rom. 6:17, 20). Salvation sets men free from sin.

Paul employed still another way to describe man's sinfulness. The flesh is sinful (Rom. 8:1-15). The law was weakened by the flesh. "Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh." "To set the mind on the flesh is death." "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

Elsewhere Paul gave further pertinent teachings on the sinfulness of the flesh. To the Corinthians he urged a cleansing from every defilement of the flesh and spirit (II Cor. 7:1). In the Epistle to the Galatians, he gave what is perhaps his severest indictment of the flesh. He noted again that "the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would" (Gal. 5:17). Then he named the fifteen works of the flesh; and to show that the list is not exhaustive, be added, "and the like." All this looks the blacker as it lies in the context of the walk by the Spirit, through whom is borne the fruit of the Spirit. To the Ephesians Paul wrote of their former walk, "following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience." "Among these," he continued, "we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind" (Eph. 2:2, 3). In short, to live in the passions of the flesh is to follow the devil.

In I Corinthians Paul used two other characterizations of sinful man. As opposed to the spiritual man, Paul wrote of the natural man, the psychical man. This is man as he is by nature. Being unspiritual, he "does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (I Cor. 2:14). As defined by Robert Mexander Webb, "The 'natural man' is a bold and vivid personification of that depraved nature which we inherit from Adam fallen, the source and seat of all actual and personal transgressions" (Jamer Orr, Gen. Ed, op. cit., "Man, Natural," Vol. III, p. 1974).

Another antonym to spiritual is carnal men of the flesh (I Cor. 2:1). Literally it means fleshly; it is the adjective form of flesh used in Romans. Already in that Epistle Paul had confessed, "I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate" (Rom. 7:14, 15). Continuing the confession, he traced the trouble to indwelling sin. Nothing good dwelt within him. In his members was a law which warred against the law of his mind. It made him captive to the law of sin which dwelt in his members. Such was carnality as experienced by Paul. Returning to I Corinthians 3, we see that jealousy and strife are marks of men of the flesh. The troubles in the Corinthian church arose because they were carnal. Paul's final characterization of sin was that unsaved people are "dead through the trespasses and sins." A making "alive together with Christ" is the saving remedy (Eph. 2:1).

Sin has to do with a sinful nature as well as with sinful acts. The condition of sinful man is one of slavery and of deadness. Sin has polluted man's entire being: the heart, soul, mind, and spirit. No part has escaped sin's defilement.


Over against man's sinfulness stands the perfect holiness of God. It is the standard for human conduct and the goal of human achievement. In this study the words standard and goal will be used almost interchangeably. but their difference in meaning should not be overlooked. Standard has In view the norm by which God measures both character and conduct. Goal refers to the end, the purpose, which God would fulfill in us.

Righteousness of God. The master thought of the Epistle to the Romans is the righteousness of God. It refers first to what God is in Himself, then to the character of God's dealing with men, and finally to the standard for man's attainment. It is not always easy to determine which of these three aspects Paul has in mind. The ethical meaning is prominent in the announcement of his theme. In the Gospel "is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, But the righteous shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:16-18, ASV). God's righteousness stands opposed to man's ungodliness and unrighteousness. Back of the requirement of faith for justification is God's dealing with man in righteousness. God requires that His righteousness be found also In man. In the awful picture of sin which Paul gave in chapters 1-3, Paul used God's righteousness to convict the pharisaical Jews of their sin. They had been schooled in the righteousness of God. Their consciences could not escape the stem fact of God's judgment according to truth.

Paul summarizes: "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). Garvie understands the statement to mean "that all mankind as sinful has failed to gain God's approva1" (The New Century Bible, Principle Walter F. Ahleney, General Editor, New York: Henry Frowder, Romans, p. 126). Perhaps Moule better senses the meaning of "the glory of God" as being, "God's moral glory, His holiness and its requirements" (The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, J. J. Stewart Perowne, General Editor (Cambridge University Press), Romans, p. 84.)

Because of man's inability to attain to God's standard of righteousness God had to provide another way for saving him. This way is illustrated in the life of Abraham. "His faith is reckoned as righteousness." "God reckons righteousness apart from works" (Rom. 4:5, 6). Paul gave no hint of attaining to a state of righteousness in which he no longer needed to be justified by faith. In fact he denied such possibility in the Epistle to the Philippians. As he presented his life aspirations, he expressed the desire to be found in Christ, not having a righteousness of his own, based on the law, "but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith." Paul had his eye on the goal, the resurrection. He staked everything on a righteousness which is through faith in Christ (Phil. 3:8-11; cf. Titus 3:5).

Reckoning righteousness apart from works was open to serious misunderstanding by the Jews. They argued that man then had no obligation to keep the law. He could "continue in sin that grace may abound" (Rom. 6:1). Against such utter perversion of the truth Paul showed that the kind of faith which justifies is one in which we are united with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. As He died on account of sin and rose to resurrection life, we die unto sin that we "might walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). Paul commanded his readers, "Yield . . . your members to God as instruments of righteousness. . . . You are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness. . . . For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification" (Rom. 6:13, 16, 19). The Greek word for sanctification used here signifies the process of sanctifying. No antinomianism here!

Paul exposed the utter folly of Jewish efforts to attain to righteousness based on the law. The tragedy lay in their "being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness" (Rom. 10:3). Salvation is by grace through faith. This again refutes all claims to perfect obedience to the law. Those who claim to obey perfectly lower God's standard of righteousness.

Righteousness and iniquity stand as opposites (See also I Pet. 2:24). Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?" (II Cor. 6:14-16a). The Greek word for iniquity means literally lawlessness. It carries the idea of a disregard for law, a contempt for and violation of law (See Greek Lexicons). Righteousness, on the other hand, recognizes law; upholds ethical standards; and concerns itself with right.

Paul regarded righteousness as one of the attributes of God. Ephesians 4:24. It belongs to man's new nature which comes into being by an act of creation. In the midst of some very practical moral teaching Paul had just written, "Walk as children of light." Then he inserted by way of a parenthesis, "the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth" (Eph. 5:9, ASV). This righteousness is one of a trilogy of great ethical concepts. Ml three bear a dose relationship to one another, expressing profoundly the standard of holiness. Goodness, according to Lenski, means "genuine moral excellence." The same commentator thinks of righteousness as "agreement with the divine norm of right (dike) as this is applied by the heavenly Judge." Concerning truth he says, "Paul's circle is dosed by 'truth,' verity, reality, namely, spiritual and moral reality as opposed to all lying, perversion, sham, deception, pretense" (Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, and to the Philippians (Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1946). P. 606).

In I Timothy 6:11 Paul placed righteousness in a similar but larger group of standards than in Ephesians. He charged Timothy, "Aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness" (See also II Tim. 2:22). Righteousness cannot be isolated or narrowed into a single concept; it at once comprehends these other great norms of holiness. So united are they that if one is absent all are gone.

To summarize, righteousness, which held so prominent a place among the normative words in Old Testament teaching, occupies a corresponding controlling position in the New Testament. Righteousness is integral to holiness. It is not measured by adherence to a legal code but obtains fullness in God. Its association with other normative words, such as goodness, truth, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness) enriches its ethical and spiritual content. Standing in antagonism to all the forms of unrighteousness as listed by Paul in Romans 1:29-31 and Galatians 5:19-21, the word obtains incisiveness as to ethical distinctions.

Holiness, Holy, Purity, Pure. Just as holiness stood at the very center of Old Testament ethical standards, so also in the New Testament its centrality is emphasized. At this point my interest in this family of words lies only in the ethical norm which they establish. What do they tell us as to the goal of moral and spiritual attainment? The Old Testament showed that man should be holy as God is holy. The New Testament builds directly on this teaching and lifts it to the highest ethical and spiritual plane. Peter writes, "As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct" (I Pet. 1:15). In support he quoted Leviticus 11:44, 45. which we have already examined.

Three times in the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians Paul described the goal in terms of being holy, and in the last two cases he added the third normative word, blameless (Gr. amomos), which we discovered in the Old Testament. The combining of these two words in a single expression intensifies and gives fullness of meaning to the absoluteness of the norm.

In Ephesians 1:4 Paul was delving into the eternal purposes of God and found that God chose us in Christ, "that we should be holy and blameless before him." In 5:25-27 he expressed the same concern for the church. He almost exhausted human speech to drive home the all-inclusiveness of the standard. "Christ . . . gave himself up for her [the church], that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by. the washing of water with the word, that the church might be presented before him in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." Both the verb sanctify and the participle having cleansed are in the past tense (aorist). The structure of the sentence makes the sanctifying and the cleansing simultaneous and practically synonymous. Both take place at the beginning of the Christian life--the former marking a separation or consecration, the latter standing for the removal of sin and guilt. Together they mark the experience of becoming saints. Both are necessary in order to inaugurate a process of making holy, of which the end product is a glorious church. It is a church adorned in bridal garments, without spot and wrinkle--a beautiful symbol of ethical purity. All this is expressed in the language, holy and without blemish.

In Paul's second use of this pair of words (Colossians 1:22) he added a third word, irreproachable (unreprovable, ASV). Robertson makes the comment, "These three adjectives give a marvelous picture of complete purity (positive and negative, internal and external). This was Paul's idea when he presented the Colossians 'before him' (katenopion autou) right down in the eye of Christ the judge of all" (Word Pictures in the New Testament, New York: Richard R. Smith, Inc., 1931, Vol. IV, The Epistles of Paul, pp. 482, 483).

In passing let us note that in his address to the Philippians Paul used very effectively still another combination of standards, "that you may be blameless [amemptoi] and innocent [akeraioi], children of God without blemish [amoma] in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. among whom you shine as lights in the world" (Phil. 2:15). These positive norms are all the more significant as they are thrown in opposition to crooked and perverse, the words descriptive of generation. Peter also brought together several of these ideas in his exhortation, "Give diligence that ye may be found in peace. without spot and blameless in his sight" (II Pet. 3:14, ASV). Jude in his benediction prayed that his readers may be presented "without blemish before the presence of his glory" (Jude 24). John saw the company of the redeemed and says. "They are spotless" (Rev. 14:5).

Turning to the noun holiness, we discover that it translates two Greek words. One of these, hagiosune, suggests holiness as a state (The other Greek word hagiasmos, meaning consecration, sanctification, holiness, refers rather to the process of sanctifying. Some students regard several of its uses as standing for the resultant state. See I Thess. 4:4, 7; I Tim. 2:15. See Greek lexicons in loco.). In two of its uses the word seems to stand for the end product, the goal, of cleansing. "Let us cleanse ourselves," Paul wrote, "from ever? defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God." (II Cor. 7:1). With reference to the Thessalonians Paul prayed, "May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men, as we do to you, so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints" (I Thess. 3:12, 13). This goal of having hearts established unblamable in holiness before God at the coming of our Lord Jesus is most worthy of attainment. It has to do with an assurance and confidence of heart established by Christ rather than by an effort to achieve sinless perfection.

Built on the same root as holy, two other Greek words, hagneia (purity) and hagnos (pure), are very expressive of the goal for attainment. Paul exhorted Timothy, "Set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." Later he added, "Keep yourself pure." (I Tim. 4:12; 5:22).

We may conclude, then, this family of words has served to define the inner nature of the standard. For fullness of expression New Testament writers have brought into the orbit other normative words such as blameless and irreproachable. These serve to sharpen the ideas of holiness and purity.

Godliness, Godly. We may look at the standard of holiness as "character and conduct determined by the principle of love or fear of God in the heart,. . . the summing up of genuine religion." So On defines godliness (James Orr, op. cit., article, "Godliness, Godly," by James Orr, Vol. II, p. 1270). That this is a valid approach to understanding holiness will become clear as we examine some uses of these words.

The idea has its roots in the Old Testament. David was confident, "that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself." The godly one stands at the opposite pole ethically from the ungodly of Psalm 1:4-6. The godly and the righteous are in the same class.

In the New Testament Paul used these words very significantly in the Pastoral Epistles. He urged prayers for all men and rulers "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way (I Tim. 2:2). He told Timothy, "Train yourself in godliness; . . . godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (I Tim. 4:7, 8). He insisted that teaching should be that "which accords with godliness" (I Tim. 6:3). He made it plain that "all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (II Tim. 3:12). To Titus he gave a fine statement of Christian ideals: negatively, "to renounce irreligion and worldly passions"; and positively. "to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world" (Titus 2:12).

Peter used the word godliness very significantly in his second Epistle, l:3-8. The divine power of Jesus "has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence." In order that we may achieve "his own glory and excellence," we need to "escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature." He listed then the graces which should supplement one another and which lead to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. This familiar list--faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love--is significant for its fullness and shows yet again the all-embracing nature of the standard of holiness. The position of godliness in these verses should now be apparent. It stands as one of the two great goals to be gained, life and godliness; it is also a significant ingredient among the graces which lead to these goals.

These uses of godliness and godly show how well Orr has understood their meaning. Character springs from the disposition of the mind and of the heart toward God. Genuine love and fear of God will affect one's manner of life. The goal of holiness is not merely a measuring up to some single standard of perfection. The gamut must be as inclusive as ones entire being. The attainment of godliness refers to inner aspects of holiness, those of piety, fear, and love of God.

Perfect. The very significant uses of perfect (blameless) both in the Old Testament and by Jesus lead us to anticipate that in the Epistles it will occupy a central position in defining the standard of holiness. The Greek word telcios (perfect), used in the Septuagint a number of times to translate the Hebrew thamim (without blemish), has a different turn of meaning from the Hebrew word (Gen. 6:9; Deut. 18:13; etc.). Teleios is based upon telos (end). In the natural sense the teleios (perfect) is the adult, the one full grown. One has attained the telos (end), the full development to maturity. when he is teleios (perfect).

Paul made vigorous use of this word in the ethical sense as descriptive of moral and spiritual growth. The way in which the Corinthians looked at the gift of tongues showed them to be children in thinking. (I Cor. 14:20). His most effective use of this word was in Ephesians 4:12-16. In this paragraph Paul was giving a marvelous picture of Christian growth. The goal is mature (perfect) manhood, "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children . . . . Rather, . . . we are to grow up in every way into . . . Christ, from whom the whole body . . . makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love." What is especially significant here is the goal; namely, the fullness of Christ. To be perfect is not merely to measure up in pharisaical style to an external standard, but rather it is to grow to the measure of the stature of the fullness of a person who is none less than the Son of God. This should give pause to anyone who is making extravagant claims to perfection.

In Philippians 3:12-16 Paul made a very essential distinction between attaining perfection and being mature (perfect). In verse 12 he disclaimed perfection; in verse 15 be counted himself among those who are mature (perfect). In light of the sublime goal Paul had just described, he clearly affirmed that he had not attained perfection. Instead he said, "I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:12-14). To Paul a process of perfecting stretched before him as a lifelong task. He had not arrived, he did not anticipate arriving in this life at this absolute state of perfection. He commended such a race to perfection to himself and to others who are mature (perfect). This teaching then gives directive on the point of continued growth toward the ideal. And this ideal is Christ.

As in the case of other normative words, Paul presented perfection as a goat in the light of Christ's return. He desired to "present every man mature in Christ" (Col. 1:28). He referred to Epaphras as praying, that they "may stand mature and fully assured [comptete, KJV] in all the will of God" (Col. 4:12). The Colossians should be "spiritual adults in Christ" and "mature and ripened Christians" (A. T. Robertson, op. cit., Vol. IV, The Epistles of Paul, p. 485). What a glorious incentive to grow into spiritual manhood!

The author of Hebrews used the same normative standard to stimulate spiritual growth (Heb. 5:11-6:2). He chided his readers. . with having "become dull of hearing." They needed milk, not solid food, because they were "unskilled in the word of righteousness. "Solid food," he said, "is for the mature [perfect], for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrines of Christ and go on to maturity [perfection]."

James broke into a situation of meeting trials with the words, "You know that the testing of your faith produces. steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that. you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (Jas. 1:3, 4). The testing of faith and steadfastness are some of the experiences which lead to being "perfect and complete [entire, KJV]." Observe that James brings in the word complete as co-ordinate with perfect. It also becomes definitive of the standard of perfection.

Love. In J. S. Banks' splendid discussion of perfection (James Hastings, Ed. op, cit., Vol. III, articles, "Perfection," p. 745), he notes that the growth in the meaning of perfection in the New Testament is immense. Insistence on inward righteousness, he shows, is a marked feature of New Testament teaching. Then he adds, "Above all, love which is raised to the highest power, appears everywhere as the central law of life" (Ibid., p. 745). In a somewhat different setting we have already noticed some of Jesus' teaching on love (Matt. 5:44; Luke 10:27) and could well have added Jesus' new commandment, "that you love one another" (John 13:34). Let us rapidly review some of the pertinent passages from the Epistles which show that love is "the central law of life," As Paul dealt with the practical issues of life in the Epistle to the Romans, he said, "Let love be genuine . . . love one another with brotherly affection." He then dealt with a difficult area of ethics which has to do with the Christian's relation to enemies. Here he showed how love blesses those who persecute you, repays no one evil for evil, lives peaceably with all, never avenges one's self, and overcomes evil with good. Passing under review such of the Ten Commandments as have to do with human relations, lie concluded, "love is the fulfilling of the law."

I Corinthians 13 brings love into the very center of all human relations. Love, which moves on such a high ethical plane, is surely "righteousness raised to the highest power."

As Paul mapped out the sphere of Christian liberty in Galatians 5:1-25, he set up a sure defense against license in his counsel of "faith working through love." He insisted, "Through love be servants of one another." First among the fruit of the Spirit is love, along with other great normative ethical words, all of which find a grand unity in love.

How integral to love are other normative words, Paul showed in the Epistle to the Ephesians. Noted earlier is the purpose of God that "we should be holy and without blemish before him in love" (Eph. 1:4, ASV). If the American Standard Version rightly construes the phrase in love, then holy and blameless have their unity in love. In the sublime picture of Christian growth of the fourth chapter, where the normative word mature (perfect) points so forcefully to the "stature of the fullness of Christ," we learn that the entire process of growth is summed up in the expression "in love."

Concerning the Colossians and Laodiceans who had not seen Paul, he desired "that their hearts may be encouraged 25 they are knit together in love" (Col. 2:2). Later in the Epistles he named the graces the Colossians should put on. They are compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience. Further he urged forbearance and forgiveness. To show the supremacy of love, he concluded, "And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Col. 3:12-14).

No survey of love as it is normative to holiness is complete without considering I John 4, John said, "Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is. born of God and knows God. . . If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us." To trace love to its source, God, at once establishes its. normative character.

The Example of Christ. On the occasion of washing the disciples' feet, Jesus said, "I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you" (John 13:15). While these words refer to a specific incident, Peter picked them up almost bodily and gave them a wide frame of reference, Writing to Christians suffering persecution, he said, "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps" (I Pet. 2:21). Paul put the truth in this way, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Eph. 4:32; 5:1, 2). To the Philippians Paul said, "Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5, ASV). Then follows his delineation of Christ's self-abnegation.

All the foregoing standards of holiness find their fullness and completeness in Christ, Directly or indirectly. The Epistles relate all of them to Christ as the perfect example--righteousness, holiness, godliness, perfection, love--these five, but "the greatest of these is love." Goodness, truth, faith, steadfastness, gentleness, blamelessness, freedom from blemish, irreproachableness, virtue, knowledge, self-control, and brotherly affection--all these also find their fullness in 'Christ. Ultimately. the norm of holiness is Christ. In genuine humility let us take our place with Isaiah when he saw "the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up." The seraphim were calling one to another, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." Isaiah cried, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man ~f unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" (Isa. 6:5). Let us experience with him the gracious forgiveness announced by the seraphim, "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven" (Isa. 6:7).


What an unbridgeable chasm lies between man's condition in sin and the standard or goal of holiness as found in Christ! Degradation in sin, corruption and wickedness of the human heart, enmity against God, deadly work of our sinful passions, deadness through trespasses and sins, bondage under the dominion of darkness! These conditions stand in sharp antagonism to the glory of righteousness, the beauty of holiness, the excellence of godliness, the heavenly Father kind of perfection, the graciousness of love! These and all the other Christian graces and virtues find their fullness and completeness in Christ.

Repentance stands first among Biblical words which point the way provided by God for spanning this gulf between man as he is and man as he should be. This word is not new in the Epistles, but its meaning is most fully developed here.

For a full understanding of repentance we need to examine four closely related words or expressions. First is Paul's expression: the knowledge of sin (Gr. epignosts hamartias) (Rom. 3:20). It was the function of the law to lead man to a knowledge and consciousness of sin. In the experience of David this knowledge brought conviction of sin involving personal guilt, blameworthiness, and a sense of deserving the judgment of God (Psalm 51:3-5).

The second word is: to repent (Gr. metamelesthai). The Greek word translates the Hebrew naham which means literally to pant, to sigh, to groan and comes to signify on the emotional level to lament or to grieve. The Greek word has the sense to regret and points to the emotional experience of after-sorrow. It may represent a superficial experience as in the case of Judas (Matt. 27:3), in which instance the idea of remorse is most descriptive. Meaning literally a biting again, remorse, as Vos says, is "the 'backbiting' of the soul upon herself" (Op. cit., p. 423).

But there is also a genuine sorrow for sin, a "godly grief," as Paul says. which "produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves guiltless in the matter" (II Cor. 7:10, 11).

Thus repentance in the sense of after-sorrow must be a godly grief and not a worldly grief. It is a change of mind that "brings no regret" (Gr. ametameleton). This shows the pitfall of repentance that moves solely on the emotional plane.

The third word is: repentance (Gr. ntetanoia). But very unfortunately metanoia does not mean repentance as it is commonly understood today. According to its etymology, repentance denotes sorrow or regret for sin or wrongdoing. Metanoia, on the other hand, means a change of one's mind or purpose. According to Moulton and Milligan, it refers to "a complete change of attitude, spiritual and moral, toward God" (Op. cit., p. 404). This is the common New Testament word for repentance and should always be thought of in its correct sense as change of opinion or purpose with regard to sin. Dr. William Chamberlain has championed this accurate connotation of repentance in his splendid volume, The Meaning of Repentance. Among other illuminating ideas we find this one, "Repentance is a pilgrimage from the mind of the flesh to the mind of Christ." (The Meaning of Repentance, Philadephia: Westminster Press, 1945, p. 47).

The uses of this word "repentance. with others having to do with Christian experience, reveal its profound spiritual character. Thus Christ brought into close association repent and believe in His first Gospel message: the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel" (Matt. 1:15). This close relation of repentance and belief has its parallel in Paul's preaching "of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21). Repentance and faith are two aspects of the same movement. On the one hand the movement is a change of, mind with regard to sin; on the other, it is a change of mind toward Christ. Peter expresses another close association in the command, "Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19). The idea of turn again augments and intensifies that of repent. The command turn again undoubtedly brought to the mind of Peter's audience the oft-repeated cry of the prophets. They heard again Ezekiel's plea, "Turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die?" (Ezek. 33:11). In like manner Paul combined these words when he spoke of his preaching to the Gentiles, "that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance" (Acts 26:20). We notice also that repentance and turning again are not only conditions for forgiveness of sins, but they also anticipate a life worthy of repentance (See also Matt. 3:8; Luke 24:47; Acts 5:31). The New Testament preachers regarded repentance as the condition both for water baptism and for baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

We have already brought into view the fourth word for repentance: to turn one's self about (Gr. epistrephesthai). It is used frequently in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew word shubh (to turn, return). The Hebrew word "implies a conscious, moral separation, a personal decision to forsake sin and to enter into fellowship with God" (James Orr, Gen. Ed., op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 2558. Articles "Repentance," by Byron H. Dement. For significant uses of this word see Deut. 4:30; Neh. 1:9; Psalm 7:12; Jer. 3:14).

Christ, John, and Paul, each found the Isaiah 6:9, 10 prophecy pertinent to a crucial spiritual situation (Matt. 13:14,15; John 12:37-41; Acts 28:25-27). God charged Isaiah to say to Judah:

    Hear and hear, but do not understand;
    see and see, but do not perceive.

    Make the heart of this people fat,
    and their ears heavy,
    and shut their eyes;
    lest they see with their eyes,
    and hear with their ears,
    and understand with their hearts,
    and turn and be healed.

The warning dosed with an anticipation of rejection of God's words. Judah would not turn (Heb. shubh) and be healed. Stubborn resistance against God's mercy continued. This critical condition required a radical spiritual change. Jesus drew on this indictment when He gave reasons for teaching in parables. John alluded to it when he accounted for the Jews' rejection of Jesus' preaching. Paul hurled it at his Jewish audience in Rome when they rejected the Gospel. All this helps us to understand the kind of change which turning to God denotes. This accounts in part for the use of the two closely related verbs repent and turn noted above. Each buttresses the other in characterizing the nature of the sinner's return to God.

We need to resolve a seeming paradox with reference to repentance. On the one side the uniform representation of Scripture is that the act of repentance is man's. On the other side Peter and Paul represent repentance as being given by God to man. (Acts 5:31; 11:18; II Tim. 2:25). The solution of the problem lies in a recognition both of man's powerlessness to save himself and also of the bestowal of saving grace upon all who yield themselves to the Spirit's encounter.

With the vocabulary of repentance before us we are made aware of the profound manner in which God's grace leads to human salvation. In the sinner there must arise a knowledge of sin, a genuine sorrow for sin, a complete change of mind and purpose toward God with reference to sin, and finally a turning one's self about to God. The grace of God enables the sinner to yield himself to this initial saving work.


Let us now turn to the teaching of the Epistles on the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. At no place does any writer formally differentiate between the Spirit's work at the beginning of the Christian life and that which follows this experience. These writers do give, however, an abundance of teaching on the operations of the Spirit in the believer.

This chapter has allowed the Epistle to the Romans to speak first because in it we have the nearest thing to a system atic theology. However, it is better to regard Romans as a carefully recorded analysis of Paul's religious experience than to interpret it as a systematic theology. For the purposes of our studies this understanding of the Epistle is quite fundamental.

In Romans Paul did not speak of any operation of the Spirit until in 5:5. . He had just completed his treatment of justification and had begun to relate the blissful effects of this experience. Describing the blessed experience of hope, he said, "And hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5). Paul's thought was evidently still on the total experience of justification. God's love has been channeled into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was given to us. In this extremely simple language, Paul described the beginning of the Christian life.

In 6:13 Paul spoke of believers as "men who have been brought from death to life." This spiritual resurrection (verse 5) is hardly intelligible without assuming the work of the quickening Spirit. With the illustration of the law of marriage in mind, he concluded, "We serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit " (Rom. 7:6). The Revised Standard Version stands alone against other translations in capitalizing Spirit, thus giving the verse a different turn of meaning. Accordingly. Paul was saying that we are serving in the new life which came into being through the agency of the Holy Spirit. If Paul was not referring to the Holy Spirit here, the passage makes sharp contrast between serving "in newness of spirit" and "in the oldness of the letter" (KJV).--a form of statement which implies, if it does not state, the working of a dynamic, spiritual power outside of man.

The eighth chapter is the classical passage describing the life according to the Spirit. First Paul stated the Holy Spirit's initial work, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2). It was the life in Christ Jesus which the Spirit imparted. This life freed from the law of sin and death which had held sway. The supernaturalism of the transaction is of supreme moment.

Writing to the Corinthians, Paul desired their faith to rest "in the power of God" (I Cor. 2:5). Each individual experience of regeneration was accordingly a demonstration of Holy Spirit power. Another clear reference to the initial work of the Spirit is 12:13 which reads, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . . and all were made to drink of one Spirit." The syntax of the Greek phrase translated by one Spirit is not entirely certain. I believe that the construction is the same as in Acts 1:5, "You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit"; in Matthew 3:11, "I baptize you with water in Luke 3:16, "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit," and in John 1:33,". . . he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, . . . This is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit." If in these identical expressions (en Pnettmati Hagioi, with the Holy Spirit; en hudati, with water) no problem of syntax exists, it would seem that we should translate the verse under consideration, "For with one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." This being accepted this passage yields two insights into our general inquiry: (1) The initial Holy Spirit experience of believers since Pentecost is properly called baptism with the Holy Spirit. (2) The work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration is the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The first stands opposed to the idea that baptism with the Holy Spirit belongs alone to Pentecost and to what I have called "after the order of Pentecost." The second refutes the teaching that baptism with the Holy Spirit is an experience subsequent to regeneration. The implications of this conclusion for our entire study are quite dear. There can be no question that the point of time to which Paul was referring is the beginning of the Christian life. I think that it is equally certain that Paul was speaking of Holy Spirit baptism and not water baptism.

Holding the old and new covenants in contrast, Paul said to the Corinthians, "You show that you are a letter from Christ . . . written . . with the Spirit of the living God . . . on tablets of human hearts" (II Cor. 3:3). To Paul the new covenant was "not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life" (II Cor. 3:6). The mark of supremacy of the new over the old was found specifically in the fact of the Holy Spirit's giving life to the individual. While this did not deny spiritual experience under the law, it plainly declared the Spirit's giving of life through Christ under the new covenant. Paul's description of this initial experience is also marvelous for its simplicity.

The Epistle to the Galatians adds significantly to this picture. Paul said he died to the law that he might live to God. Christ now lives in him (Gal. 2:19, 20). These are passing glances at his own initial Christian experience. Immediately following this, he asked the Galatians this pertinent question, "Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? . . . Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?" (Gal. 3:2, 3). With his eye on the redeeming work of Christ, Paul said, "God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' " (Gal. 4:6). Here then the initial experience of salvation was described as a receiving of the Spirit by hearing with faith, This stressed the Voluntary character of faith and of receiving the Spirit. The Spirit of God's Son effected an experience in the heart. It was the cry. "Abba! Father!" made by the Spirit. The heart. newly created, became the organ of speech in this new language. The old heart would not and could not utter such words. This is the same idea that Paul expressed elsewhere when he said, "No one can say 'Jesus is lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (I Cor. 12:3). In the Epistle to the Romans Paul described the Spirit's witness somewhat differently with evidently no change in sense. He said, "You have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God." (Rom. 8:15, 16). By this he meant that the Holy Spirit in association with our spirit is giving the witness. Without the Spirit's cry, "Abba! Father!" we could make no such cry.

The classical passage of Paul on the beginning of the Christian life, Ephesians 2:1.10, leads to the very heart of this experience. The deadness of the former life comes first into view. It is a being dead through trespasses and sins. The former walk was a living in the passions of the flesh, following the desires of the body and mind. Such a life resulted from following the prince of the power of the air. It is the spirit that is energizing in the sons of disobedience. The deadness is spiritual: there is no life-giving stream of fellowship with God. Such are under the power of Satan.

There is no will or desire to walk otherwise than to follow the course of this world. God's great and gracious saving act was to make us alive together with Christ. He raised Christ from bodily death; He raised us from spiritual death. The manner in which God accomplished this is not stated. In Romans 8:11, however, Paul had written that the Spirit of God raised Christ from the dead. We may safely conclude that Paul accounted for our spiritual resurrection in the same manner. By reason of this new life the believer is delivered from the power of Satan; he no longer walks according to the course of this world nor lives in the passions of the flesh nor follows the desires of the body and mind, He is now enthroned with Christ. He shows the divine power exercised by Christ. All this is God's gift received by faith; it is not attained by works.

Paul developed the idea further by saying, "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:10). The beginning of the Christian life is an act of creation. In 4:23, 24 Paul enlarged on the concept by calling it a renewal in the spirit of the mind and a putting on of the new nature created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. The end product is likeness to God. It consists of righteousness, holiness of truth, and "knowledge after the image of its creator." (Col. 3:10). The purpose of this creative work is good works.

Paul's last word on this experience is Titus 3:5. According to this, God saved us "by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit. which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour." Paul stressed again the saving aspect of the new birth: it is a work that only another can do. Since it is a recreation and a making new, only divine power can effect it. The Holy Spirit is the agent of this divine work.

Other New Testament Leaching is equally instructive. According to Hebrews 6:4, the beginning of the Christian life is marked by one's becoming partaker of the Holy Spirit. It is the grand moment when the blood of the covenant sanctified us (Heb. 10:29); that is, separated us unto God as His own possession (Cf. Ex. 19:5, 6; I Pet. 2:9). James said, "Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits" (Jas. 1:18). This describes the beginning of the Christian life in terms of begetting and shows the function of the "word of truth" in regeneration. Peter describes the experience as a being "born anew to a living hope . . . and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading" (I Pet. 1:3, 4). Later he added, "You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God" (I Pet. 1:23). The new birth is fathered by imperishable seed, the living and abiding word of God. This is spiritual language par excellence.

In language similar to what he used in the Gospel, John wrote in his First Epistle of being "born of God," of "the Spirit which he has given us," of knowing "that you have eternal life," and of taking "the water of life" (I John 3:9, 24; 5:13; Rev. 22:17).

We have seen that the Holy Spirit is the agent of the new birth. His initial work is defined as baptism with the Holy Spirit. In this act one receives the Spirit. Expressive figures -- making alive, recreating, a new creature, making new, being born of God, and taking of the water of life describe the nature of the Spirit's work. The Spirit effects a radical change in one's life. The regenerate one no longer walks according to the flesh; the Spirit leads him. Being born of the Spirit, he sets his mind on the things of the Spirit. Through the power of the Spirit he lives a holy life.


At this point we should pursue further the distinction between the formal and ethical senses of sanctify and holy which we observed both in the Old Testament and in the teachings of Jesus. We may recall that Israel through covenant agreement became God's own possession, a holy nation. Here was a formal setting apart of this nation unto God. In view of this God said, "You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy." The impact of this command upon Israel was a growing realization that to be God's own possession required a becoming like God in holiness. The formal sense of sanctify led inevitably to the ethical. Jesus had sanctified (consecrated) Himself. He needed no cleansing; His act was the formal one of setting Himself apart for His mission. When, moreover, Jesus prayed for His disciples, "Sanctify them in the truth," the formal aspect of sanctifying held in it the inescapable potential of the ethical; for the disciples needed to be kept from the evil one.

The reason for paying particular attention to this point becomes clear when we seek to discover the relation of sanctification to regeneration. In the foregoing section we found it profitable, though not always easy, to isolate the movements of the Holy Spirit in regeneration from His later work in the believer. In this section an effort will be made to isolate the formal from the ethical uses of sanctification. It is not always possible to determine to which class a passage on sanctification belongs; for the authors of the Epistles do not seek to differentiate the two aspects so much as to show that one's union with Christ (the formal aspect) by its very nature involves a change in one's manner of life (the ethical aspect). It is essential, however, to establish these two senses if we hope to gain a sense of direction and to find the way through this manifestly difficult area of Biblical teaching.

Let us look, then, to the formal uses of this family of words (holy, to sanctify). The substantive use of the plural adjective hagioi (holy ones, saints) suggests most clearly the formal sense. It occurs frequently throughout the Epistles. Typical of all of them is Romans 1:7, "To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints." This does not assert either a process of cleansing or a state of entire sanctification. These people were God's beloved and were therefore called holy ones. They were holy ones in that they had been separated unto God for His own possession. The idea is similar to that of God's word to Israel in Exodus 19:5, 6, mentioned above.

In I Corinthians 1:2 this formal sense becomes still clearer. Here we read, "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints." The perfect participle hegiasmdnois (sanctified) could refer to a state of perfect purification. Its use here, however, can hardly be understood in this way, because Paul immediately proceeded to condemn the Corinthians' carnality. The evident formal sense of hagioi (saints) gives additional support to this conclusion.

In Ephesians 4:12 Paul noted that Christ's gifts were "for the hatartismon (strengthening, perfecting, making fit, equipment) of the saints." The strongly ethical sense of the word kartartismon shows that the saints still needed ethical perfecting. The address, "holy brethren, who share in a heavenly call," of Hebrews 8:1, looks very much like Paul's salutations and may be regarded as another case of the formal idea.

Looking now to the instances of the formal sense of the verb to sanctify, let us consider I Corinthians 6:11. Paul said, "You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." The order of these operations suggests that they are all aspects of that great moment, the beginning of the Christian life. Paul's reference to their being sanctified at the time of their being washed and of their being justified gives ground for believing that he was attaching a formal rather than an ethical sense to the act. "You were sanctified" would then carry the sense, "You were set apart for God," and should be translated, "You have been consecrated" (Weymouth, Williams). The same problem arises here as we noticed in 1:2. If we would interpret this act of sanctification in an absolute ethical sense, Paul's lengthy treatment of the sins in the Corinthian church would be incongruous. The Corinthian saints were not perfect.

In the Epistle to the Hebrews the Old Testament formal aspect of sanctification comes into view. The references 10:10, 14, 29 and 13:12 all center in Christ's blood which instituted the new covenant and which sanctities us and sets us apart as Christ's own possession. This experience reflects the institution of the old covenant by virtue of which Israel became God's own possession (Ex. 19:5, 6; 24:6-8).

With the completed presentation of the formal aspect of sanctification now before us, what do we learn? First, there is an aspect of sanctification which is simultaneous with the other parts of the conversion experience. Repentance, faith, Holy Spirit baptism, regeneration, justification, sanctification, adoption, union with Christ in a word, salvation--all constitute one experience. Each is an integral part of the whole and is understood only in relation to all the others. In repentance a genuine change of mind, sorrow of heart, and turning away, with regard to sin, are experienced. Faith is the soul's complete self-abandonment to Christ in belief and trust for salvation. Regeneration is the experience of being begotten of God, of being born again, of being raised in a spiritual resurrection, and of being made a new-creature. Baptism with the Holy Spirit is the work of Christ: which effects regeneration. In justification God acquits, forgives, and accounts one righteous. The aspect of sanctification linked with these experiences is a twofold setting apart for Christ. Christ consecrates us to Himself; we consecrate ourselves to Christ. Consecration to Christ involves a. total commitment. It is an acknowledgment of Christ as Saviour and Lord. In this commitment lies the whole idea of discipleship, concerning which Jesus had taught so plainly. God adopts us into His family. We have been united with Christ. All these belong to the beginning of the Christian life. It remains for us to explore later the ethical aspects of sanctification. This aspect involves the entire work of the Holy Spirit in leading the Christian to a holy life.


In this study of the formal and ethical aspects of sanctification one meets a phenomenon which seems to prove the punctiliar and linear aspects of sanctification. A most instructive change of Greek tenses is found in passages dealing with sanctification. To use the familiar terminology of Robertson, three kinds of action are found in Greek tenses: punctiliar or point action; linear, or action presented as continuous or repeated; and state of completion, or action presented as finally attained after effort (A New Short Grammar of the Greek Tenses, by A. T. Robertson and W. Henry Davis, Harper and Bothers, 1933, pp. 293-305). Of special interest are the first two classes, the punctiliar and the linear, although a few very significant completed-action examples occur. The aorist tense denotes action as a point, simply as having occurred; such as, "Christ died." It is the common tense in the Greek. when a linear or a completed-action tense is used, some special interest attaches to the nature of the action. Thus, in the present tense verb "we are serving," the interest centers in the continued action of present time; and in the perfect tense verb "have been united," the state of completion receives stress, The bearing of this distinction upon the formal and ethical aspects of sanctification will become apparent as we examine the tenses of verbs in several important sanctification contexts.

The Punctiliar Aspect-action stated as a point (.) Romans

    6:2 --died to sin
    6:3 --baptized into Christ
    --baptized into his death
    6:4 --were buried . . . with him
    --as Christ was raised
    --we too might walk
    6:5 --have been united with him
    6:6 --our old self was crucified
    --sinful body might be destroyed
    6:7 --he who has died
    6:8 --we have died with Christ
    6:13 --yield yourselves to God
    6:17 --have become obedient from the heart
    6:18 --having been set free from sin
    --have become slaves of righteousness
    6:19 --you once yielded your members
    --now yield your members
    6:22 --that you have been set free
    --have become slaves of God
    7:4 --you have died to the law
    --you may belong to another
    7:6 --are discharged from the law
    8:2 --has set me free
    8:15 --have received the spirit of sonship
    12:1 --present your bodies
    13:l4 --put on the Lord Jesus

    I Corinthians
    l5:34 --awake to righteousness (KJV)
    II Corinthians
    1:21 --has commissioned [anointed, ASV] us
    1:22 --has put his seal upon us
    --given us his Spirit
    7:1 --let us cleanse ourselves

    5:1 --Christ has set us free
    5:13 --you were called to freedom
    5:24 --have crucified the flesh

    1:13 --have believed in him
    --were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit
    4:22 --put off your old nature
    4:24 --put on the new nature
    4:25 --putting away falsehood
    5:26 --he might sanctify her
    --having cleansed her

    3:1 --you have been raised with Christ
    3:3 --you have died
    --your life is hid with Christ (perfect tense)
    3:5 --put to death
    3:8 --now put them all away
    3:9 --have put off the old nature
    3:l0 --have put on the new nature
    3:12 --put on then, as God's chosen

    I Thessalonians
    5:23 --sanctify you wholly

With this list of punctiliar actions in mind, let us ascertain, if possible, at what moment in Christian experience they take place. Looking at the examples from Romans 6-8. we should note that this section has to do with the great initial experience of justification considered in chapters 3-5. This leads us to conclude that the experiences--death to sin, baptism into Christ and into His death, burial with Him, walking with Him, crucifixion of old self, setting free from sin, becoming slaves of righteousness, death to the law, etc.--take place at the time of one's being justified. Paul's powerful appeal in 12:1, "present your bodies," also refers to what normally should occur at the time of justification.

The punctiliar acts--anointing, being sealed, being given His Spirit--of II Corinthians 1:21, 22 and Ephesians 1:13 are most naturally understood as initial Christian experiences. The punctiliar acts of Galatians 5:1, 13, 24 bear a dose similarity to those of Romans and most evidently refer to the experience of justification described in Galatians 5, 4.

The death and resurrection experiences of Colossians 3:1-3 are identical with those of Romans 6. This leads to the conclusion that the putting off of the old nature and the putting on of the new (Ephesians 4:22-25; Colossians 3:5-12) belong to the experience of regeneration (Eph. 2:5) and deliverance from the dominion of darkness (Col. 1:13).

Let us now ascertain the nature of these punctiliar acts. There is the group--crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection. In all these "we have been united with him [Christ]." Thus union with Christ lies at the very center of these punctiliar acts. It is the heart of formal sanctification, As Christ died on account of sin, we die to sin. As Christ was raised from the dead, we walk in newness of life. The metaphor of crucifixion is relentless; it stands for a horrible death experience. It suggests a destruction of the sinful body with its "immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness" (Col. 3:5). It requires the putting away of "anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk." (Col. 3:8). It does not stop short of putting off "the old nature with its practices" (Col. 3:9). Paul listed fifteen works of the flesh and added, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 6:14). Out of a deep personal experience Paul wrote further, "But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal. 5:19-21, 24). This was a double crucifixion. Paul used most graphic language to make clear the deadness of the world to himself and his own deadness to the world.

On the other hand, we are united with Him in a resurrection like His. We now "walk in newness of life." We have "put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." Paul commanded. "Put on then, as God's chosen ones . . . compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience. forbearing one another. . . . And above all these put on love."

Another group of punctiliar expressions builds on the concept of a liberation from slavery. Sin had dominion over us. We were once slaves of sin. But we have "been set free from sin, [and] have become slaves of righteousness." Again, Paul commanded, "yield your members to righteousness for sanctification." The agent of liberation appears in Romans 8:2, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death." From a slightly different point of view, Paul wrote, "Christ has set us free," and added, "Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."

Still another way of expressing the punctiliar aspect of sanctification appears in the statement that God has "anointed us" and "put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee." We are marked by God as His very own.

With this picture of the punctiliar aspect of sanctification clear, a few observations are in order. First, a deepening sense of commitment forces itself upon us. It is the personal experience of being crucified with Christ. This is the very essence of discipleship. Second, the element of human responsibility to die with Christ, to put to death the desires of the body, to put off the old nature, to yield our members to righteousness, and to put on the new nature, is everywhere stated. Third, the Holy Spirit is the Liberator. It is the Spirit who enables us to fulfill the momentous punctiliar acts named above. While the responsibility is ours, the power to perform these acts comes through His Spirit.

The Linear Aspect. Again, as an example, if birth denotes dot or punctiliar action, then living denotes linear or continuous action. Returning to the same contexts studied under the punctiliar aspect, let us now examine the verbs which express linear action. These describe continuous or repeated action.


    6:6 --might no longer be enslaved to sin
    6:8 --shall also live with him
    6:11 --consider yourselves dead to sin
    --alive to God
    6:12 --let not sin therefore reign
    6:13 --do not yield your members
    6:22 --ye have your fruit [ASV] unto sanctification (the process)
    7:6 --we serve in newness of the spirit (ASV)
    8:4 --who walk not according to the flesh
    8:13 --put to death the deeds of the body
    12:2 --do not be conformed to this world
    --be transformed by the renewal of your mind

    I Corinthians
    15:34 --sin not (ASV)

    II Corinthians
    1:21--God who establishes us with you in Christ
    4:l6 -- our inner nature is being renewed
    7:1 --make holiness perfect

    5:1 --stand fast
    --do not submit again
    5:13 --do not use your freedom
    --be servants of one another
    5:16 --walk by the Spirit
    5:18 --you are led by the Spirit

    4:23 --be renewed in the spirit of your minds
    4:25 --speak the truth

    3:1 --seek the things that are above
    3:2 --set your minds on things that are above
    3:9 --do not lie to one another
    3:10 --being renewed in knowledge
    3:13 --forbearing one another
    --forgiving each other
    3:15 --let the peace of Christ rule.

    2:11--he who sanctifies . . . those who are snctified
    10:14 --those who are sanctified

Similar questions rise here as in the cases of the verbs expressing punctiliar action when do these linear actions take place? In particular do these actions precede or follow the punctiliar? Over how long a period of time do the linear actions extend? In other words, does the Christian ever arrive at sinless perfection, entire sanctification, or absolute holiness?

The answer to the first two questions can be found by a careful study of the close interweaving of the punctiliar and the linear actions. In Romans 6:6 the two punctiliar acts, crucifying the old self with the resulting destruction of the sinful body, are followed by the linear purpose clause, that we might no longer be enslaved to sin. The sequence of punctiliar and linear action is clear. Crucifying the old self and the resulting destruction of the sinful body are required in order that we might realize continued freedom from sin. The three linear actions of verses 11 to 13--"So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ," "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies," and "Do not yield your members to sin" -- are made possible by the punctiliar action, crucifying the old self, of verse 6. Another sequence is found in 7:6, where the punctiliar action, "we are discharged from the law," issues in the linear action of the result clause, "so that we serve in newness of the spirit" (ASV). The punctiliar action, "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death," of 8:2, makes possible the linear actions, "who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit," and "by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body," of verses 4 and 13. In like manner the punctiliar action of the command, "present your bodies as a living sacrifice," of 12:1, finds realization in the linear actions of the commands, "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind," of verse 2. This sequence is also found in I Corinthians 15:34; II Corinthians 7:1; Galatians 5:1; and Colossians 3:1, 2.

All these instances show that the linear actions uniformly follow the punctiliar. The bearing of this conclusion upon our larger inquiry stands out with sharpness. The linear (continuous) process of making holy takes its beginning in the punctiliar moment of the formal setting apart of one's self unto God. This takes place at the beginning of the Christian life. All this adds to the meaning of the conversion experience. The linear aspect of sanctification obtains genuine significance only as we give full meaning to the punctiliar aspects of repentance, faith, justification, regeneration, union with Christ, adoption, baptism with the Holy Spirit, and consecration.

Looking now to the time element in linear sanctification, we easily discover that none of these contexts brings into view any period during the lifetime of a Christian in which the linear process reaches its goal. No New Testament writer ever gave a hint of anyone's arriving at the standard of holiness. Instead, Paul and others repeatedly held forth unattained as well as unattainable goals. To the Corinthians Paul wrote, And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (II Cor. 3:18). In a genuine spirit of never-ending aspiration, he wrote in Philippians; "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:12-14). The unattainable goal is certainly depicted in the alpine heights of "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13).

It now becomes our task to study the nature of the linear aspect of sanctification. This is to explore the ethical and spiritual nature of the way to holiness. By reason of the expanse of the subject and the limitations of space, adequate treatment is impossible.

That the way to holiness is the way of conflict strikes us with appalling impact. The punctiliar death experience by crucifixion does not put an end to a crucifying and dying experience. Paul insisted, "You also must consider yourselves dead to sin." By way of supplying the remedy he said, "If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live."

The awfulness of continued conflict is apparent in Paul's command, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness." The inner nature of the battle is further noted in Paul's keen analysis, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God" (Rom. 8:7). And in Galatians 5:17 he wrote in similar tone, "For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would."

The way to holiness, described in positive manner, begins with considering ourselves alive to God. This is the counterpart to reckoning or treating ourselves dead to sin. Following the punctiliar discharge from the law and a death to that which held us captive, the result follows "that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter." Here the powerlessness of the law and the dynamic of the new life in the spirit stand in contrast. As Garvie says, "Life in the spirit is a life maintained and controlled by the Holy Spirit" (Walter F. Adeney, Gen. Ed., op. cit., Romans, edited by Alfred E. Garvin, p. 173). It is a "walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." These are two laws of life; they are opposite and antagonistic. "Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:5). One is mindful of the flesh if his heart delights in its pleasures; he is mindful of the Spirit if he loves the way of righteousness and of holiness. The core of the problem lies in the seat of the affections, the heart. The positive measures for attaining holiness must center in the heart.

The punctiliar act of Christ's setting us free led Paul in Galatians to give both negative and positive advice (Gal. 5:1-15). On the negative side he urged, "Stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." This sort of counsel is still needed. Christians may put such trust in their own perfection of living that they hardly need to depend any longer on justification by faith But we never reach such a stage of holiness that we can say, "Lord, we can take over now; our own righteousness is sufficient." The Judaizers held to this way of thinking without any qualm of conscience.

Liberty can lead to license. As an antidote to this danger, Paul counseled, "Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh." It has always seemed difficult for some Christians to see that holy living must issue from God's gracious act of justifying the sinner by faith. It stems that they fail to grasp the moral quality of faith in Jesus. It is this perversion of spiritual understanding which made it necessary for Paul in Romans 6 to raise the question, "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?" To forestall a foolish answer, he continued emphatically, "By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" (Rom. 6:1, 2). Saving faith in Jesus Christ recognizes that He died on account of sin and for sin. Recognizing this quality of faith, we have died to sin that we might walk in newness of life. A sure cure for antinomianism!

Returning to Galatians 5. we find that the positive cure for license is to "Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16, ASV). Walking by the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, living according to the Spirit--all speak of the power of God which operates in us through the indwelling Spirit. It achieves the grand result: "ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh." Grander still, the Spirit becomes productive in us of fruit which otherwise is impossible.

Again in Romans we discover still another positive approach to the way of holiness. It is centered in the practical instructions expressed by the linear action commands, "Do not he conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Rom. 12:2). Worldly conformity has as many facets as there are sins. Continuously, repeatedly we dare not conform to these. Says Robertson, "Do not take this age as your fashion plate" (Op. cit., Vol. IV, The Epistles of Paul, p. 402).

The positive aspect looks to a constant transfiguration, a process of remolding (Phillips Translation). This is accomplished by a renewal of the mind. It is an operation of renovation, of making new, effected by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Thus while regeneration is a new birth and a new creation, the transfiguration which follows changes the inner being into a state of actual holiness. It is the process of making holiness perfect (II Cor. 7:1). Paul specifies the noos, the mind) as the area of renewal. According to the lexicons the noos is the ruling faculty; it is the understanding, the reason. This noos must undergo constant renovation.

In all this discussion great areas of teaching on the Christian life found both in Paul's writings and in other Epistles have been omitted. It is somewhat aside from the major purpose to explore completely these vast reaches of truth. Not only such major sections as Romans 12-15 and Ephesians 5,6, but also entire books, such as I Corinthians, Philippians, James, I Peter, and I John, lie almost untouched. These all greatly enrich the content of the nature of the Christian life.

Let us retrace the ground covered in this chapter. Our quest has been the way to holiness according to the Epistles. We began with a view, of man's condition in sin. Man's sin lies deep in his very nature. Following this, we sought to discover God's standard of holiness. Here we found varied and effective terms which state the norms or goals of life.

Chief among those norms are: the righteousness of God, holiness and purity, godliness and godly, perfect love, and the example of Christ. All of these find their fullness in our Lord.

We studied the experience of regeneration, particularly with the view of discovering its nature and the work of the Spirit in this experience. The Holy Spirit gives life. The metaphors--spiritual resurrection, begetting, a new creature, making new--all lead to an understanding of the Spirit's operation at the beginning of the Christian life.

Then we defined more fully the formal aspect of sanctification. Bound up with other initial experiences, such as repentance. faith, regeneration, baptism with the Holy Spirit, union with Christ, formal sanctification appears as consecration and separation unto God. It is a commitment to Christ which is bound up with our union with Him. In Jesus' way of putting it, it is the taking up of our own cross and following Him. It is our profession of discipleship. The formal aspect of sanctification comprehends a large area of punctiliar acts which take place in the conversion experience. It spells out the meaning of consecration in terms of dying to sin, crucifying the old self, yielding the self to God, presenting our bodies a living sacrifice, putting off the old nature, putting on the new nature, and kindred experiences. The Holy Spirit gives us power for this consecration.

The linear aspect of sanctification is supremely ethical and spiritual. It is that which continues through life. No one dare claim to have achieved the goal of perfection as it is in Christ. The sanctifying work is that of considering ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, of putting to death the deeds of the body, and of not being conformed to this world but of being transformed by the renewing of our minds. In the achieving of all this, the Holy Spirit is the great Energizer.

The source of this booklet is Chapter VI. of The HOLY SPIRIT and the HOLY LIFE by Chester K. Lehman. Copyright 1959, renewed, by Herald Press, Scottdale, Pennsylvania. Copyright now owned by Leland M. Haines, Northville, MI 48167.


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June 22, 2000