We recently discussed the differing views of sanctification in our class. Since biblical counseling is all about changing to become more like Christ, it is all about sanctification! I did not realize the different views about sanctification commonly held by evangelicals. Continued below…
The Wesleyan View
The first view is known as the Wesleyan View, or Christian Perfection. Sometime after the work of salvation, there is a second work of grace which brings the Christian to a state of sinlessness, or “entire sanctification.” Sin in this case is defined by transgressions we willfully commit, viewing anything we don’t “intend” as only a “mistake.” In this view, spiritual growth after the second work of grace is an increase in works. This view is commonly held by Methodists and Nazarenes. John Wesley himself believed it was possible to reach that state of sinlessness, but did not believe himself to have ever gotten there.
The Keswick View
The second view is the Keswick View, or the Higher Life. Similar to the Wesleyan view, there is a post-salvation experience or “enlightenment” that brings the believer to a place of victorious and consistent obedience. There is still a struggle with sin, but it is significantly lessened by new truth better understood and accepted. Spiritual growth takes place in putting passive trust in the work of God. This is commonly held by the expression “let go and let God”. This is the predominant view in evangelical Christianity. You will see this view in many great Christians and theologians as well, including Watchman Nee, Andrew Murray, and Charles Stanley. This is also the view that J.C. Ryle combats in the book, “Holiness”.
The Reformed View
Third is the Reformed View, which sees sanctification as a lifelong cycle of sin, repentance, renewal, and growth towards Christ-likeness which will only be complete when we’re in heaven. This sanctification is done through the active discipline of the believer, trusting in the Holy Spirit energizing his efforts.
To me, the Wesleyan view does not make much sense biblically or rationally. It is between the last two that I am most interested about. I’m still wrestling through them a bit. I’ve heard plenty of “let go and let God” messages. There is definitely a place for yielding and surrender, but God cannot obey for me. My professor said that this view takes the positional view of who we are in Christ (new creation, old has gone, new has come) and misapplies them to sanctification. There is certainly a sense of the “already-not yet” and the tension we live with on a daily basis.
Phil. 2:12-13 tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. In Col. 1:29, Paul speaks of warning and admonishing everyone to present them mature in Christ, saying “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me”. These verses are very telling and do not advocate for a “let go and let God” mentality.
What does it even matter? When you are struggling with a sin or other struggle, do you simply pray for God to take this away from you? Do you just yield it to Him and ask Him for it to be removed? Or do you pray that God will give You the heart and the energy to be obedient to Him in this struggle or that temptation, that you may glorify Him? Think about both of those views and what your mindset is going to be going into temptation with each one, and you will see that our view of sanctification definitely matters.
~ Isaac ~