Biblical Doctrine, Plainly Stated

By William S. Plumer, 1875


I. Justification and sanctification are often joined in Scripture, and always united in fact. The proofs are ample. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputes not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." Psalm 32:1, 2. Compare Romans 8:1; 2; Tim. 1:9; 1 Thess. 4:7; Titus 2:14, and especially Phil. 3:8-12. He who hopes for sanctification without justification, and he who hopes for the latter without the former, are trying to put asunder what God has joined together. Both are sadly deceived.

II. Sanctification widely differs from justification. In justification sin is pardoned; in sanctification sin is subdued. In justification grace secures acceptance; in sanctification grace gives strength to resist temptation, and have victory over the world. In justification we are freed from wrath, and are regarded and treated as righteous; in sanctification we are freed from the reigning power of sin. Justification is an act; sanctification is a work. Justification is an act done in heaven; sanctification is a work done in us. Justification gives a title to eternal happiness; sanctification gives us fitness for the joys and services of heaven. Justification changes our state; sanctification changes our character. Justification is perfect at once in all cases; sanctification ordinarily is imperfect at first—a little leaven cast into three measures of meal. Sanctification proves justification; but justification cannot prove sanctification.

III. Sanctification differs from regeneration as the ripe or ripening corn differs from the tender blade at first put forth; as the fruit-bearing tree differs from the little scion; as the strong man differs from the new-born babe. Regeneration is the beginning of sanctification; sanctification is the completion of regeneration. In regeneration the seed is sown; in sanctification the harvest comes on. Young converts, except those who have a real change of heart, seem often to differ but little from men of the world. 1 Cor. 3:1-3.

IV. Very kindly has God promised that his people shall grow and advance in holiness: "Unto those who fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall." Mal. 4:2. Ample provision is made to this end by the bestowment of the Holy Spirit: "The Lord who made you and helps you says: O Jacob, my servant, do not be afraid. O Israel, my chosen one, do not fear. For I will give you abundant water to quench your thirst and to moisten your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit and my blessings on your children. They will thrive like watered grass, like willows on a riverbank." Isaiah 44:2-4.

V. It is a duty to advance in holiness: "This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you should abstain from fornication: that everyone of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor." 1 Thess. 4:3, 4. "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Pet. 3:18. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Heb. 12:14.

VI. Like creation and providence, sanctification is a work of the Godhead: "I am the Lord who sanctify you." "I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good: but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." Lev. 20:8; Jer. 32:40. In Jude 1, believers are said to be "sanctified by God the Father." In 1 Cor, 1:30, it is said "Christ Jesus is made unto us sanctification." Compare Eph. 5:26, 27. In 2 Thess. 2:13, Paul says, God "has from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit." Compare Eph. 1:4; Matt. 3:11.

VII. In this work God's children concur: "We are laborers together with God." "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." 1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 7:1. This concurrence of God's people consists mainly in these things:

1. They consent to the law that it is good.

2. They greatly desire increase of holiness.

3. They pray and labor for it.

4. They deeply mourn and humble themselves when they have it not.

VIII. This sanctification is in the whole nature. Inspired writers use all the words necessary to teach this doctrine. Paul says: "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thess. 5:23. Compare Ezek. 36:25-27; Eph. 4:22-32.

IX. The great means of promoting the sanctification of believers is the gospel, sometimes called the grace of God, because it is a great fruit of his undeserved kindness, as in Titus 2:11, 12: "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." Compare Eph. 5:26; Phil. 1:6; Heb. 12:10.

X. The sanctification of believers is in this life imperfect. The best of men are men at the best. "There is no man that sins not." "There is not a just man upon earth, that does good, and sins not." 1 Kings 8:46; Eccles. 7:20. Compare 1 Cor. 9:27; 13:9, 10. So that "the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that you cannot do the things that you would." Gal. 5:17.

XI. Because of these things we naturally expect a warfare in the Christian life. Christian experience fulfils this expectation. In Romans 7:14-25, the apostle Paul gives us the details of such a conflict in his own case. Some indeed have said that he did not refer to himself at all. But more than twenty times he says he did mean himself, using the words I, mine, me. Some say that he refers to himself in an unconverted state. But he says he refers to himself at the time of writing. All the verbs are in the present tense, as am, do, allow, find, etc. Besides, no unconverted man ever "consents unto the law that it is good," nor "delights in the law of God after the inward man." Clearly the passage refers to Paul after his conversion.

XII. Growth in grace is properly evidenced by increase of good works. "Every good tree brings forth good fruit." "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them." Matt. 7:17; Eph. 2:10. Compare Phil. 4.8.

XIII. There is one class of evidences of growth in holiness much insisted on in the Scriptures. It consists of what are commonly called the passive virtues, such as meekness, humility, gentleness, forbearance, forgiveness, self-denial, etc. The greater attainments Paul made, the humbler he was. Some time after his conversion he speaks of himself as "unworthy to be called an apostle." Still later he says he was "less than the least of all saints." He enters heaven with the cry, "I am the chief of sinners."

XIV. The longer men live, and the more they live to the honor of their Master, the brighter shall be their crown in heaven. "They that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever." Dan. 12:3. Compare Isaiah 43:21; Matt. 5:12; Col. 3:24; 1 Cor. 15:41.

XV. Therefore let every man live wholly unto God. "Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown." Rev. 3:11