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Entire Sanctification

John Wesley believed that God created the Methodist to proclaim the message of entire sanctification (also known as “Christian Perfection”).

So what is “entire sanctification”? Entire sanctification is the fullness of the Spirit, victory over sin, and a life of holy love. By fullness of the Spirit, we mean the state in which the Holy Spirit gets all of us; it means we have the Spirit in every part of us. We have given ourselves over entirely for the Holy Spirit to move freely in us and through us. Entire sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in perfecting our love of God and neighbor by making that holy love our highest desire.

Positive and Negative Aspects of Entire Sanctification

This perfect love for God and neighbor Wesley called “Christian perfection,” which he defines as:

A full salvation from all our sins, from pride, self-will, anger, unbelief, or, as the Apostle expresses it, “Go on to perfection” [Heb. 6:1 KJV]. But what is perfection? The word has various senses: here it means perfect love. It is love excluding sin; love filling the heart, taking up the whole capacity of the soul. It is love “rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, in everything giving thanks” [1 Thess. 5:16–18 KJV].[1]

According to Wesley, we can think of entire sanctification both negatively and positively. Negatively, entire sanctification is the elimination of sin from our nature. It is the total correction of our inward bent towards self. Positively, entire sanctification is the freedom to have an undivided heart that is singularly fixed on loving and obeying God; it means experiencing the fullness of God’s perfect love.

The Work of God, Not Human Accomplishment

The claim that Christians can be made perfect in love seems like a tall order. Still, perfection in love is both the mandatory and natural follow-up of regeneration because if for no other reason than that he who begins a good work sees it through to completion (Phil. 1:6). The promise of entire sanctification is not a claim to what we are capable of but of what the sovereign Holy Trinity can accomplish in sinners. Christian perfection is the fruit of belief that the redemptive work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to transform self-centered sinners into individuals who are fully abandoned to God. It is as Paul says, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:23–24; italics added).

Pleasing God is the Highest Desire

The doctrine of entire sanctification affirms the biblical teaching that Christians need not sin. We need not sin because the Holy Spirit has dealt with the cause of sinning, which the Apostle Paul calls the “flesh” (Rom. 7–8). Habitual sin results from a willful determination to have our way in life. As we’ve been discussing all along, the Holy Spirit can transform this pattern of thinking and acting. The Holy Spirit can make it so that pleasing God is our highest desire. Because of the Holy Spirit, we can have what the Bible calls a “whole heart.”[2] This is not a heart that is flawless in all its understandings, or even in all its feelings, but one that is completely given over to knowing and serving God.[3] The result is that a person is no longer inclined or “bent” to disobeying but is now “bent” to please God.

The Indwelling of Perfect Love

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is synonymous with the fullness of perfect, holy love. We discussed above that within the inner life of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the eternal bond of holy love shared between the Father and the Son. Externally, the Holy Spirit is the gift of the Father and the Son to the world. When the Father and Son send the Holy Spirit to indwell believers, it is the indwelling of a holy love free from deficiency or corruption. Entire sanctification is the witness of God’s promise to extend the perfect bond of holy fellowship with Christians; it is the embodiment of being given over entirely to the perfect love of God that is the Holy Spirit.


Jesus can declare that Christian righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees on the basis of his own perfect righteousness that is transferred to the believer (Matt. 5:20; 2 Cor. 5:21).[4] Similarly, Christ can command that Christians be perfected in love because the Holy Spirit, the gift that is the bond of perfect and holy love between the Father and the Son, is the source of that love (Matt. 5:48).

ENTIRE SANCTIFICATION

Entire sanctification is the fullness of the Spirit, victory over sin, and a life of holy love. By fullness of the Spirit, we mean the state in which the Holy Spirit gets all of us; it means we have the Spirit in every part of us. We have given ourselves over entirely to the Holy Spirit to move freely in us and through us. Entire sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in perfecting our love of God and neighbor by making that holy love our highest aim and desire.

This perfect love for God and neighbor Wesleys called “Christian Perfection,” which he defines as:

A full salvation from all our sins, from pride, self-will, anger, unbelief, or, as the Apostle expresses it, “Go on to perfection” [Heb. 6:1 KJV]. But what is perfection? The word has various senses: here it means perfect love. It is love excluding sin; love filling the heart, taking up the whole capacity of the soul. It is love “rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, in everything giving thanks” [1 Thess. 5:16–18 KJV]. (John Wesley, “The Scripture Way of Salvation”)

According to Wesley, we can think of entire sanctification both negatively and positively. Negatively, entire sanctification is the elimination of sin from our nature. It is the total correction of our inward bent towards self. Positively, entire sanctification is the freedom to have an undivided heart that is singularly fixed on loving and obeying God; it means experiencing the fullness of God’s perfect love.

The claim that Christians can be made perfect in love seems like a tall order. Still, perfection in love is both the mandatory and natural follow-up of regeneration because if for no other reason than that he who begins a good work sees it through to completion (Phil. 1:6). The promise of entire sanctification is not a claim to what we are capable of but of what the sovereign Holy Trinity can accomplish in sinners. Christian perfection is the fruit of belief that the redemptive work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to transform self-centered sinners into individuals who are fully abandoned to God. It is as Paul says, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:23–24; italics added).

The doctrine of entire sanctification affirms the biblical teaching that Christians need not sin. We need not sin because the Holy Spirit has dealt with the cause of sinning, which the Apostle Paul calls the “flesh” (Rom. 7–8). Habitual sin results from a willful determination to have our way in life. As we’ve been discussing all along, the Holy Spirit can transform this pattern of thinking and acting. The Holy Spirit can make it so that pleasing God is our highest desire. Because of the Holy Spirit, we can have what the Bible calls a “whole heart.” This is not a heart that is flawless in all its understandings, or even in all its feelings, but one that is completely given over to knowing and serving God. The result is that a person is no longer inclined or “bent” to disobeying but is now “bent” to please God.

Excerpt from Matt Ayars, The Holy Spirit: An Introduction (Franklin, TN: Seedbed, 2023).

METHODISM'S ARTICULATION OF CHRISTIAN FAITH

In historical alignment with the broader Wesleyan movement, Wellspring Church adheres to Methodism’s articulation of Christian faith found in the following documents as they serve as standards for teaching and doctrine in the church:

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