Intro

This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I began the project on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed it on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times. I still do that every once in a while.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Entire Sanctification

"But may the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit, soul and body, be preserved entire without blame, in the coming of the Lord Jesus." — 1 Thess. 5:23 (Ellicott's Translation).

So intent is the great Apostle on giving an adequate and explicit expression of his meaning, entire sanctification, that he uses a strong word found nowhere else in the New Testament — ὁλοτελής (holotelēs), wholly, rendered in the Vulgate per omnia — "in your collective powers and parts," marking more emphatically than any ordinary New Testament word the thoroughness and pervasive nature of the holiness prayed for. Luther has very happily translated it "durch und durch," through and through.

Then St. Paul has used another peculiar term, which is found in only one other place in the New Testament, in James 1:4, and gives it the position of an emphatic predicate: "May your spirit be preserved entire, your soul entire, and your body entire." He ordinarily employs the word τέλειος, "perfect," when he marks what has reached its proper end and maturity. But wishing to express a quantitative, and not qualitative, meaning, he employs a term signifying "entire in all its parts," "complete," lacking nothing.

Having in these strong and remarkable words indicated the thoroughness of the sanctification, Paul leaves us in no doubt as to the time, when he adds, "and preserve you without blame in the coming of the Lord Jesus." Through what period of time is the preservation to extend? Till the second advent of Christ. This period covers the lifetime of these Thessalonians, and the space between their death and resurrection. To say that the prayer refers to the latter period is to involve St. Paul in the papal heresy of praying for the dead. Therefore the preservation which is to follow the entire sanctification can refer only to the present life up to the hour of death. So plainly is this true, that no polemical writer has ventured to twist this passage into any other meaning.

The entire sanctification here supplicated is not only in this life, but the peculiar phraseology of the prayer implies that it is an instantaneous work. To the objection that the verb ἁγιάσαι, sanctify, can here only be understood of the gradual spread of the principle of holiness implanted in regeneration; even Olshausen insists that the emphasis laid on the "very God," or "the God of peace himself," "shows that something new is to follow," some vigorous interposition of the omnipotent arm of the Sanctifier. Besides this, the verb is in the aorist tense, denoting a single momentary act.

Before taking our leave of this wonderful Scripture we call attention to the fact, that it effectually refutes the Gnostic error respecting the inherent evil of matter. In the enumeration of the constituent elements of man which are to be sanctified wholly, and preserved each entire, we find "body," σωμα (soma), which is wholly material. St. Paul knew of nothing in man which was incapable of receiving the efficacy of the cleansing blood of Christ. And lest there should be any room for cavil, he specifies the ψυχη (phuxa), the lower or animal "soul," in which inhere those passions and desires possessed by man in common with the brutes. This border land between pure spirit on one side and gross matter on the other, lies open to the great Purifier as well as the higher element of spirit, πνεῦμα (pneuma), the designed receptacle or temple for the abode of God in man.

In the Epistle to the Hebrews the Apostle's closet door gets ajar again, and we hear these words breathed into the ear of God — so much like those just quoted as to indicate the same pleader: "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, that great Shepherd of the sheep, make you perfect in every good work to do his will." This must be before death, for good works must be in time. To be perfect in them is to exclude every evil work, that is, all sin.

— edited from Love Enthroned, Chapter 4.