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.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

On Hebrews 12:14

QUESTION: I have difficulties with Heb. 12:14, "Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord." (1) If I insist that holiness is a definite second work, then it follows that only those in whom it has been wrought will see the Lord. (2) If I say that we received a degree of holiness when we were regenerated, then the text loses its emphasis as to the necessity of a second work. (3) Does the text make peace with all men and holiness equally necessary to seeing the Lord?

ANSWER: The "shall" should be "will" as the translation of the Greek denoting simple certainty rather than  a prohibition or a threat. Without purity no man will or can see God, who is perceived only by the pure in heart. The psychologists have not found out that the heart is a more important organ of knowledge than the head. Hence "he who loveth not knoweth not God." In this kind of knowledge there must be a similarity of feeling between the subject and the object, loving what God loves and hating what he hates. No degree of holiness is indicated in the text. Wesley calls attention to the fact "that the term 'sanctified' is continually applied by Paul to all that were justified; that by this term alone he rarely, if ever, means, 'saved from all sin,' and that it is not proper to use it in that sense without adding the word 'wholly,' 'entirely' or the like." The same criticism applies to the adjective "holy" — in the plural "saints," holy ones, and to the noun "holiness," since we have the phrase "perfecting holiness." Hence there is no warrant for quoting this text as teaching that without the second distinctive work no man will see the Lord. Wesley insists that this grace should be preached "always by way of promise; always drawing, rather than driving." This level-headed man gives further advice which is a safeguard against fanaticism: "I would be far from quenching the smoking fax — from discouraging those who serve God in a low degree. * * * I would encourage them to come up higher, without thundering hell and damnation in their ears." This style of promoting Christian perfection was a stumbling block to the writer for more than a quarter of a century. When Moses stood on Mt. Pisgah he didn't throw stones at his brethren on the plain below to get them to climb to those sunny heights. Yet "the not following after holiness," says Wesley, "is the direct way to fall into sin of every kind. The "peace with all men," which we are to follow after, is that which is thus limited by Paul: "If it be possible, as much as in you lieth." It takes two parties to make peace; you are responsible for only one of them.

Steele's Answers pp. 219-221.