SIR ROBERT ANDERSON
Secret Service Theologian
THE GOSPEL AND
HOLINESS AND SANCTIFICATION.
WORDS mean exactly what they pass current for, and with
the English Bible before us it is idle to insist on a distinction between
"holiness" and "sanctification." But an examination of the various passages
where the Greek correlatives of these terms occur will help much toward
accuracy of thought and a clear grasp of the truth upon this subject.
The meaning of (hagiazein) in Scripture (and I am not aware that it ever has any other meaning), is to separate, or set apart, for God, or to some sacred purpose; and (hagiasmos) means either the act of consecration, or the condition into which that act introduces the subject of it. There is no question of any change of essential qualities. The subject may be (a) intrinsically holy already, or (b) it may be, and continue to be, intrinsically unholy, or (c) it may be incapable of moral qualities altogether. For example (a) Christ was sanctified by the Father,1 (b) the sinner is sanctified on believing; and an unconverted husband or wife is sanctified in virtue of marriage with a holy person; and (c) the vessels of the temple were sanctified, as also the creatures we use for food are "sanctified by the word of God and prayer."
The word means, therefore, to make a person or thing holy, in the sense in which to justify a person is to make that person righteous. His condition is changed, but not necessarily his character. In the Appendix I give a list of all the passages where the word occurs, and a careful perusal of them will show that in one case only does the word seem to bear a different meaning. I allude to the prayer of I Thessalonians v. 23. "The God of peace sanctify you wholly." But a consideration of the context will show that "wholly" refers not to progressive sanctification of the whole man regarded as a unit, but to the absolute sanctification of every part of the man considered as a complex being, made up of body, soul, and spirit. In John xvii. it is quite unjustifiable to put a different meaning on the word "sanctify," when the Lord uses it of Himself, and when He applies it to His disciples. And Ephesians v. 26 teaches that He gave Himself for the Church "that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the washing of water by the Word."
It will be observed that we are said to be sanctified by God the Father, sanctified by the Spirit, sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, sanctified in Christ Jesus, and sanctified by blood. These all refer to one and the same sanctification. God is the Author, the Spirit the Agent, and the blood the means, of our sanctification, and it is in Christ that all this is ours. The attempt of some commentators to cut up verse eleven of 1st Corinthians vi., and to make "justified" refer to Christ, and "sanctified" to the Spirit, is mere special pleading. The believer is sanctified absolutely and for ever, even as he is justified; and of necessity it is by the Spirit, for through Him it is that every blessing flows to us.
All this is confirmed by a careful study of the passages where (hagiasmos) is used. It is very remarkable that when sanctification is spoken of as by the Spirit it is connected with election, and precedes faith. And the reason of this seems to be that, though chronologically faith and sanctification are simultaneous, there is nevertheless a moral order, varying according as we view the subject from our own standpoint, or from that of the sovereignty of God. In the former case, faith comes first, and sanctification follows as a consequence; but when election comes in, we see our faith to be the result of othe divine decree which set us apart to eternal life.
It is further remarkable that, save as above noticed, sanctification is never spoken of as being specially the work of the Spirit. But the reason of this is clear ; the truth is too obvious to need even to be stated. It is only by the help of the Holy Spirit that a believer can stand for a moment. Truth is emphasised in Scripture, not, as in a creed, according to its doctrinal importance relatively to other truths, but according to the practical need which exists for enforcing it upon the believer.
Holiness means, as we have seen, not merely the state of being sanctified, but also the moral character akin to that state. And here the Greek, a language rich in such distinctions, is not confined to a single word. The quality or attribute of holiness is expressed by (hagiosunee), a word, which, strange to say, is used but thrice, namely, Romans i. 4, "the Spirit of holiness"; not the Holy Ghost, but the Spirit of Christ, in contrast with the flesh mentioned in the preceding verse; 2 Corinthians vii. i. upon which I have already commented and 2 Thessalonians iii. 13, "unblameable in holiness," a very solemn and significant word, especially in the connection where it occurs. The kindred word (hagotees) is found only in Hebrews xii. 10, "That we might be partakers of His holiness." And (hosiotecs) in Luke i. 75 ; and Ephesians iv. 24.
A comparison of Ephesians iv. 24 with I Corinthians i. 30, will give an insight into the difference between this last word and (hagiasmos). Israel's sanctification, and indeed their entire position as a redeemed people, was maintained by the "middle wall of partition" which separated them from other nations. But Christ Himself is to His people, now, what the " middle wall of partition" was to the Jew He is our sanctification. The words are plain and simple "But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus who was made unto us wisdom from God, and both righteousness and sanctification, even redemption." It is often in virtue of what Christ has done for us that we gain the place we hold in redemption it is entire in virtue of what Christ now is to us that we can be maintained in that place.
But in Ephesians iv. 24, it is not a questioned what Christ is to us, but of the essential qualities the new creation of which He is the Head, and of what we ourselves ought to be in practical conformity therewith. The new man is created in holiness. To ignore the truth that Christ is made unto us sanctification and that therefore the believer is holy, independently of his life on earth, is to abandon or deny the true position of the Christian but to suppose that Christ is made unto us holiness in this further sense also, would lead to the still deeper error of supposing that holy living is of no account.
CLEANSING BY BLOOD.
CLEANSING with blood is a common expression in the book of Leviticus, but in the New Testament it is found only in the 9th chapter of Hebrews, and the beginning of the First Epistle of John. Of Hebrews I have already spoken; but the other passage claims notice, not only because of its connection with the present subject, but also on account of the difficulties that seem to surround it :-" If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."
It is a canon of interpretation that whenever the benefits or results of the death of Christ are ascribed to His blood, the figure thus implied is borrowed from the types. It behoves us, therefore, to turn back to the Old Testament, and there to seek out the particular key-picture to which it is intended to direct our minds. In i Peter i., for example, the second verse will naturally turn our thoughts to the only occasion on which blood was sprinkled on the people of Israel (Exodus xxiv.); while verse 19 brings us back to their one great redemption sacrifice of the passover in Egypt.
Here then we have a certain clew to the meaning of the text before us: " The blood of Jesus cleanseth us from all sin." The particular type in the light which we are to understand the word must be th of some offering which was for sin; and one moreover which was for the people generally, as distinguished from those which were for individuals and further, it must, be a sacrifice of which th benefits were abiding. This at once excludes the offerings of the first fifteen chapters of Leviticus and it will confine our consideration to the great day of expiation, prescribed in the i6th chapter "For on that day" (was the word to Moses) "he shall make an atonement for you to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord."
We can picture to ourselves some devout Israelite telling of his God to a heathen stranger, recounting to him the proofs of Jehovah's goodness and faithfulness to His people, and going on to speak of His holiness, His terribleness - how He was "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity," and how, for acts in which his guest would fail to see sin at all, He had visited them with signal judgments. And we can conceive that, in amazement, the stranger might demand whether the people were free from the weaknesses and wickedness of other men. And, On his hearing an eager repudiation of all such pretensions, with what deepening wonder and awe he would exclaim, "How then can you live before a God so great and terrible?"
And here the heathen stranger within the gates of the Israelite, would have reached a point analogous to that to which the opening verses of John's Epistle lead us. Eternal life has been manifested, and life is the only ground of fellowship with God. But "God is light," and it is only in the light, as the sphere of its enjoyment, that such fellowship is possible. The light of God, how can sinners bear it? Is it by attaining sinlessness? The thought is proof of self-deception and utter absence of the truth (v. 8). But just as the question of his guest would turn the thoughts of the Israelite to his great day of expiation, and call to his lips the words, "It is the cleansing blood which alone enables us to live before Jehovah," so the Christian turns to the great Sin-offering, and his faith finds utterance in the words, "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."
"Washing with blood" is an expression wholly unknown to the law, and it conveys an idea which is quite at variance with its teaching. It has no scriptural warrant. For the correct reading of Rev i. 5, as given in R.V. is "Unto Him that loveth us and loosed us from our sins by His own blood." Ps. II. 7, must of course be explained by the law; and the student of Scripture will naturally turn to the 19th of Numbers, or to Leviticus xiv. 6-9, to seek its meaning. A like remark applies to other similar passages in the Old Testament. Overlooking this, Cowper derived his extraordinary idea of a fowntain of blood from the i3th of Zechariah, construed in connection with the received reading of Rev. i. 5. The fact is that though cleansing with water was one of the most frequent and characteristic of the typical ordinances, it has been almost entirely forgotten in our creeds. In that day there shal1 be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for separation for uncleanness. (Zech. xiii. i, see marginal reading, and compare Num. xix. 9.) In that day the epoch referred to in verses 914 of the preceding chapter Israel shall be admitted to the full benefits of the great sin- offering typified in the 19th of Numbers. (See also Rom. Xl. 2529) The washing of garments in blood is likewise wholly unscriptural. save in poetical language-as e g Genesis xlix i i The meaning of Revelation vii. 14 is too often frittered away thus as though it were a merely poetical expression. But the figures used are typical, not poetical: These are they that come out of the great tribulation [compare Matt Xxiv 21] and they washed their robes [compare Rev. xix. 8], and made them white by the blood of the Lamb" Their lives were purified practically from the defilements that surrounded them, and purged in a still deeper sense by the blood. In Rev. xxii. 14, also, the true reading is Blessed are they that wash their robes.
It is not "has cleansed," nor yet "will cleanse," but "cleanseth." it is not the statement of a fact merely, but of a truth, and truths are greater and deeper even than facts.
But how "cleanseth"?' Just as the blood of the sin-offering cleansed the Israelite. It was not by any renewal of its application to him, but by the continuance of its efficacy. With Israel its virtue continued throughout the year; with us it is forever. It is not mere acts of sin that are in question. here, but the deeper problem of our condition as sinners (compare v. 10 with v. 8). And neither the difficulty, nor yet the answer to it, is the same. In. regard to the one the Israelite turned to the day of atonement, and said "the blood cleanseth"; but in case of his committing some act of sin, he had to bring his sin-offering, according to the 4th or 5th or 6th chapter of Leviticus. But the need of these special offerings depended on "the weakness and unprofitableness" of the sacrifices of the old Covenant. And i John i. 7,9, seems clearly to teach that all our need is met by the twofold cleansing - typified by the blood of the great sin-offering of Leviticus xvi., and the water of the great rite of Numbers xix. For the believer who sins against God.to dismiss the matter by "the blood cleanseth," is the levity and daring of antinomianism. For such the word is, If we confess our sins": no flippant acknowledgment with the lip, but a solemn and real dealing with God; and thus he obtains again and again a renewal of the benefits of the death of Christ. "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
And this, no doubt, is the truth intended by the popular expression "coming back to blood." The Israelite "came back to blood" by seeking a fresh sacrifice; but had he attempted to "come back to blood" in the sense of preserving the blood of the sin-offering in order to avail himself of it for future cleansing, he would have been cut off without mercy for presumptuous sin. The most superficial knowledge either of the precepts or the principles of the book of Leviticus, will make us avoid a form of words so utterly opposed to both. With one great exception the blood of every sin-offering was poured round the altar of burnt-offering, and thus consumed; and that exception was the sacrifice of the i9th of Numbers, so often referred to in these pages. The red heifer was the sin-offering in that aspect of it in which the sinner can come back to it to obtain cleansing. And here the whole beast and its blood was burnt to ashes outside the camp, and the unclean person was cleansed by being sprinkled with water which had touched those ashes. But to confound the cleansing by blood - the 16th of Leviticus aspect of the sin-oflering, with the cleansing by water - the i9th of Numbers aspect of it - betrays ignorance of Scripture. The one is a continuously enduring agency; the other a continually repeated act.
There is no question, observe, as to whether the benefit depends on the death of Christ. But with some, perhaps, it is a question merely of giving up the "form of sound words"; with others, the far more solemn one of depreciating the sacrifice of Christ and denying to it an efficacy which even the typical sin-offering possessed for Israel. Christ has died and risen and gone up to God, and now the blood cleanses from all sin. It is not that it avails to accomplish a succession of acts of cleansing, for the believer, but that its efficacy remains to cleanse him continuously. It is not in order that it may thus cleanse him, that the believer confesses his sin: his only right to the place he holds, even as he confesses, depends on. the fact that it does thus cleanse him. It was only in virtue of the place he had through the blood of the lamb that the Israelite could avail himself of the ashes of the red heifer. And our life, our hope, our destiny, depend entirely upon the enduring efficacy of the blood of Christ, that, whether in bright days of fellowship with God, or in hours of wilderness failure, "the blood cleanseth from all sin" : here it is a question only of the preciousness of that blood, and of the faithfulness and power of Him in Whom we trust.
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