Sanctification, a Second Work of Grace
Sanctification, as we are using the term, is a second definite work of grace wrought in the heart by the operation of the Holy Spirit.
The disciples had their names written in heaven (Luke 10:20). They received power and authority over unclean spirits and diseases and were sent by Jesus to preach the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:1-2). They had forsaken all to follow him (Matthew 19:29). They had kept the Word of God (John 17:6). They were not of the world even as Jesus was not of the world (John 17:14). Jesus recommended them unto the Father throughout His entire prayer in the 17th chapter of John.
Surely no one would question their sins being forgiven, and yet the manifestations of something within which was contrary to the nature of Christ kept popping out. On one occasion it manifested itself in the ambition of two of His disciples who came desiring more prominent places than the rest, and then by the jealousy that was manifest by the others (Matthew 20:20-28). On another occasion they all were reasoning among themselves as to who would be greatest (Luke 9:46-48). And then a desire for vengeance was manifested on their part because the people of a certain village had not received their master (Luke 9:54). Every manifestation of personal ambition, jealousy, vengeance, or attitude to take one’s own part, or to get even, all strife, envy, selfishness, contention or division are fruits of the carnal nature. Jesus, knowing these things, and the great handicap they would continually be under and the trouble that would surely eventually come because of this nature, prayed that they might be sanctified (John 17:17,19), even though their committed sins had already been forgiven and they were not now committing sin. But these incidents all manifested something that would lead them into sin again, were it permitted to continue to live in their hearts (Luke 22:31-34).
The second Corinthian letter was addressed to saints and to the church of God and to brethren (2 Corinthians 1:1,8). They were justified people and yet Paul expressed the desire to go to them that they “might have a second benefit [grace]” (2 Corinthians 1:15)—in other words, be sanctified.
The Epistle to the Hebrews was addressed to “holy brethren” who were “partakers of the heavenly calling.” (Hebrews 3:1) They had come to a glorious, heavenly place and atmosphere and into a fellowship with saints and heavenly beings. Yea, they had come to Jesus (Hebrews 12:22-24; 10:32-34). Yet the entire epistle is an explanation of a deeper experience and an exhortation to “go on to perfection.” (Hebrews 6:1) But “He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14) Hence this deeper experience or second grace is sanctification.
The Thessalonian brethren were in a very healthy state spiritually, as is evidenced by the Apostle Paul’s letters to them. He first says he thanked God always for them when he remembered their state (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3). Then he declared them to be examples to all saints; and they had, and manifested a faith that was spoken of in all parts (1 Th. 1:7-8). They had received the preaching of Paul as the Word of God and it had worked effectually in them (1 Th. 2:13). They were his hope and crown of rejoicing (1 Th. 2:19-20). They followed a consistent policy of brotherly love (1 Th. 4:9-10). They were not in darkness but were children of light (1 Th. 5:4-5). Yet Paul reflected that there was a lack in their faith (1 Th. 3:10), and declared unto them that the will of God was that they might be sanctified (1 Th. 4:3-4).
Some often object that God does not do a half or partway work, and that when He saves us and forgives our sins, He has completed the entire work of salvation in our case and there is nothing more to be done. However, we find at different times God has worked in this way. God could easily have spoken into existence all things that we have in the world in an instant, but He rather adopted a plan of taking six different days to do different parts of the creation. It was something progressive. At Bethsaida, Jesus could have opened the eyes of the blind man at once, but He rather chose to use a plan of two applications of clay—the first time the man saw men as trees walking, and the second time he saw all things clearly (Mark 8:22-26). However, this is a different analogy in one particular respect. The justification of an individual and the forgiveness of one’s sins is a complete operation, not just a half-way work. All our sins are forgiven. Sanctification is also a separate and distinct work and yet complete. It is not two half-way works, but it is two separate and distinct works and both complete. Each one is complete within itself, and yet it takes both of them to make our salvation and redemption complete. Neither could we well be justified and sanctified at one time because one does not realize the presence of the carnal nature or need of its removal until it begins to stir in the heart and cause him difficulty. Then it is evident that this must be accomplished in our hearts subsequent to the repenting and forgiveness of sins.