PENTECOSTAL REGENERATION & ENTIRE SANCTIFICATION
Jack Jones

"If a person is baptized with the Holy Ghost when he is regenerated, then there is not need or place for a second work of grace. Those who teach such a doctrine are enemies of the Wesleyan doctrine of entire sanctification."

But John Wesley believed in Pentecostal regeneration and also in entire sanctification. In his letter to Rev. Joseph Benson in 1770, he said:

But I have no time to throw away in contending for words, especially where the thing is allowed. And you allow the whole thing which I contend for; an entire deliverance from sin, a recovery of the whole image of God, the loving God with all your heart, soul, and strength. And you believe God is able to give you this; yea, and to give it you in an instant. You trust He will. Oh, hold fast this also; this blessed hope, which He has wrought in your heart! And with all zeal and diligence, confirm the brethren, 1. In holding fast that whereto they have attained; namely, the remission of all their sins, by faith in a bleeding Lord. 2. In expecting a second change, whereby they shall be saved from all sin, and perfected in love.

If they like to call this "receiving the Holy Ghost," they may; only the phrase, in that sense, is not Scriptural, and not quite proper; for they all "received the Holy Ghost," when they were justified. God then "sent forth the Spirit of His Son into their hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

The question, then, is better addressed to Wesley. If they received the Holy ghost when they were saved, how did Wesley find any place for a second blessing?

John Miley gives an answer: "The doctrine of an incompleteness of the work of regeneration underlies that of entire sanctification, particularly in its Wesleyan form."

Wesley's sermon "On Sin in Believers" makes his view of the incompleteness of regeneration clear. He states:

And as far as I have ever observed, the whole body of ancient Christians, who have left us anything in writing declare with one voice that even believers in Christ, till they are "strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might", have need to "wrestle with flesh and blood", with an evil nature, as well as "with principalities and powers".

Yet he cautions:

The same testimony is given by all other churches; not only by the Greek and Romish Church, but by every Reformed Church in Europe, of whatever denomination. Indeed some of these seem to carry the thing too far; so describing the corruption of heart in a believer, as scarce to allow that he has dominion over it, but rather is in bondage thereto. And by this means they leave hardly any distinction between a believer and unbeliever.

He then gives his understanding of what it means to be regenerate. He writes:

I use indifferently the words "regenerate", "justified", or "believers"; since, though they have not precisely the same meaning (the first implying an inward, actual change; the second a relative one, and the third, the means whereby both the one and the other are wrought) yet they come to one and the same thing, as every one that "believes" is both "justified" and "born of God".

By "sin" [in believers] I here understand inward sin: any sinful temper, passion, or affection; such as pride, self-will, love of the world, in any kind or degree; such as lust, anger, peevishness; any disposition contrary to the mind which was in Christ.

The question is not concerning outward sin, whether a child of God commits sin or no. we all agree and earnestly maintain, "He that committeth sin is of the devil." We agree, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin."

We allow that the state of a justified person is inexpressibly great and glorious. He is "born again, not of blood, nor of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." He is a child of God, a member of Christ, an heir of the kingdom of heaven. "The peace of God which passeth all understanding, keepeth his heart and mind in Christ Jesus." His very "body is a temple of the Holy Ghost", and "an habitation of God through the Spirit". He is "created anew in Christ Jesus"; he is washed, he is sanctified. His "heart is purified by faith"; He is cleansed from "the corruption that is in the world." "The love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto him." And so long as he "walketh in love" (which he may always do) he "worships God in spirit and in truth". He "keepeth the commandments of God, and doeth those things that are pleasing in His sight"; so "exercising himself as to have a conscience void of offence, towards God and towards man". And he has power both over outward and inward sin, even from the moment he is justified.

The sum of all is this: there are in every person, even after he is justified, two contrary principles, nature and grace, termed by St. Paul, the "flesh" and the "spirit". Hence although even babes in Christ aresanctified, yet it is only in part. In a degree, according to the measure of their faith, they arespiritual; yet, in a degree they are carnal. Accordingly, believers are continually exhorted to watch against the flesh, as well as the world and the devil. And to this agrees the constant experience of the children of God. While they feel this witness in themselves, they feel a will not wholly resigned to the will of God. They know they are in Him, and yet find a heart ready to depart from him, a proneness to evil in many instances, and backwardness to that which is good.... Let us, therefore, hold fast that sound doctrine "once delivered to the saints", and delivered down by them with the written word to all succeeding generations: that although we are renewed, cleansed, purified, sanctified, the moment we truly believe in Christ, yet we are not then renewed, cleansed, purified altogether; but the flesh, the evil nature, still remains (though subdued) and wars against the Spirit.

In the "Plain Account" Wesley instructed such believers to find deliverance:

If a man be deeply and fully convinced, after justification, of inbred sin; if he then experience a gradual mortification of sin, and afterwards an entire renewal in the image of God; if to this change, immensely greater than that wrought when he was justified, be added a clear, direct witness of the renewal; I judge it as impossible this man should be deceived herein, as that God should lie.

He also gives the character of the entirely sanctified in a question and answer format:

22. By what "fruit of the Spirit" may we "know that we are of God," even in the highest sense?

By love, joy, peace, always abiding; by invariable long-suffering, patience, resignation; by gentleness, triumphing over all provocation; by goodness, mildness,sweetness, tenderness of spirit; by fidelity, simplicity, godly sincerity; by meekness, calmness, evenness of spirit; by temperance, not only in food and sleep, but in all things natural and spiritual.

23. But what great matter is there is this? Have we not all this when we are justified?

What! Total resignation to the will of God, without any mixture of self-will? Gentleness, without any touch of anger, even the moment we are provoked? Love to God, without the least love to the creature, but in and for God, excluding all pride? Love to man, excluding all envy, all jealousy, and rash judging? Meekness, keeping the whole soul inviolably calm? And temperance in all things? Deny that any ever came up to this, if you please; but do not say all who are justified do.

24. But some who are newly justified do. What, then, will we say to these?

If they really do, I will say they are sanctified; saved from sin in that moment; and that they never need lose what God has given, or feel sin any more.

But certainly this is an exempt case. It is otherwise with the generality of those that are justified: they feel in themselves more or less pride, anger, self-will, a heart bent to backsliding. And till they have gradually mortified these, they are not fully renewed in love.

25. But is not this the case of all that are justified? Do they not gradually die to sin and grow in grace, till at, or perhaps a little before death, God perfects them in love?

I believe this is the case of most, but not all. God usually gives a considerable time for men to receive light, to grow in grace, to do and suffer His will before they are either justified or sanctified; but He does not invariably adhere to this; sometimes He "cuts short His work"; He does the work of many years in a few weeks; perhaps in a week, a day, an hour. He justifies or sanctifies both those who have done or suffered nothing, and who have not had time for a gradual growth either in light or grace. And "may He not do what He will with His own? Is thine eye evil, because He is good?"

It need not, therefore, be affirmed over and over and proved by forty texts of Scripture, either that most men are perfected in love at last, that there is a gradual work of God in the soul, or that, generally speaking, it is a long time, even many years, before sin is destroyed. All this we know: but we know likewise, that God may, with man's good leave, "cut short his work," in whatever degree He pleases, and do the usual work of many years in a moment. He does so in many instances; and yet there is a gradual work, both before and after that moment; so that one may affirm the work is gradual; another, it is instantaneous, without any manner of contradiction.

It seems to me the battle is really joined when we teach that the experience of the Apostles before Pentecost was not New Testament regeneration. If the Pentecostal experience represents regeneration, and if the life of the Apostles subsequent to it is the expected life of all who are regenerate, then it is apparent that drastic revisions of teaching on the subject are in order. In the first place, one can no longer point to the defective experience of the disciples previous to Pentecost as the standard for all who are "merely regenerated." This may mean that we have been urging "awakened sinners" to seek entire sanctification when they yet need justification! And the entire sanctification Wesley taught must exceed the standard exegesis. This is, of course, true, as noted above.

I have been interested to note the affinity of C. S. Lewis with the Wesleyan doctrine. He wrote in Mere Christianity:

It [the New Testament] talks about Christians "being born again"; it talks about them "putting on Christ"; about Christ "being formed in us"; about our coming to "have the mind of Christ." Put right out of your head the idea that these are only fancy ways of saying that Christians are to read what Christ said and try to carry it out.... They mean that a real Person, Christ, here and now, in that very room where you are saying your prayers, is doing things to you. It is not a question of a good man who died two thousand years ago. It is a living Man, still as much a man as you, and still as much God as He was when He created the world, really coming and interfering with your very self; killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has.

Christ says, "Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don't want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked - the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours." For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call "ourselves," to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be "good." We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way - centered on money or pleasure or ambition - and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ has warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs.

In summary, the work of entire sanctification as a second work of grace is a corollary of a doctrine of incompleteness in regeneration. Therefore Pentecostal regeneration cannot prejudice the doctrine any more than Pentecostal sanctification might have enhanced it.


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