God's Revivalist printed an article entitled "Entire Sanctification: Must There Be a Struggle?" (April, 1998). Subsequent letters to the editor expressed both approval and disapproval.
It appears that part of the problem concerning how to seek entire sanctification arises from a mistaken view of it. Entire sanctification is what the term implies, a completion of what was begun previously. It could be called "complete sanctification."
The usual holiness teaching concerning entire sanctification is from a perspective that a "mere Christian" is not fullyconsecrated, has never "died to self," does not fully follow the Lord, and has not been filled or baptized with the Holy Spirit. In short he is kind of a half-hearted Christian. I cannot find where such a Christianity is taught in the Bible.
Some of the words of Jesus mentioned in that article include Matthew 16:24, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me!" Now this obviously was not talking about some second work of grace subsequent to regeneration. Simply put, the plain, obvious meaning of the text is that to be a Christian at all (not a mature, perfected saint), one must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Christ!
How is this going to happen without some kind of a struggle? Denying oneself is not a "walk in the park." Jesus also said, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate!" (Luke 13:24) Don't tell me there is no fighting, struggling, striving, and dying to get to heaven! It is a constant battle!
Not only is there a crisis when we first face the claims of Jesus Christ on our lives, there must be a constant vigil lest we lapse back to self indulgence. Paul said, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest... I should be a castaway" (1 Cor 9:27). That's not so easy either!
Two trips to the altar and a profession of the highest state of grace does not make us eternally secure. Often instantaneous sanctification is taught at the expense of the progressive aspect of sanctification. One publication contended that entire sanctification is always an instantaneous blessing, but never cited one single verse of scripture in their whole article.
Yes, there must be a struggle to get to heaven. Cutting off the right hand and plucking out the right eye is not exactly easy. Neither is forsaking all things to follow Christ.
There is not only a struggle to get saved, there is a constant struggle to remain in the grace of God. We are saved by grace through faith, but God does not give saving faith to the half-hearted, uncommitted "seeker." Jesus commanded, "Strive [agonize in the Greek text] to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek [half-heartedly] to enter in, and shall not be able" (Luke 13:24).
I fear we have leaned much too far toward the "short cut" method to holiness taught by Phoebe Palmer, which is certainly not scriptural nor Wesleyan. John Fletcher once said, "The soaring faith of an immoral Antinomian is far inferior to the abortive faith of an imperfect penitent, and even to doubting." I had rather die pleading the merits of Christ's blood than resting in a false hope that comes with this so called "taking it by faith."
I doubt if anyone ever gets saved without some kind of a crisis in which there is a real struggle against sin. As far as the "second work" of grace is concerned, there surely would have to be a conviction of inbred sin, which is sin yet remaining in the soul, before one could intelligently seek for complete cleansing from all sin. This, no doubt, would produce a "second crisis," a struggle against inward sin, and a trusting in the merits of Christ's blood until we receive faith to believe God's promises. Then the assurance will come that all my sin, even mine, has been cleansed and I am filled with the fullness of God.
The struggle for this complete holiness has driven some desperate souls to conclude falsely that the blessing was not possible in this life. While the Scriptures teach that Christ is able to save "to the uttermost" (Heb 7:25), it may be that some honest seekers has seen more truth than the glib, name-it-and-claim-it variety who profess to be cleansed from all sin, but have never struggled with their own deceitful heart (Jer 17:9).