By Adam Clarke
The word “sanctify” has two meanings. It signifies to consecrate, that is, to separate from earthly and common use and to devote or dedicate to God and His service. It also signifies to make holy or pure. Many talk much, and indeed well, of what Christ has done for us, but how little is spoken of what He is to do in us! And yet all that He has done for us is in reference to what He is to do in us. He was incarnated, suffered, died, and rose again from the dead. He ascended to Heaven and there He appears in the presence of God for us. These were all saving, atoning and mediating acts for us, that He might reconcile us to God, blot out our sins and purge our consciences from dead works; that He might bind the strong man armed and take away the armor in which he trusted;* that He might wash the polluted heart, destroy every foul and abominable desire and all tormenting and unholy tempers, and that He might make the heart His throne and fill the soul with His light, power and life. In a word — that He might “destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:8).
* This is a reference to Luke 11:21-22. Jesus destroys the work of the devil in the Christian’s heart by “binding Satan” and by removing his armor. Satan’s armor is the sinful desires that he puts into the human heart.
These are done in us, without which we cannot be saved unto eternal life. But these acts done in us are consequent on the acts done for us; for had He not been incarnated, suffered and died in our stead, we could not receive either pardon or holiness; and if He does not cleanse and purify our hearts, we cannot enter into the place where all is purity (Heaven); for the heavenly vision is given only to them who are purified from all unrighteousness, as it is written, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8). Nothing is purified by death — nothing in the grave — nothing in heaven. The living stones of the temple (Christians, 1 Pet. 2:5), like those of the temple at Jerusalem (1 Kings 5:17-18; 6:7), are hewn, squared and cut here (figuratively speaking) in the Church militant, to prepare them to enter into the composition of the Church triumphant (Heaven).
Entire sanctification is the restoration of man to the state of holiness from which he fell (Gen. 3), by creating him anew in Christ Jesus and restoring to him that image and likeness of God, which he has lost. A higher meaning than this it cannot have; a lower meaning it must not have. God made man in that degree of perfection that was pleasing to His own infinite wisdom and goodness (Gen. 1:26-27). Sin defaced this divine image, but Jesus came to restore it. Sin must have no triumph and the Redeemer of mankind must have His glory. If man were not perfectly saved from all sin, sin and Satan would triumph because they have done a mischief that Christ either cannot or will not remove. To say He cannot would be shocking blasphemy against the infinite power and dignity of the great Creator. To say He will not would be equally such against the infinite benevolence and holiness of His nature. All sin, whether in power, guilt or defilement is the work of the devil; and He, Jesus, came to destroy the works of the devil. As all unrighteousness is sin, so His blood cleanseth from all sin, because it cleanseth from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:7, 9).
The whole design of God was to restore man to His image and raise him from the ruins of his fall. In a word — to make him perfect (in heart); to blot out all his sins, purify his soul and fill him with holiness, so that no unholy temper, evil desire, impure affection or passion shall either lodge or have any being within him. This and this only is true religion or Christian perfection. A less salvation than this would be dishonorable to the sacrifice of Christ and the operation of the Holy Spirit, and would be as unworthy of the true definition of Christianity as it would be of that of holiness or perfection.
When St. Paul says he “warns every man, and teaches every man in all wisdom, that he may present every man PERFECT in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:28), he must mean something. What then is this something? He must mean “holiness, without which none shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Call it by what name we please, it must imply the pardon of all transgressions and the removal of the whole body of sin and death (the sinful nature, Rom. 6:6). This must take place before we can be like Jesus and see Him as He is (1 Jn. 3:2) in the brightness of His own glory. This fitness, then, to appear before God, and this thorough preparation for eternal glory, is what I plead for, pray for, and heartily recommend to all true believers, under the name of “Christian perfection.” Had I a better name, one more energetic, one with a greater plenitude of meaning, one more worthy of the efficacy of the blood of Jesus that bought our peace and cleanseth from all unrighteousness, I would gladly adopt it and use it.
This article was condensed and revised from Entire Sanctification by Adam Clarke, and may be reproduced and distributed.