We Believe In: Sanctification Part 1: Introduction -- By: Arthur L. Farstad

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 05:2 (Autumn 1992)
Article: We Believe In: Sanctification Part 1: Introduction
Author: Arthur L. Farstad


We Believe In:
Sanctification
Part 1: Introduction

Arthur L. Farstad

Editor
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Dallas, Texas

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Pet 1:15-16).

Blue-eyed British monk Pelagius (ca. A.D. 360-420) taught that if we should, we can. Denying original sin, he made grace essentially equal just to forgiveness, and he maintained that man was capable of doing good on his own. Pelagius naturally clashed head-on with Augustine (AD. 354–430). The latter taught that man can do no good in God’s eyes on his own, that his will is bound by Satan, and that only God’s grace can set people free.

Augustine won the day. By the end of the 6th century Pelagianism had largely disappeared. Later in church history, however, semi-Pelagianism triumphed over Augustinianism in Western Christendom. This is a modified form of grace plus works, and is still popular today, especially in Roman Catholicism.

The verse quoted at the head of our article is addressed to the saved— the saints. And yet how difficult it is to practice this command—yes, impossible to do so perfectly or at all on our own.

We who have read the NT know what the standards are: Christ, and the glory of God. It is hard to see how anyone could believe in Pelagius’s views and the NT at the same time.

Many people can and do believe in semi-Pelagianism, however. “We’re sinful,’ they say, “but not that bad!” With the help of the sacraments and by “co-operating” with God’s grace, they think they can earn God’s favor. Others, in Protestantism, believe similarly. To them sanctification is not all of God’s grace. Some even teach that we can attain Christian perfection while here on earth. They say we can be totally sanctified on a practical level.

One of my father’s favorite stories on the subject of sanctification was about a large interdenominational testimony meeting in New York City, probably before World War I.1 A man was on his feet facing the front of the auditorium. He announced to the assembled believers:

“I praise the Lord that I haven’t sinned once for six months.”

Some were impressed. Others were skeptical because they realized that his definition of sin would have had to be severely restricted to make this even a remotely credible possibility. Suddenly a feminine voice was raised from the back row of ...

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