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There is no judgment from God on the believer, nor annoyance with God in respect to the believer -- neither in the last day nor today.
From a familial aspect, God is significantly displeased with our behavior and punishment is sure -- either from God or from our own consequences of that sin. One could look at David's prayer of repentance in Psalm 51 to see the devastating effects of sin in his life. In addition, almost all references to the law of sowing and reaping are addressed to God's people -- not to the world. (Numbers 32:23, Galatians 6:7-8). Colossians 3:25, "But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons."
Furthermore, God cannot wipe away the possibility of sin. To do so would be to wipe away our free wills. He would have to make it impossible for us to choose wrong. Likewise, if He could eliminate the possibility of sin, He would also have to eliminate the possibility to choose good. And, if we cannot choose right, then there is no such thing as righteous character. All character would be imposed by God. Thus, Christians must have the power to sin. But if there is no condemnation to those who sin, does that give us a license to sin? Or, are we free to sin as we please? Paul would answer emphatically, "God forbid!"
Secondly, we must recognize that the believer is undergoing the process of sanctification. C.S. Lewis states
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" (Lewis 2001).
The basic underlying meaning of sanctification is consecration, or separation, unto God. As Lewis eludes, this will result in purification and cleansing from moral evil and defilement, and a brighter image of Christ will be seen in our lives. It must be noted, however, that sanctification is not just limited to regenerated believers. For example, scriptures state that the prophet Jeremiah was sanctified even before his birth (Jeremiah 1:5). The furniture of the tabernacle, which in itself was morally neutral, was set apart, or sanctified (Exodus 40:10; Numbers 7:1). Jesus Christ, who had no need of cleansing from sin, sanctified Himself (John 17:19), showing us that sanctification, as it applied to Him, was a complete separation from this world to the perfect will of the Father. In John 10:36 we find the Father sanctified, or set apart, the Son for a specific purpose.
It should be noted that sanctification is not an act to make us sinless, for who would dare say that Jesus Christ would need such an experience? For Hebrews 7:26 states, "For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens…" The truth is that believers are set apart or sanctified in Him; thus, separating us from sin and the world.
In considering what part sanctification has to play in our Christian experience, note that there are three areas or aspects of sanctification. Our positional or definitive sanctification has been brought to pass by the blood of Christ and we are now in Him. This positional side of our sanctification is eternal and belongs to all believers regardless of maturity or lack of it, because it is based entirely upon the finished work of Christ . Hebrews 10:10 "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Since it is not based on man's efforts, we are set apart or sanctified forever, and this position can only be altered by the act of apostasy.
As a result of a believer's perfect position in Him, the child of God will be motivated to live a life of obedience to Jesus Christ. When the believer walks by faith and rests in his Savior, he is in a position to grow in grace and be used in the service of the Lord. This brings us to the "present tense" of our sanctification. The Apostle Paul urges the Corinthian new Christians to "grow up." 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?"
These were still babes in Christ and were filled with envying, strife and the like. Unfortunately, many who are recent converts will indeed act like babies for they are in the process of growing to maturity. They are in the very early stages of progressive sanctification (McGowan 1999).
In order for Christians to progress in practical sanctification, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit and in a state of complete dependence upon Him. Ephesians 5:18, "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit…" Then, we must use the Word of God to live a holy life. God's Word will continually transform believers into the image of Christ, as the Spirit of God empowers us for a life of victory.
The third aspect of sanctification is when we will be entirely separated, or sanctified, from the very presence of sin. This aspect, often called ultimate sanctification, will be obtained in heaven when we shall be completely and eternally set apart to God. Philippians 1:6, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
The final crucial truth to understand about sin is that there is only one sin that can separate us, eternally, from Jesus Christ. That is, only one sin can bring about, as the Free Will Baptist describes, a "fall from grace." This issue is that act of apostasy -- the willful retraction of faith. Free Will Baptists believe the Scriptures do teach that in regard to believers "their future obedience and final salvation are neither determined nor certain, since through infirmity and manifold temptations they are in danger of falling; and they ought, therefore, to watch and pray lest they make shipwreck of their faith and be lost" (O'Donnell 1974).
Hebrews 6:4-6, "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." Picirilli summarizes this passage by stating, "Hebrews 6:4-6 and the entire book seem too clear to dispute: personal apostasy from a truly regenerate condition really is possible and recovery from it impossible" (Picirilli 2002).
Apostasy involves a willful defection from the saving knowledge of Christ. The apostate forsakes Christ and the cross by renouncing faith in Christ alone. This is in sharp contrast to the "backslider." As Picirilli states, apostasy is "much more serious than what most people mean by backsliding" (Picirilli 2002). The term "backsliding" is applied only to God's people, not to unbelievers. In other words, the backslider must have at one point in his life been placed in a position close to God from which he has since slid back or away from and toward a more distant position from God. Backsliding does not necessarily mean a loss of salvation, but certainly may lead to it if the believer becomes apostate.
The New Testament is filled with warnings against a believer making compromises in his spiritual life. The one common cause of backsliding is sin allowed in one's life. The remedy is repentance and return to God. God offers hope of restoration for the backslider. The classic example is the story of Peter's denial of Christ, his repentance and restoration.
But, the apostate has no remedy for his condition. As Ashby clearly states, "My exegesis…leads me to believe that when one…[continue]
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