Here surely is how Christ sanctified our humanity: by living a human life with all the practical choices and decisions of every day, and with all the outer demands and all the inner pressures and weakness of mortal humanity living in a fallen world in this present evil age. He took our sin, but in no way was he sinful. He entered into our slavery, but in no way was he enslaved. He entered into our pollution, but in no way was he defiled. Rather he sanctified not only our human nature in his nativity but also our human life by his consistent and continuously holy living. Having become one of us, a member of our sinful human race, “sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3), he not only sanctified our human nature in his own Person, but so sanctified human personal life that it became possible for us too to live as he did as genuinely compassionate and holy persons. It was under these conditions, we must conceive, that he sanctified our human life by consistently selfless, God-centered choices, which ultimately were to lead him inevitably to the cross.
— Noble, T.A. (2013-02-19). Holy Trinity: Holy People: The Theology of Christian Perfecting (Didsbury Lecture Series) (p. 176). Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.
I intend this as a site that is focused on the Wesleyan teachings about holy living. I know I pursue other topics, but I know what I am about, and I mean to emphasize the call to live a life wholly devoted to God. I believe that this the great animating theme of the Wesleyan tradition — and it is a theme I greatly appreciate.
To this end, I continue to scan and edit old holiness books, and maintain two sister blogs on Blogger: Steele’s Answers and The Hidden Life. I don’t personally agree with everything that is said on those pages — or maybe I should say, I don’t always agree with the way it is said. But, I believe those writers were intending to call us to the living of a life wholly devoted to God and to the genuine well-being of others — and I need to hear that challenge and that call — I’m sure I’m not the only one. (more…)
Christian faith is then, not only an assent to the whole gospel of Christ, but also a full reliance on the blood of Christ; a trust in the merits of his life, death, and resurrection; a recumbency upon him as our atonement and our life, as given for us, and living in us; and, in consequence hereof, a closing with him, and cleaving to him, as our “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,” or, in one word, our salvation.
— John Wesley, Sermon #1: “Salvation by Faith”
An interesting admission from a man who was a strong defender of the penal substitution theory of the atonement:
The demand that the Atonement shall be exhibited in vital relation to a new life in which sin is overcome… is entirely legitimate, and it touches a weak point in the traditional Protestant doctrine. Dr. [Thomas] Chalmers tells us that he was brought up — such was the effect of the current orthodoxy upon him — in a certain distrust of good works. Some were certainly wanted, but not as being themselves salvation, only, as he puts it, as tokens of justification. It was a distinct stage in his religious progress when he realized that true justification sanctifies, and that the soul can and ought to abandon itself spontaneously and joyfully to do the good that it delights in… An atonement that does not regenerate… is not an atonement in which men can be asked to believe.
Salvation begins with what is usually termed (and very properly) preventing grace; including the first wish to please God, the first dawn of light concerning his will, and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against him. All these imply some tendency toward life; some degree of salvation; the beginning of a deliverance from a blind, unfeeling heart, quite insensible of God and the things of God. Salvation is carried on by convincing grace, usually in Scripture termed repentance; which brings a larger measure of self-knowledge, and a farther deliverance from the heart of stone. Afterwards we experience the proper Christian salvation; whereby, “through grace,” we “are saved by faith;” consisting of those two grand branches, justification and sanctification. By justification we are saved from the guilt of sin, and restored to the favour of God; by sanctification we are saved from the power and root of sin, and restored to the image of God. All experience, as well as Scripture, shows this salvation to be both instantaneous and gradual. It begins the moment we are justified, in the holy, humble, gentle, patient love of God and man. It gradually increases from that moment, as “a grain of mustard-seed, which, at first, is the least of all seeds,” but afterwards puts forth large branches, and becomes a great tree; till, in another instant, the heart is cleansed, from all sin, and filled with pure love to God and man. But even that love increases more and more, till we “grow up in all things into him that is our Head;” till we attain “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
— John Wesley, Sermon #83: “On Working Out Our Own Salvation.”
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There is no perfection ‘which does not admit of a continual increase.’ However far a Christian may advance in sanctification ‘he hath still need to ‘grow in grace’, and daily to advance in the knowledge and love of God His Saviour.’ The gradual development, then, still continues. It is conceived primarily as further growth in love on the plane of entire sanctification. The Christian life must either wax or wane. It is impossible for the Christian, even if fully sanctified, to stand still. ‘Yea, and when ye have attained a measure of perfect love, when God has circumcised your hearts, and enabled you to love him with all your heart and with all your soul, think not of resting there. That is impossible. You cannot stand still; you must either rise or fall; rise higher or fall lower. Therefore the voice of God to the children of Israel, to the children of God, is, ‘Go forward’! ‘Forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forward unto those that are before, press on to the mark, for the prize of your high calling of God in Christ Jesus’!’ The Christian, even the fully sanctified Christian, must still face the possibility of being lost. Thus even such a one must still be admonished to give up his attachment to the world.
— Harald Lindström, “Sanctification and the Order of Salvation” Wesley and Sanctification (1949).
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These reflections from New Testament scholar C. H. Dodd seem to me to be close to the heart of Wesleyan theology. He is reflecting here on the significance of the apostle Paul’s theology of the Christian life. Paul teaches that we are justified — set right with God — by faith. But, as with justification, what we often call “sanctification” (conformity to the image of Christ) is also by grace through faith.
The higher faiths call their followers to strenuous moral effort. Such effort is likely to be arduous and painful in proportion to the height of the ideal, desperate in proportion to the sensitiveness of the conscience. A morbid scrupulousness besets the morally serious soul. It is anxious and troubled, afraid of evil, haunted by the memory of failure. The best of the Pharisees tended in this direction, and no less the best of the Stoics. And so little has Christianity been understood that the popular idea of a serious Christian is modeled upon the same type of character.
The ascetic believed that, because he was so holy, the Devil was permitted special liberties with him, and he found in his increasing agony of effort a token of divine approval.
Not along this track lies the path of moral progress.
Christianity says: face the evil once for all, and disown it. Then quiet the spirit in the presence of God. Let His perfections fill the field of vision. In particular, let the concrete embodiment of the goodness of God in Christ attract and absorb the gaze of the soul. Here is the righteousness, not as a fixed and abstract ideal, but in a living human person. The righteousness of Christ is a real achievement of God’s own Spirit in man.
— C. H. Dodd, The Meaning of Paul for Today 
In the simple, stock opening with which this letter begins, we already gain insight into Paul’s sense of calling and vocation. We see his conception of who he is, and what he knows his task in life to be.
As he turns to the next part of his greeting — again nothing unusual here at all — he expresses his view of who the Colossian Christians are.
τοῖς ἐν Κολοσσαῖς ἁγίοις καὶ πιστοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ, χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν.
“…to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” (NASB).
They are: “saints (who are) in Colossae” and “faithful brothers in Christ.” (more…)
And just as limpid and transparent bodies, when the sun’s ray falls upon them, themselves become radiant and shine with another ray from themselves, so the Spirit-bearing souls illumined by the Spirit themselves become spiritual and send forth the grace to others. From this comes foreknowledge of future events, understanding of mysteries, comprehension of hidden things, distribution of gifts, heavenly citizenship, dancing with angels, joy without end, abiding in God, likeness to God, and the summit of desires, becoming god.
— St. Basil the Great, On the Human Condition
Since this is actually a blog re-boot, I thought it would be good to re-iterate my intentions for this web site and this blog — and for my various Internet projects. In other words, I’d like to take a few moments to answer the question: why am I doing this?
There are days when that is quite a serious question. What has kept me at this so long, and what am I trying to accomplish? I maintain not only this blog, but a growing collection of old holiness writings, a blog drawn from the writings of Daniel Steele and a blog drawn from the writings of Thomas C. Upham. So, that’s really quite a lot. And I know a lot of people are on the Internet to convince the world of something — to win people to their point of view, etc. — and my intentions can’t really be described that way. I’m actually not especially interested in convincing any one of anything. My hope is that people will find something here that is interesting, challenging, encouraging, or thought-provoking. And, in another way, my web activities can be seen as my attempt to come to terms with my own past.
The following is my best attempt to explain what I’m doing and why. (more…)
The other day I posted this on the Hidden Life blog:
In proportion as the heart becomes sanctified, there is a diminished tendency to enthusiasm and fanaticism. And this is undoubtedly one of the leading tests of sanctification. One of the marks of an enthusiastic and fanatical state of mind, is a fiery and unrestrained impetuosity of feeling; a rushing on, sometimes very blindly, as if the world were in danger, or as if the great Creator were not at the helm. It is not only feeling without a due degree of judgment, but, what is the corrupting and fatal trait, it is feeling without a due degree of confidence in God. True holiness reflects the image of God in this respect as well as in others, that it is calm, thoughtful, deliberate, immutable. And how can it be otherwise, since, rejecting its own wisdom and strength, it incorporates into itself the wisdom and strength of the Almighty.— Religious Maxims (1846) XII.
And I still like this quote, in part, because it seems at first so counter-intuitive. Isn’t fanaticism too much religion? Here Upham says just the opposite: it is the result of having not enough religion: or, more properly, not having enough sanctification. (more…)