The essence of entire sanctification is found concisely in the cherished 10th doctrine of The Salvation Army, the only one to specifically quote scripture:
‘We believe that it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified, and that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (I Thess. 5:23)
The evolution of language and teaching in the holiness chapter of our Handbook of Doctrine over several decades has garnered some scrutiny. In general, the earlier doctrine books contained robust, forthright sanctification principles and instructions; by comparison, the latter handbooks are more nuanced.
At the heart of the matter is what we mean by ‘entire sanctification.’
- If we are purporting sinless perfection, entire freedom from sin or the eradication of sin by a work of grace, then we are sorely mistaken. In the holiness movement that is well accepted.
- On the other hand, if by the word ‘entire’ we hold that every facet of our humanity – ‘spirit, soul and body’ can be cleansed and purified by a work of grace, then we can teach, preach, and write on with confidence.
Let us be clear, this is for all believers. General Paul Rader articulates: … sanctification ‘is not the exclusive prerogative of a morally superior cadre of Christians or those few who opt out of engagement with our fouled human situation.’
Remarkably, we might say that the norm of Christian experience, as set forth in the New Testament, is to be filled with the Spirit, or entirely sanctified.