How Does Sanctification and Enlightenment Occur?

There are a number of quotations which, on the surface, suggest that the Holy Spirit effects the transformation and cleansing of people. Here is a sample of the key quotations that are used:

1 Corinthians 6:11 “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”

1 Peter 1:2 “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”

Note that the first quotation speaks of being sanctified by the spirit, whilst the latter two speak of a sanctifying of spirit (there is, in fact, no definite article in these last two). The word “spirit” in the last two passages refers to the disposition of the believers. The word “spirit” in 1 Corinthians 6:11 is the agency which washes, cleanses and justifies.

There is no Scripture that teaches that the receipt of the Holy Spirit is the basis for justification. On the other hand, we are clearly taught that justification is through the obedience of faith in the revealed word of God (Gal 2:16, Rom 1:17). Hence the spirit in 1 Corinthians 6:11 is the spirit word of God, and it is this power that cleanses, as the following passages teach:

Psalm 119:9 “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.”

John 15:3 “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”

John 17:17 “Thy word is truth, sanctify them through thy truth.”

2 Corinthians 7:1 “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

Ephesians 5:26 “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.”

How Does Renewal and Transformation Take Place?

Paul wrote in Titus 3:5–6 that salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” This passage is used to support the view that renewal and change is a function of the Holy Spirit within man.

Several points need to be noted. Firstly, there is no definite article in the Greek; that which is renewed is “a holy spirit”, that is, a disposition of holiness. This is consistent with other quotations that tell us that our mind must be renewed (Rom 12:2, Eph 4:23, 2 Cor 4:16). Secondly, we need to ask what was “shed abroad” or “poured forth”—God’s saving mercy or a spirit of holiness? The answer clearly is God’s mercy. This is not a reference to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; it is a reference to the out-pouring of mercy upon those unworthy Gentiles in Crete.

Transformation and renewal comes from knowing the Word of God. As Paul said in Colossians 3:10—“And [ye] have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.”

In Romans 5:5 we read that “hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.” Once again there is no definite article in the Greek. What is given is a holy spirit.

This passage is used to prove that God’s love can only come from the power of the Holy Spirit operating on our heart. But this cannot be so because the possession of the Holy Spirit failed to generate love in the life of believers. This is evident from 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul points out that love was the missing ingredient in the spirit-filled ecclesia at Corinth. The fact is that God’s love is communicated through the spirit word and this message generates a heart-felt love for God and His Son (1 John 4:19). Without that message we would be ignorant of that love.

11 What are the main causes for people leaving the Truth over this issue of the direct indwelling of God’s Spirit?

Sadly people leave the embrace of the Truth for many different reasons. But in speaking to a number of brethren and sisters about those who leave over the issue of Spirit gifts and the evangelical belief of a direct indwelling of God’s spirit, we find that there are a number of common threads, such as:

  • a perception that there is no warmth or love amongst brethren and sisters
  • a feeling of loneliness in the meeting
  • meetings are seen as too formal and lack spontaneity and joy
  • singing is thought of as too traditional and based on old style musical tastes and lyrics
  • a belief that there are not enough prayer groups
  • a distaste for conformity and mutual submission
  • a perception of the Truth being too restrictive
  • a perceived lessening of the authority of the Word of God and a lack of desire to study it and meditate in it
  • indiscriminate and undiscerning reading of evangelical books and commentaries
  • dissatisfaction with spiritual progress, which leads to looking towards a less ‘works-based’ religion where you don’t have to change, because God’s grace is enough for you to be accepted by God
  • doctrine of ‘the spirit’ not understood properly

These seeds of dissatisfaction, if not checked, can soon develop into a harvest of evil and bitterness. It is sad to see brethren and sisters making shipwreck of the faith in this way. We must be on our guard and take heed to ourselves to ensure that none of us fail of the grace of God in this way.

The power of the Word of God has to have its effect in our lives. Faith energised by love must have its proper fruit within our families and ecclesias. Without these essentials we are liable to fall prey to the insidious pressures of evangelical influences, which in the end lead to condemnation and destruction.

12 What strategy and what quotations would you use when speaking to a Pentecostal?

Pentecostals are generally very fervent in their knowledge of New Testament quotations dealing with the spirit and the spirit gifts.

To speak effectively with a Pentecostal you will need to thoroughly understand the following subjects:

  • what it means to be born of the spirit (John 3:3–8)
  • the temporary nature of the spirit gifts (1 Cor 13:8–12)
  • the meaning of Acts 2:38–39 and Joel 2:27–29
  • the meaning of Mark 16:17–18
  • the use of the word “spirit” in Romans 8
  • the use of the word “spirit” in Ephesians

Because a Pentecostal lays a great deal of emphasis upon experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in the conversion process, it is essential to draw them to the evidence of the Word. Here is a suggested strategy:

  1. 1 Point out that there are many religions with different belief-systems all claiming to have access to the one Spirit. Some way of sorting through the different claims for inspiration must be found. They cannot all be right.
  2. 2 This was the same situation in the OT and NT. Demonstrate that it was possible for false spirits to seduce the faithful and that this influence had to be tested by the revealed Word of God (Deut 13, 1 John 4:1–5).
  3. 3 Hence it is essential to know Bible Truth (John 4:22–24, 17:3).
  4. 4 Hence the Scriptures are able to make a person wise unto salvation, not possession of the spirit (2 Tim 3:15–16).

With these four arguments as a foundation, you can then press home the fact that, testing experiences against the Word of God is the only way of determining the truth or otherwise of people’s claims.

Once you have established this you can select a doctrine like the mortality of the soul and prove from the Scriptures that Pentecostal beliefs are at variance with Biblical teaching.

As in most discussions we have with people in churches it is easy to get side-tracked on to other issues and become diverted from the main thrust of the argument. You need to quietly and humbly keep bringing the person back to the main core of the argument and hope that they will listen to reason.

13 Conclusion

Brother Fred Pearce expressed the following thoughts.

“The attempt to analyse the modes of activity of the Spirit of God in our lives is a frequent cause of damaging dissension. But is has another consequence, equally damaging, for the faithful are having their minds directed to the wrong objective. They are being encouraged to think of the Spirit of God in the saints as a refined form of physical power. Now it has been a consistent theme of these pages that its true significance is in the expression of God Himself as a spiritual and moral Being. God’s own description of Himself to Moses: “The Lord [Yahweh], a God [El] full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin: and that will by no means clear the guilty …” (Exod 34:6–7 rv)—here is the essential spirit of the Lord in all His holiness, His mercy and His truth. It received its greatest manifestation in the ‘grace and truth’ which dwelt in His only-begotten Son.

This is the Spirit which the servants of God are called upon to manifest themselves, in order that they might be ‘begotten of God’, ‘born of the Spirit’, ‘sons and daughters of the living God’. To prepare them for this great role and to warn them against the natural spirit generated by their own fleshly desires that ‘war against the soul’ (1 Peter 2:11), they have been granted the God-breathed Scriptures, deliberately designed for ‘teaching, for reproof, for correction, for discipline (rv mrg) in righteousness’, that as men and women of God they mat be ‘complete, furnished completely unto every good work’ (2 Tim 3:16 rv). Through the spiritual power of the Word of God they can avoid ‘being fashioned according to this world’ and instead be ‘renewed in the spirit of their minds’ (Rom 12:2). By this means and by the gracious care of God through the Lord Jesus we shall be ‘delivered from this present evil world’. This is the great opportunity and privilege which is being offered to us by the Spirit of God” (Fred Pearce, God’s Spirit in Work and Word pages 123–124).