Summary: Tenth in a sixteen-part series, this sermon looks at the distinctions between Salvation, Sanctification, and Glorification
Article of Faith #10 - Entire Sanctification
Date: Sunday, August 8, 2004
Author: Rev. Jonathan K. Twitchell
Four-hundred-and-fifty years before Christ walked the earth there lived a philosopher by the name of Zeno. Zeno was best known for his mathematical paradoxes…situations that appear to be impossible or self-contradictory. One of his most famous paradoxes could be stated this way:
Let us suppose that we had a turtle in the back of the church who wished to come up to the pulpit to preach. Given that we would allow the turtle to take the pulpit, he must first walk from the back of the church to the front of the church. Now, in order for him to cover the distance from the back to the front, he must first go half-way--the distance from the back to the center (where Ken is sitting). And then, he must go halfway between Ken and the pulpit, and then halfway between that point and the pulpit, and halfway again between that point and the pulpit. Stated another way, in order for him to go the entire distance, he must first go half of the distance, half the remaining distance, half the still-remaining distance, and so on into infinity.
As you can see, our poor turtle is now betwixt and bewildered, not knowing how he will ever come to this pulpit to preach the word of God to the people, for he must first cover an infinite number of half-distances before he can arrive.
In other words he will get infinitely close to the pulpit, but never quite reach the pulpit, for he will always have half the distance to traverse before he can arrive.
Now we recognize that this is a foolish argument, for in actuality the turtle does reach his destination, and the sum of the infinite halves never exceeds the total distance from start to finish. But, in some ways, our life on this earth is not unlike our poor turtle trapped in Zeno’s Paradox who can never quite reach the pulpit. We know that we are destined for something greater than this earth has to offer. We know that the day will come when the Image of God will be completely restored within us, but that day is not this day, and it’s probably not the next day either. We know that we get closer and closer to the day when we are made fully perfect, released from our human imperfections, and remade in the Image of God. But we know that in this life we will not reach that goal. We may get infinitely close to it, but the goal of Glorification is reserved for the life to come.
I say this to point out the following: Entire Sanctification is important. Indeed it is our primary doctrinal distinction. But…it is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is our final salvation in the Kingdom of Heaven . Our ultimate goal is eternal life in right relationship with the Triune God. Our ultimate goal is to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever." Our ultimate goal is for the Image of God to be entirely restored within us…completely perfected.
It is important to mention this, because many people often confuse the doctrine of Entire Sanctification with that of Final Sanctification (or Glorification). Entire Sanctification is not the final goal, but is part of the process by which we reach that goal. Many people hear that Nazarenes believe in Entire Sanctification, and because they have confused that with Glorification believe that we believe that you can be perfect. We don’t exactly mean that the Entirely Sanctified is perfect, but that he is being perfected, and that his heart is pure and he has been freed from the bondage of Original Sin. Perfection is reserved for God, and for those who have been released from their mortal bodies into life everlasting. Our doctrine this morning is not about the ultimate goal (reaching the pulpit, or being perfected into a glorified heavenly state), but about the purification of our heart and the baptism of the Holy Spirit which frees us from the power of sin, though not necessarily its presence. While Glorification is a final state for the saints who have died, Sanctification is a progressive state for the believers who are still alive.
We might say it this way: Entire Sanctification is not so much a state that we attain, but a process in which we participate. Entire Sanctification is more about the Turtle being invited to preach, responding to that invitation, and making his way toward the pulpit then it is about him actually reaching the pulpit. Even if the turtle never makes it to the pulpit in this lifetime, we see him responding to the invitation and moving in that direction.
Paul states this goal for us in Philippians 3, starting in verse 10: