An Acknowledgement: I would like to acknowledge the kind and constructive help received from a group of Australian friends who have taken the time to read Present Truth Magazine manuscripts and who have offered criticism and many helpful suggestions. These are R. H. Goodhew, Rector of St. Stephen's Anglican Church; John Kleinig, Chaplain of St. Peter's Lutheran College; Samuel McCafferty, Minister of Ann Street Presbyterian Church; Keith V. Warren, Reformed Church of Australia (Bible Teacher at the Queensland Bible Institute); and Geoffrey Paxton, President of the Queensland Bible Institute. Of course, the final version as published in Present Truth Magazine is the responsibility of the editors.
This issue of Present Truth Magazine is devoted to the subject of sanctification, or Bible holiness.
Those readers who are familiar with our publication will know that Present Truth Magazine has taken a strong stand for justification by an outside-of-me righteousness over against the religious subjectivism of the current religious scene. Just as the careless spectator may imagine that Paul's quarrel is with the law, so some have imagined that our quarrel is with Christian experience. It will be remembered that Paul answered his critics by saying that his doctrine of justification by faith did not do away with the law; it merely put it in its right place (Rom. 3:31). Our purpose is not to cry up justification and to cry down sanctification. We want to put sanctification into its proper place so that we can give it the great emphasis which it deserves.
The presentation which follows includes eleven sections on sanctification before discussing justification. The reader could be excused for suspecting that we have put the cart before the horse. But we have done this deliberately. It is not just a matter of trying to keep the best wine till the last. Calvin did the same thing in his Institutes. He had special reasons for considering the nature of the renewed life before getting around to justification. And so do we—namely:
1. We want to take the ground from under the feet of those who suggest that our strong emphasis on the objective gospel relegates sanctification to a role of relative unimportance. If we may borrow the method of Paul's defense against his critics, we will say, Do they believe in sanctification? I more! (See Phil. 3:1-7.)
It is not that those who are preoccupied with exciting or satisfying religious experience go too far in the matter of sanctification. They do not go far enough. If we would come to grips with the Bible's rigorous demand for concrete holiness, we would see that sanctification is more than a frothy spiritual euphoria on the top of the brain.
2. Before we turn to what Calvin calls "the main hinge on which religion turns," our aim is to show the kind of life the gospel will produce. Then there will be no room to misunderstand the doctrine of imputed righteousness as an easy way out of the responsibility to live a holy life. We want to make it clear that justification by faith alone is not an alternative for personal holiness, but the only basis for it. Also, if the uncompromising demand for radical holiness set out in the earlier sections appears as a veritable Mount Sinai to the reader, well and good. That is the way which leads to a genuine appreciation of how we need more than sanctification to stand fearless before God's face.
3. We believe the Bible indicates that there is going to be a new (renewed) Reformation in these last days before Christ comes again. We just happen to be "naive" enough to believe it is going to happen in this generation. (". . . the hour is coming, and now is . . . ") There is no question but that the truth of justification by faith must be that reformatory movement's message in verity. This renewed Reformation must be final and thorough, one which will give the "man of sin" a wound from which he will never recover. He who would build high must lay the foundation deep. The towering truth of justification by faith must be grounded in the utter seriousness of God's demand for holiness. There must be no place for "cheap grace" sentiments and no room for those antinomian misunderstandings which have heretofore followed Paul and Luther like a dark shadow.
Finally, this editor, who is responsible for the entire presentation, is very conscious of his deficiencies in handling a subject so momentous and has good reason to fear that he has done inadequate justice to the mighty claims of Bible holiness. Some readers will doubtless think of other important areas that could and perhaps should have been dealt with in this brief presentation. Yet the editor has tried to deal with those aspects of sanctification that appear to be most relevant to the current religious scene. The size of the different sections has been determined more by the need to clarify current misunderstandings than by the relative importance of each aspect of sanctification.