<< previous (2:98) next (2:100) >>

p159 [G Biava] [From the Italian] [To the same] It is asked,
First. If the holiness of Christ is imputed as righteousness?
Second. If the distinction between our holiness in Christ and practical holiness is scriptural?
Third. If, when Christians are called holy, it is a positional holiness, or a practical holiness?

The first question is somewhat indefinite, since it speaks of the holiness of Christ, and then of righteousness without saying of Christ, so it does not appear whether you mean righteousness simply, or the righteousness of Christ. The word says always simply that righteousness is imputed, or that faith is imputed for righteousness, not the righteousness of Christ. But I will answer the substance of the question, not its form. Christ's holiness is not imputed. The only passage that can appear to resemble this doctrine is 1 Corinthians 1:30, but imputation is not spoken of there. It is not possible to impute redemption. It is in Christ, and through Christ, that these are according to the will of God, how is not told us. "Of him are ye"; this is the new man, whence he comes. Then Christ is made of God unto us wisdom. We do not find these things elsewhere. We do not find the true character of our wisdom, of our righteousness, of our christian holiness, or of redemption elsewhere than in Christ, and in Christ alone. When I possess Christ, I possess in Him the wisdom of God. He Himself is the wisdom of God; I do not seek wisdom elsewhere, and the wisdom of God is not to be found elsewhere. He is my righteousness before God; I am accounted righteous according to the righteousness of God by faith in Christ. If I seek for the truth, the sum total, the divine character, of holiness, I find it only in Christ: this holiness is presented to me by God in Christ. In Christ only is redemption, final redemption to enter glory.

Here it is needful to distinguish between the words used for holiness and sanctification in the New Testament: ἁγιωσύνη is the thing itself, the habit - once, ἁγιότης, Hebrews 12:10, the holiness of God Himself - ἁγιασμός the word used in 1 Corinthians 1:30. The word in this form signifies the result worked out, the sum of what is produced in us by the Holy Ghost. Now Christ is the model, the measure, the perfection of it. Inasmuch as we possess Christ as life, we possess this holiness. The life which we possess is a perfectly holy life, and as we are in Christ God does not see sin in us. But Christ Himself, as has been said already, is the perfect expression of the character, of the perfection, of holiness in man; and although the life which is in us is a holy life, the outcome in our thoughts, in our acts, in our words, in our relation to everything is not produced in its perfection; but our desire is not to lower the standard of it, but to reach it. It is ours in Christ, not yet in practice, not yet subjectively. The new man desires that in everything his whole being should answer to the model he knows in Christ. In this life the result is not attained to, but the Christian has no other model, no other substance of sanctification for the soul but Christ Himself. Christ is for him, from God, the substance of that which he longs for; because Christ, who is his model, is his life already.

Thus the answer to the first question furnishes the reply to the second. It is true that God sees us in Christ, and He sees only the new man, when acceptance is in question: "He has not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither has he seen perverseness in Israel." But scripture does not speak of our holiness in Christ. The life we have received is perfectly holy, and I do not live, but Christ lives in me. But here are two truths which must be made plain. First, if Christ is our life we are consecrated to God, set apart for Him, according to the right which He possesses through the work of redemption, and the grace that has won us for Him - wholly consecrated to Him personally. Thus we are personally sanctified, set apart for God, but as a matter of fact all our thoughts, our motives, have not Christ as their object; so that in fact we are not perfected in sanctification. In personal sanctification there is no progress, we belong wholly to Christ according to the value of His work and the claim which He has over us, and according to the holy life which is the true "I" of the heart. But, Christ being the perfect expression of this life in man, much is wanting in us in respect of this perfection, and through the operation of the Holy Ghost we become - we ought to become, at least - while looking at Christ glorified, increasingly like Christ, more holy, as regards practical holiness. We possess then the " ἁγιωσύνη " in the life of Christ in us; we do not possess the " ἁγιασμός", the practical result as it has been manifested in Christ; it is developed daily in communion with Christ.

The second principle which it is necessary to call attention to is this: that it is not the whole truth that we have received a new life in receiving Christ. The Christ whom we have received has been crucified, has died, and risen again; thus I reckon myself to be dead, and the old man as crucified, as not in existence, although it continues to exist. The doctrine is according to the authority and the truth of God in Colossians 3:3. "Ye are dead." The reckoning of faith is in Romans 6:11, "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin"; the realisation is in 2 Corinthians 4:10. (compare Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:6-7:6; Gal. 2:19, where we read, "dead to the law," Gal. 6:14.) Thus we are dead to sin, to the law, to the world, crucified with Christ, reckoned to be dead according to the word of God, and reckoning ourselves dead. Our duty is to make good this truth, so that nothing except the life of Christ should be manifested in our bodies, in our mortal flesh, that our whole life may be the manifestation of the life of Christ in us, and of nothing else. The connection between this truth and holiness in our relationship with God, and practical holiness, is easily understood. This is the third question already before us.

The Christian is called holy because he is set apart for God absolutely, according to the rights won by Christ in His death, and made good when he is born again, and thus set apart in a real way; and more perfectly, and with more intelligence, when he is sealed by the Holy Ghost, as cleansed by the blood of Christ. Then he is sanctified in his relationship with God, and, in fact, as to the new man; also as we have seen, the old man is held to be dead. Thus when Christians are called holy, it is indeed the expression of a relationship with God, but this relationship is formed by the gift of life, and founded on the fact that Christ has purchased them by His death. But there is no other relationship, and when a man calls himself a Christian he calls himself holy, consecrated to God, set apart from the world for God. It has likewise been the will of God that a church should be formed on the earth, and all who are introduced into the church according to the ordinance of God are accounted holy. They deceive themselves terribly if they have not life, but according to their profession they are holy; such is their relationship as to their position. But when the word says "saints," it is of course supposed that they have been really born again, and sanctified by the Holy Ghost, the possibility of a false profession excepted. The word "saint" is therefore the name of a relationship; that is, that a man is set apart for God; but this relationship, if it is a true one, is formed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and by the word according to the order appointed by God for the external manifestation in the world of this relationship. Now it is worth while to remark, that sanctification is attributed to each of the three Persons of the Trinity: to God and to the Father, Heb. 10:10; Jude 1; it is by the blood of Christ, and by the offering up of His body, Heb. 13:12; 10:10, 29; by the Holy Ghost, 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2. This is in various aspects, naturally: there are the counsels and the will of God the Father; through the offering of Christ in order to redeem them to be sanctified; by the power of the Holy Ghost to set them apart in fact: we may add, by the word, as the means employed by the Holy Ghost. It is important to draw the reader's attention to the use of the word "sanctification" in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Sanctification by the Holy Ghost is never spoken of there, but by the will of God, by the offering of Christ, and by His blood; because Christ died for the nation, and as many as received Jesus as the Christ were reckoned as being, as it were, a part of the nation that belonged to God according to the offering of Christ; not that it does not treat of the true value of the offering for those who believe, but the nation sanctified by the blood of the covenant is always in view, and not the operation of the Holy Ghost in the individual.

The saints then in the New Testament are accounted as having entered into a new relationship with God through the blood of Christ, set apart for God. This is the order according to God, but it is always supposed that this relationship is founded on reality, save to demonstrate its falseness; only that sanctifying by the blood of Christ is used in a more general, external way: nevertheless it is held to be real if the contrary is not demonstrated. Christians are called holy in Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:2, but in chapter 10 of the latter epistle it is supposed possible that admission to this relationship may have taken place without the possession of life.

As some confusion exists with respect to progress in sanctification, I add that in the setting us apart for God by the blood and the new birth - in the entrance into the relationship (that is, sanctification of the person) there is no progress; but in the development of the life through the knowledge of Christ, and in conformity to the model revealed in Christ, the word speaks distinctly of progress. "Follow after holiness," it is written in Hebrews 12:14. We "are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:18.) "Now the very God of peace sanctify you wholly." (1 Thess. 5:23.)

Now sanctification is used in these two ways in the New Testament, and when it speaks of sanctification and justification together, sanctification is placed first, and is used not for progressive sanctification but for the setting apart for God.

I have spoken entirely with a practical view, without considering the responsibility of those who are in the christian position without reflection. All who are baptised are responsible as to their position and ought to be really holy; they are externally set apart for God; but I am not treating here of the state of the church, but simply of the question, What is sanctification according to scripture. The children of a christian man or woman are called holy in contrast with the children of a Jew, who if the wife was from among the Gentiles was rejected as unclean and as unworthy of Jewish privileges. But these things are not the object of the present observations.

March 29th, 1872.