Forgiveness and Cleansing
The plan of salvation must of necessity include not only forgiveness of sin but complete restoration. Salvation from sin is more than forgiveness of sin. Forgiveness presupposes sin and is conditioned upon breaking with it; sanctification is separation from sin and indicates deliverance from its power and victory over it. The first is a means to neutralize the effect of sin; the second is a restoration of power for complete victory.
Sin, like some diseases, leaves man in a deplorable condition—weak, despondent, disheartened. He has little control of his mind, his will fails him, and with the best of intentions he is unable to do what he knows to be right. He feels that there is no hope. He knows that he has himself to blame, and remorse fills his soul. To his bodily ailments is added the torture of conscience. He knows that he has sinned and is to blame. Will no one take pity on him?
Then comes the gospel. The good news is preached to him. Though his sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. All is forgiven. He is "saved." What a wonderful deliverance it is! His mind is at rest. No longer does his conscience torment him. He has been forgiven. His sins are cast into the depths of the sea. His heart wells with praise to God for His mercy and goodness to him.
As a disabled ship towed to port is safe but not sound, so the man is "saved" but not sound. Repairs need to be made on the ship before it is pronounced seaworthy, and the man needs reconstruction before he is fully restored. This process of restoration is called sanctification, and includes in its finished product body, soul, and spirit. When the work is finished, the man is "holy," completely sanctified, and restored to the image of God. It is for this demonstration of what the gospel can do for a man that the world is looking.
In the Bible both the process and the finished work are spoken of as sanctification. For this reason the "brethren" are spoken of as holy and sanctified, though they have not attained to perfection. (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1: 1; Heb. 3: 1.) A glance through the Epistles to the Corinthians will soon convince one that the saints there mentioned had their faults. Despite this, they are said to be "sanctified" and "called to be saints." The reason is that complete sanctification is not the work of a day or of a year but of a lifetime. It begins the moment a person is converted, and continues through life. Every victory hastens the process. There are few Christians who have not gained the mastery over some sin that formerly greatly annoyed them and overcame them. Many a man who has been a slave to the tobacco habit has gained the victory over the habit and rejoices in his victory. Tobacco has ceased to be a temptation. It attracts him no more. He has the victory. On that point he is sanctified. As he has been victorious over one besetment, so he is to become victorious over every sin. When the work is completed, when he has gained the victory over pride, ambition, love of the world—over all evil—he is ready for translation. He has been tried in all points. The evil one has come to him and found nothing. Satan has no more temptations for him. He has over-come them all. He stands without fault before the throne of God. Christ places His seal upon him. He is safe, and he is sound. God has finished His work in him. The demonstration of what God can do with humanity is complete.
Thus it shall be with the last generation of men living on the earth. Through them God’s final demonstration of what He can do with humanity will be given. He will take the weakest of the weak, those bearing the sins of their forefathers, and in them show the power of God. They will be subjected to every temptation, but they will not yield. They will demonstrate that it is possible to live without sin-the very demonstration for which the world has been looking and for which God has been preparing. It will become evident to all that the gospel really can save to the uttermost. God is found true in His sayings.
The last year of the conflict brings the final test; but this only proves to angels and to the world that nothing that the evil one can do will shake God’s chosen ones. The plagues fall, destruction is on every hand, death stares them in the face, but like Job they hold fast their integrity. Nothing can make them sin. They "keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Rev. 14: 12.
Throughout the history of the world God has had His faithful ones. They have endured affliction and great tribulation. Rut even in the midst of Satan’s buffetings they have, as the apostle Paul says, through faith "wrought righteousness." "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." Heb. 11:37, 38.
And in addition to this galaxy of faithful witnesses, many of whom were martyrs for their faith, God will have in the last days a remnant, a "little flock," in and through whom He will give to the universe a demonstration of His love, His power, His justice, which, if we exempt Christ’s godly life on earth and His supreme sacrifice on Calvary, will be the most sweeping and conclusive demonstration of all the ages of what God can do in men.
It is in the last generation of men living on the earth that God’s power unto sanctification will stand fully revealed. The demonstration of that power is God’s vindication. It clears Him of any and all charges which Satan has placed against Him. In the last generation God is vindicated and Satan defeated. This may need some further amplification.
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