In our recent denominational survey the question was asked, "Is entire sanctification an instantaneous work of grace?" 72% of those responding indicated that they believed it is. I was grieved to learn that 28% of our people, some of whom are licensed ministers, do not believe in the instantaneous aspect of entire sanctification. Tragically, this has become a widespread problem in the holiness churches of America. The whole doctrine of sanctification quickly fades away when the instantaneous aspect of complete consecration and the cleansing of the heart are not embraced and taught.
In a brief article I cannot provide a thorough examination on this subject. However, I want to emphasize a few key points.
In 1 Thess. 5:23 Paul writes, "May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." This text is in the Greek aorist tense. The aorist tense describes action that has occurred and is completed. It is action that is completed in a moment of time. You will discover that many of the verses that refer to the new birth and sanctification are in the aorist tense. This is one of the compelling reasons we believe the Bible teaches that one is instantly forgiven of the sins they have committed when they are born again. It is also the reason we believe that when one is entirely sanctified their heart is instantly cleansed from inherited depravity. God "Himself" is the Sanctifier. If we will consecrate our all to Him, He has all the power He needs to purify the heart.
It is often the case that a born again believer may progress gradually toward sanctification for an extended time. However, there comes that point in time when one's consecration is complete. In that moment, by faith, the heart is cleansed and they are entirely sanctified. Entire sanctification is a progressive work of grace, but it is also an instantaneous cleansing of the human heart from its sinful disposition. The heart is made pure. This is one reason we call it "entire." Just as Dr. Dennis Kinlaw stated so powerfully at a Holiness Summit, "It is gone."
Just as a person may be dying for an extended time there comes that final moment when they are no longer alive. A believer may seek to be sanctified for a period of time but there should come that moment when they say the "big yes" to God and the work is completed.
Once a believer has been entirely sanctified, it then becomes a life of growing in grace and developing into a mature disciple of Christ. Entire sanctification is a crisis within a process. There is the critical moment of consecration and cleansing followed by daily developing into a Christ like disciple.
It is important to understand that growing and maturing in spiritual matters is vitally important. However, only the blood of Christ can wash away the sins we have committed. So also, only the blood of Christ can cleanse our hearts from inherited depravity. The new birth and entire sanctification does not come by becoming active in church or through good works. Salvation can only be obtained by faith in the shed blood of Christ. Growing in grace will not deal with our sin problem. When the blood is applied it isn't applied in little doses. It completes its work in an instant!
Entire sanctification is an instantaneous work of grace followed by a lifetime of growing and maturing in one's relationship with our Lord and Savior. Without the instantaneous cleansing of the depraved heart, one will never experience the sanctifying grace of God. Consecrate your all to God, surrender your self centered ambitions, and allow God to do His work of entire sanctification in your heart and life. You will then be in a place where you can begin to make great progress in your walk with the Lord.