Quotations from the Pioneer Library and the Spirit of Prophecy
and some thoughts with regard to the topic of
God sanctified the Sabbath. What does the word 'sanctify' mean? A little girl once asked Ellen White, "Are you going to speak this afternoon?" "No, not this afternoon," was her reply. Then the little girl said, "I am very sorry, I thought you were going to speak, and I asked several of my friends to come. Will you (then) please ask the minister to speak easy words that we can understand? Will you please tell him that we do not understand big words like 'justification' and 'sanctification'. We do not know what these words mean." (RH.09.09.02)
We are not little children any more, we cannot say that we don't understand these big words and simply leave it at that. We will have to deal with these expressions, because they are mentioned quite often in the bible. We just have to know the meaning of 'justification' and 'sanctification' because a lot depends on our understanding of these two words. However, in order to keep this presentation short, I intend to speak today mainly about sanctification.
Webster's dictionary defines 'sanctify' as setting aside for holy use, to consecrate. Gesenius, the great Hebrew lexicographer defines it as pronouncing holy, to institute any holy thing, to appoint. Ellen White says when referring to the bible that it means setting apart for holy purposes, being cleansed from all sin and pollution. There are many forms and degrees of sanctification including false sanctification. However in the bible sanctification is held out in a two-fold light, first as a work wrought in us by God, and second as a duty for us to perform.
Let us take a look now at some passages in the bible dealing with sanctification. Exodus 13:2 God says to Moses, "Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both man and beast, it is mine." God is commanding Moses to do the sanctifying that he set aside for Him every firstborn for a holy purpose, that he CONSECRATE every firstborn. To consecrate, this is another word that needs explanation. According to Webster's dictionary the meaning of it is almost identical to the word 'sanctify', namely to set apart as holy, making sacred for holy use. The word 'consecrate' is also mentioned in that dictionary under the definition of 'sanctification'. In Exodus 28:41 we find these two words side by side. God speaking about special garments for Aaron said, "And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them and CONSECRATE them, and SANCTIFY them..."
Sanctification can also be applied in the sense that we are sanctifying ourselves as we can see in many passages of the old testament, for instance Leviticus 11:44, "For I am the Lord your God, ye shall therefore SANCTIFY yourselves and ye shall be holy, for I am holy..." In this case, I believe the word 'sanctify' means that we stay away from everything that would pollute or defile us, that we don't eat or drink anything unclean, that we bridle our tongues so as not to say anything sinful, that we learn how to keep our thoughts and imaginations under control in order not to be as the Pharisees who our Lord Jesus denounced as appearing outwardly righteous unto men, but being on the inside full of uncleanness, hypocrisy and iniquity. If we want to sanctify ourselves we also have to keep the ten commandments which, of course includes the keeping of God's holy Sabbath.
There are also two cases in the bible where God or Jesus is sanctifying Himself. John 17:19 Jesus says, "And for their sakes I SANCTIFY myself that they also might be sanctified through the truth." Ezekiel 38:23 God says, "Thus will I magnify myself and SANCTIFY myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord." How does God sanctify Himself? He is already holy, He does not commit any sin, He is not getting polluted or defiled by anything, there is nothing about Him that would in any way require improvement. The only thing that I can think of when God says that he will sanctify Himself is, that He will pronounce Himself holy, and that He is setting Himself apart from all the other gods who in the end will perish, because He is the only one who has been and will be from everlasting to everlasting, something that is common to Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
A good illustration of the meaning of the word 'sanctify' may be found in the passage dealing with the events at Mount Sinai. When God was about to speak the ten commandments in the hearing of all Israel, He sent Moses down from the top of Mount Sinai to restrain the people from touching the mount. Exodus 19:23, "And Moses said unto the Lord, The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai; for Thou chargest us, saying, Set bounds about the mount and SANCTIFY it." Turning back now to verse 12 we read, "And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount or touch the border of it." Here we see that to sanctify the mount was to command the people not to touch even the border of it. In other words, to sanctify or set apart Mount Sinai for a holy use, was to tell the people that God would have them treat the mountain as sacred to Himself.
In the same manner we are to treat our Sabbath, the holy day which God has made for us. God sanctified the Sabbath day and we are to do likewise by setting that day apart for a holy use. We must guard the fringes of the Sabbath taking care that we don't drift into it every Friday evening without being aware that sundown has taken place. We have in our church bulletin the exact time of sunset, so we know when the Sabbath begins and when it ends. Let us therefore every Friday evening, at the appointed time, stop all work and quit tidying up or setting things in order and let us at that time go on our knees to spend some precious moments in prayer before the Lord. Let us also every Saturday evening at sundown have prayer in our homes or wherever we happen to be so that we are aware of when holy time ends and when the new week begins. In this way we guard the fringes of the Sabbath, which is the same idea Israel in the wilderness had to follow with regard to the borders of Mt. Sinai.
Concerning the Sabbath we should understand that certain activities are permissible whereas others are not permitted. I would like to mention here only 2 cases which I found in the ADVENT REVIEW AND SABBATH HERALD of Feb.5,1857. "All visiting for pleasure is inconsistent with a right observance of the Sabbath. Because express and plain is the word of God: 'Not finding thine own pleasure' Isa.58:13. Visiting the sick for the purpose of alleviating their sufferings and rendering what help we can either as regards their bodies or their souls, is allowable. But this is liable to abuse. Many take the Sabbath to visit the sick, because they are not willing to take time on any other day. Others go because the rigid improvement of the Sabbath at home is irksome to them. They watch the occasion and convert it as much as possible into a visit for their own pleasure, while they quiet their consciences by the reflection that they have been visiting the sick. Please be careful that you do not try to evade the restraints of heaven's law. Every attempt on our part to convert the season of holy rest into a day of pleasure, evinces a heart that counts the commandments of God as being grievous. Remember also, that while you visit others for your own pleasure you may induce them to violate the Sabbath as well. By visiting them you take them from their closet, their reading and their meditation" (APL).
Concerning the visiting of the sick on the Sabbath day, I myself would do it only in a case of emergency, i.e. if someone who I know is dying or if there were undue hardship to the suffering because of me not being there. What's wrong with visiting the sick on Sundays?
"All traveling for business or for pleasure is also forbidden by the Sabbath law. Such traveling as may be necessary to promote the due SANCTIFICATION of the day, of course, is not included. Driving to our accustomed place of worship is necessary to promote the SANCTIFICATION of the Sabbath and is therefore no violation of the law. This stands on the same level with the labor performed by the priests of the old economy in the temple, for which they were blameless. But if, on a certain Sabbath, we decide to drive to a faraway church for no other good reason than to have an enjoyable ride, that would be 'finding thine own pleasure.' For the same reason and because there are six days in which men ought to work, traveling for business on the Sabbath is a violation of it. Take for instance the following case: Brother A. is on a business trip. The Sabbath comes, and instead of putting up and resting until the sacred season is past, he keeps right forward just as he has done the other days of the week. True, he professes to regret the necessity of traveling on this day but pleads in excuse that he cannot afford to stop at a motel for the night, he is too poor. Now think about it and consider whether under such circumstances and actuated by such principles you can class yourself with those who 'esteem the law of God better than a thousand pieces of gold and silver'" (APL).
These things which you just have heard concerning the keeping of the Sabbath may appear to you somewhat legalistic; but as for me, I would like to let you know that I go along with what is written in this article of the ADVENT REVIEW AND SABBATH HERALD concerning the visiting of the sick and traveling for business or pleasure. That article was not written by Ellen White, but it was written by one of the pioneers who was living at the time when Ellen White was still alive. It may have been written by her husband JAMES WHITE or perhaps it was composed by elder J.N. ANDREWS. At any rate, we are Historic Seventh-Day Adventists and we ought to pay attention to what our pioneers were saying.
So far we have looked at what the bible has to say about sanctification and what the pioneers said concerning the sanctification of the Sabbath. Let us now consider what we can find in the writings of E. White about this subject of sanctification. "Inspiration says that God will sanctify us, but there are conditions for us to fulfill. Though we cannot attain holiness in our own strength and wisdom, nevertheless the Lord cannot sanctify us and do what He has promised, unless we do what we can, to help ourselves by taking hold of His help and moving out as far as our strength goes, just as we would do in temporal matters. We know from scripture that it is God who worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure, that without Christ we can do nothing, but we are also commanded to repent, to believe and be baptized, to keep God's commandments, to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling" (APL).
"There are many who claim to be sanctified, however, when the great standard of righteousness is presented to them, they become greatly excited and manifest a spirit which proves that they know nothing of what it means to be sanctified. They do not have the mind of Christ; for those who are truly sanctified will reverence and obey the word of God as fast as it is opened to them, and they will express a strong desire to know what is truth on every point of doctrine. An exultant feeling is no evidence of sanctification. The assertion, 'I am saved, I am saved,' does not prove that the soul is saved or sanctified. Many who are greatly excited are told that they are sanctified, when in reality they have no intelligent idea of what has happened to them. They flatter themselves that they are in conformity to the will of God, because they feel happy; but when they are tested, when the word of God is brought to bear upon their experience, they stop their ears from hearing the truth, saying, 'I am sanctified,' and that puts an end to the controversy. They will have nothing to do with searching the scriptures to know what is truth, which proves that they are fearfully self-deceived. Sanctification means very much more than a flight of feeling. Excitement is not sanctification. But entire conformity to the will of our Father which is in heaven is sanctification, and the will of God is expressed in His holy law. The keeping of all the commandments of God is sanctification. Proving ourselves to be obedient children to God's word is sanctification. The word of God is to be our guide, not the opinions or ideas of men. Let those who would be truly sanctified search the word of God with patience, with prayer and with humble contrition of soul. Let them remember that Jesus prayed, 'Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth'" (RH.03-25-02).
"Sanctification is claimed by professed Christians who ignore God's holy day of rest and who keep the false sabbath instead. But God declares that the sanctification coming from Him is bestowed on those only who honor Him by obeying His commandments" (MAR.238). Please note that Ellen White here mentions "The sanctification coming from God..." This of course implies that there must be also another kind of sanctification which does not come from God. This we know, is false sanctification.
"The bible is the standard by which to test the claims of all who profess sanctification... 'Ye shall know them by their fruits.' We need no other evidence to recognize the sanctification of men; if they are fearful lest they shall not obey the whole will of God, if they are listening diligently to His voice, trusting in His wisdom and making His Word the man of their counsel then, while they make no boasts of superior goodness, we may be sure that they are seeking to attain to perfection of Christian character. But if the claimants of holiness even intimate that they are no longer required to search the scriptures, we need not hesitate to pronounce their sanctification spurious" (5BC.1147).
"Bible sanctification does not consist in strong emotion. Here is where many are led into error. They make feelings their criterion. When they feel elated or happy, they claim that they are sanctified. Happy feelings or the absence of joy is no evidence that a person is or is not sanctified. There is no such thing as instantaneous sanctification. True sanctification is a daily work, continuing as long as life shall last. Those who are battling with daily temptations, overcoming their own sinful tendencies, and seeking for holiness of heart and life make no boastful claims of holiness. They are hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Sin appears to them exceedingly sinful" (ML.248).
"Many who profess sanctification are entirely ignorant of the work of grace upon the heart. When proved and tested they are found to be like the self-righteous Pharisee. They will bear no contradiction. They lay aside reason and judgment, and depend wholly upon their feelings, basing their claims to sanctification upon emotions which they at some time have experienced. Around that point they center all their experience. They are stubborn and perverse in their tenacious claims of sanctification, giving many words, but bearing no precious fruit as proof.... They may be heard to reiterate again and again, 'God leads me! God teaches me! I am living without sin!' If you come in contact with this spirit you encounter a dark, mysterious something which you cannot comprehend" (RH.01-18-81).
"Spurious sanctification leads directly away from the bible. Religion is reduced to a fable. Feelings and impressions are made the criterion. While they profess to be sinless and boast of their righteousness, the claimants of (this kind of) sanctification teach that men are at liberty to transgress the law of God and that those who obey its precepts have fallen from grace" (FW.53).
"Genuine sanctification is nothing less than a daily dying to self and daily conformity to the will of God. Paul's sanctification was a daily conflict with self. In the plan of not following inclination, he did the will of God, however unpleasant and crucifying to his nature. The reason (why so) many in this age of the world make no greater advancement in the divine life, is because they interpret their own will to be just what God wills. They do exactly as they desire and flatter themselves (that) they are conforming to God's will. They please self in everything and have no conflict with self" (TDG.251).
"There exist in these last days evils similar to those that threatened the prosperity of the early church and the teachings of the apostle John on these points should be carefully heeded. 'You must have charity,' is the cry heard everywhere, especially from those who profess sanctification. But true charity is too pure to cover an unconfessed sin. While we are to love the souls for whom Christ died, we are to make no compromise with evil" (AA.554). Charity or love we must have, but this is not the only attribute required for our sanctification. Later on we will see, that there are other points we need to consider in our quest for sanctification and holiness.
"Sanctification is obtained only by obedience to the will of God." (FW.29). This statement by Ellen White tells us how we are to obtain sanctification. We simply need to be obedient to the will of God. And what is the will of God? I suppose that we all agree on that point, that we need to follow the instructions given in the Holy Scriptures and that we must not ignore the Spirit of Prophecy. Let us keep in mind that God wants us to be sanctified, so that we all will be complete in Christ. Ellen White said, "Sanctification is the measure of our completeness." (RH.07-25-99). The higher we reach on the ladder of sanctification the more complete we shall be. If we want to know what completeness is all about then we only need to look to Jesus. "For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily and ye are complete in Him" (COL.2:9). We are complete in Christ if we always do what He did when He was with the disciples, namely that every day we die to self and that every day we conform to the will of God. Jesus said when speaking about His Father in heaven, "I do always those things that please Him" (JHN.8:29). And Jesus was able to please His Father in heaven by always relying on Him through complete submission. He was tempted in all points as we are but He did not sin. We all know that He was asking His Father in heaven every day to give Him wisdom and strength for the purpose of overcoming. There was no other way for Him to remain without sin, He simply was unable to gain the victory in His own strength because, "He was subject to the infirmities and weaknesses by which man is encompassed... He was touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (FLB.49). We also depend on our Father in heaven for strength and wisdom and the presence of His Spirit in our struggle to overcome.
Jesus was sanctified because He was obedient. Jesus is love. Ellen White said, "Obedience is the sign of true love." In other words, "True love will always produce obedience. Christ and the Father are one, and those who in truth receive Christ will love God as the great center of their adoration, and (they) will also love one another; and in so doing they will keep the Law" (RH.10-26-97). If anybody claims to have charity and love without keeping the commandments of God, that charity (or love) is not based upon pure motives. We cannot sincerely love one another if we do not love God first; and in order to love God we need to keep His commandments. Many people out there in the christian world will tell you that they love God, but their love is not the kind that God will accept. We know this to be true because of JHN.14:15, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." "Through obedience comes sanctification of body, soul and spirit" (ML.250). When we talk about obedience we think of the 10 commandments; and having the 10 commandments in mind, our attention then is focused on the Sabbath. That day is special because, "To those who keep holy the Sabbath day it is the sign of sanctification." Please notice that our prophet did not say that it is 'a' sign of sanctification which would have implied that there are other indicators, no, she said that to those who keep holy the Sabbath day it is 'the' sign of sanctification. She also said, "The Sabbath is 'the' sign of obedience. He who from the heart obeys the fourth commandment will obey the whole law" (AG.156). "We are distinctly and decidedly taught that the proper observance of the Sabbath brings a knowledge of what constitutes true sanctification" (5MR.347). That means, without the proper observance of the Sabbath we don't really know what sanctification is all about and we don't know which way we are going. Our lives would be without purpose. All the affluence we may enjoy in this life, in the end would serve us nothing, because without the knowledge of the Sabbath we would be trying to generate riches for the wrong purpose.
Concerning the proper observance of the Sabbath we should know that, "We are not merely to observe the Sabbath as a legal matter. We are to understand its spiritual bearing upon all the transactions of life. All who regard the Sabbath as a sign between them and God who sanctifies them, will represent the principles of His government. They will bring into daily practice the laws of His kingdom. Daily it will be their prayer that the sanctification of the Sabbath may rest upon them. Every day they will have the companionship of Christ and will exemplify the perfection of His character" (6T.353). "All our happiness, peace, joy and success in this life are dependent upon genuine, trusting faith in God. This faith will prompt true obedience to the commandments of God" (SD.45). "Let every soul remember that the faith of Jesus is connected with the commandments of God. The third angel is represented as flying through the midst of heaven, crying with a loud voice, 'Here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus'" (2SM.117). Faith and obedience, either one of these, cannot be present while the other is absent. If it were not that way then all the other churches out there who claim to have faith would be approved of God without keeping His commandments and the proclamation of the three angels message would not serve any purpose.
So far you have heard about various aspects of sanctification, some dealing with true sanctification and some with the false. Let us take a look now at what the apostle Peter has to say concerning sanctification, because he is giving us a systematic approach which will lead us from our initial conversion all the way through to the kingdom of God. We may illustrate his system of sanctification by a ladder with eight rounds, reaching from earth to heaven or from a state of sin to a condition of moral fitness for the kingdom of God. Here are the rounds of the ladder, 2.PET.1:5-7, "And besides this giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity." As we look at this list we find that the keeping of the commandments is not mentioned. One could therefore get the impression that we don't need to keep them if we possess all these qualities. But if we take a closer look, we shall find that we cannot possibly have all these qualities without keeping the commandments. Concerning faith, which is the first item on this list, Ellen White said, "Genuine, trusting faith in God will prompt (lead to) true obedience to the commandments of God." And concerning charity or love, which is the last item on this list, she said, "Obedience is the sign of true love." "No one can keep the commandments of God who does not cherish love in his heart; for without love there is no true obedience. Supreme love to God is required, and when this is an abiding principle in the soul, (then) our love to those around us will be seen in our deeds and words" (ST.02-24-98). Many in the christian world of today make a mistake by believing that they love God without even knowing what the requirements are for their love to be accepted by God. JHN.14:15, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." This they either haven't heard about or they don't understand it. And then they make another mistake by believing that they are accepted of God because of their charity or love to their fellowmen. They don't want to hear that they have to love God supremely by keeping His commandments before their charity will be considered worthy. "True charity is too pure to cover an unconfessed sin" (AA.554).
Sanctification is progressive, as can be seen by this list of christian qualities which we have from the apostle Peter. "The young disciple who has just embraced the faith of the gospel, must add to his faith virtue, and then to virtue, knowledge. He may have been vicious, at least he may have lacked the principles of real virtue. His first work is to seek for purity of thought, words and acts. Then, in a pure mind and heart, he may add knowledge of the word of God to enable him to defend his position before the world. Some make a careless stride over the second round and seek to add to their faith, knowledge. They neglect to cultivate virtue, and labor to store their minds with knowledge, that they may be able to argue down their neighbors. Such seldom turn men from error to truth, but frequently, from their lack of piety, they disgust and prejudice those with whom they mingle. They may talk the truth, but it is poorly represented by them" (APL). Here we see, that the best way to attain sanctification is to follow the eight steps outlined by Peter. The fourth step is temperance. Ellen White said, "Temperance precedes sanctification. God's people are to learn the meaning of temperance in all things. All self-indulgence is to be cut away from their lives. Before they can really understand the meaning of true sanctification and of conformity to the will of Christ, they must, by cooperating with God, obtain the mastery over wrong habits and practices" (CG.396). "Sanctification is not merely a theory, an emotion or a form of words, but a living, active principle, entering into everyday life. It requires that our habits of eating, drinking and dressing be such as to secure the preservation of physical, mental and moral health, that we may present to the Lord our bodies not an offering corrupted by wrong habits, but a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God" (RH.1-25-81).
There are a lot of people out there who are quite advanced in the field of temperance, some of them even claim to have faith in God, but without keeping the commandments they will not get anywhere in their pursuit of sanctification. Many are by nature patient, some even lead a life guided
by virtue, but they are in no way sanctified, if they do not keep the commandments of God and do not have faith in God. Concerning these eight steps of sanctification, if we say that we have mastered them all except for the second, which is virtue, then our degree of sanctification is only at level one. We are always at that level of sanctification for which we have mastered all the preceding steps; and only God knows how many consecutive steps we have mastered. Therefore do not try to figure out where your brother or sister is standing with regard to sanctification. You should not even discuss this matter between spouses, because if you do, you may enter into a big argument. Our sanctification is a private matter between each one of us and God. "It rests with us individually to place ourselves where God can give us this sanctification", (5MR.343). We have to do our part, then God will do His. We must be ready to accept all the help which God is offering and we must be willing to be molded according to Christ our pattern.
"To those who with steadfast perseverance strive to reveal the attributes of Christ, angels are commissioned to give enlarged views of His character and work, His power and grace and love" (CT.491). The Holy Spirit will come to our help and communicate with our inner soul. "Having brought conviction of sin and presented before the mind the standard of righteousness, the Holy Spirit withdraws the affections from the things of this earth and fills the soul with a desire for holiness" (AA.52). However, "It is only by long, persevering effort, sore discipline and stern conflict that we shall overcome. We know not one day how strong will be our conflict the next. So long as Satan reigns, we shall have self to subdue, besetting sins to overcome; so long as life shall last, there will be no stopping place, no point which we can reach and say, 'I have fully attained.' Sanctification is the result of lifelong obedience" (RC.81).
LIST OF PUBLICATIONS AND THEIR ABBREVIATIONS:
APL Adventist Pioneer Library (CD-ROM)
RH Advent Review and Sabbath Herald
BC SDA Bible Commentary
ML My Life Today
FW Faith and Works
TDG This Day with God
AA Acts of the Apostles
FLB The Faith I live by
MR Manuscript Releases
AG God's Amazing Grace
T Testimonies for the Church
SD Sons and Daughters of God
SM Selected Messages
ST Signs of the Times
CG Child Guidance
CT Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students
RC Reflecting Christ