The Pentecostal Perspective on Sanctification

Summarizing the Pentecostal doctrine on sanctification is either very easy or extraordinarily complex. The reason for this is the wide range of Christians that congregate under this umbrella and the corresponding wide range of application for this important aspect of the believer’s life. The doctrinal range extends from the very conservative two step positional-progressive sanctification to holiness as a second work of grace to be followed by baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Myer Pearlman (Knowing the Doctrines) provides the most general definition of the Pentecostal doctrine as including separation from sin and the world and dedication or consecration to the fellowship and service of God through Christ. This may translate into different practices among the believer groups; some will abstain from ‘wordly’ thing (e.g. tobacco, drink, short dresses) while others interpret this more liberally as simply the search for holiness according to specific biblical standards. In general however, the Pentecostal observes sanctification as occurring in the three familiar events. It is instantaneous at the moment of belief, where the new Christian is immediately set apart from sin. Sanctification is progressive as well, continuing throughout the term of one’s life as we are transformed into the likeness of Christ. Finally, using a term that can have a variety of definitions, there is entire sanctification. This final state is almost universally seen as occurring only at glorification when the believer passes into the immediate presence of the Lord.

Progressive sanctification is viewed as a tri-cooperative effort. Our progress comes through the work of the Holy Spirit, our cooperation as we surrender to His work, and through the Word of God (John 17:17). The Word of truth comes alive only through the intervention of the Spirit as He interprets for each believer how that truth applies to our lives. All of this combines to attain a maturity that God desires for us, continuing in this process until we return to our heavenly home.

Controversy arises when the doctrine of Baptism in the Spirit enters the discussion. Many of the Oneness (Jesus Only) Pentecostals take the extreme position that one cannot be saved (thus be sanctified) until receiving the baptism in the spirit and giving evidence through the gift of tongues. Trinitarian Pentecostals view the Baptism as a secondary event subsequent to regeneration. The Assemblies of God for example, sees the progressive sanctification and the visible change in their life as evidence of the infilling of the Spirit.

Conclusion

As stated in the initial paragraph, there is a wide range of belief in the Pentecostal congregations regarding sanctification and its application. For the most part, the combined instantaneous and progressive nature of this doctrine can be found in the statement of belief of nearly all of the churches. Ultimately, there is a common goal of holiness in the believer that is standard to all of the doctrines, something held in common with the Calvinist and Arminian doctrines as well.

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