The Nature of Sanctification
The usual way through the apparent dilemma is to correct the translation, and this is certainly a help; but it does not give anything like a final clearance. Let us get the help that lies in that course by trying to retranslate the passages more accurately and literally. The reader of the English will understand that different Greek words are used for one common English word in certain laces, and certain Greek words mean more than the English word employed for them.
1 John 2:29, "Everyone that practiceth (or, is practicing) righteousness is begotten of Him."
1 John 3:4, "Everyone who practiceth (or, is practicing ) iniquity practiceth lawlessness."
1 John 3:6, "Whosoever abideth in Him does not wander from (or, miss) the right path" ("sinneth not", Greek harmartano = to miss the mark or the right way). Or, "Whosoever abideth in Him is not missing the mark."
1 John 3:7, "He that doeth (or, is practicing) righteousness is righteous."
1 John 3;9, Whosoever hath been born of God is not practicing sin (or, is not missing the mark) because a seed of Him abideth in Him and He cannot be practicing sin" (moral aberration).
The help given by a knowledge of the actual words employed lies mainly in the word "practice" as representing both an habitual course and a present - ever-present - conduct.
The Real Key to Sanctification
But all this does not settle the whole matter. We therefore submit that the key to this dilemma is the difference between soul and spirit. We have said that what begins in regeneration proceeds in sanctification. The carry-over of the atonement as a sanctifying power is thus: there is in the born-again spirit a striving after holiness as well as a new desire for the Lord. When the spirit is renewed and quickened, something happens. That spirit itself is that in man which is the image or likeness of God (spirit). It has been dead - that is, it has been severed from its life in God, and has ceased to function in any Divine way. The Holy Spirit, in virtue of the atonement, first renews it by cleansing and quickening, and also imparts Divine life (eternal life) in Christ to it, thus making it one in nature and fellowship with God. The spirit, when thus dealt with, is that seed or has that seed of God which is said by the Apostle to be unable to practice sin - "cannot sin." This new "inner man" cannot be committing or practicing sin. The dilemma of many is that there are two natures and two springs of life in believers. One gives forth sweet water and the other bitter, and the Bible says that a fountain cannot do this. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?" (Jeremiah 13:23). Therefore there must be two fountains.
The soul, which is the fountain of the natural life, is poisoned and impure. It is ever prone to evil, like the "flesh" in it. The soul is that which has to be continually subdued, won and eventually saved )Hebrews 10:39).
The renewed spirit is prone to good; its course is naturally upward. The life in it makes it gravitate to its source - God. It judges and condemns all the motions of the flesh. It strives, as energized by the indwelling Holy Spirit, to make the whole man go Godward. Its nature is Divine, although it does not become the Divine Person. It is here that 'there is a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17), and that which "is being renewed ... after the image of Him that created Him" (Colossians 3:10).
As we have pointed out elsewhere, this is all a deeper reality than the life and motion of the soul, and registers itself continually against ourselves in the natural. There are stages in spiritual experience, more or less pronounced in different cases for certain reasons. The first phase may be a great and overflowing joy, with a marvelous sense of emancipation. In this phase extravagant things are often said as to total deliverance and final victory. An earnest of the ultimate is often given with the incoming of the Holy Spirit. He is that earnest, and His advent in the human spirit is celebrated with glory.
Then there may, and often does, come a phase of which inward conflict is the chief feature. It may be very much of a Romans 7 experience. This will lead under the Lord's hand to several things; firstly, to the fuller knowledge of the meaning of identification with Christ, as in Romans 6. Happy the man who has been instructed in this from the beginning.
Sanctification and Education Go Together
Then it will introduce to the way of spiritual education. Sanctification and spiritual education are one, as Hebrews 7:1-13 makes clear. The advance in this double course is marked by the growth of the spirit. When the spirit is first quickened, it is barely able to show its existence. It is far from able to show its mastery over soul and body. The advance of sanctification is marked by a growth of the spirit. It begins to assert its supremacy, to compel the physical and animal life to know their bounds, and to obey God. The more sanctification advances, the more marked is the spiritual intelligence, power and life, until at last it reaches its coming-of-age in "the revealing of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19, 29). This education and sanctification is the result of walking, "not after the flesh, but after the spirit." Such a walk leads away from carnality and babyhood, as 1 Corinthians 3 shows.
There may be crises in this course marked by definite and tremendous experiences. But no such crises is final: every one has to have an outgrowth leading to greater fullnesses. It is fatal to relate everything to a crisis or experience of years ago, and to stop there.
So the distinction between soul and spirit is the true key to sanctification, for sanctification must not be negative like innocence, but positive in the sense that it goes along with spiritual understanding and responsibility. Sonship, which is all of a piece with sanctification (see Romans 8) is a matter of spiritual and moral responsibility in God's house. We are born "children;" we are adopted "sons." "Adoption" in the New Testament is not bringing an outsider into the family, but the born one reaching his majority and being made his father's responsible representative with 'rights.'
Romans 7 has to do with condemnation by the law, and the big question is that of deliverance from the death which has become such a real, terrible and intolerable things because of spiritual awakening. Romans 6 shows that such deliverance from death and condemnation is by union with Christ's death and resurrection. Romans 8 transfers the law from the outside as an obligation imposed, to the inside as a power imparted. Thus, in the spirit, the new covenant is written by the Spirit of the living God (2 Corinthians 3 and 4).
It will help us if we get Paul's mental picture again. He had in mind the gladiators in the arena. When the victorious gladiator had been given the 'thumb-down' signal from the judge, which meant 'kill', it was incumbent upon him to drag his victims' body around the arena for the spectators to applaud. It was a horrible and loathsome thing, and the one who had to do it would be longing to reach the exit. Paul imagined such an once saying to himself, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this dead body?" and then, espying an exit, he cried, "Thank God, through here!" This was carried over into Christian truth, and the way out for the "wretched man" was "through our Lord Jesus Christ." This has been more fully explained as being through the death, burial and resurrection. So then, the death of Christ is something to be made good in a believer's life by the Holy Spirit, through faith's deliberate identification. Then the resurrection of Christ is likewise proved to be a present mighty, delivering power; or the power by which the believer, by the spirit, puts to death the doings of the flesh.
(continued with # 12 - "Where Christendom is Deceived")