What is Christian Holiness?

by | Apr 1, 2010

Christian Perfection or entire sanctification, as John Wesley defines it, is

“loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.


This implies that no wrong temper, none contrary to love, remains in the soul;


and that all the thoughts, words, and actions are governed by pure love.”

When a person is converted, his past transgressions are blotted out, and he is “born again” or regenerated. He is born into the family of God, thus becoming “a son of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ.” “Old things are passed away, and, behold, all things are become new.” He “rejoices in God his Savior” and has “this testimony that he pleases God.” He loves God supremely and loves his “neighbor as himself.”

Yet he also sees in his heart an element or principle that is contrary to this. He loves God but realizes that his love is not perfect; he loves his neighbor, yet he must struggle against inherent principles that are opposite to this love. He has all the fruit of the Spirit, but he sees that every one of them is opposed by a contrary element.

But when the heart is made holy in entire sanctification, all this is changed. Negatively, holiness is the absence of all moral defilement or inherent tendencies to sin. The blessings which so delight the soul are received as a result of purity and may be present in personal experience to a greater or less degree. For a sense of purity inwrought by the Holy Spirit is the abiding evidence from the negative side.

Positively, however, holiness is:

1. Abandonment to all the will of God. In such a state, one can praise God in afflictions, in necessities, in temptations, in slanders, as well as in prosperity, and can turn every providence, no matter how bitter and mysterious, to spiritual benefit.

2. Holiness is purity of motive or, as the Bible says, “a single eye.” The holy heart is saved from all mixture in its motives of the vile with the precious things of the Spirit, and it has constantly a pure desire for God’s glory. If its possessor makes a mistake, as he sometimes will, he can examine the most secret workings of his soul, and after the most critical search, can conscientiously say, “I made a mistake, but my motives were pure.”

3. “Purity is power.” This is manifested in four directions:

  1. In the ability to control one’s own life with a single eye and a victorious heart.
  2. In the strength to secure a comparatively easy victory over evil, for Satan has nothing in the clean, devoted soul.
  3. Power with men. For its possessor is wielding an influence that is deeper than mere human supremacy and which lays hold of the heart of the onlooker. One can have so much of the Holy Spirit that he will actually compel people to respect the power and presence of God in him.
  4. Power with God. Here is the real reason for all the power of purity, for its possessors tarry so much in the secret place that they prevail with God. And coming from this sacred presence, how can they help but be a power with others? Such persons shed a sacred influence wherever they go.

4. The holy heart is filled with the fruits of the Spirit. It is now free from the residue of sin that still remains in the heart of the Christian who is not yet entirely sanctified. The development of these graces does not consist in a change or bettering of their nature, but in such a deepening and enrichment of them that they come more and more to control the outward actions and even the most secret thoughts, changing and refashioning the whole life for the perfecting of outward holiness and the enrichment of inward holiness.

Harmon A. Baldwin was an early Free Methodist writer and advocate of the doctrine of entire sanctification. This selection, condensed by Larry D. Smith, comes from Lessons for Seekers of Holiness, first published in 1907.