Holiness and sanctification are important concepts in Christian theology and are particularly emphasized within the Pentecostal tradition. While these concepts are shared broadly among Christian traditions, there are some unique aspects to how they are understood within Pentecostalism.
- Holiness: Holiness, in the Christian context, refers to the quality of being set apart for God’s service or being morally and spiritually pure. It is one of the primary attributes of God, and Christians are called to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16). This involves a transformation of the believer’s character and behavior to reflect the character of Christ.
- Sanctification: Sanctification is the process by which a Christian becomes holy, that is, set apart for God’s service and purified from sin. It’s often seen as a lifelong process that begins at the moment of conversion and continues until the believer’s death or Christ’s return. In theological terms, it’s the work of God’s grace, but it also involves the believer’s active cooperation or participation.
Within Pentecostal theology, there are some distinctive emphases regarding holiness and sanctification:
- Second Work of Grace: Many early Pentecostals were influenced by the Holiness Movement, which taught a doctrine of “entire sanctification” as a “second work of grace” following conversion. This was seen as a crisis experience that purified the believer’s heart from sin and empowered them for holy living. While not all Pentecostals today hold to this specific understanding, the influence of this teaching is still evident in the strong emphasis on holiness and sanctification within Pentecostalism.
- Empowerment for Holiness: Pentecostals often link sanctification with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Holy Spirit, a distinctive Pentecostal experience, is seen not only as empowerment for service but also for holy living.
- Eschatological Perspective: Many Pentecostals see sanctification in the light of the imminent return of Christ, believing that the church must be purified and made holy in anticipation of this event.
- Ethical Implications: The call to holiness has ethical implications. Pentecostals often emphasize personal morality, integrity, and social ethics. This might involve teachings on issues like honesty, sexual morality, substance abuse, and social justice.
While these teachings are significant in the Pentecostal tradition, they are also part of the wider Christian understanding of the transformative impact of faith in Christ. They underscore the belief that Christian faith is not just about future hope but also about present change in individuals’ lives and in society.