Throughout this study we have no doubt refuted many false doctrines that are taught by some. It is necessary here as well to deal with the “second blessing” or what might be called by some as “total sanctification,” a second work of grace. This doctrinal error, as far as we can tell, was first preached by John Wesley, who is to be considered a great man of God. It was also advocated by other great men such as Bud Robinson, and D.L. Moody. The doctrine has since been preached among many denominations and has taken different forms. Basically it is the teaching that there is a second experience, after the New Birth, that empowers (and some even say saves) the child of God. Men are being taught that they need to seek this second experience to give them assurance, power, and victory in their Christian life. There are three basic forms that this doctrine takes in our present day.
First, it is taught that sometime after salvation a believer has a second work of grace and this completely eradicates the sinful flesh, resulting in the believer not sinning. This is “sinless perfection” a lie, which we have already examined. The Nazarenes are the best known group which teaches this form of the “second blessing.”
Second, the idea is taught that, after the New Birth, there is a second work of grace which is called “Holy Spirit baptism”. (See ch. 3 for the truth concerning Spirit baptism.) This is an experience which will cause the believer to be filled with the Holy Spirit which will then give him the power to live the Christian life. This is evidenced, they say, by the phenomenon of speaking in tongues. We will not try to refute these errors now since we have already touched on them in this study.
Once one attains this experience he is told that he needs to continue (now that they have received the Spirit) to seek His filling which is manifested each time in a tongue speaking experience. If one never has this second experience he is looked upon as not being spiritual or not truly saved. This error is taught by today’s Charismatic movement, and among many Pentecostals.
The most troubling is the third form which we find today in fundamental circles. I had personally observed this in good churches, under great men of God, where credence to this doctrine is given, whether or not they realize it. They do not refer to it necessarily as “the second blessing” but the principles still apply to their teaching. The terms they use are: consecration, conversion, or sanctification. They teach that one may be born again and still be absolutely powerless in his Christian walk until the time when he completely gives himself over to Jesus as his Lord.
A member of one of the churches I attended explained it to me like this, “when we get saved we pass over the Red Sea, but we are in the wilderness until we pass over the Jordan. Only then are we in the victorious Christian life. We need that second work of grace.” It is similar to hearing about one who is living in sin and professing Christ as his Savior. We are told not to doubt his salvation for he is saved. He just hasn’t made Jesus his Lord yet. So, we now have in our fundamental churches weak members who are searching for this “second blessing” which will consecrate them to live victoriously. The altar calls filled night after night with people who dedicate, and re-dedicate, their lives to no avail. This is the second work of grace in our fundamental churches. Here is just a quick list of the dangers of this doctrine.
I. It Excuses Sin And Defeat in the Christian Life:
We should be careful about saying that one is lost if we see him sinning because we may end up accusing ourselves and making ourselves hypocrites. But, we also need to be careful that we do not give those who live in sin a false security. As we have seen in this study continuing in sin is probably a good proof that one is not truly saved. I have seen too many people be quick to pat someone on the back who is caught up in a gross sin and tell them that they are all right. Those that do not advocate eternal security (a Scriptural truth) use such attitudes of sin against us, saying, “you are one of those that believe “once saved, always saved”. You believe you can be saved and live how ever you want to.” Eternal salvation is not a license to sin. (Jude: 4, Rom. 6:1,2) The “Armenians” (those clinging to the teaching of Armenius) throw this dart at us often trying to prove the error of losing one‘s salvation.
We need not say of someone living in sin that he is saved, he just has not made Jesus the Lord of his life yet. We need, out of love for their souls, to confront them about the state of their soul. It would be good for us to be wrong about the state of their soul, and confront them about their sin, praying for the Lord to save them. To do such for a saved man will only do him good. (Prov. 9:8) But, if such a one (whom the Bible declares to be lost, I Cor. 6:8, 9, Gal. 5:21, Eph. 5:5, etc.) is lost, and we wrongfully assume he is genuinely saved, we encourage him in a false security, and we will answer to God for our mistake. (Ez. 3:20, 21, note in this verse it is referred to be his righteousness and not God’s righteousness. See also Isaiah 64:6, Rom. 10:3)
The truth is there is no excuse for sin in the life of a Christian. If a Christian sins God will deal with him with His loving hand of chastening and even to the point of death. God will not stay His hand for long. What this new wave of second blessing theology has done is created churches and preachers that excuse sin and will not deal with the true problem which an individual is caught up in. There are, no doubt, preachers who believe in a “second blessing”, who preach hard against sin but this does not negate the error. For one to say that one is saved, who has continued in sin without chastening and repentance, is wrong. The other effect of such a doctrine is the fact that it allows true believers to wallow in defeat.
When we trust in Christ we have already won the victory, and the Bible already declares us to be overcomers. (I John 5:4, 5) Every promise that is given to those that overcome already belongs to us. (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, 21, 21:7) Satan, with the help of this doctrine, has convinced many that they are still defeated. Many sincere believers search after “an experience” to which will help them overcome instead of believing by faith that all that was necessary for their victory was completed in Christ. Scores of believers come, time and time again, with broken hearts over their sin, to the altar to dedicate or rededicate their lives, instead of claiming the victory by faith. They are deceived, and therefore they are defeated, because they do not believe. (Mark 4:40) Yes, this second blessing doctrine excuses sin and defeat in a Christian life.
II. It Is Against The Plain Doctrines of Salvation and Sanctification:
The Bible teaches us that we are progressively sanctified. This is not to say that our salvation is also progressive for we are wholly saved upon the New Birth, that is to say that the work of salvation is guaranteed to be finished. (Phil. 1:6) But the Bible does speaks of a progression in the matter of sanctification. We are born again, then we grow in grace, and then we are brought to perfection – at the coming of Christ. (I Pet. 2:2, II Pet. 3:18, I John 3:1,2) The whole of the Christian life here on earth can be described as a growing process, or a journey, hence the progression. We call this progressive sanctification. The Bible speaks of salvation in three different tenses past, present, and future. “Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us . . . .” (II Thess. 1:10, for another example of past, present, and future tenses see Ps. 116:8, note: that each is a total dependence not upon oneself but upon the One performing the work.) All three tenses fall under the term of sanctification, which means to be set apart for holiness.
First, in the past tense, we have positional sanctification. This occurs when we are justified at the New Birth. At that point we become children of God and we are set apart from the world. We now have a new position through the death of Christ. (Rom.6:1-3, 6-8) This saved us forever from the penalty of sin. (Rom. 6:23)
Following this, is progressive sanctification. This is the maturing process of the child of God. (I Pet.2:2, Heb.5:12-14) This is where the Lord works on us to set us apart for His use. He is conforming us to the image of His Son. (II Tim. 2:19-26, Rom. 8:29) As we grow more in the Lord and in His grace we get further away from sin. One should not expect a new Christian to be as mature in the Lord as the one who has been saved for twenty years. Thus we see the growing process. We are presently being saved from the power of sin. (Rom. 6:14)
We are guaranteed this present salvation for it is based upon the life of Christ of whom it is said that He ever lives. (John 14:19, Heb. 7:25, we should remember the fruits of salvation discussed in chapter four) “. . . much more, being justified, we shall be saved by his life.” (Rom. 5:10) Remember that we are also saved from “this present evil world, . . .” (Gal. 1:4)
Finally, we come to the last tense of salvation, the future tense. This is what we call total or perfect sanctification. This is where the believer is saved forever from the very presence of sin. This salvation is what we waiting for, and looking for. Jesus Christ is going to come again, and receive us unto Himself. (John 14:1-4) Then, and only then, are we made completely free from sin. For at His coming we shall leave this sinful world and lose this sinful flesh. (Phil. 3:21, I John 3:1, 2)
We see now that if a person is born again he will begin his growing process. Nowhere within that process is there any Biblical basis for a second work of grace. The only other experience which a believer looks for is the coming of Christ. Yet, misguided Christians still fall into this mold. One common objection is the question of Peter’s conversion. (Luke 22:31) Many teach that Peter was already saved but that he was not yet converted or sold out. This has become a proof-text for many advocates of the second blessing doctrine. They fail to miss the fact that conversion is, in all other places in the Scripture, speaking of salvation or the New Birth. (Matt. 18:3, Acts 3:19, 15:3, etc.)
So one must take a second look at what Christ was saying to Peter in Luke. No one will argue that Peter was a sincere follower of Christ when Christ spoke those words. So the question we must ask ourselves is why his salvation or New Birth experience is spoken of as a still future event? The answer is obvious: Christ had not yet been glorified. We have seen, in the third chapter, the role of the Holy Spirit in the New Birth. Yet, Christ had testified that the Spirit would not come until He was glorified. (John 7:39) The New Birth experience does not occur without the Holy Spirit who seals the believer. (John 3:5, Eph. 1:13) Christ was glorified the day He rose from the grave, and that very same day Peter received the Holy Spirit. (Heb 1:3, John 20:22) Therefore Peter was not born again until he received the Holy Spirit, after the resurrection of Christ, just like you and I. This leaves those that believe in a second work of grace without a single text to support their doctrine.
III. It Insults The New Birth Experience By Saying There Is “A Greater Experience”:
This is true especially concerning the Charismatic and Nazarene camps. When you go into their meetings you will rarely hear of your need of salvation or of the New Birth experience. But you will constantly hear about the second work of grace. The Charismatic crowd will always tell you of your need of the “Baptism of the Holy Ghost” and “speaking in tongues” but not a word is spoken about the great need of salvation. The Nazarene crowd will speak of ones need to reach sinless perfection but little if any is heard of the need of salvation. A Pentecostal preacher whom I heard the other day said that the second work of grace was an even “greater experience” than that of the New Birth. This is the attitude which all who believe in a second work of grace will eventually adopt. How insulting this is to the work that Christ does in the new birth. Even some in the fundamental camps have set a second work of grace up on a pedestal.
You often will hear, in fundamental churches, messages geared to so called Christians and their need to commit their lives totally to Christ, but you would be hard pressed to hear sermons to sinners on how they must be born again. Most testimonies we hear today (this is not to cast doubt on the testimony of any) tell of the backsliding Christian turning again to Christ instead of hearing of the Hell bound sinner and all things becoming new through Christ. What happened to Paul on the way to Damascus? We may only examine the words of Christ in John chapter three to see the great emphasis He put on the New Birth. Why is the emphasis changed in many modern churches? Why is the New Birth set aside for what many esteem to be a greater experience?
IV. It Teaches Men To Seek After Experiences Or Feelings Rather Than Faith In Christ:
People often say, “I am just waiting for the Lord to call me” or “the Lord just has not dealt with me yet.” Our churches are filled with people that are waiting for some intense experience to awaken them. This is because the second blessing doctrine has taught them that the New Birth was not all, so they go on to feel after the next rung in the ladder. Whether it is speaking in tongues or the rededication phenomenon in the fundamental churches we can see that the emphasis has turned to feelings and experiences. Why is this? Because it is easier for someone to believe something that they feel or see than it is for them to look to the things that are not seen in faith. (II Cor. 4:18)
It is now common to hear the heart wrenching songs, high pressure sales tactics, tear jerking stories, and see long altar calls in order to move people to make decisions. Often these “decisions” do not last the drive home. Churches spend their time in entertaining because all that attend desire to experience something. Jesus Christ often condemned those in His day that looked for signs, and we should not believe He holds the present day experience driven religions in high esteem either. (Luke 11:29) The Bible tells us that we are to “. . . walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Cor. 5:7) We should learn not to seek after our physical senses in our Christian journey but to take each step towards heaven by faith. (Rom. 14:23) We need to go back to those days of simple gospel messages and calls, and leave the theatrical decisionism behind. That is what will save souls and cause Christians to grow. After all, “. . . faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17)
V. It Denies The Sufficiency Of The Work Of Christ:
The true test of any doctrine is what it says about the person and work of Christ. There is no menial doctrine in the Bible that does not have something to say in one way or another about Christ. The whole Biblical revelation is of Christ. (Ps. 40:7) The first and final question we should ask about any doctrinal stance is, “does this exalt or degrade the person or the work of Christ?” All true doctrine will exalt Christ and His work. All false doctrine will in some way degrade Christ. The second blessing doctrine is no different. What does it say about Christ? We have seen that the work of salvation begins at the New Birth.
That work is done by Jesus Christ, and He is continuing that work until eternity. (Phil. 1:6) To say that the work which Jesus began was not sufficient, and that another work of grace needs to be performed, is utterly blasphemous to Christ and His work. Our doctrine should be clear, for the Lord told us, “. . . My grace is sufficient for thee. . . .” (II Cor. 12:9) The grace which we received the day we were born again is enough. The work that Christ did, and is still doing, is able to save, keep, and empower all that are His. Do not fall into this doctrinal error and degrade the wonderful work of Christ. The work of Christ is sufficient.