PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS AND FOR SANCTIFICATION
By A. M. Hills
Forgiveness and sanctification are the complementary parts of full salvation. They constitute the first and the "second blessing properly so-called." The one is to be sought by the sinner; the other by the Christian. Both blessings are received in answer to prayer. It becomes a matter of supreme importance then to know how we should approach the throne of grace, and with the hand of the prayer of faith bring away these blessings.
Consider The Prayer For Forgiveness
How can a consciously guilty sinner, a rebel against God, approach the Infinite, who is of too pure eyes to behold iniquity, and hates sin with an infinite hatred, and obtain pardon? On his own merits, and for the sake of his own desert he could not. With such a plea only he could expect and receive nothing but the wrath and judgment of his outraged God.
Nevertheless, there are some considerations which encourage the vilest sinner to come to God and obtain pardon and salvation. It is something that nature does not teach. Socrates said to one of his pupils: "I do not see how God can forgive sin, for I do not see that He ought to." But what nature does not teach and man's reason could not discover, God has revealed in His holy Word.
God has revealed Himself as having a father's heart "not willing that any should perish" (2 Pet. 3:9) but "willeth that all men should be saved" (1 Tim. 2:4). God revealed Himself to Moses in Horeb as "Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious . . . forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (Ex. 34:6-7).
In the fulness of time, the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world to more perfectly reveal the nature of God to men. It was this Son of God who kindly ate and drank with sinners, and told them He had come to "seek and save the lost." He forgave the deepest dyed sinners, and saved the murderous highwayman, when He himself was enduring the agonies of the cross. Thus Christ revealed what God is.
2. Notice what God has done. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). If God offers to save a race of sinners, He must do it with honor to Himself, and with safety to His government. So He suffered Himself to show His hatred of sin, and His care for His law and government, and at the same time show His love for sinners, and His infinite desire to save them. The suffering of Christ was a provisory substitute for the penalty of sin in the interest of moral government. Whoever by faith accepts this substitute escapes the penalty of his sin.
3. Notice what God promises. "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). "Ask and it shall be given you" (Luke 11:9). "If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins" (1 John 1:9). That is, He is faithful and just to Himself and His promises to sinners, and just to his beloved Son who died for us, to forgive every sinner who comes in the proper spirit. (a) He must come with a repentant spirit, forsaking all sin (Isaiah 55:7). (b) He must have a forgiving spirit toward his fellows. "If ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matt. 6:15). (c) He must pray in faith. "Have faith in God All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for; believe that ye have received them and ye shall have them" (Mark 11:23-25).
That is, every forgiving, repentant sinner, however wicked he has been, is encouraged to come to God in prayer and ask for pardon. He is perfectly warranted by what God is, by what God has done and Christ has suffered, and by what God's Word has promised, to pray for forgiveness, and to believe that then and there he has received what he asked for -- pardon and sonship in Christ. "Ye shall have them." The condition is not how you feel at that moment, but do you trust in the holy God, and rest on His immutable word of promise? That is the sinner's prayer of faith that never fails to procure pardon and sonship with God. The witness of the Spirit to the blessing will surely come after he has believed.
Consider The Prayer For Sanctification.
The sinner needs forgiveness for his own actual sins, and a new heart: the Christian needs deliverance from inbred sin (for which he is not primarily responsible) and a clean heart. The considerations which encourage the prayer of faith for sanctification of a Christian are very similar to those which encourage the sinner to pray in faith for pardon.
1. What God Is -- He is absolutely, infinitely, eternally holy. Sin of any kind, or form, or degree, is most painful and offensive to Him. He could not, therefore, require less than holiness own. So He commands: "Like as he which called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, ye shall be holy, for I am holy."
2. What God Has Done -- He has provided an atonement through His Son, which covers all the spiritual needs of His children, God the Son "loved the church and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it. . . that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25-27). "Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered without the gate" (Heb. 13:12).
3. What The Father and Son Have Said, Prayed For, and Promised -- "This is the will of God, even your sanctification" (1 Thess. 4:3). "For God called us unto sanctification (4:7). "Because God hath chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the spirit. . . whereunto he called you by our gospel." Jesus prayed "Sanctify them" (John 17:17). Paul prayed, "Now the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly."
Now that which is God's will, that which He commands Christians to have, and chose us for, and calls us to, and Jesus prayed for, and died for, must be a blessing for which Christians are warranted to pray.
The conditions preliminary to prevailing prayer for this blessing are plainly stated. (a) Absolute obedience. "he gives the Holy Spirit to them that obey him" (Acts 5:32). (b) Full consecration of yourself and your all to God, for Him to own for ever, you being henceforth only His steward and servant. Put yourself and all your innocent and precious things upon the altar -- your very son Isaac, the thing dearest your heart. (c) Then make it a personal matter -- the sanctifying Spirit for me now.
Then pray in faith, as you have a right to do. "He gives the Holy Spirit to them that ask him" (Luke 11:13). "Believe that ye have received the sanctifying baptism with the Holy Spirit: He will respond to your faith, and "ye shall have" it (Mark 11:24 and 1 John 5:14-15).