The heresy of instantaneous sanctification
“And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:15-17)
I would like to bring up a very touchy subject, but one that concerns me deeply. I know that it is not easy to change a doctrinal point of view knowing that I myself once had to do so and it was a difficult experience.
The truth is it would be very foolish to make a doctrine centered on verse 17 of this passage in relation to curses by saying that all things have already passed away and that all of our past has been taken care of because we accepted the plan of salvation.
It is not wise to create a doctrine upon a verse which has been isolated from its context. In this situation, Paul exhorts that Christ died for all, and for this we must not relate to other people based on their appearance or previous reputation. He emphasized the importance of breaking down barriers and avoiding any prejudice against new Christians. In other words, he told his readers not to evaluate people through the flesh or through a natural prism, but through the perspective of their new birth.
The context surrounding this verse is Paul’s explanation that Christ died for all, and that is why believers should not treat new believers differently because of their appearance or past reputation. Paul emphasized the need to break down barriers and avoid acting on bias against new believers, not looking at them according to the flesh but according to their new birth as new creatures.
An example of this would be if a punk rocker with long shaggy hair, tattoos, piercings, and accompanying attire were to receive salvation and start attending your church. How would you treat him? Would you treat him with open arms and hospitality just like any other believer?
Deliverance is a step in the process of regeneration of the soul that makes sanctification and fruitfulness a possibility. This doesn’t occur automatically with the new birth. The new birth doesn’t automatically cancel or exempt us from curses, diseases, sicknesses, temptations, debts, etc.
The danger therefore, is to use this verse as if the new birth does everything for you. To tell someone who just got saved that everything in their life is now in order, would be to deceive them. This would cause them to gloss over situations that are much more serious. This ends up becoming a pretext for the irresponsibility of many and leads to apathy and lack of spiritual growth. This type of teaching turns many churches into spiritual prisons. No matter how much people try to maintain their spirituality, many still continue to battle serious sins, conflicts of conscience, spiritual and emotional disturbances, depression, crisis in relationships, and so many other symptoms that point to concentrated demonic influence. If we teach that salvation causes everything in life to line up as it should making everything all right, many Christians will lose hope and become spiritually frustrated after perceiving that their behavior has not changed as promised. This is why so many remain unfruitful and even backslidden within the church, and many even abandon the faith.
We must receive each benefit of Jesus’ sacrifice personally as well as specifically, corresponding to and through the appropriate principles. Suppose that before getting saved you had a large financial debt. Would the fact that you received the new birth cancel the debt? Of course not! But one could argue “Isn’t it true that God’s Word says that old things have passed away and all things have become new?” In the same way we need to deal with the worthless inheritance curses passed down to us from our parents and with respective consequences of our own sins.
Nothing is automatic in the spiritual kingdom. Every action of God is always endorsed by human attitude. Jesus died so that we can all receive salvation, healing, deliverance and sanctification. Are all saved? No, not yet! Only those who repent are saved. Have all who have been saved been healed? No. Only those who have had or have received faith for this are healed. Have all been delivered? Have all been sanctified by the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire? If this were so, the whole world would be evangelized by now.
Salvation is, in fact, a definite instantaneous experience. When we make a covenant with God through the sacrifice of Jesus, our spirit is re-created and we receive the new birth. The soul, however, demands a daily conquest that involves humility, restitution, brokenness, self-denial, discipline, revelation, discernment, intercession, obedience, perseverance, etc. This is the path God takes us down towards higher spiritual consequences.
The bible likens the conquest of the soul to that of the conquest of Canaan. Canaan symbolizes the promises of abundant life in Christ. For this, many enemy chains and fortresses need to be overcome. The land needs deliverance. Joshua as a type of the Holy Spirit needs to tread on every area of our soul. Everything that we submit to the Holy Spirit is under the power of the Redeemer Jesus Christ. Everything that we fail to submit to the Holy Spirit continues to be vulnerable to evil influences.