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Dear Brother: – We have a band of “Holliness People” here that rely mostly on Paul’s letter to the Hebrews (vi. 4-7; xii. 14-17,) to prove their doctrine. They claim all baptism is Holy Ghost baptism. If not too much trouble please explain this.

Clarendon, Ark.

The above request, as will be seen, comes from a brother who lives in the midst of “Holliness People.” What good neighbors and citizens they must make. We believe they claim holiness to the extent that it is impossible for them to sin. How strange that the Lord did not so bless the patriarchs, prophets and apostles; not one man, who knew the grace of God, from Abel to the end of the apostles’ day, nor since, could say, I am wholly without sin. But all have confessed that they were and are sinners, though saved by grace. The mighty apostle Paul said, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” He did not speak in the past tense, as to say he was the chief of sinners when Saul of Tarsus, but “I am” now the chief of sinners.

We are told in the Scriptures that, “There be gods many and lords many,” and delusions are just as numerous, but this holiness idea is the chief of them all; it denies every statement of salvation, because salvation refers only to sinners, no other character ever needed it. Jesus said, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” The righteous (holy) are not called at all by him; they need no repentance, therefore have no need of Christ. He died for sinners and keeps sinners through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time. John wrote the things which he and the other apostles had heard, seen and handled of the Word of life, that the brethren in Christ might have fellowship with them and with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. In this same letter he said, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” If there was no possibility of the brethren sinning, we fail to understand just why John should thus write, and if the children of God are without sin in the flesh we fail to understand why John said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” We have every confidence that John was right, and that then or now the man who says he has no sin is a liar, not only against his own conscience, but against God and his holy word. If we have no sin how can we confess our sins to God? and how can he prove his faithfulness in forgiving our sins? Paul said of a certain class, “It is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.” It is indeed a shame, and if some of the deeds of those who claim to be without sin were brought to light it would be a hard matter to convince men that they are absolutely holy. Not one believes it who has the grace of God in the heart.

The Scripture in Hebrews cited by our brother as the foundation of the doctrine of the “Holliness People” has no bearing whatever upon such doctrine, therefore does not belong to them. “Hebrews vi. 4-7, reads as follows: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God.” The apostle had in the preceding verses of the same chapter called their attention to the principles of the doctrine of Christ, which he had no doubt carefully and faithfully presented to them before, and in which they should have been established, but he reproved them in the former chapter for lack of knowledge, saying, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” Now, after once more having called their attention to the principles of the doctrine of Christ, he said, “Let us go on unto perfection.” The going on unto perfection did not signify that they could attain unto holiness or perfection in the flesh, but that there were gracious and glorious things in the Scriptures concerning Christ and the salvation of sinners that they should not be ignorant of. The priesthood of Melchisedec and Aaron must be brought to their knowledge and compared with the royal priesthood of Christ; these and other types must be presented as shadows only; Christ must be preached as the Antitype or body of all shadows. Therefore the apostle means a perfect knowledge of Jesus in the fullness of his character by the word “perfection,” as he said to the church at Ephesus: “Till we all come in the unit of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” He is Shepherd, Husband, Head, Lawgiver, Savior, Redeemer, Resurrection, Mediator, Counselor, High Priest, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Mighty God. To speak of him and show his relation to his people in all these wonderful names is indeed perfection which the “Holliness People” have not yet arrived at.

In verses four, five and six the apostle shows clearly the character and efficacy of salvation through the blood of Christ. It is impossible to renew any again unto repentance “if they shall fall away;” it is equally impossible for any to fall away, for “we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the savings of the soul.” – Heb. x. 39. Yes, the work of Jesus is so perfect that neither life nor death shall separate us from the love of God. If one sinner for whom Christ died could fall away and be lost, every declaration of salvation would be denied and all men be left without hope. But to the praise of the glory of his grace he hath by one offering perfected forever all them that are sanctified or set apart. As man stands in Christ, our living Head, he is holy and without blame before God, but as he stands in Adam the body is dead because of sin, therefore the law of sin in his members is still active, bringing him often into captivity. If Paul realized this and confessed that sin dwelt in him, how shall any man now claim to be without sin?

Hebrews xii. 14-17, reads thus: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” Verse fourteen is an exhortation to godliness in life and deportment. Men may believe and be established in the doctrine of God, and yet in their lives, by bad conduct and unclean conversation, deny Christ who bought them. Men who are not willing to suffer shame and reproach for the name and cause of Jesus Christ are not apt to live peaceably with all men. To follow after holiness is to deal justly, love mercy and walk humbly. The apostle does not say, If we do not follow after holiness we shall not see the Lord, but without holiness or righteousness no man shall see him. If his name is called “The Lord our Righteousness,” he surely must be our holiness also. Therefore without his righteousness or holiness no man shall see him. Verse fifteen continues the exhortation by saying we should be diligent lest any fail of the grace of God; this would be receiving the grace in vain, is, that grace makes no change in the life of the man who has received it; if it does not make the liar truthful, the drunkard sober and the thief honest, it is of no benefit to such men in their lives, nor does it glorify God in such men. The apostle&rsuo;s meaning is that all who have received the grace of God should “mortify the deeds of the body,” put off the old man (former life), which is corrupt, and put on the new man (newness of life), which is created in righteousness and true holiness. In following this course no root of bitterness will sprint up, nor will any be defiled. Verse sixteen and seventeen clearly show the possibility of the children of God sinning and being visited with the displeasure of God because of their transgression. These two last verses completely remove the foundation from under the “Holiness People.” “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” – Eccl. vii. 20.

With regard to “all baptism being Holy Ghost baptism,” will say, if it be true how shall we understand why God sent John the Baptist to baptize with water, or why Christ was baptized in the Jordan, or why the apostles baptized in the days of the flesh of Jesus, or why Christ commanded the apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost? The eunuch said to Philip, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? and Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” The chariot was commanded to stand still, and they went down both into the water and Philip baptized him. Why people should wrest the Scriptures to suit their convenience and bring about their own destruction is difficult to understand, but such has ever been the case and will doubtless continue, since “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned.” Holy Ghost baptism is that which sanctifies the sinner, makes him a believer and causes him to follow Christ. Cornelius and his house had received this baptism before Peter commanded them to be baptized with “water.” The apostles were commanded to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but not with the Holy Ghost. Water baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God in putting on Christ before men, professing faith in him as the crucified and risen Savior. It shows the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. A man who is not dead to sin is not a fit subject for water baptism, and should he be buried and raised in the likeness of the resurrection of Christ he could not “walk in newness of life” because he is not, in Christ, a new creature.

We now leave the subject for the consideration of our brother, hoping he may in a measure at least be satisfied with our explanation.


Elder H. C. Ker
Signs Of The Times Editorial
Volume 75, No. 16
August 15, 1907