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By Douglas F. Bayless


This booklet is a transcription of a message preached by the author in July 2013 at the camp meeting held at the Green Chapel Church of God, Oak Grove, LA.


I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1–2, New King James Version)


My thoughts in this message have to do with entire sanctification; not from a doctrinal perspective so much as from a more practical aspect. However, of necessity, I will make a few remarks regarding the theology of entire sanctification. My actual burden is pastoral.

When I studied theology in college, I was told that those who do not study theology are bound to do bad theology. I have found this to be true especially when it comes to the teaching of sanctification. There are differing ways to teach the doctrine of sanctification, all of which have led to much controversy in Christianity. Russell Byrum wrote:


Probably one of the most fruitful sources of controversy concerning the Scriptural doctrine of entire sanctification is the great amount of confusion and variety of opinion as to the meaning of the term “sanctification” as used in the Bible. We are prone to suppose that, because in one text or use it has to do with a particular phase of Christian life or experience, therefore it has that same meaning in every other use of it in the Bible. The mistake is often made of giving a technical meaning to this term and of trying to limit its usage to this one meaning.[1]




Jesus did not lay out His teaching of sanctification in a theological or doctrinal setting. Instead, He gave us His teaching through a metaphor: a gardener and his grapevine. While it is true that there are some things we must explain about His teaching, we will be wise if we do not stray from the concept of His metaphor.

In using the metaphor of a grapevine, Jesus introduces us to five important truths about a grapevine that are analogous to truths involved in entire sanctification. First: the purpose of the grapevine is to produce fruit. Second: He, Christ, is the grapevine. Third: The grapevine has branches, which, in the realm of salvation from sin, are the individual Christians. Furthermore, the branches are where the fruit grows. Fourth: Any branch that begins to grow but does not produce fruit is cut out of the grapevine. This tells us that people who profess to be Christians but do not bear the fruit of a Christian life, which is the fruit of the Spirit, are not really Christians. And, Fifth: Branches that bear fruit will be pruned so that they will bear more fruit.

The last statement above is true in agriculture; to increase the quantity of fruit, productive plants have to have the overgrowth cut off. If this is not done, the overgrowth will destroy the plant’s ability to produce useable fruit. So, in explaining this metaphor we can reduce it down to two facts as represented by the metaphor. There is both a “firstness” and a “secondness” in salvation. The “firstness” is being in the vine and the “secondness” is being pruned to bear more fruit.




2nd Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (NKJV). By definition, a person in Christ is a new creation; there has been a radical spiritual and moral change in his being. Some call this a first work of grace, but that is not totally correct in an absolute manner. At the time a person is saved from sin, there are at least six things that happen, each of which can be called a “work of grace”:

1.      Justification—the person is declared to be without sin;

2.      Regeneration—the person is born of the Spirit and given spiritual life;

3.      Sanctification—the person is made holy;

4.      Conversion—there is a distinct change in the spirit and lifestyle of the person.

5.      Adoption—the person is added to the family of God; and,

6.      Baptism into the Body of Christ—the person is added to the body of Christ, the church of God.

Let me add a comment about point 3, sanctification. The Holiness Movement became so obsessed at proving sanctification as a second work of grace that it apparently forgot that there is a sanctification that takes place the moment a person is saved from sin. If in justification a person is declared to be without sin, he must of necessity be a holy person. The verb “to sanctify” essentially means to make holy; from this we understand that a person cannot be without sin and yet unholy. Our beloved John Wesley, whom we revere for bringing back the understanding of entire sanctification from the obscurity of close to seventeen hundred years of neglect, divided sanctification into three categories: initial sanctification at the time of conversion; entire sanctification some time subsequent to conversion; and, final sanctification at the time of or close to death.

One problem in over emphasizing sanctification after conversion is that, to prove a greater experience in sanctification, we have downgraded the power of the initial experience in salvation. By limiting salvation to justification followed by sanctification as a second and more powerful work of grace, we have implied that somehow justification is inferior to sanctification. But this cannot be true. Russell Byrum says of the power of regeneration in the initial experience of salvation:


Justification would be of little practical value to us without regeneration. This regeneration is variously described as a new birth, becoming a “new creature,” receiving a “new heart,” and as being “created” anew. It may be well described as salvation from the reigning power of the sinful nature. We naturally have a depraved nature that impels to sin. This depraved nature is a derangement of the moral nature. It is a perversion of the affections, and a weakening of the conscience and of the will . . . We know that when one is born again a new power comes into his life that makes him triumphant over the depravity of his nature. . . . Thank God, we are not only pardoned at the altar, Christ, but we are enabled to live well-pleasing to God by the laver of regeneration.[2]




The secondness in salvation is really quite simple to understand if you follow Jesus’ metaphor. In an attempt to explain sanctification, some have tried to prove too much and made claims for sanctification that have perhaps done harm when intended to do good. In his book Holy Spirit Baptism, Byrum makes the following observation:


Extreme claims as to what sanctification will do for one have also been a fruitful source of confusion concerning the doctrine. Extravagant teaching that if one is sanctified he will not have certain temptations or feelings has led some who sought sanctification, and did not get the results described, to doubt either their being sanctified personally or the possibility of anyone’s receiving a cleansing of the heart subsequent to conversion. It is unsound reasoning to decide that because sanctification is not exactly what someone has taught it to be it is therefore nothing. Wrong views of the nature of native depravity have led to some of these errors.[3]


He goes on to say later in this book:


The failure to distinguish clearly between human nature and the depravity of that nature has led many to misunderstanding much as to what effects should result from the cleansing from that depravity in the work of entire sanctification. It has caused some to claim for sanctification that which it does not provide, and because some who sought the experience failed to obtain that which they had been told sanctification would do for them, they have often been led either to reject the doctrine and experience entirely or else to doubt their having the experience and, as a result, become greatly discouraged. Such unreasonable claims for the experience of sanctification are always harmful. The harmful effects may not be apparent at once; but possibly years after, one thus wrongly instructed may be led to doubt his experience or to reject sanctification.[4]


In the teaching of Jesus about the grapevine, He says, “every branch that bears fruit He prunes.” The Authorized King James Version uses the word “purgeth” instead of “prunes.” One view of sanctification understands this purging, or pruning, to be a one-time event in the life of a Christian. But, this does not fit the agricultural metaphor Jesus uses to teach us about the secondness in salvation. If the purging were a one-time event, there would never be a need for another purging. Whatever is purged would be gone once-for-all and its influence forevermore gone out of our lives. However, pruning a real grapevine is not a one-time event; it is something that is done time and again over the productive life of the grapevine.

As with pruning the grapevine, the pruning of our lives is an ongoing process. This is not to teach a gradual sanctification, but a growth in sanctification. There is a difference! Entire sanctification has a definite point of beginning that is not identical with the initial experience in salvation, call it a first work of grace or any of the other terms mentioned above. Entire sanctification is a definite and unique work of God’s grace made possible through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. But, it is a process that continues from that time forward in our lives. We do not grow into sanctification, as some teach; rather, in sanctification we grow.




The word translated in the Authorized King James Version as “purge” and other versions as “prune” is the Greek word kathairo. The literal meaning is to cleanse, and when applied to trees and vines it means to cut away useless shoots—to prune.[5] Young’s Literal Translation renders this part of verse 2, “Every one bearing fruit, He doth cleanse it by pruning it, that it may bear more fruit.” While Dr. Young’s rendering is somewhat clumsy to modern English, it does capture the exact meaning of Jesus’ statement. Adam Clarke comments on this word:


He purgeth it—He pruneth. The branch which bears not fruit, the husbandman taketh IT away; but the branch that beareth fruit, he taketh away FROM it, i.e. he prunes away excrescences,[6] and removes every thing that might hinder its increasing fruitfulness. The verb kathairo; from kata, and airo, I take away, signifies ordinarily to cleanse, purge, purify, but is certainly to be taken in the sense of pruning, or cutting off, in this text.


The purpose for the secondness in salvation is to continually cut away or purge things out of our lives that may or may not be sinful but have become part of our dispositions, attitudes and interests that are contrary to the will of God. These are things that are part of us from having been born and lived a life under the dominion of moral depravity until the moment we are saved.




I just used the expression “moral depravity.” Theologians have invented words to describe and explain the effect of Adam’s fall on the human race. Original sin is the term generally used in Christianity; but, that term can have many different meanings. Some differences are the product of semantics, how people use words and attribute meaning to them, and some differences are substantial—what people really mean.

Among holiness people the terms “inherited sin” or “inbred sin” are thought to offset some of the problems caused by the term original sin. In a sense, these terms are synonymous with original sin because they imply that a real condition of sin exists from conception. The distinction attempted by these terms is that there are two kinds of sin: a sin of being, or a sinful nature, and a sin of commission. The sin of being is said to be a sin for which people are not personally responsible while the sins of commission are acts of sin stemming from the sin of being and for which people are personally responsible. The problem in trying to make these distinctions is that the word “sin” is used for both conditions and as such loses its distinctions.

Arminian theology uses the term “native depravity without demerit” instead of original sin. In simple terms, it means that people are born in a moral condition that does not have an internal influence of the Holy Spirit. It is not sin, properly so called as Wesley would say, and it is not punishable as sin. It is that in people which bends them toward sin. Byrum explains:


The nature of this depravity has been much misunderstood. Many have wrongly supposed that it consists of guilt for Adam’s sin and that it is punishable. We reject this view as we do also the theory resulting from it, that infants are punished in hell for the sin of Adam. While some reject these theories as being unscriptural and unjust, yet they have no clear idea as to what depravity is; and without a clear view of the nature of depravity it is not possible to understand what is comprehended in the work of regeneration and entire sanctification. Native depravity is not a physical entity or material substance. It is not a stump that may be removed nor a germ that may be eradicated. It is not a thing that may be extracted as a bad tooth. It may be roughly illustrated in this way, but perhaps better as being like a poison in one’s blood resulting in disease and suffering in the body. Its immaterial nature may be still better illustrated as being likened to that which causes the ferocious lion to differ from the harmless lamb. No surgeon could find in the lion a physical thing that makes him ferocious. So, likewise, depravity is the very nature that makes unregenerate man what he is.[7]


He goes on to say:


As depravity is not a physical something in man causing him to do evil, neither is it an entire subtraction of his moral nature. This is shown by the fact that the sinner possesses moral faculties such as conscience, though it is weakened. From a careful study of the subject it is evident that depravity is a derangement or enfeeblement of man’s moral nature. It is a perversion or weakness of his moral faculties. It is in this sense that the image of God is lost, and not in the sense of an entire loss of the moral nature. In the depraved, conscience is perverted or weakened. Its power to discriminate between right and wrong is lost, to a great extent. Its power to impel to the right is weakened, so it fails to function as God intended. Its power to reprove is weakened insomuch that one may sin and feel very little if any compunction of conscience for it. The conscience becomes, as the Bible says, “seared with a hot iron.” . . . Also the affections are alienated or perverted. Man was intended to love God supremely and to love his neighbor as himself, which is keeping all God’s law. But by the perversion of this moral faculty, the affections, commonly referred to as an evil heart, he loves the creature more than the Creator, and he loves himself more than his neighbor. Depravity is the one reason why there is more love for things and self rather than for God and others. Man’s heart is not right. This is why man needs a new heart, or affections. The will is also enslaved in moral volitions.[8]


Regeneration addresses the primary cause and fruit of sin in our lives, but the secondness in salvation deals with the impact depravity made on our dispositions, attitudes, human appetites, and interests that are contrary to the will of God through having been born and lived a live under the dominion of moral depravity up to the time we are saved.

One last thing before I move to my last point. Charles Finney is held in high esteem by many evangelicals and holiness people. Finney did not believe in original sin, but he was not truly Pelagian. He did believe that people inherit something that disposes them to sin.


Moral depravity, as I use the term, does not consist in, nor imply a sinful nature, in the sense that the substance of the human soul is sinful in itself. It is not a constitutional sinfulness. It is not an involuntary sinfulness. Moral depravity, as I use the term, consists in selfishness; in a state of voluntary committal of the will to self-gratification.[9] (Bold added for emphasis)


He goes on to say, “It is not a sinful nature but a sinful heart.” What is the difference? In the minds of many, those terms mean the same thing even though Finney tries to make a distinction between them. Here we have another example of semantics confusing an important doctrinal issue.




Entire sanctification is not an invented term, it is quite scriptural. An understanding of this biblical term will help us to understand the meaning of entire sanctification properly.

1 Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NKJV). The expression “sanctify you completely” is rendered “sanctify you wholly” in the Authorized King James Version. The word “completely” or “wholly” is the Greek word holoteles, which is a compound word combining holos and telos meaning complete to the end.

There is a question concerning entire sanctification that goes back to the days of John Wesley and has been the basis for controversy among the proponents of entire sanctification. The question is, “Is entire sanctification a definite, one-time experience with God or is it a gradual process?” The answer is “yes”—it is both.

The Apostle Paul’s statement in 1 Thessalonians indicates that this entire sanctification is something God does for believers subsequent to their conversion. In the context of 1 Thessalonians, he lists several things that are part of a believers experience: rejoice, pray, thanks, etc. He closes his letter with a prayer for their sanctification, which he describes as a complete sanctification. Since this experience with God is something they may not have realized by this time, it is obvious that entire sanctification is an experience that will occur subsequent to conversion. The saints at Thessalonica were justified, regenerated, and sanctified—they were holy people. But Paul encouraged them into a degree of sanctification that went beyond their initial experience with God. Clearly, Paul is praying for them to experience a secondness in salvation.

This complete sanctification of which Paul speaks is not identical with the initial sanctification that occurred at the time the Thessalonians were converted. It is similar in purpose in that it is a factor in being holy people, but different from initial sanctification in the manner in which it works. Entire, or complete, sanctification was to begin at some point in time after their conversion, and it was to be a definite and distinct experience as much as their conversion was a definite and distinct experience. However, the nature of this second experience is that it is a process that continues over time—holoteles, complete to the end.

The terms complete and to the end at first sound contradictory. “Complete” sounds as if it is finished and no more can be done. But, “to the end” sounds as if it is not complete—at least not until the end. If your mind can take it in, think of entire sanctification as a completeness that progresses over time. In other words, you are as complete as you can be at the time you enter this sanctification, but over time you realize there is more to this completeness than you first understood. But at all times as you live for God you are as complete as you can be at any given time. By this I mean that God will time and again show you something about yourself, your whole spirit, soul, and/or body, that you previously had not seen; something God wants you to consecrate to His will. This does not mean you were not sanctified before you saw this something God wants you to consecrate and it does not mean that you are more sanctified after you consecrate this something. What is happening is that God is preserving you blameless, keeping you blameless, as you live your life for God and grow in the knowledge He gives you.




No person’s experience with God is completely typical of all people’s experience. While there are many similarities, there are perhaps more differences in how God deals with each of us and brings us to understand our need for salvation. I am somewhat reluctant to relate my experience, but it might be helpful in understanding what the “pruning” is all about.

I became a Christian at the age of 14 under the ministry of Youth for Christ. While I knew God had forgiven my sins and He was involved in my life, I still had some struggles with sin and self that discouraged me. I was taught in YFC and the church I attended that this was a normal Christian experience. While I tried to be satisfied with that explanation, I was not.

Through my high school years I found that things in my life did not necessarily go the way I wanted them to go. Things happened to me I did not want to happen; and some things I wanted to happen did not happen. I did what I could do to make things happen the way I wanted, but I found that I could not do that all the time and I was very frustrated. I developed a physical condition with my left leg and my lower back and I found that, to some degree, I could use this condition to control some of my circumstances—but not all of them.

After graduating from high school I attended a Christian college and experienced a “church problem” on campus at the end of the school year. This so discouraged me that I did not go back to school the next fall. I got a job, waited for my draft notice to come, and when it came, I joined the Army.

While in the Army and trying to live like a Christian, God confronted me with many things about myself, most of which I knew and Army life seemed to exacerbate these things. This confrontation happened while I was attending the Armed Forces School of Music in 1967. It was a beautiful spring day and I was sitting under a big shade tree on the School campus. God spoke to me as clearly as I have ever heard God speak and He said, “Bayless, get in or get out! Quit feeling sorry for yourself!” Being a good soldier, I said, “Yes, Sir!” A radical change happened in my life at that moment.

I had been so discouraged because I was not getting my way that after class I would just go to the TV room and watch television until “lights out.” Believe me, I was not the only one sitting there fighting discouragement. After God spoke to me, I started taking my Bible into the reading room and studying until “lights out.” Eventually, other bandsmen came in with me and we enjoyed evening Bible studies until we graduated.

When I came to the Church of God I made the obligatory second trip to the altar to be sanctified, but there was really no major change in my life because of that trip. At that time I did not realize that I had already entered into entire sanctification. The theology I was under said that you can’t be sanctified in Babylon because Babylon doesn’t teach real sanctification, and to be sanctified you have to go to a Church of God altar: two trips; two works of grace.

When I became a pastor, I needed a more effective way of counseling people that were seeking entire sanctification. I encountered many people that had made the second trip to the altar over and over again with no apparent success. God helped me by bringing me into contact with Oswald Chambers, one of the most effective and practical teachers of a holy life.


Sin is not wrong doing, it is wrong being, deliberate and emphatic independence of God. That may sound remote and far away from us, but in individual experience it is best put in the terms of “my claim to my right to myself.” Every one of us, whether we have received the Holy Spirit or not, will denounce selfishness, but who amongst us will denounce “my right to myself”? As long as my right to myself remains, I respect it in you, you respect it in me, and the devil respects it in the whole crowd, and amalgamates humanity under one tremendous rule which aims at blotting the one true God off His throne.[10] (Bold added for emphasis)


I found this concept of my right to myself is far more effective in helping people understand the object and focus of entire sanctification. My right to myself is what God had spoken to me about under the tree that day in 1967. From this I understood that on that day I entered into entire sanctification. Preachers may talk about stumps, inherited sin, or getting mad when the laundry falls in the mud; but, nothing seems to help people more than realizing that my right to myself is what puts me at odds with God and God’s will.

That sense of my right to myself does not go away in the firstness of salvation, even though we are regenerated and have stopped sinning. The secondness in salvation begins when we are bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives and God shows us something about ourselves that hinders a greater expression of that fruit; something I perceive to be my right to myself gets in the way of the fruit of the Spirit. This encounter comes to us at some definite point in time after we are a branch in Christ. The particular time differs for different people; it is not the same for everyone. There are those who experience this early in their Christian lives, there are those who experience it later, and there are those that experience it any time in-between.

Perhaps it is an attitude that disrupts the joy of the Holy Spirit in your life. Something happens that violates your perceived right to yourself and it quenches the joy you once felt. Or, it could be any other fruit of the Holy Spirit that has been quenched by coming into conflict with your perceived right to yourself. See Galatians 5:22, 23 for a definition of the fruit of the Spirit. By the way, all nine of the things mentioned constitute the fruit of the Spirit; all of them must be present in your life.

God will make an issue with you over anything you perceive to be your right that conflicts with any aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. When God confronts you, you will have to give up what you believe is your right and submit your will to His will. When you submit your rights to God’s will, the characteristic of the Spirit’s fruit at issue will return in a greater degree than you experienced before. If the Spirit’s joy was quenched by your perceived right, it will return with a greater degree of joy than you could have imagined. You have just been pruned and now are able to bear more fruit, more of the Holy Spirit’s joy.

But the pruning will not stop there. There will be another characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit that God will want to increase in your life and He will come to you and clip off another one of your perceived rights. Once God has made the rounds of all characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit, He will go over you again, and again, and again. This is a process that will go on for the rest of your life.

It is God’s will to preserve you blameless in spirit, soul, and body every day of your life until such time the Lord Jesus Christ comes for you, whether it be in death or the day He returns to planet Earth and calls an end to time.


Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] Holy Spirit Baptism and The Second Cleansing, Faith Publishing House: Guthrie, OK, pg. 54

[2] Shadows of Good Things to Come or The Gospel in Type.

[3] Holy Spirit Baptism, pg 33.

[4] Ibid, pg 88.

[5] Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon #2508.

[6] The word “excrescences” means outgrowths.

[7] Holy Spirit Baptism, pg 33.

[8] Ibid. pg 34.

[9] Systematic Theology, Colporter Kemp: South Gate, CA, pg. 231.

[10] Chambers, Oswald, 1947. Biblical Ethics. Marshall, Morgan & Scott: Hants UK