Mid-Watch Report: March 2004
The Fullness of the Promise

by Rev. Sterling M. Durgy

Click below to view:

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Click below to:

Return to menu of articles available here.

Return to The American Night Watch home page.

Mid-Watch Report The American Night Watch (TM)

of  The American Night Watch
Vol. 5   No. 1      March 2004

The Fullness of the Promise

Note: This article builds upon insights presented in “Time for the ‘Holiness Bogeyman’ to Go” and “Time to Live Out the Promise” in the previous two Mid-Watch Reports.

In our previous discussions of Christian holiness we noted that holiness defines who Christians are and how they are to serve their Lord, Jesus Christ, in this age. Christians are, in the language of Scripture, “holy ones” - people made holy by the grace of God in their lives. Christians are also representatives of the Kingdom of God on earth; embodying the Kingdom and all it represents.

It is through the study of the Holy Scriptures that Christian holiness is properly understood. In the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, we find that holiness involves a proper understanding of the nature of God, God’s will for mankind, the blood of Christ shed at Calvary, the power of God on behalf of His people in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead that is resident in the living Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst.

The best summary of true holiness, according to Scripture, is Christlikeness. This does not mean that we can inherit those characteristics or privileges that are uniquely God’s, because He alone is Lord. It means that we are to be like Him in all ways that a creature can legitimately be like its Creator. Paul wrote that as we look confidently to the Lord we are, “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This is the privilege of every person who comes to know God through Jesus Christ and walks in fellowship with Him - the creation of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-17, Galatians 5:22-25).

When Jesus comes bodily to establish His Kingdom over all creation, all things will become “new” (Revelation 21:5). But, those who come to know the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ become new creations even in this age (John 3:3-8, 1 Peter 1:3-5, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Galatians 6:14-16, Titus 3:3-7).

Discovering the Deeper Life

The Church of Jesus Christ was brought into being in Jerusalem on the day of the feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out in a new way upon the followers of Jesus gathered in an “upper room.” Luke tells us that “the Promise of the Father” was fulfilled at that time (Acts 1:4, 5; 2:1-42). The remainder of the Book of Acts and the other writings of the New Testament witness that the Holy Spirit came to provide all of the spiritual needs of the Church until the bodily return of Jesus Christ (cf. Philippians 4:19).1

Often, those who become Christians are so taken with their new spiritual experience in Christ that they do not look for more. Those who are serious about following Jesus Christ, however, search the Scriptures for everything that God has for them. It is, therefore, appropriate for all Christians to seek beyond their initial experience of the Lord, to seek to live out the fullness of the Promise made by the Father. In this sense, we notice that there are Scriptures that challenge Christians to a deeper walk with God, a deeper spiritual life.

There are some cautions that we should keep firmly in mind as we seek such a deeper life, however. We should remember that the grace God gives is so that we can be all that God means for us to be in this age; to enable us to live out His purposes for the Church of Jesus Christ here and now (Philippians 2:12, 13).

We should also be careful to understand Scripture, for it is easy to be careless and to go astray in this area. Unfortunately, many people do. Like anything else, it seems, those things that are of the greatest benefit can be turned into the greatest harm (2 Peter 3:14-16). Fortunately, there are some guidelines that can help us here.

First, it is helpful to understand that the words used in Scripture are words that were generally used elsewhere in the literature of the ancient world, but filled with new meaning in Holy Scripture. Therefore, we must carefully distinguish between words used in a conventional sense (in the sense in which they are used in other literature) and words used in a theological sense (when they are filled with unique, Christian meaning).

Remembering that the expressions of Scripture often describe something that is uniquely Christian is of paramount importance with regard to the deeper life. Nothing can help us to understand the teachings of Scripture accurately if we insist that what it teaches is identical to everyday concepts. Only if we are willing to take all that Scripture says and interpret it in terms of God and His redemptive plan for people like you and me will we be able to see it for what it is. It isn’t that we create our understanding of the deeper life from our own feelings or imagination; what Scripture teaches points to a spiritual reality - a reality that goes beyond wooden interpretations of the text, pat clichés, or analogies that tie the meaning too closely to the things of this world. It is expressed in Scripture in language that comes from past language and culture, but it is, nonetheless, as true today as it was then.

A little reflection helps us to see that this is no different from our understanding of how Scripture communicates other Christian concepts. The omnipresence and eternity of God, the Trinity, Jesus as both fully God and fully man, the atonement made by Jesus Christ at Calvary, the resurrection and glorification of Jesus Christ, the second-birth, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the bodily return of Christ to establish His eternal Kingdom - all of these are concepts that are uniquely Christian.

To understand the unique Christian teaching of Scripture, the words of Scripture must be understood within the context of the times in which they were written. Care must be taken not to read the values or meanings of the words of our own time back into the words of Scripture written thousands of years ago. We should not be looking to Scripture to validate our preconceived ideas of what a deeper Christian life might be like, but seeking to understand what God is saying to us through the Scriptures.

Secondly, we should always pay careful attention to context, because the same word may be used with different meanings, or different shades of meaning, in different passages; just as in language today. We know this intuitively with our native language; but, for some reason, this is frequently ignored in interpreting Scripture. It is also important to interpret the teachings of each Scripture passage within the context of the teachings of other Scripture passages. This means interpreting verses that are less clear with the help of verses that are clearer in meaning. There is also the wider context of all Scripture. The correct interpretation of a portion of Scripture will not contradict the major, overarching teaching of all Scripture concerning God and His purposes.

Discovering the Divine Perspective

One of the first misconceptions that comes to my mind in this regard is the tendency of so many to believe that a deeper Christian life is meant to bring power or fame to the individual who has this experience. The Scriptures help us to achieve the correct perspective from which the deeper life may properly be understood. To this end, let us briefly review Scripture with regard to three subjects: John the Baptist, Jesus’ relationship to His disciples, and the mission of the Holy Spirit in relation to Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist led a very successful revival that reached large numbers of people (Mark 1:5). Yet, when a greater number of people started going to Jesus rather than John, John told his followers, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). All of the Gospels make quite clear that John was aware that his mission was to identify and exalt Jesus, not himself; and that John was faithful to his mission.

Turning to the thirteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, John the Apostle tells us that Jesus, fully aware of His identify as the second Person of the Trinity - the logos (John 1:1-5) - got up from supper, took a towel and a wash basin, and washed the feet of His disciples; foot washing being, at the time, the task of the lowliest servant. Then Jesus said, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John 13:12-15, cf. Luke 22:24-27). This event surely amazed Jesus’ disciples. It serves as one of the greater testimonies of Scripture that the Gospel did not originate with human beings, for whom such an action is totally unnatural. Although it is not as surprising to us today because the Gospel has become so well known, it should still alert us that the one who would faithfully serve the Lord, must - like Jesus - humble him or herself in the service of others (Philippians 2:3-13). This does not mean that we must do for others anything that they demand of us. It does mean that we must do whatever is in our power that we believe our Lord would have us do. We are servants of Jesus first and servants of others because we are servants of Christ. We seek to do what pleases Him.

Later in John’s Gospel, John tells us what Jesus taught His disciples about the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “When the Helper comes whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit if truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me . . . He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you” (John 15:26, 16:14). Since the role of the Holy Spirit in the world is to glorify Jesus Christ, we can be certain that those who truly experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit will exhibit that same characteristic; they will devote themselves to glorifying Jesus Christ rather than themselves.

These verses, taken together, help to set the proper perspective as we turn to consider the language that the New Testament uses to describe the fullness of the Promise of the Father and what it can mean in our lives.

The Language of the Deeper Life

We now turn our attention to some of the words and phrases used in Scripture to describe the deeper life of holiness. No one expression gives us the whole picture. We should not try to pick and choose; but to consider all of them together for what each contributes.

Entirely Sanctified (or Wholly Sanctified) - Christians are called “holy ones” in the New Testament, which is translated “saints” in our Bibles because the English word derives from Latin rather than Greek. To be a “holy one” is to have been made holy; to have been “sanctified.”

The word “holy” carries with it the concept of separation. For God, this refers to the ways God is separate from, and above, His creation (Psalm 33:6-9; Isaiah 42:5, 45:18-25) and the fact that He is separate from all that is evil and impure (Malachi 3:2; 1 John 1:5; James 1:17). For human beings, to be “holy” means to be separate to God or to some other deity. The act of separating oneself to a deity is often called “dedication” or “consecration.” This separation may be seen throughout the Scriptures; even in portions of Scripture where the concept of “holiness” is not the primary focus. Dedication to God is often compared to marriage in both Testaments (e.g., Ephesians 5:25-32). In keeping with this analogy those who turn away from the Lord are often called adulterers.

The covenant formula, “you shall be My people, and I will be your God” is, perhaps, the clearest statement that the holiness of God’s people consists of separation to God. God spoke these words to the Israelites when they first met Him at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:4-6), they were repeated as a promise to the Israelites many times (Jeremiah 24:7, 30:22, 31:33, 32:38; Hosea 2:23; Zechariah 13:9), and were foretold to be part of the New Covenant that was realized in Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:28). Those who are separated to the Lord become His “children” (Deuteronomy 14:1; Hosea 1:10; Isaiah 63:16).

The Church of Jesus Christ consists of those living under this New Covenant, and thus those separated unto God. In the original Greek of the New Testament, “church” is the word ekklesia; which means “the called-out ones.” The promise of the Old Testament that these shall be “His people” and “His children” is reflected in such passages as John 1:12, 13; Titus 2:11-14; 1 Peter 1:13-16, 2:9,10; and Hebrews 12:8-10, 13-16. The fulfillment of this promise is in Revelation 21:1-7.

This separation is both to and from. It is a not just a separation to a specific deity but a separation from anything that the deity considers to be offensive. Therefore, what it means to be “holy” is determined by which deity one dedicates oneself to. In the Old and New Testaments, this is the one and only true God, the Creator; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Moses and David: Yahweh (“I AM,” Exodus 3:14). The holiness taught in Scripture is, therefore, unique to Yahweh and is determined by Him. It involves conforming to the moral character of God and separating from all that God deems filthy and immoral.2

God both calls and requires all people to be holy (Leviticus 11:44, 19:2, 20:7; 1 Peter 1:14-16; cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3a; Hebrews 12:14). But the holiness He requires is a holiness of the creature rather than of the Creator, not one that is forever out of their reach; a holiness that human beings can attain through Him, not one dependent upon their own efforts. God not only calls us to holiness, He provides the means to be holy as well. This holiness is brought to us not only by the death of Jesus Christ, but also by His life; mediated to us by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:10; cf. Ephesians 5:25-27; Hebrews 13:10-12; Galatians 5:22, 23).

Paul wrote of this holiness in his first letter to the Thessalonians. In passages that bracket the final portion of his letter, Paul wrote of his desire that God,

. . . may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints . . . Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely (hagiasai humas holoteleis); and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 5:23, 24
The very last verse emphasizes that sanctification is the work of God. There is no difference in this respect from God’s redeeming work in our lives that brings us saving grace (Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5).

Paul emphasizes the completeness of this work of God in at least three ways. First, it is complete enough to be sufficient before the judgment throne of Christ Himself (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10). Secondly, it is “wholly complete;” as emphasized by Paul’s use of the word holoteleis in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. This word is the combination of the word for “all” or “whole” (holos) and the word for “end.” “goal,” “completion” or “fulfillment” (telos). Heinrich Seesemann suggested that this rarely used word could be translated, “wholly and utterly” “through and through;” or “having reached the full end or goal.”3

Finally, Paul makes reference to the entire spirit, soul, and body being preserved. The word Paul uses here for “entire,” holokleron, is a word that means “every portion” or “every part.” Rather than seeing this passage as teaching a three-fold makeup of human nature (spirit, soul, and body), it is better to read this phrase in context and see that Paul is emphasizing that no portion is to be left out in this work of the Lord. It is not valid to say, “God is only interested in the spirit” and to be undisciplined or immoral with one’s body (Romans 6:12-14; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20). It is equally invalid to discipline the body alone and neglect the inner, spiritual life (Galatians 6:7, 8; cf. 1 Timothy 4:8). The word “soul” (nephesh in the Old Testament, psuche in the New Testament) is used variously in Scripture; often used to identify the “self,” it can be closely associated with either the body or the spirit, or both, in various passages. Perhaps whereas spirit and body indicate more or less static components of human beings here, Paul uses “soul” to communicate the dynamic life of the individual as expressed in daily life in God’s creation in this age; expressing our character in relation to those around us and ultimately before the Lord. Whether this is the correct understanding or not, there can be no doubt that Paul uses these three aspects as a kind of summary of every part of human life and existence. His purpose is not to exhaustively define the various parts of human nature but to communicate the completeness of the work that the faithful God Who calls us stands ready to do for His people (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

This is also a work that God stands ready to do now - not just sometime in the future. This is indicated by the use of the word “kept” (teretheie). In verse 5:23, Paul indicates that it is possible - because of the work of God - for Christians to experience this work before the Lord comes so that they are found in this state when He returns.

Nevertheless, it is important to recognize at least two qualifications of this work. First, the fact that this is the work of God this does not preclude our participation. The verses on sanctification (3:12,13 and 5:23, 24) bracket a teaching section in which Paul instructs the Thessalonians how to live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:22). Again, this is really no different from other Scripture having to do with God’s saving grace. Notice the relationship of Ephesians 2:8, 9 to Ephesians 2:10, for example; or Titus 2:11-3:8, where the grace of the Lord and good works are joined. John Wesley felt it important to point out that in Philippians 2:12, 13 it is because “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” that Paul instructs us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

It is, therefore, not inappropriate to see that while the sanctification Paul points to in 1 Thessalonians is the work of God, that this work is limited in this age to those who have faith (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:13) and who have prepared themselves to receive it. Perhaps the clearest verses that encourage preparation for the service of the Lord are found in 2 Timothy 2:20-22. Because this was written to Timothy in the context of ministry, some may be inclined to interpret these words as applying only to those in a formal position of Christian service. Other verses clearly show that this applies to all Christians; including John 14:21-15:5; Romans 6:11-22, 12:1,2; Hebrews 12:1-29; 1 John 3:1-3; 1 Peter 1:13-21.

Secondly, this work can only be considered “whole” and “complete” in certain ways in this age. This may seem contradictory, but it is not. For example, when we learn something knew, say, grammar for example, our understanding can be complete at each stage along the way in our learning of this subject matter, earning us a perfect grade, 100% on a test; yet, there is still more to be learned. Certainly a child can be whole and perfectly healthy at each stage of growth; yet, not be fully mature. Similarly, because we know that only God is absolutely holy, and human beings have limitations of flesh and knowledge in this age, when we speak of the entire sanctification of God’s people we must be careful to understand what God makes “complete” and where growth in holiness needs to continue (Philippians 3:13-15).4

Pure in Heart - In 1 Thessalonians 3:13 and 5:23 Paul is careful to identify this holiness with blamelessness. And Paul introduces this in 3:13 with a prayer that God would establish the hearts of the Thessalonian Christians blameless in holiness.

The word “heart” is of immediate interest to us here because of the difference in the way this term is used in our own time versus the way it was used in Biblical times. In contemporary culture, “heart” refers to emotions, desires, and spiritual life; whereas everything else to do with thinking and the mind is associated with the brain. Unfortunately, this tends to prevent people today from understanding what God is saying through His Word. This is because in both the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament “heart” refers to the entire inner life of human beings; including emotions, desires, thinking, imagination, and the will.5 Today, when people say, “follow your heart” they are encouraging people to make an intuitive, emotional decision versus a well-thought-out one; they are setting the emotions against the brain and saying that intuition and emotions are always correct. This is completely opposite to Scripture, which calls upon us to submit all of our feelings and intellectual capabilities to the Lord God (Romans 12:1, 2).

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus constantly condemns those who only live the faith outwardly. Jesus stresses that the mind, as well as behavior, must be submitted to God. Later in Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew records that Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 in stating that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (22:37, 38). This reinforces the concept that true submission to God involves the mind as well as the emotions.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Scripture indicates that a group of people can be identified as “pure in heart.” These people, because of God’s work in their hearts, live out these commands of our Lord to the fullest extent that a redeemed person may do so in this age. They will certainly have faults and failings, they will need to grow in knowledge, they will need to learn from others, and they will need to learn from experience how best to serve the Lord in this age (Hebrews 5:14). But the focus of their lives will be upon the service of the Lord in all that they do, so that they may be considered “blameless” before the Lord (John 3:21).

In 1 Timothy 1:5, Paul wrote that a goal of his instruction was that people “love God from a pure heart” (Psalm 24:1-5). He encouraged Timothy to live in a manner consistent with those who “call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Clearly, for Paul, this was a possibility for those faithful to the Lord.

John, too, in his first epistle, describes a purity of heart that is possible for those devoted to the Lord in this age (1 John 1:9, 2:28-3:3).

Fullness of the Spirit - Jesus’ words indicate that Peter stood in a saving relationship with the Lord before Pentecost (John 14:16, 17; 15:3; 17:6-12; 20:22; Luke 10:20). Yet, when Peter looked back at Pentecost at the Jerusalem Council, what he considered most significant was that the Holy Spirit purified his heart by faith (Acts 15:8, 9). Earlier in Acts, Luke makes clear that it was at this time that the believers gathered in the upper room were filled with the Spirit in fulfillment of the Promise of the Father (Acts 1:4; 2:4).

Paul instructed the Christians in Ephesus to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). What Paul meant by this is clarified not only by the immediate context, but also by Paul’s references to his prayers in Ephesians 1:15-23 and 3:14-21. In both passages Paul emphasizes his desire that the Ephesians would have their minds opened to the great work that God wanted to do in them. In 3:17-19, Paul connects this fullness with the love of Christ (cf. Ephesians 5:25-27; Galatians 5:22-25; Romans 5:5).

Perfect Love, Christian Perfection - It is not accidental that Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonian Christians was that they might “increase and abound in love” and that their hearts would be established “without blame in holiness before our God and Father” (1 Thessalonians 3:12, 13). The author of Hebrews describes how the transformation Paul refers to has been enabled by the work of Jesus Christ at Calvary. He points to the fulfillment of the words of Jeremiah that the Law of God would be put into the minds and written upon the hearts of God’s people (Hebrews 8:10-12; Jeremiah 31:33, 34). This work does not remove the need for learning nor does it make a person faultless. But it is able to refine the intentions of the heart so that a person becomes blameless in the love of God and the love of others (Philippians 1:9-11; Matthew 5:44-48, 22:37-39; Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; 1 Corinthians 13).

Such a love fulfills the Law and the standard of perfection established by Jesus for His people in this age (Matthew 5:48; John 13:34, 35; Romans 13:8-10). It is not an absolute or complete perfection, nor one incapable of growth; but a Christian perfection - perfect love - the fullness of what was promised by the Father (1 John 4:16-18). -SMD

We will continue this discussion of Christian holiness in the next Mid-Watch Report.


Related Readings at this Web Site:

There are many articles at this site that relate to this discussion. Among them are:



1 Although I am personally persuaded that the Baptism with the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of the Promise of the Father is not limited to the birth of the Church, but is experienced by all Christians who truly enter the deeper life, this is a matter of serious debate among believers and is not the issue in our discussion here. The important point is that when the Church was born, the Holy Spirit came to provide all that was required for the spiritual life of Christians until the bodily return of Jesus Christ.

2 Charles A. Wanamaker, The Epistles to the Thessalonians (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 144.

3 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 5, ed. Gerhard Friedrich, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromily (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 175.

4 The Christian use of the word “entire” with “sanctification” is quite similar to the Christian use of the word “total” with “depravity.” The theological concept of “total depravity,” which also derives from the teaching of Scripture, is properly understood as indicating that sin touches every part of human life and existence; but not to the extent that all of life and human existence is as evil as it could possibly be. The theological concept of “total depravity” is widely misunderstood in the same manner that “entire sanctification” is misunderstood. In both cases, totality and entirety are fully extensive; yet while they may be considered “complete” in some respects, do not indicate that the depravity or sanctification cannot be deepened. A society that manifests total depravity can increase in wickedness; and a person who is entirely sanctified can grow in holiness (Christlikeness).

5 See Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1, ed. R. Laird Harris (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 466, 467 and Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 3, 609-613.

The American Night Watch Mid-Watch Report is an occasional publication of The American Night Watch Christian ministry in support of Scriptural Christianity and Scriptural holiness.

"The American Night Watch" is a trademark of the Christian ministry of Sterling M. Durgy.

The American Night Watch Mid-Watch Report is copyright © 2004 Sterling M. Durgy. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce this newsletter or the articles within in their entirety as long as the copies are not sold for profit and all copyrights are included, and to quote from the newsletter as long as the meaning of the text is not distorted.

Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

No donations in support of this ministry are solicited or accepted.

Correspondence should be directed to tanw@snet.net or 126 Sunnyside Court, Milford, CT 06460-3434.

Visit us on the World Wide Web at: http://www.amnightwatch.com/index.htm

Return to top of page.

Return to menu of articles available here.

Return to The American Night Watch home page.

Click here for Sterling Durgy's e-mail address.

This page was last updated December 3, 2005.