A synopsis of the “Agreed Statement of Belief” of the Church of the Nazarene:
Recognizing that the right and privilege of persons to church membership rest upon the fact of their being Christ followers, we would require only such avowals of belief as are essential to Christian experience. We, therefore, deem belief in the following brief statements to be sufficient. We believe:
- In one God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- That the Old and New Testament Scriptures contain all truth necessary to faith and Christian living.
- That people are born with a fallen nature
- That the finally impenitent are hopelessly and eternally lost.
- That the atonement through Jesus Christ is for the whole human race; and that anyone can be saved.
- That believers are to be sanctified wholly, subsequent to regeneration, through faith in the Lord JesusChrist. [For more information about our beliefs regarding sanctification, see the more detailed explanation below.]
- That the Holy Spirit bears witness to the new birth, and also to the entire sanctification of believers. [Again, for more on entire sanctification and what we mean by that phrase, see below.]
- That our Lord will return, the dead will be raised, and the final judgment will take place.
Our denomination is rather broad within the free-will tradition of what is known as Wesleyan Arminianism; which is to say that there is a wide variety of opinion in the Church of the Nazarene on many issues that other denominations or groups take hard stands on – end times issues & baptism are two examples. This broadness, in part, comes from the fact that the Nazarenes were a coming together of diverse groups around the idea of holiness (or Christian perfection, or entire sanctification). One of the most important Nazarene leaders in the earliest days was Phineas F. Bresee; he was known to often make use this quote (an idea to which many Nazarenes still cling):
In all things not essential there should be liberty, in essentials there should be unity, and in all things charity.
So the idea of “entire sanctification” is what sets Nazarene’s apart. Here are some quotes and thoughts that might help you understand what we mean by this teaching:
John Wesley, an important figure in Nazarene history and teaching, wrote about entire sanctification. In this context Wesley used the phrase “Christian perfection” when he wrote:
Christian Perfection “is nothing higher and nothing lower than this, – the pure love of God and man; the loving of God with all our heart and soul, and our neighbor as ourselves. It is love governing the heart and life, running though all our tempers, words, and actions.” A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, 55
So, Christian Perfection or entire sanctification is really about love. It is living a life of love. Read what Wesley wrote about adding expectations and rules to the one rule of love:
‘But he does not come up to my idea of a perfect Christian.’ And perhaps no one ever did, or ever will. For your idea may go beyond, or at least beside the Scriptural account. It may include more than the Bible includes therein…Scripture perfection is, pure love filing the heart, and governing all words and actions. If your idea includes anything else, it is not Scriptural; and then no wonder, that a Scripturally perfect Christian does not come up to it. A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, 60
This quote from Wesley demonstrates, yet again, the importance and central place love occupies (or should!) in theology and the church:
It were well you should be thoroughly sensible of this, – the heaven of heavens is love. There is nothing higher in religion; there is, in effect, nothing else; if you look for anything but more love, you are looking wide of the mark, you are getting out of the royal way. And when you are asking others, ‘Have you received this or that blessing?’ If you mean anything but more love, you mean wrong; you are leading them out of the way and putting them upon a false scent…[Y]ou are to aim at nothing more, but more of that love described in the thirteenth chapter of the Corinthians. You can go no higher than this, till you are carried into Abraham’s bosom. A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, 99
Finally, two important contemporary Nazarene theologians, Thomas Jay Oord and Michael Lodahl, in their excellent book Relational Holiness, write this about entire sanctification:
To be holy is to love – to love God, neighbors, and Gods creation, including ourselves. We are holy as God is holy when we love as God loves. While other notions of holiness contribute something valuable to our general understanding, the core meaning of holiness is love. Relational Holiness, 72
And so when we say we hope to be “listening, loving, living people” we are simply saying that we hope to be holy, entirely sanctified, fully loving. If you hope to love God and love others, with no strings attached, for the good of the world, then you already know and desire entire sanctification.