Justification, Sanctification, and the Holy Spirit

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One of the most destructive concepts taught by William Branham was his concept of the new birth, which was something that you had to earn by your conduct.

What William Branham taught

William Branham taught that salvation was made up of Justification, Sanctification and finally the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.


William Branham often dismissed justification as a thing of the past, and that anybody can be justified. His view was that justification (like salvation) is something that you may lose at some point. The Lutherans had it hundreds of years ago, so it must not be too important. This of course makes one a borderline believer (like Judas or those who perished in the wilderness) until you make it to the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.


William Branham used a boxcar analogy to teach that a person wasn't sealed in (filled with the Holy Ghost or truly born again) until all of the loose stuff in the boxcar was packed tightly (sanctification). Then, when God sees that you mean business and that your prayer life is right - you don't smoke, wear shorts ( ___________ fill in the blank here with your personal weakness) - then, and only then, can you be born again.

The burden was placed on our shoulders instead of Christ, and essentially makes the cross of non effect, and presents a different gospel.

Filled with the Holy Spirit

I found the concept of "two salvations" in the message interesting: first there is basic salvation and then there is receiving the New Birth/Holy Ghost. It's like a loophole so that there might possibly be salvation for people outside the message, yet Message Believers feel that the baptism of the Holy Ghost is only for those who follow the teachings of William Branham (with his "special revelations".)

His analogy was that you are a dirty glass, and that you have to be cleaned and polished without a spot and set aside for service. Then when you're perfect, the Holy Spirit can be poured into you. What he missed is that it is the Holy Spirit that makes us clean.

The Kicker is....once you finally get good enough to be born again THEN you have faith: which is the bottom platform of the Pyramid (as William Branham taught) of the "stature of the perfect man". This means you have to start to work your way into the new birth, which is the climb up the "pyramid" by adding to your faith (or new birth) the virtues Peter mentions. Then, after you do that then you can receive the "True Baptism of the Holy Ghost" and God "caps off the pyramid of your life". This is when you can finally use the third pull and speak stuff into existence.

Quotes and questions

Quotes from the Seals and Leadership

  • “Justification, sanctification, the baptism of the Holy Ghost, the last three messages, the last three church ages forms the complete Birth…You can justified without being sanctified. You can be sanctified without receiving the Holy Ghost. That’s exactly.” (Seven Seals)
  • “The disciples in John 17:17, was sanctified and given power to cast out devils, but still didn’t have the Holy Ghost.”
  • “And you accept the Holy Spirit by faith, but then let the Holy Spirit come and give the circumcision as a witness that He's accepted your faith. You see?” (Fourth Seal)
  • "The choice of your conduct. You could... You can't mix it now. You're either for God or against God, and the outward expressions shows exactly what's on the inside. See? The cocklebur... Many of you think, "I got the baptism of the Holy Ghost, I'm going to Heaven." That don't mean one thing that you're going to Heaven. No, sir. You can have the baptism of the Holy Ghost every hour in your life, and still be lost and go to hell. The Bible says so. Uh-huh, that's exactly right." (Leadership, December 7, 1965)


  • If the disciples could cast out devils without the Holy Ghost, how can you be sure that William Branham had the Holy Ghost?
  • Did William Branham insinuate that John Wesley and Martin Luther (and everyone in their 'Church Ages') did not have the Holy Spirit?. If the Holy Spirit fell on Pentecost almost 2,000 years ago, why did Jesus say "I will never leave you"?
  • Did William Branham fall from grace when he required that people reform to his code of conduct? Why was receiving the Holy Ghost (God himself) not good enough?
  • Didn't William Branham teach that "Sanctification" is conduct? Why would he then say that your conduct is what gives you eternal security, and not the Holy Spirit?
  • Who saves you? If you are saved by your conduct, than you had better be sinless.
  • Will living piously simply make you a Christian Pharisee?

Commentary from Bible Scholars

Justification vs. Sanctification

The purpose of the gospel is to get you to walk into the presence of God knowing that you’re not liable, knowing that he finds you blameless. If you don’t have something that enables you to look God in the eye, to stand on your feet and look him in the face in his presence, you still haven’t gotten the gospel. You may have religion, you may have morality, but you don’t have Christianity.

Imputed righteousness and imparted righteousness

The Scripture always talks about two kinds of righteousness. There’s imputed righteousness and imparted righteousness.

Imputed righteousness is the legal righteousness that comes to you fully and wholly the minute you believe. Then imparted righteousness is the real, actual, supernatural maturity that’s put in your heart, the Holy Spirit, that actually comes into your life and begins to change your heart so that you love, so there’s self-control growing, so there’s courage growing, so there’s gentleness growing, so there’s power growing.

God never, never, never divides imputed from imparted righteousness. The imputed righteousness is first, and on the basis of the fact that you’re legally righteous, he puts his actual Holy Spirit in you to make you actually righteous. He imparts it. A religious person bases your imputed righteousness on your imparted righteousness. In other words, you say, “Because I’m being a pretty good person, I can stand in the presence of God.”

A Christian, however, bases his imparted righteousness on his imputed righteousness. He says, “The reason I’m growing in grace is because I am already legally accepted by him.” That’s the reason why it’s so absolutely critical for you to realize that a Christian bases your sanctification on your justification, not your justification on your sanctification. A moralist says, “The reason I’m just in God’s sight is because I’ve had a pretty good week.” A Christian says, “The reason I can have a pretty good week is because I know he accepts me.”

There’s a huge difference between the way a Christian repents and a moralist repents. The moralist says, “I have to repent or he’ll reject me.” The Christian says, “I have to repent because he won’t reject me. I can’t. I am afraid of grieving a person who at infinite cost has put himself in a relationship with me so that he will never reject me. Anybody who has done that, I’m afraid to grieve.”

A Christian has this great desire for holiness because he’s afraid of grieving the person who would never reject him. A non-Christian, or a moralist, a religious person, has to repent because he’s afraid he will be rejected. Utterly different.[1]

Because you are justified, you are sanctified

In the New Testament justification (the acceptance of believers as righteous in the sight of God) and sanctification (progress in actual holiness in our lives) are closely intertwined. Did you get that? Justification is God’s acceptance of us. Sanctification is our actual holy life. The gospel, the heart of the gospel, the essence of the gospel is the order. That’s why Paul can talk about reverse.

It’s not just this and this and this and all these things are part of the Christian life. It’s the order, the logic. Which is the primary and which is the result? Which is the cause and which is the effect? That’s everything in Christianity. It utterly changes your view of yourself, the world, God, everything, if you get the cause and the effect mixed up.

What he says here about justification and sanctification, the order in the gospel, is, because you’re justified, the effect is you’re sanctified. Because you are justified through grace, because of what Jesus has done, you’ve been totally accepted. Now you’re living a life without fear, in gratitude to God, with a new dynamic of joy and a new desire to be what God wants you to be. So justification is leading to sanctification. Another way to put it is your sanctification over here is based on your justification. However, that’s not the way it works in most conservative churches, not at all. This is what Lovelace says: “… in their day-to-day existence, they [conservative Christians] rely on their sanctification for their justification …” They do it the other way around, “… drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance, or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience.”

Lovelace goes on to say, “Christians who are no longer sure that God loves and accepts them in Jesus, apart from their spiritual achievements, are subconsciously radically insecure persons—much less secure than non-Christians, because they have too much light to rest easily under the constant bulletins they receive from their Christian environment about the holiness of God and the righteousness they are supposed to have.

Their insecurity shows itself in pride, a fierce defensive assertion of their own righteousness and defensive criticism of others. They come naturally to hate other cultural styles and other races in order to bolster their own security and discharge their suppressed anger. They cling desperately to legal, pharisaical righteousness, but envy, jealousy and other branches on the tree of sin grow out of their fundamental insecurity.” This is powerful stuff.

You go into liberal churches, and you don’t see changed lives. You see people living like everybody else. You see people being devastated. They’re told God loves them in general, but there’s no electrifying love of God which comes from the knowledge that though we were under wrath, look what Jesus Christ has done for us. There are no changed lives, but when you go into conservative churches, I don’t know that you see changed lives any more.

I told you Galatians was a controversial book. It’s the most controversial book. Therefore, I can’t preach it without saying more controversial things than I usually do. In conservative churches, what do you have? You have lives that through willpower have been changed in the sense of, “I don’t cuss anymore. I have my quiet time. I read the Bible. I get to church all the time. I dress differently. I don’t hang out on the street corner anymore. I’m doing all these right things.” That’s not a changed life. In fact, what Lovelace is saying is true.

In conservative churches, there’s a tremendous amount of insecurity, of defensive criticism of others, of Phariseeism, of legalism, of condescending, condemning attitudes toward anybody who isn’t right on everything: baptism, government, Christian conduct, tongues, or against tongues. They’re down on everybody. Why? There hasn’t been that change on the inside. They’ve utterly reversed the gospel.

When in the conservative churches you say, “Here’s the gospel. If you give yourself to God, if you promise you will serve Jesus Christ, if you ask him into your life, he will come in and forgive your sins and change your life,” is that the gospel? Yeah, in the most general possible … Yes, plenty of people have become real Christians through that.

Usually in the follow-up, usually as they study their Bible and start to figure it out, usually they did not become Christians the day they heard that invitation, because what is it? When it comes right down to it, that is saying, “If you really are good, if you are really sorry, if you really work your heart up into a certain kind of condition, then God will reward you.” That’s no different than what any other religion says. That’s not a gospel. That’s advice.

Do you see what’s going on? No wonder so many people who never actually understand that … They reverse them. Instead of sanctification based on their justification, it’s justification based on their sanctification. Instead of saying, “Because I’m accepted, now I’m going to live a life of gratitude,” what they say is, “Because I’m living this wonderful, good life and following all the rules, therefore, I’m accepted.” Don’t you see the difference? What is the motivation behind the second kind? Fear, being frightened, always looking around to make sure, and you’re never sure you’re being good enough. You never know if you repented enough if you think it’s your repentance that makes you saved. You never know that you are submitted enough, surrendered enough, purified …

You never know, so you have to look around all the time, and you cannot handle criticism. In fact, you have to criticize other people so you feel like, “I’m a pretty good person.” Don’t you see to lose the gospel at all is to lose it entirely? To change it a little bit … Any other gospel is no gospel. Any change is a complete loss, a complete reversal, utterly.

The other thing he says in verse 7 is, “These people who are reversing the gospel are troubling you.” I think in the NIV it says in verse 7, “Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion …” Almost no matter how I’ve seen it translated, no matter what the translation, that’s just too weak. The word means to destroy. That’s not too bad. It means to throw into confusion, to knock down the house. This is what Martin Luther says about what Paul says. Baptism is not the article on which the church or the Christian stands or falls. Tongues is not the article on which the church stands or falls. Church government is not the article. Whether Christians should drink or not is not the article. None of these things … But if you pervert the gospel, if you reverse the gospel, you destroy the church. It’s gone. It’s not there. There’s nothing to stand on.

Therefore, we must begin to make a distinction. There is no doubt in my mind that because of a loss of orientation to the gospel and the power of it, the luminescence of it, the incredible beauty and wonder of it, on the one hand you have, in liberal Christianity, no need for controversy at all. Everybody has their own beliefs so we never fight. In conservative Christianity we’re fighting about absolutely everything. In both cases it’s because of a lack of orientation to the gospel. Neither understands it. They don’t see it. Over here they’re fighting all the time. It’s because they need to throw bricks at other churches and other Christians so they can deal with what Lovelace called that fundamental insecurity, deep insecurity. Over here you might say liberal Christianity has no concept of why the gospel is special at all. “You have your gospel. I have my gospel.”

Do you see? There has been no transformation either place, and as a result their understanding of controversy is lousy. What Paul is trying to say is this is the only thing worth fighting for, but you must fight for it. If the gospel is at stake, to paraphrase Dylan Thomas, “You must not go quietly into the night. You must raise your voice against the dying of the light.” You have to lift your voice up. You can have a spectrum in every other doctrine. It’s possible for somebody’s view of baptism or tongues to be kind of close to me. It’s not possible for somebody who has a different view of the gospel to be close. The other doctrines are not things that destroy the church if they’re not there. This one it does. Therefore, there does need to be, unfortunately, a division.

If you’re Amish and you really believe Christians should not use technology, then unfortunately you’re going to have to have your own church. You’re just going to have to. That’s even true, though, on baptism and tongues. If you believe in worship services people should pray in tongues and get them interpreted and then another group over here doesn’t believe we should be doing that, we’re just going to have to have two different churches. We have to, but those divisions should be done with almost no controversy at all. I believe that. That means there should be humility. You should realize we might be wrong on this. We realize this is not the heart. If I lose a finger, that hurts. If I lose my heart, I’m gone. If I lose a hand, that’s very, very bad. If I lose my heart, there’s nothing left. Do you see? Therefore, we should do that with almost no controversy, but when that happens, when we get to the gospel, we need to raise our voices against the dying of the only light we have. I’ll tell you what I’m going to do

Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).

More quotes of William Branham

The first thing, there's a glass laying out in the hog pen, chicken yard, whatever it is. You want to use it. The first thing, you pick it up. That's justification. You've got it in your hand. You can't use it yet; it needs to be cleansed. Then you take it in; you wash it, sterilize it, boil it, and takes all the germs and the--out of it. That's what God does through sanctification: takes all the desire of sin out of your heart, cleans you up. And then you are a candidate for the filling of the Holy Spirit. See? Then the word "sanctify" means "to be cleansed and set aside for service." That's the Old Testament: the altar sanctified the vessels. And cleansed and set aside for service is not "in service." It's "set aside for service." And when it's "in service," "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled." The Holy Spirit comes in and fills up that vessel till running over, bubbling over, and then you're "in" the service of the Lord.[2]
You are not converted until you've received the Holy Ghost... And in John 17:17, Jesus sanctified them through the Word,… He said, "Father (speaking to the Spirit in Him), I sanctify them through the Word."… He said, "Don't rejoice because the devils is subject unto you, but rejoice because your name's in the Book." And Judas was with them. See how close he can come, right on up through justification, move right on into sanctification, but where did he show his light? Where did he show hisself? Before Pentecost he showed his colors…
Peter had been saved; he believed on the Lord, followed Him. Jesus told him who he was, had him to follow Him. He gave him power against unclean spirits and sanctified him. But after all of that... And become the chief spokesman of the group, as the Catholics would want to call it, the bishop of the church, or the pope, or whatever it was, the head man of the church. Yet Jesus said the night of His betrayal..."Before the cock has crowed three times, you'll--before the cock crows, you'll have denied Me three times."
He said, "But, Peter, I've prayed for you." Listen. That's not all of it. "I have prayed for you, and after you are converted, then strengthen your brethren." After you are converted... He had shouted; he had probably danced in the Spirit; he--he had done all kinds of things, but he hadn't received the Holy Ghost yet. "After you are converted, then strengthen your brethren." That's true. Carry out His plan.[3]

And so is it in the spiritual realm. It's water; justification by faith, believing on God, receiving Him as your personal Saviour, and being baptized. Second, is sanctification of the spirit, that God cleanses the spirit from all elements of the world, and the desire of the world. And then the Holy Spirit comes in and gives new Birth and fills up that sanctified vessel.
For instance, like this. Now, that, I told you. What you don't believe, lay aside, then take the pie. Notice. Now, a--a glass is laying out in the chicken yard. You don't just pick that up and put on your table and fill it up with water or milk. No. By picking it up, is justification. Cleansing it, is sanctification, 'cause the Greek word sanctify is a compound word, which means "cleansed, and set aside for service." Not in service; for service. Then when you fill it, it is put in service.[4]


  1. Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
  3. What was the Holy Ghost given for? Jeffersonville, IN, Dec 17, 1959