William Branham said that the only thing we have to do is to let go and let God.
But is this Biblical?
What the Bible teaches
It is true that the Spirit empowers our pursuit of holiness... and the gospel drives us toward Christlikeness... and faith fuels our obedience. But we still put forth effort. God’s mercy does not automatically produce obedience. We must be told to obey and then go do it.9 God is the agent in our sanctification (1 Thess. 5:23). He is the one making us holy. But we must pursue what is God’s gift to us. Or as John Piper puts it, “When it comes to killing my sin, I don’t wait passively for the miracle of sin-killing to be worked on me, I act the miracle.”
It is the consistent witness of the New Testament that growth in godliness requires exertion on the part of the Christian. Romans 8:13 says that by the Spirit we must put to death the deeds of the flesh. Ephesians 4:22–24 instructs us to put off the old self and put on the new. Colossians 3:5 commands us to put to death what is earthly in us. First Timothy 6:12 urges us to fight the good fight. Luke 13:24 exhorts us to strive to enter the narrow gate. First Corinthians 9:24–27 speaks of running a race and disciplining the body. Philippians 3:12–14 talks of pressing on and straining forward. Second Peter 1:5 flat out commands us to “make every effort.” Your part as a born-again believer is to “toil, struggling with all his energy” as Christ powerfully works within us (Col. 1:29). We must never forget that according to Jesus the reward of eternal life goes to those who conquer and overcome (Revelation 2–3).
Christians work—they work to kill sin and they work to live in the Spirit. They have rest in the gospel, but never rest in their battle against the flesh and the devil. The child of God has two great marks about him: he is known for his inner warfare and his inner peace.11 As gospel Christians, we should not be afraid of striving, fighting, and working. These are good Bible words. “No one can attain any degree of holiness without God working in his life,” Jerry Bridges writes, “but just as surely no one will attain it without effort on his own part. God has made it possible for us to walk in holiness. But He has given us the responsibility of doing the walking.”12 Putting off the corruption of the flesh is, as Calvin put it, “a work arduous and of immense labor.” Therefore, God “bids us to strive and make every effort for this purpose. He intimates that no place is to be given in this case to sloth.”13 When it comes to sanctification, we don’t just look to the Lord. We don’t just get gripped by the gospel. We also work hard to be holy.
Let’s not make the mistake of the old Keswick theology (so named because it was first promoted at conferences held in Keswick, England in the late nineteenth century) with its “let go and let God” view of sanctification. In The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life (an unfortunate classic from the Higher Life movement), Hannah Whitall Smith argues,
- “All that we claim then in this life of sanctification is that by a step of faith we put ourselves into the hands of the Lord, for Him to work in us all the good pleasure of His will; and that by a continuous exercise of faith we keep ourselves there. . . . Our part is trusting, it is His to accomplish the results.”
This may sound super-spiritual, but it’s not biblical. Sanctification is not by surrender, but by divinely enabled toil and effort:
- The New Testament calls upon us to take action; it does not tell us that the work of sanctification is going to be done for us. . . . We are in the ‘good fight of faith’, and we have to do the fighting. But, thank God, we are enabled to do it; for the moment we believe, and are justified by faith, and are born again of the Spirit of God, we have the ability. So the New Testament method of sanctification is to remind us of that; and having reminded us of it, it says, ‘Now then, go and do it’.
This is why when one old Dutch theologian listed his “Reasons Why Believers Do Not Grow as Much as They Ought,” he mentioned not only “gospel” reasons like doubting their conversion or presuming upon grace, he also included plain old laziness: “We indeed desire to be in an elevated spiritual frame and to grow as a palm tree, but we are not willing to exert any effort—and thus we also do not receive it.”
Which is another way of saying there’s no place for quietism in the quest for Christlikeness.
These issues matter because some Christians are stalled out in their sanctification for simple lack of effort. They need to know about the Spirit’s power. They need to be rooted in gospel grace. They need to believe in the promises of God. And they need to fight, strive, and make every effort to work out all that God is working in them.
Let us say with Paul,
- “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).
Without this biblical emphasis, we’ll be confused, wondering why sanctification isn’t automatically flowing from a heartfelt commitment to gospel-drenched justification. We’ll be waiting around for enough faith to really “get the gospel” when God wants us to get up and get to work (Phil. 2:12–13). Because when it comes to growth in godliness, trusting does not put an end to trying.
Quotes of William Branham
Now I'm beginning to feel religious. Now, we have a law, the law of the Life in us. We don't… Only thing you have to do… You are made, and born, and placed here in the Body of Christ, as sons and daughters of God. You don't have to knuck' down to the devil. We've got a law. That's the law of the Holy Spirit. The only thing you know, have to do, is know how to let go and let God. You keep fighting at it, see, and it won't never work. When, you let go and let God, that's all. See?
If the fish said, "Wait, I'll catch my breath real good. I'll breathe up a little oxygen in me, and I'll see if I can go down." No. He does that, he'll burst open. See?
The bird says, "I'll see how fast I can run down here, and maybe I'll take off." No. He won't do it. He'll fall down. See? He's got to know how to control, how that law can control him. And the same way it is with us. It isn't what we fight, and pull, and—and hurry, and—and, "Oh, if I don't get this, if I don't get that." That's not it. Is to know that the law of Life is in you, and you just let go and let God. Then He takes you to your healing, takes you to the baptism of the Spirit, or anything that He's promised. Any claim that He's given is yours, and by letting go and letting God.
- Hannah W. Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life (Gloucestershire, UK: Dodo Press, 2008 ), 7.
- D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: Exposition of Chapter 6: The New Man (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1972), 178 Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012).
- Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012).
- 62-0422 - The Restoration Of The Bride Tree, para. 105-108