Holiness is an attribute of God (Ps 71:22), and it is a work of God in the life of a Christian. The Holy Spirit is the divine agent of sanctification, which is the process of making one holy. The Spirit and the Word purify the chosen vessel with truth (Jn 17:17). In this, God is preparing His vessels of mercy for glory (Rom 9:23). Sanctification is a cleansing process facilitated by a relationship between the redeemed and the Lord, our Redeemer.
To set apart someone for His purposes is what God is doing in the life of every believer. Just as He commanded Israel to be holy (Lev 19:2), He commands the New Testament believer to follow His pattern, too (1 Pet 1:16). The problem is that God is holy, but we are in process. The human pursuit of holiness can become destructive, as the holiness movement in Methodism proved. This movement produced a schismatic spirit of separating from others in the faith.
Holiness comes by grace from God. The spiritual man walks by the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:16). His path leads away from the world and toward devotion to God. The spiritual man relies completely on the Lord to direct him on the path of righteousness. Of course, the Christian knows he has no righteousness of his own, but he has received the righteousness of Christ imputed to him. We might continue by saying the Christian has no holiness of his own, but he is receiving holiness from God as he is being conformed into the image of Jesus Christ.
God intended Israel to be a holy nation (Ex 19:4–6), set apart for His purposes. Their efforts in achieving holiness failed miserably. In failing to keep the Law of Moses, the Law of God, Israel was scattered for their disobedience. The failure to achieve holiness meant the loss of blessing in the land. In the New Covenant, there is no land, so obviously God is not scattering His people in the way He formerly did under the Old Covenant. Instead, they are given the commission to go out from the land, to the nations, to proclaim the holiness of Jesus Christ.
Holiness is required for worship. To worship in Spirit and in truth requires a holiness that only God can give. The renting of the veil in the temple at Jerusalem at the death of Christ clearly demonstrates access to the most holy place requires holiness only God can provide. Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself shows us the holiness of God. In sending the Holy Spirit into the lives of believers, holiness is now manifesting in those who see the Lord (Heb 12:14) and who may share in His holiness (Heb 12:10). This is holiness by grace.
The future of holiness is universal. When the Kingdom of God comes to the earth in the new creation, even horse bells and pottery will join everything else in being holy to the Lord (Zech 14:20–21). The Holy Spirit is setting us apart from evil, through Christ’s purifying power, unto devotion to God. Holiness is not of ourselves, lest any man should boast. The Psalmist seems to have understood this dependence on God to make him holy by petitioning, “Create in me a clean heart, O God! (Ps 51:10). This is our prayer, too.
July 16, 2021