Pursued by Holiness
God is holy (Lev 11:44). God commands you to be holy, as He is holy (1 Pet 1:15-16). This, of course, is impossible for unregenerate sinners (1 Cor 6:9–10; Gal 5:19–21; Eph 5:5–6; 2 Tim 3:2; 1 Jn 3:14–15). They have no desire to be holy. In fact, they hate holiness and sometimes persecute God’s holy ones (Mt 5:10–11; Jn 15:18–25).
There is a proper time for holiness. Some think holiness is a precursory exercise before coming to faith in Christ. These people turn holiness into a work. They view holiness as a means for attaining the blessings and benefits of Christ Jesus. They have it backwards.
Holiness is actually a fruit of God’s work, not man’s work (Rev 21:2). When one is brought into union with Christ, by the work of His grace, then the life of holiness begins to flow through the saint (Jn 15). Interestingly, the term “saint,” and the term “holy,” have the same root word in the Greek New Testament.
The vine dresser (God the Father) picks up the dead branch from the ground, and He grafts the dead branch into the living vine (God the Son). Jesus Christ is the tree of life (Jn 15:5), and the life of His Holy Spirit flows from Him (Jn 6:63; 1 Cor 15:43), and into the one the Father has given Him (Jn 6:37). God makes alive His chosen ones (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13); and His obedient life, that is, the life of God’s Son, is now the life in the one given this new life (Rom 6:4). Paul wrote, “Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20).” This is more than enablement or empowerment from God; it is God willing and doing His good pleasure in His vessel of mercy being prepared for glory (Rom 9:23; Phil 2:13).
The Law of God says, “Do this and live,” whereas, the Gospel of God says, “Live…now, do this.” The life of God in the soul of man is a marvelous new creation (2 Cor 5:17). The lost image of God is being restored in the redeemed man. His blessings and benefits are manifold: love has been poured out into his heart (Rom 5:5); his sins are forgiven (Mt 26:28; Eph 1:7); he has received the Spirit of adoption (Rom 8:15, 23); God’s favor is upon him (grace); God instills the desire for holiness (Ezek 36:27); and by faith, the regenerate embraces the life of holiness. He seeks to be set apart unto God, and godliness, because the One who guides him from within is Himself holy (Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 4:3, 7; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2).
Salvation is the realization of one being delivered from hell and unto assurance of heaven (1 Jn 5:11–13); but salvation is so much more than these benefits. Christians are saved from their sin nature and practice. Grace now reigns in the believer’s nature, and this brings holiness. Being delivered from the ravages of the fall is one movement; but deliverance to a holy life of good works is a second movement.
Besides the errant soul who thinks he can earn salvation, by good works done in his sinful flesh, there is another errant soul who embraces Christ for His many benefits, but who pursues sin instead of holy good works. One is a legalist (remedy: Galatians), and the other is lawless (remedy: Jude). The way to avoid these false views of salvation is to understand grace.
Grace puts the elect, redeemed soul into union with Christ (1 Jn 4:13), and the result is evidenced by the Spirit’s own good works manifesting (Is 26:12; Phil 2:13). These good works were prepared for the Christian beforehand that she should walk in them (Eph 2:10). Faith is not a work (Rom 4:5); rather, it is a gift of God (Eph 2:8–9; Phil 1:29). Faith is known by good works, however (Jas 2:14–26).
Holiness, of course, is Christ-likeness (Rom 8:29). Christ always did what pleased His holy Father, and it is the Christian’s ambition to please God (2 Cor 5:9); therefore, holiness must be sought by faith. It is impossible to please God without faith (Heb 11:6).
If you say, “I am trusting Christ for my right standing before God (righteousness)” then do you say, “I am trusting Christ for my holiness…”? If holiness is not your intention, then you have a wrong understanding of salvation. For without holiness, no one can ever see the Lord (Heb 12:14).
It is the indwelling Holy Spirit (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11; Gal 4:6; 2 Tim 1:14; Jas 4:5) that washes the child of God with the pure water of the Word (Eph 5:26). If Christ does not clean you, then you have no part in Him (Jn 13:8). Christ made purification of sins (Heb 1:3), by His precious blood shed on the cross (Col 1:20; 1 Pet 1:19), and after sitting down on high, He sent the Holy Spirit to employ the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5). He cleansed the consciences of His beloved, from dead works (Heb 9:14), and He also set them free to serve in the wisdom and power of the Spirit (Rom 7:6).
So, we say that holiness is an essential element to the Christian life. It follows conversion, and its pursuit is to be encouraged, only for the born again of God (Jn 3:1–8; 1 Pet 1:3). It is wise for Christians to dissuade unbelievers from the path of meritorious favor with God. Natural man’s works, to approach God, are dead works (Heb 6:1; 9:14), filthy rags (Is 64:6). Men are to be directed only to Christ Himself. They must be shown, first, the worth of His merits, and second, that He alone is trustworthy.
Christian, you have been made alive in Christ (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13). Rejoice and live unto Christ by faith. Your faith is always bolstered where the Spirit and the Word are ministering. God has begun a good work in you (Phil 1:6). This is His work of holiness by grace (2 Cor 1:12). You can trust Him because you know His grace is always sufficient for you (2 Cor 12:9).
In God’s predetermined plan (Acts 2:23), He has purposed for a holy nation to be conjoined to Christ (Eph 3:11; 1 Pet 2:9). Here is your identity, as one of His chosen members (Rom 12:4–5). Here is your ever-present pursuit because you have first been pursued by Him, by His holiness. The things above are holy. Keep seeking the things of God. Set your mind upon them (Mt 16:23; Mk 8:33; Rom 8:6; Col 3:2). Pray daily for that clean heart that only He can produce (Ps 51:10) by the washing of water by the Word (Eph 5:26). Walk by His Holy Spirit (Gal 5:16, 25), and you will become all the more holy, as He is perfectly holy.
Spokane Valley, Washington
June 7, 2022