Holiness: It’s an Inside Job
Scripture offers the serious-minded Christian some daunting challenges as he follows Christ: none more so than the command; “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) How can we hope to obey such a command? Is this not more than we can hope for?
Holiness, like so many Biblical concepts, is often misunderstood. Many believe that holiness is achievable through human effort. Try as hard as you can and hope you make it. Any form of this is not just frustrating. It is contrary to the Gospel. Others are prone to lapse into a form of antinomianism that basically says;”Since you can’t, don’t try.” These are rather general and simple statements but are enough to lead us to three Biblical observations.
I. Holiness Is a Matter of God-given Position.
Jesus made it clear that our righteousness must exceed that demonstrated by the Scribes and the Pharisees. That was a human kind of righteousness and holiness, and this is not what God demands.
But what God demands He gives. Positional sanctification is the believer’s in Christ. The writer of Hebrews tells us that by the will of God;”we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”(Hebrews 10:10) Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was to;”those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” (1 Corinthians 1:2) (See also Ephesians 4:24, Hebrews 2:11 and 10:14) The words holy, sanctify, and saints are related in the original and refer to the believer having been set apart for God’s purposes.
II. Holiness Is a God-given Priority.
While the believer is positionally holy by God’s grace, holiness is not something we can take for granted. In Hebrews 12:14 we are commanded to “pursue holiness, without which no one will see The Lord.” If one cannot see The Lord without holiness that makes holiness a priority for each of us. Peter reiterates this in 1 Peter 1:15, “For as He who has called you is holy, so be holy in all of life.” Holiness is both an eternal and earthly priority. We are to make our calling and election sure, and we are to be sure that our priority on earth is holiness. Which leads us to our last Biblical observation.
III.Holiness Is a God-given Pursuit.
The command is clear: “…pursue holiness…” Just as our positional holiness is by grace, so our pursuit of holiness is by grace. Nevertheless, we are still to pursue it. We are in constant pursuit of holiness. We are to keep on pursuing or continuously pursue holiness. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God Who is at work in you to both will and do His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12,13)
We are also in blessed pursuit of holiness. Why blessed? Because,”it is God Who is at work in you…” Hebrews 12:10 tells us that our God is working in us and on us, “that we may be partakers of His holiness.” So holiness is not something that happens from the outside in but from the inside out. Christ our hope of glory is also our hope of holiness. Holiness is as much or more inward as outward. And as we live with the eyes of our hearts on eternity with Christ, we grow in holiness and Christlikeness. (1 John 3:2,3) This is Christian living. This is true discipleship.