Holiness is a biblical teaching that relates to the whole of the believer's life, public and private. It is a state of being marked by purity and godliness in spirit and body. Holiness is a requisite for seeing God, as stated in Hebrews 12:14, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."
In the great persecution of the Reformation period, the Anabaptist believers stressed the holy life. This emphasis has always been an identifying mark of the Anabaptist faith, and it distinguishes between the church separated from the world and the nominal church.
Holiness is a command to which disciples of Christ are enjoined. Peter says, "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [walk of life]; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy" (1 Pet. 1:15,16). As the repenting sinner must bring forth fruits meet for repentance, those justified by faith in Christ must show forth the holy character of their Savior.
What is holiness? The apostle Paul describes it thus: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20). Thus, holiness has two aspects: putting the old life to death, and putting on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14). Paul explains what should be the experience of every believer in Christ: Jesus controlling his or her life.
The life that Christ lived while on earth was a perfect and holy life. When the Lord lives in the believer and controls the believer's spirit and body, the life that comes forth will not be for that individual's praise, but Christ's. When the Christian's life is not his own, but the Lord's, that is a holy life extolling grace of salvation.
One has a new Master and is freed from the bondage of sin and Satan when Christ lives within. Holiness is the fruit of that change in ownership. Paul writes, "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness" (Rom. 6:22). This fruit is the noticeable uniqueness of spirit and life that manifests itself when one is truly converted. It can be seen on the countenance and is felt in one's association with others, being witnessed to by the Holy Spirit. A certain individual who was carnal described how she felt upon meeting a couple who was consecrated, "I felt so guilty and defiled, and they seemed so pure and holy." That is the witness of the Spirit to the holy life.
A Christian must be holy, because his calling and vocation are holy. Paul says that God has "called us with an holy calling" (2 Tim. 1:9). Again, he says "that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (Eph. 1:4). "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called" (Eph. 4:1). To walk worthily of such a calling means putting off all that is not godly and pure. The way of the gospel is, spiritually speaking, holy ground hallowed by the Lord Jesus' example. When God called Moses through the burning bush, He said, . . . . put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground" (Exod. 3:5). It is irreverent to God to stand on this holy ground of gospel grace with our feet (walk of life) still shod with fleshly spirits and works (Isa. 35:8).
According to the Scriptures, holiness is not a special state to which only some Christians attain. It is the mandate of God that all His children be holy. The Scriptures speak in terms of the believer being holy when he is born again and obedient to the Holy Spirit. Notice the wording of Revelation 20:6, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection." The first resurrection is a resurrection from the death of sin to the newness of life in Christ Jesus. All those who have part in this resurrection are holy. As they continue in that way they walk in holiness.
The Holy Spirit quickens our "mortal bodies" (Rom. 8:10,11) and takes away the excuse of "I can't help myself because I'm still in the flesh." The Christian will have his failings, but his justification is in Christ Jesus and not in the above-mentioned excuse. And he strives to be more and more like the Lord rather than surrendering to the tide.
With the Holy Spirit living in the believer, the presentation of his body to God is "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God" (Rom. 12:1). The power of God quickening the body and producing a holy life refutes the teaching that "the deeds of the body do not defile the soul." When the body is allowed to work the works of the flesh, one is tacitly denying "that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" (1 John 4:2), or implying that Christ will live in a sinful heart.
There is a "behaviour [that] becometh holiness" (Tit. 2:3). We, who are living in the last days, are especially enjoined to this manner of behavior before the world: "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness" (2 Pet. 3:11). There is no alternative to holiness, for if one does not lead a holy life, what then is it? Focusing on the need to be committed, God says we should be either hot or cold (Rev. 3:15). "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still" (Rev. 22:11). The teaching of holiness is entwined with other doctrinal teachings. We commonly refer to two ordinances as "holy:" holy communion and holy matrimony. Wherein is the holiness?
The holiness of matrimony is the holiness of the lives of the two believers entering marriage. The church is holy, and she puts her blessing on those who walk in holiness. For a couple whose lives have been less than spiritual to want the church to bless their marriage as holy is using the church for their own interests. The same would be true when a less than committed church member insists on his "right" to partake of holy communion.
The Scriptures leave us clear warnings against defiling the temple of God by unholy behavior and spirits. "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy: for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye [the corporate body of believers] are" (1 Cor. 3:17).
There is no other reason to exist other than to glorify God.
From Messenger of Truth, October 27, 1999 issue, published bi-weekly by the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. Address P. O. Box 230, Moundridge, Kansas 67107
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