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“Be Holy, for I am Holy”
One of the two Scriptures that reveal the importance of holiness and living the Higher Christian life is found in Psalm 24. Here we see David beginning with a statement about the unsurpassed greatness of the Lord (Psalm 24:1-2) and then, based on His greatness, David poses both a question and an answer. The question is a logical one and goes something like this, “How can we get close to a God who claims ownership of the earth and ‘those who dwell therein’? (Psalm 24:1). How can I get to know a God as powerful and holy as this?” And how can I ever practice holiness to gain the Higher Christian Life?
David asks the question this way:
Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? – Psalm 24:3.
And the answer is just as revealing. Only someone who is holy, as He is holy, can come into the presence of God. Read carefully what is written in Scripture.
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully – Psalm 24:4.
This is a picture of practical holiness, the kind of living holiness that reflects the nature of Christ in our day-by-day decisions. It is the holiness Peter spoke of when he said, “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:15-16).
But there is more.
In Hebrews 12:14 we read that without holiness, “no one will see the Lord.” And if a deep intimacy with the Lord is a by-product of the Higher Christian Life, then holiness is an essential, if not vital, aspect of our spiritual lives.
But What Does Holiness Mean?
In Hebrews 12:14, the word translated “holiness” is hagiasmós and means both positional holiness (where God sees us as holy by virtue of the sacrifice of His Son) and practical holiness (whereby we live a life that is holy or morally pure in the image of His Son). Both definitions are applied to this word. Plus, amazingly enough, this word is also translated as “sanctification” in 5 of the 10 verses where it is found. So sanctification also means holiness, and holiness also means sanctification.
Let me show you how that deepens the meaning of the verse where it is translated as sanctification, which is a term we often brush over because it, like justification, seems too theological for us. I hope the importance of holiness will jump out at you as you look at these familiar passages with new eyes.
1 Corinthians 1:30 – But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification (holiness) and redemption.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification (holiness): that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification (holiness) and honor.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 – But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation (how) through sanctification (holiness) by the Spirit and belief in the truth.
1 Peter 1:1-2 – Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification (holiness) of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.
Notice above, twice the term sanctification/holiness is used regarding the Spirit (we will use holiness for this example). We have our “salvation through holiness by the Spirit” (1 Thess. 2:13), and we are chosen, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in holiness of the Spirit” (1 Peter 1:2).
And as a bonus, we see Jesus described as One who became for us “wisdom from God —and righteousness and holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Jesus became for us, holiness. And if that is true, then only a total, absolute surrender to Him will produce holiness in us that is vital for the Higher Christian Life.
I hope you are beginning to see how embracing God’s attributes (holiness) by voluntary surrender to Him is a key to unlocking the Higher Christian Life. And we will talk more about that in the days to come.