Holiness is important for us as followers of Jesus since we have been made holy and we are encouraged to live holy lives. But how do we define holiness?
I think for many of us we would define holiness as being ‘set apart’, ‘morally pure’ or ‘without sin’. This is right but I do not think this is the complete answer because it does not take fully into account how our holy God desires to draw near to people. Throughout Israel’s history, God seeks to dwell among his people through the tabernacle and the temple. In Jesus Christ, God sends his Son, who himself is God, to live and interact in the world. God the Holy Spirit empowers Jesus’ life and ministry, and Jesus ends up spending a lot of time with tax collectors, sinners, and prostitutes. Jesus’ death means a new people by faith are sanctified, cleansed, and made holy and in his resurrection, Jesus is raised by the Spirit of holiness, and this anticipates the new creation where God will dwell perfectly with his people.
Therefore, holiness is about being morally pure and abstaining from sin, but holiness is be lived out amongst people. When we understand this then it prevents us from creating holy huddles!
So, for the believer to be holy is to live a pure and blameless life but not separating themselves from what is unholy but being amongst unbelievers. Holiness is expressed in drawing towards people. It’s about engaging with those in our communities who may seem ‘defiled’ by our society or those who are the outcasts of our society or people who our culture frowns upon. Holiness based on God is that which draws near to people.
In 1 Peter 2:11-12 we see how our holiness is to be seen by ‘pagans’ this may lead to being accused of wrongdoing, but the hope is that our accusers may be found glorifying God when he returns. Similarly in 1 Peter 3, the believing wife by her purity and behaviour may win her husband over and the one, and the one who suffers for doing good is to give the reason for their holiness that is they revere Christ as their Lord.
It is also good to know that God’s holiness is present in us by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has made it possible for Jesus’ holiness in his ministry, death, and resurrection. God’s Spirit enables us and makes it possible for us to live out and display His holiness. Therefore, we must not resist God’s Spirit by loveless behaviour but rather ‘abound’ in love. New Testament Scholar David Peterson writes, “Love and holiness are two related ways of viewing the Christian life. Holiness will be pre-eminently expressed in love, and love will be the essential means by which holiness is maintained.”
In conclusion, when we think about holiness, we do want to be pure and blameless but, in our holiness, we also want to not escape people but draw near to people anticipating the day when holiness will be established perfectly in the new creation.
Senior Assistant Minister | 10am & 5pm Congregational Pastor