To some, the idea of becoming holy is elusive and even impossible. Others believe they have already been made holy because of what Jesus did at the cross. These two ideologies don’t line up at all with what the Word of God says about the church becoming holy. The Word holy in Hebrew is ‘Qodesh’ (H6944) and it denotes “being set apart, separateness, set apart from the rest for a special function.” (1) With the understanding that holiness is being “set apart”, how do we become so, and for what purpose?
Jesus said that “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). The calling is not so much to salvation, but to holiness, as the Apostle Paul reveals the will of God “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7) One of the ways that we are to become holy is in our conduct and lifestyle, following to the character of Christ. Holiness is a process of sanctification from the lust of the world.
The Apostle Paul affirms the church to follow this path “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4). Apostle Paul states that we are to abstain from lustful passions, which is a clear indication that saints in the church are not automatically set free from the vices of sin. He distinctly tells us that we are to labor through the process of sanctification, through the fear of God. “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1). If what Jesus did at the cross or by simply accepting Jesus into our hearts automatically makes us holy, why does the Apostle Paul say that we are to execute this process of holiness?
The Bible makes it clear that we cannot be received by God unless we are set apart and holy. Hence the Apostle Paul, quoting the prophet Isaiah, said “Therefore “COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM AND BE SEPARATE, SAYS THE LORD. DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN, AND I WILL RECEIVE YOU.” (2 Corinthians 6:17). This is a direct parallel to the book of Revelations “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.” (Revelations 18:4). Babylon is symbolic of the harlot religious system; churches that are no different to the world. We are supposed to be separate from the world, not blend in with them. Jesus prayed that we would not be part of this world and be sanctified by His truth that we may be fully set apart. (John 17:15-17). Looking at the church today and what we see in this modern age on platforms such as YouTube, easily accessible is a shameful array of videos including naked cowboys in the church, pastors encouraging their parishioners to hook-up with one another, allowing homosexuals and transgenders to minister to the body, openly not opposing abortion on national television, provocative dancing performed in front of the church, to name a few. Today’s church does not represent holiness to the world; the modern church and the world are one and the same. This sounds awfully similar to the heretical churches whose parishioners were no different than the world. You could bring in someone off the street and they would be no difference, you could not tell them apart.
As Christians we are called to a lifestyle of holiness, set apart from the business of this world and from its distractions, to be a vessel of honor ready for the Maker’s hand. It is written, “be holy for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45; 1 Peter 1:16). Everything that is of this world is corruptible and wretched to the soul. Being set part means losing the desires of this world. The early church had a zeal to kill all the lust for the things of this world and they understood that it was by their choice to forfeit their desires, opposed to their desires being taken away. They were striving to become masters of the vices that once ruled them.
I do not wish to be a king; I am not anxious to be rich; I decline military command; I detest fornication; I am not impelled by an insatiable love of gain to go to sea; I do not contend for chaplets (clothes); I am free from a mad thirst for fame; I despise death; I am superior to every kind of disease; grief does not consume my soul. Am I a slave, I endure servitude?
Die to the world, repudiating (rejecting) the madness that is in it. Live to God, and by apprehending Him lay aside your old nature. We were not created to die, but we die by our own fault. Our free-will has destroyed us; we who were free have become slaves; we have been sold through sin. (2)
The early church was not interested in trying to fit in, or make a name for themselves in this world. The thought of fame was repulsive. The idea of fornication was sickening. They only held the desire to be partakers of the divine nature of the Father. “For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue). By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:3-4 AMP). The Apostle Peter understood the concept of holiness and what it is meant to produce in us. Tatian articulates this process exceptionally “If you are superior to the passions, you will despise all worldly things.” (3)
It is impossible for anyone to serve God while being occupied by the cares of the world. The Gospels are clear concerning this “he who hears the Word, but the cares of the world and the pleasure and delight and glamour and deceitfulness of riches choke and suffocate the Word, and it yields no fruit.” (Matthew 13:22 AMP). The Shepherd Hermas was being instructed by the angel of repentance concerning this.
And refrain from much business, and you will never sin: for they who are occupied with much business commit also many sins, being distracted about their affairs, and not at all serving their Lord. (1Co_7:30-35; Rom_12:11) How, then,” he continued, “can such a one ask and obtain anything from the Lord, if he serve Him not? They who serve Him shall obtain their requests, but they who serve Him not shall receive nothing. And in the performance even of a single action a man can serve the Lord; for his mind will not be perverted from the Lord, but he will serve Him, having a pure mind. (4)
The mind cannot be pure, unless it is purged from the filthiness of the lust of this world that weighs it down; with the muck and mire of empty promises, that will only condemn our soul. There are various reasons why people cling to the lusts of this world. What it all comes down to are the voids in our soul, occupied by ignorance, that we try to fill with a light that is actually darkness (Luke 11:35). A pure mind is one that is one that is renewed and occupied with heavenly contemplation. Today the modern church has embraced their humanity (vices), with no active passion towards divinity, just the unfruitful acceptance of a lie that they cannot attain perfection or godliness. Hear the divine words of Clement which exuberate a Davidic passion.
God stood in the congregation of the gods; He judgeth in the midst of the gods.” (Psa_82:1) Who are they? Those that are superior to Pleasure, who rise above the passions, who know what they do – the Gnostics, who are greater than the world. “I said, Ye are Gods; and all sons of the Highest.” (Psa_82:6) To whom speaks the Lord? To those who reject as far as possible all that is of man. (5)
Those who have surpassed the pleasures of life and the passions of this world have overcome their humanity, or shed off their worldly skin. These holy and set apart ones have truly put on Christ and no longer indulge in the lusts of their flesh, but have depraved it. How is it possible for our inner man to not be stirred with such excitement for this lifestyle God has called us to? It is supremely good to walk in the character of holiness. So be it in our lives.
- Brown-Driver-Briggs Dictionary; Ancient Hebrew Lexicon
- Tatian-Address to the Greeks Ch. XI, Vol. 2
- Tatian-Address to the Greeks Ch. XIX Vol. 2
- Hermas- The Shepherd Book 3 Pt. 1 Vol. 2