The Holiness of God

Isaiah 6:1-8

The Holiness of God

Holiness is so important that we find that Israel was a holy people, with a holy priesthood, who was anointed with holy oil, had holy garments, and who assured their holiness with washing, before they ministered in a holy place, serving and worshipping the holy God, that they might minister to and for the people the LORD commanded to be holy as HE is holy. This same commandment is spoken concerning those of us who have trusted in our holy Savior, been made holy by His grace, and are called to live in holiness by that same grace, to the end that He might present us to himself a holy people.

            What does the word holy mean? The word holy means that which is set apart, or separate? When spoken of God, it means that God is set apart from all others, both gods, men, and all other creatures. The Creator is not the same as His creation. He is supreme over all things. There are none equal to Him. As we study, we will find that God’s holiness encompasses all of His attributes and is the very essence of who He is.

            Scripture shows us holiness is a matter of separation by declaring that the seventh day was set apart from all of the other days of week as holy (Genesis 2:3;Exodus 20:8-11;31:15-17). We also see that the firstborn of every Israelite family was to be set apart as holy unto the LORD (Exodus 13:1-2). Later we see that the Levites were hallowed, or made holy in their place (Numbers 3:11-13). Exodus 28-31 give us the narrative of the priesthood being hallowed with holy anointing oil, given holy clothing, that they might enter into the holy place, ministering for a holy people before the holy God. Should we consider the tabernacle and temple, we would see that the important places therein were the holy place and the most holy place. The holy place was set apart for the priests to do their work in, and the most holy place was set apart for the high priest to enter only on the day of atonement. 

            The Genesis Creation Account is given to us, not only to tell us about the creation of all things, but also to show us that the LORD is the only true God, being our Creator. He made all things. All of the things worshiped by man are but images and likenesses of His creation (Romans 1:21-25). Jeremiah plainly states, “Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. He hath made the earth by his power, He hath established the world by his wisdom, And hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion. When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, And he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; He maketh lightnings with rain, And bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures. Every man is brutish in his knowledge: Every founder is confounded by the graven image: For his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are vanity, and the work of errors: In the time of their visitation they shall perish.” (Jeremiah 10:11–15) This is why we read, “For all the gods of the nations are idols: But the Lord made the heavens.” (Psalm 96:5) The LORD calls on man to worship Him exclusively because of His solitary holiness: there is none beside Him (Deuteronomy 32:39-40;Exodus 20:1-11). There is no Creator other than the One Who created all things; and He is holy, being far above and separated from all other gods.

            The Exodus from Egypt demonstrates to us the holiness of God, because God demonstrated that He is above Pharaoh, the greatest of kings in his day. “And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go?” (Exodus 9:16–17) God also demonstrated that He is above all the gods of men, by conquering all of the efforts made by those who worshiped them. “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.” (Exodus 12:12) Having seen that the LORD killed the firstborn of all Egypt, parted the Red Sea, causing Israel to pass through on dry ground, and overthrowing Pharaoh and his army, Israel worshiped the LORD, saying, “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11) The I AM, the LORD, the holy God of Israel is indeed separated from all rulers, powers, might, and all other gods: He alone is God, ruler of Heaven and Earth.

            Joshua, having exhorted the people of Israel to serve the LORD, “said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.” (Joshua 24:19–20) The gods of men are normally thought to be quite broad in their tolerance and acceptance, and thus the worship of many gods is acceptable to them. The LORD, however, is indeed separated by them in that He allows the worship of Himself only. He is the God of truth, righteousness, and judgement; and He will allow no competitors. He says, “for thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:” (Exodus 34:14) And again, “I am the Lord: that is my name: And my glory will I not give to another, Neither my praise to graven images.” (Isaiah 42:8) While the gods of the people are idols and devils (Jeremiah 10:1-16;1 Corinthians 10:20-22), the LORD is holy: He is the true God, and He alone. In fact, we find it truly stated that “there is none holy as the LORD.” (1 Samuel 2:2).

            God’s holiness is also seen in that He has no equal at all. Not only do His people declare that there is none like Him (Exodus 15:11;Psalm 89:6-8), but God declares the same: “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.” (Isaiah 40:25) “To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, And compare me, that we may be like?” (Isaiah 46:5) And He describes His holiness in that He is sovereign over all things, having determined the course of the universe before ever creating it. “Remember the former things of old: For I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times the things that are not yet done, Saying, My counsel shall stand, And I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, The man that executeth my counsel from a far country: Yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:9–11) It is this sovereignty that also highlights God’s separation from all other gods. “For I know that the LORD is great, And that our Lord is above all gods. Whatsoever the LORD pleased, That did he in heaven, and in earth, In the seas, and all deep places.” (Psalm 135:5–6) There is none His equal, because no other god is the Creator of all things, who decreed and knew all things before the creation, and who is sovereign over all things. It is for this cause that we see the glorious exultation in God in the Revelation: “And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:8–11) Our God is holy, because He created all; and He is exalted in majestic might above all others

            We also see the holiness of God in the fact that, although man is made in God’s image and likeness, God is not a man. “God is not a man, that he should lie; Neither the son of man, that he should repent: Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19) God is both immutable and faithful: He does not change, and He is true to Himself and to His Word. Man is not like that, though man should seek to become more and more like God in holiness of living. (See also 1 Samuel 15:29;Hosea 11:9.

            God is also holy in His works. There is none who can work as He works. “O Lord God of hosts, Who is a strong Lord like unto thee? Or to thy faithfulness round about thee? Thou rulest the raging of the sea: When the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them. Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; Thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm.” (Psalm 89:8–10) And again we read, “The works of the Lord are great, Sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. His work is honourable and glorious: And his righteousness endureth for ever. He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: The Lord is gracious and full of compassion. He sent redemption unto his people: He hath commanded his covenant for ever: Holy and reverend is his name.” (Psalm 111:2-4,9) The LORD’s works declare His glorious name, and evoke the praises of His people (Psalm 75:1). It is because of the LORD’s holiness in bringing about the Exodus that we find Israel rejoicing and triumphing in His holiness (Exodus 15:11). We thus conclude that “The Lord is righteous in all his ways, And holy in all his works.” (Psalm 145:17) 

            The very name of the LORD is holy: there is no other name like His. He declared to Moses that His name is “I AM,” and proceeded to say, “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” (Exodus 3:14–15) The very name of the LORD sets Him apart from all other gods, and is His exclusive glory and fame (Nehemiah 9:6;Psalm 83:18;Isaiah 42:8). 

            When God appeared to Israel at Sinai, He also demonstrated that sinful man cannot approach unto His holiness (Exodus 19&20). He told Moses, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” (Exodus 33:20) The men of Bethshemesh learned that the hard way, when fifty thousand-seventy men died after opening the ark of the covenant (1 Samuel 6:19-20). It is for this reason that Jesus, the Holy One of God, came into the world, that He might bring God to us and man to God (See John 1:14-18;1 Peter 3:18). 

            When God reveals Himself to man, He shows Himself to be beautiful in holiness. This is what we see in our text. Isaiah says He saw the train of the LORD filling the temple. His very presence was strikingly beautiful. David longed to see and experience this, saying, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4) The LORD stands apart in His beauty. This not only refers to what men might have seen in visions (See Exodus 24:10-11), but also to the character of the LORD. Every one of God’s attributes is beautiful and to be desired. There is no absolute and flawless perfection except in Him, and He is to be worshiped and desired to the exclusion of all others (Exodus 20:1-6;34:14;Psalm 73:24-26). God is holy in the beauty of His being.

            We must also recognize that God will be honored as holy. It was a very sad, yet instructive day in Israel when Nadab and Abihu died for offering foreign and unacceptable fire in the tabernacle. Moses told Aaron that day, “Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.” (Leviticus 10:3) We find that the final judgment is about the holy exaltation of God alone:“The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, And the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” (Isaiah 2:11) “Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, And opened her mouth without measure: And their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, And he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it. And the mean man shall be brought down, And the mighty man shall be humbled, And the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled: But the Lord of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, And God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.” (Isaiah 5:14–16) Many today think lightly of hell and judgment, or dismiss them altogether. In every case this is due to the failure to recognize that God is exalted in holiness, that there is none like Him, and that He is to be loved supremely and worshipped exclusively. Sin dishonors the holiness of God, and thus His wrath is kindled with eternal fury to those who commit any sin against His eternal, holy glory. It is this day of holy exaltation for which we are commanded to pray, “Hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6:9). It is His holy exaltation that the saints and all creation will worship when His kingdom shall be seen in glory (Psalm 96:9-13). And we see that His holiness is the cause for the saints’ exultation at the end of the age: “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” (Revelation 15:4) 

            What is amazing about the holiness of God is that He is forgiving and just in doing so. While the idea of God in the minds of many means that God forgives regardless, the reality is as we have seen above, that God’s holiness shall always be honored and vindicated. Yet God does forgive, and this is a part of His holiness. “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, And passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, Because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; And thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, Which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.” (Micah 7:18–20) Note that there is no god like unto the LORD who, although wroth, will yet forgive, relinquish His anger, and show mercy, while upholding truth. That is what the cross of Christ is about: it is about God being just while justifying sinners (Romans 3:21-28). God is consistent with truth and righteousness when He forgives sinners, because He punishes our sin in Christ our representative, who suffered in our place. It is then that God can righteously forgive the sins of those who believe on Jesus. This is why John would say, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) God’s holiness is seen in His wisdom as revealed in the gospel, as He justly punishes sin while forgiving the repenting and believing sinner. There is none other who can do this! Thanks be unto God for His holy pardon!

            Worship is due to God’s holiness. David called men to worship saying, “Glory ye in his holy name: Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.” (1 Chronicles 16:10) “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: Bring an offering, and come before him: Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (1 Chronicles 16:29) “And say ye, Save us, O God of our salvation, And gather us together, and deliver us from the heathen, That we may give thanks to thy holy name, And glory in thy praise.” (1 Chronicles 16:35) It is the holiness of God that is the cause of the saints’ rejoicing. We are told, “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, And give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30:4–5) The One holy God is gracious and full of life giving favor. Though trials, hardships, and weeping may come, yet our holy God will bring joy in due time by His grace (See also 1 Peter 5:8-10). While many may have slight reason upon Earth to rejoice, the saints have an eternity of reasons to rejoice, because God our Savior is holy!

The Doctrine of Sanctification

Sanctification/Holiness

Defined

As with most Biblical issues one must begin their study by asking the basic meaning of the issue that they are studying.  What does sanctification mean?  Simply put, sanctification is being separate, or set apart. One who is sanctified, or holy, is set apart from the run-of-the-mill person.  

God is alone in His holiness, and we can learn much about holiness by considering the holiness of God.  God’s holiness sets Him apart from all others.  It is not that God is distant from us.  God’s being separate from us means that He is far greater than we are.  He spoke to us through Isaiah saying, “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.”  (Isa 40:25) KJV  There is no comparison to Him, because there is no equal to God. That is why Hannah would say, “There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.”  (1 Sam 2:2)

KJV  Even among the gods so-called there is none like Him.  God is alone in His holiness.  There is none other than He who is so far above men, angels, and all that may be called “god.”  

On the other hand, God calls His people unto holiness.  He has said, “ ye shall be holy; for I am holy.” (Lev 11:44) KJV  Note that God does not say that we become holy as He is holy.  We are called to be holy because God is holy.  In other words, though we will not become holy as God, we are to seek to be holy and set apart unto God.  

Sanctification Exemplified

There are two Biblical examples of sanctification (setting apart, making holy) that will be helpful to our understanding of this topic.  The first example is the Sabbath day.  The Scripture says, “God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”  (Gen 2:3) KJV  God made the seventh day a holy day. He used Moses to elaborate upon the Sabbath saying “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:  But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”  (Ex 20:8-11) KJV  The Sabbath is holy because  it is set apart from all other days of the week.  There is no other day of the week that is quite like the Sabbath day.  The LORD spoke further to Moses saying,“Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you.   Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.   Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.   Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.   It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.”  (Ex 31:13-17) KJV  The Sabbath was sanctified so that God’s people would know that He was the one who made them different from all other nations. Had they been permitted to work on the Sabbath day, perhaps they would have felt that they deserved the blessings they had due to their hard work.  Being compelled to rest on the Sabbath meant that there were things that would have to be left undone until the first day of the week. These things may have urgently needed attention, but the work had to be left until the Sabbath day had passed.   This was to remind Israel that God, not themselves, set them apart from the nations around them.  It was a holy day for them to observe, and it was set apart to be the Lord’s day.

We also find people being sanctified for specific tasks.  Aaron and his sons are example of this.  The Lord told Moses, “For Aaron’s sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty.   And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.”  (Ex 28:40,41) KJV  Aaron and his sons were set apart  from the other people in Israel that they might be the LORD’s priests.  They were set apart from the people, but to the Lord.  This separateness was not a physical separation, but a separation of service, duty, and life.  The priest’s lives, livelihood, and duties were separate from those of the people of Israel.  Thus they were sanctified people.

Christ Our Sanctification

To get to the heart of the matter, we must study the sanctification of the Christian.  The first thing that must be understood about the Christian’s sanctification is the fact that it is not brought about due to one’s will and determination.  Will power does not a holy man make. Many people have been led away into a performance based sort of holiness and a “holier-than-thou” attitude because they have missed the most crucial of all points concerning sanctification: which point is that Christ is our sanctification.  Apart from Jesus we will never be holy.  Because of Jesus, however, His children are holy.

Jesus’ death was for the purpose of sanctifying His church.  “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”  (Eph 5:25-27) KJV  When Jesus went to Calvary He did so that through His work He might make His people holy.  “When he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;  Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.   By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”  (Heb 10:8-10) KJV This sanctifying work is a work that will be perfected by Jesus.  His death is spoken of as being “once for all”, meaning that it is sufficient to accomplish the purpose for which it was intended.

Paul spoke of Jesus as the one who sanctifies us saying, “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:  That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”  (1 Cor 1:30,31) KJV We can never boast of our holiness: it is of Christ alone.  We have no holiness in and of ourselves: Christ is our sanctification.

Positional

The Christian’s sanctification is first of all positional.  That is, it is our standing before God.  When we are saved we are set apart as holy.  “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.   And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”  (1 Cor 6:9-11) KJV  While there may remain much that is wrong in our lives, God has set us apart as special unto Himself, and His purpose is to accomplish a further work of sanctification in our lives.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”  (Eph 1:3,4) KJV  As Paul exhorted the Ephesians unto godliness he told them to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Eph 4:24) KJV  In other words, being new creatures in Christ (2Cor 5:17) we now are holy people.  Being such, we are to live out that holiness in our daily walk.  

As Paul spoke of his conversion he told us of God’s command to him: “Rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;  Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,  To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”  (Acts 26:16-18) KJV  Notice that sanctification is by faith in Christ. Those who are sanctified through faith in Christ have the forgiveness of sins and an inheritance.  It is obvious that the people of whom he speaks are those who are saved.  These people who are sanctified are not some super-holy people, but common run-of-the-mill people who have been set apart from the world by the saving grace of God.  

Positional sanctification has much to do with the purpose of God in saving sinners. God has set us apart for Himself so that we might live unto His glory.  That is why He said, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.   For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  (Eph 2:8-10) KJV  God has saved us that we might walk in good works.  Peter told us that “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) KJV  God has sanctified us that He might be glorified in us.  For this reason John said “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.”  (1 John 2:12) KJV  We are saved, sanctified, set apart as holy unto God that He might be exalted in and through our lives.

Practical Holiness

Sanctification is not all about our standing with God (positional sanctification): it is also directly related to our lives today.  As we have already seen, we have been saved for the purpose of giving glory to God.  This means that holiness must be a part of our daily lives.  After all, if the goal of saving grace is to make us holy (Eph 1:3,4), then God’s purpose shall be accomplished in us.  Paul was confident in this fact saying, “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  (Phil 1:6) KJV  He also told the church at Thessalonica the same thing: “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.   Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”  (1 Thess 5:23.24) KJV  If God is determined to accomplish holiness within His people, we can assuredly say that where there is no sanctification there is no salvation.  “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”  (Heb 12:14) KJV In fact, if Christ is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1Cor 1:30), those who belong to Him must manifest holiness.  We cannot have a partial savior.  Either Christ is all of these to us, or He is none at all.   

How is this sanctification accomplished in us?  We have already seen that it is not the result of our efforts, but is the work of Christ within us.  Paul said, “My beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.   For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”  (Phil 2:12,130 KJV  God is at work in His people to accomplish His purpose in them, but how does He do it?  First of all, we must remember the fact that our minds have been renewed. We are new creatures in Christ. “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;  And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.”  (Col 3:9,10) KJV  We now have the law of God in our hearts (Heb 8:10-12) and the Spirit of God within us as well.  That being so, we are called to work out this renewing of our minds in our lives.  “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,  Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.   But ye have not so learned Christ;  If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:  That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;  And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;  And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”  (Eph 4:17-24) KJV  That change which has been wrought within us is now to change our lifestyle. Our position must become our practice.   Just as as we were changed when we trusted Jesus we are also called to be changed by the Word of God directing our lives.  “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.   And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  (Rom 12:1,2) KJV   How do we renew our minds?  There is no doubt that our minds are renewed by the Word of God. In fact, Jesus’ prayer was that we would be made holy by God’s Word.  “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) KJV  In fact, Jesus died that He might renew our minds and sanctify us by His Word.  “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”  (Eph 5:25-27) KJV  Though our minds have been renewed by regeneration we are still in sinful flesh.  Because of this we battle with fleshly lusts (Gal 5:16,17;1Pet 2:11,12).  The only way to conquer sin is to allow the Word of God to work in us.  Paul stated that Scripture is sufficient and designed for this purpose. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim 3:16,17) KJV  It is by saturating our hearts and minds with Biblical truth that we correct our lives and keep from sin.  “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.   With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.   Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”  (Ps 119:9-11) KJV What a blessing it is to have the means by which we can be molded into the likeness of our Savior and be holy as He is holy!

Is The Saint’s Practical Sanctification Assured?

This final question is one which it is essential to consider.  Is the saint’s practical sanctification assured? To put it another way, will positional sanctification lead to practical sanctification?  We may also ask the question in this manner: Will the unholy inhabit heaven?  That is, is one whose life is not characterized by submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ a true Christian?  This question is essential for two reasons:  one, it should help the true Christian be assured of his standing with God by observing the sanctifying work of God in his life; two, it should help the careless to examine themselves so that they can ascertain if they are truly regenerate, and it should provoke them unto good works that are to the glory of God.

First of all we should remember the purpose for which we are saved.  “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”  (1 Cor 6:9-11) KJV  While there may remain much that is wrong in our lives, God has set us apart as special unto Himself, and His purpose is to accomplish a further work of sanctification in our lives.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”  (Eph 1:3,4) KJV   The saints are God’s chosen whom He plans to cause to stand before Him holy and without blame in His love.  In fact, Jesus’ death (as we have already seen) was for the purpose of giving both positional and practical sanctification to His church.  “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”  (Eph 5:25-27) KJV  We have also seen that the same Jesus who is Savior is also redemption, wisdom, justification, and sanctification (See 1Cor 1:30).  This being so, we must accept that fact that God’s children will be sanctified.  After all, either Jesus is all of these to us or He is none of these to us. We do not have a partial Savior. To declare that there are Christians in whose life God does not do His sanctifying work is to denigrate the person of Christ as well as His sacrifice that is sufficient to accomplish this work.  

The true saint of God should find great assurance in the truth that God will indeed accomplish holiness in his/her life.  When one sees the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22,23) in their life they can be assured that such things are only the work of God within them. The characteristics of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, and faith are not produced by human will-power, but by the supernatural work of God as He uses His truth to transform us.  The obedient child of God will also find great assurance of his/her salvation when they read the words of Jesus Christ as He said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.   Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?   And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.   Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.   And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”  (Matt 7:21-27) KJV While the immediate context is a warning about false prophets, this text also has an application that is relevant to all those who profess Christ.  Jesus stated that “whosoever” would hear and obey His words would endure thejudgment while “whosoever” would hear and not obey His words would not endure the judgment.  For those in whom Christ is working obedience and holiness this passage is a great comfort.  What a joy it is to find that the evidence of the work of Christ in our lives assures us that all will be well with us in the day of judgment!

Often there are those who profess Christ but do not live a life that is consistent with their profession.  What are we to think of these?  First of all we must understand that we cannot make an infallible judgment concerning them: judgment is the Divine prerogative (James 4:12).  It is true that we can know a tree by its fruits (See Mt 7:20), but there seem to be times when the fruit of the Spirit is not soon manifest in the lives of God’s children.  There are also those whose lives are characterized by immorality.  When we consider them we should remember that the Scripture calls the church to exercise discipline in these cases so that the erring one could be brought back to faithfulness. We should also understand that persisting in these things is often evidence of an unregenerate nature. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,  Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21) KJV  People who commit sins of immorality should be very concerned about their spiritual condition and should ascertain whether they are truly saved or not.  If they are truly saved they should repent of their immorality and seek to walk closer to the Lord.  The Word of God does present to us several saints who did indeed have moral lapses in their lives, some of which were long-lived lapses.  Time would fail us to tell of David’s adultery, Lot’s drunkenness and incest, Peter’s nakedness and cursing, Noah’s drunkenness and nakedness, and many others.  The fact remains, however, that these people who lapsed are still characterized in their lives by righteousness.  Even Lot is referred to as a righteous person.  “If God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;  And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;  And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;  And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)  The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.”  (2 Peter 2:4-9) KJV  Notice the pains which are taken, and the ends to which the Spirit leads Peter in assuring us that Lot was sanctified.  Lot is spoken of as just, righteous, as having a righteous soul, and as being godly.  Whatever else the case may be, many claims have been unjustly made about the life of Lot.  He was not one who lived in Sodom for many years while partaking of their sins. In fact, we cannot be sure that Lot was as fully responsible as we have declared him to be as concerning the sins committed when he lapsed.  The reader will no doubt charitably agree with the writer when he states that Lot’s daughters plotted to get him into an inebriated state so that they could accomplish their sorry goal.  Who knows to what pains they went to accomplish this so that Lot was not fully aware of what was being done to him?  In the end we must accept the Word of God and say that Lot, though lapsed, was a man in whom God did indeed work holiness.  From this we must conclude that, though the child of God may fall under the power of sin for a season he will not remain in sin. God will make him holy through chastening him (See Heb 12:4-11), or He will take the erring saint’s life (See 1Cor 11:30 and 1Jn 5:16).

The child of God who fears because he struggles with sin should take heart in the fact that the struggle of sin is part of the Christian’s life.  “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.   For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”  (Gal 5:16,17) KJV  The great truth that is found in this passage is the fact that, while we struggle with sin, the Holy Spirit is within us giving us strength so that we will not sin so long as we are walking in the Spirit.  The struggling child of God should not be discouraged either, because God promises to sanctify him.  “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.   Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”  (1 Thess 5:23.24) KJV  “Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.   God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”  ( 1 Cor 1:8,9) KJV  “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”  (Phil 1:6) KJV  The children of God should take this great truth as an incentive to be attentive to God’s Word, obey it, and rely upon God’s strengthening grace, because He will work through these things to make us holy people.

Sound Doctrine And Sound Behavior

knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” (1 Timothy 1:9–11) 

                  Notice that the apostle tells the young preacher that sound (hygienic) doctrine has behavior that corresponds to it. Doctrine is essential in the church. We are to give heed to it in our preaching (1 Timothy 4:16), and our preaching should be full of it (2 Timothy 4:1-3). 

Doctrine alone is not what we need, however. Doctrine should lead to practice. This is why we read that the Scriptures are profitable for doctrine, for the purpose of changing our hearts, minds, and behavior and making us the people God wants us to be.

Paul told Titus that the doctrine of God has a lifestyle that goes along with it, and that sound doctrine should be like clothing for us (Titus 2:1-15). 

Brothers, we cannot neglect doctrine because we think it is impractical. All sound doctrine is ordained by God to lead to sound minds and sound behavior, and we neglect it to our own peril.

The Authority Of The Local Church pt 2

Binding And Loosing In The Local Church

            Our text shows Jesus stating that there is, within the local church, the authority to bind and loose as long as it is in accord with what has been done in heaven. When we consider that the ultimate authority in the church is Jesus Christ (See Matthew 28:18-20;Ephesians 1:23;Colossians 1:18), and that God alone has the authority of forgiveness (And that forgiveness and judgment are the prerogative of Jesus. See Matthew 9:1-8;John 5:22;James 4:12), then we see that the binding and loosing must be done under the authority of Christ, or in harmony with the teaching of His Word.

            What does it mean to bind and to loose? Jesus shows us this in Matthew 18:21-35. It is here that the parable shows us how one can either be bound to, or loosed from his debt. When we see Jesus tells the church that we have the authority of forgiveness (John 20:23), we understand that He is speaking of the same thing. The binding and loosing refers to the sinning member who is put outside the fellowship of the church (See 1 Corinthians 5:1-13), thus being bound to his sins until he repents; and then receiving him back into fellowship through forgiveness, thus loosing him from his sin as God has done (See 2 Corinthians 2:1-11). 

            As we consider this, it shows us that the church has authority under Christ to receive and/or reject members. This is not something that is to be done carelessly, but under the authority of Christ only. We have no right to receive or to reject anyone that Christ would not treat the same as we do. Thus it is that we see very explicit directions concerning how to exercise church discipline. We also see that the New Testament pattern was to receive the baptized believer into the fellowship of the local church (Acts 1:41-47). Though we see no formal vote that took place, we do see that those who trusted Jesus were baptized and then became a part of the fellowship of the church. We also see that Saul of Tarsus was initially rejected, but then received by the church at Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-28). Later this same apostle wrote to the Roman church, commanding them to receive their weaker brethren (Romans 14:1). Thus the church has the authority concerning whom they will receive into their fellowship.

            While we see only the broad principle regarding the receiving of members into the fellowship of the church, we must recognize that this is a very important issue. What is at stake is the holiness and purity of the church. As mentioned earlier, there are issues that will be dealt with more in depth when we address church discipline; here we will let is suffice us to say that the church should be careful that they only receive into their fellowship those who give credible evidence of saving faith in Christ, baptism, and good moral character (Acts 2:41-47;1 Corinthians 5:1-13).

Respecting The Local Church

The authority and autonomy of each local church should be respected. As members of local churches, we must ourselves be respectful of the church. We should do that by living godly lives so that we can be a blessing to the church, thus upholding the Biblical standards of holiness. We should respect the local church by showing Christian courtesy in all things, so that we minister to the harmony and edification of the body in our assemblies, and so that we represent the church and Christ well in society. Finally, we should respect the local church by submitting to her teaching and discipline, as the church follows Christ Jesus.We should also show respect to the authority of the local church by respecting the rights and privileges of other local bodies as we deal with them. Whether we are receiving or granting letters of commendation for members, conducting business in associations, seeking for or planning the ordination of ministers or deacons, or whatever business we are transacting, we must always be aware that each local church must be respected as an individual body that is responsible for carrying out her own business. That being so, we should respect the freedom and authority of each local church in carrying out the business of the church.