Christ Our Holiness: Set Apart to God

“You are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1Corinthians 1:30 NIV).

Our connection to holiness is not due to anything preexisting in us, but only because “in this world we are like Jesus” (1John 4:17 NIV). If Christ is holy, and we are in Christ, then we are holy. Still, we are reminded, “Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1Peter 1:15 NIV) and “live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear” (1:17 NIV). That “reverent fear” is not simply an acknowledgement that God is who He says He is, but our voluntary agreement and trust of Him. This balance between God and man, His power and our responsibility, His ability to preserve us and our necessity to walk holy, His assurance of sustaining us and our concern of offending Him, separates us from sin unto God. In this regard, you are to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12 NIV), remembering that, “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose” (2:13 NIV). All of this comes down to trusting Christ to make and keep us holy. How difficult is that?

Look upon the history of God’s people throughout time. History is His story of holiness; and, in it, we can detect the pattern of struggle and trust that recurs. What is God’s program and plan that He is executing? How is it coming along? What is our part in it?

Holiness is primarily that ineffable characteristic of God, which uniquely describes Him, but still, characterizes anything set apart to Him or for Him, voluntarily or otherwise. Establishing not only the fact but the wonder of God’s holiness, Moses was inspired to declare, “Who among the gods is like You, Lord? Who is like You — majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders” (Exodus 15:11 NIV). The grandeur of the “high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy” (Isaiah 57:15 KJV) condescends to further comfort us, “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (57:15 KJV). Holiness must then also be a moral choice requiring our willingness, otherwise God would not say to us, “Be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44; 1Peter 1:16 NIV).

God’s program and plan for holiness is marvelously simple and straightforward. He expects His people to  join themselves to Him through loving obedience, thus separating themselves from sin. “Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations” (Psalm 90:1 NIV). In the cool of the Garden, You walked with us as an intimate friend until we believed the Serpent’s lie. “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character” (1Corinthians 15:33 NIV). How could we doubt You, our Faithful Creator? We lost touch with You, our only truth in this world, who alone gave us good, with only one restriction — the forbidden fruit — to test us. But, as You later said, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10 NIV). What more could You give us, but Your Spirit? “Or do you think Scripture says without reason that He jealously longs for the Spirit He has caused to dwell in us?” (James 4:5 NIV). First, He walked among us in the Garden, then as a Nation. But, He purposed all along to give us the Gift of His Spirit, once the Son confirmed to the world, the greatest expression of a Father’s love at the Cross. “And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws” (Ezekiel 36:27 NIV). This jealously longed for Spirit that He has caused to dwell in us, is the secret of both our obedience and holiness, for He is aptly named, the “Holy Spirit of Promise” (Ephesians 1:13 KJV). Why else would the worst and only sin unpardonable be to completely resist and thus blaspheme that Blessed Holy Spirit? “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29 NIV). “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30 NIV).

If Christ’s holiness is our holiness because His Spirit works in us to cause us to walk in obedience, then it must be supremely important for us to “not grieve the Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30 NIV). You notice we are being told not to make God emotionally unhappy. In other words, we are to please God. It just so happens, faith pleases God. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV). When it comes down to it, faith is essentially confidence in God. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). And, confidence in God primarily “comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word about Christ” (Romans 10:17 NIV). Please God, confidence in God, the Word about Christ. We may emphasize any of these, when pursuing Christ our holiness; but, all of them will cause us to be joined to God, separated from sin, and make God extremely happy. And, without deep theological reflection, pleasing God is worthy of our highest aspiration.

How do we cherish our connection with Christ our holiness? Only with a wholehearted seeking of Christ. Anything less or questionable must be immediately rejected as unworthy of Christ, for “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23 NIV). We do not take refuge in the shadows, but only in Christ. Christ our holiness will be found, as He walks among us and in us. “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (2Corinthians 6:16 KJV). With greater boldness, we will find ourselves separating from sinful practices and company. “Therefore, Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you” (2Corinthians 6:17 NIV). If our company has more influence upon us for the worse than we upon them for the better, then “bad company corrupts good character” (1Corinthians 15:33 NIV), and we must part company. Otherwise, we “are still in the world” (John 17:11 NIV), but “not of the world” (17:16 NIV). And for this, we truly appreciate Christ’s intercession for us, “My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one. Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth” (17:15, 17 NIV). The holiness of Christ makes us holy and keeps us so.

As you can see, the holiness of Christ is not so much a list of thou shalts and thou shalt nots, as is commonly misunderstood, but it is a union or joining with Christ, where one might say with the prophet, “When Your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear Your name, Lord God Almighty” (Jeremiah 15:16 NIV). Obedience  is not to be undervalued, but action without love is to be hated, as much as faith without works. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6 NIV). If we are not careful, we can satisfy ourselves with “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2Timothy 3:5 NIV); but, just as quickly, we are reminded, “Have nothing to do with such people” (3:5 NIV). We will not be able to bear the reproach coming with godly conduct unless we are intimate with Christ our holiness. Anything less will simply be “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (1Corinthians 13:1 KJV). Remember the three Hebrew stalwarts cast into Nebuchadnezzar’s burning fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to worship the king’s golden image? Nebuchadnezzar was startled to find the Living God present with the humble but defiant criminals. 
Not always will the holiness of Christ allow for such a storied outcome, but He can. “24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. 25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. 27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them” (Daniel 3:24-27 KJV).

We must be careful to maintain the holiness of Christ, for there will be temporal consequences and eternal consequences, if we remain impenitent. Moses suffered the temporal consequence of not entering into the physical Promised Land, when he lost his patience and struck the rock of Meribah. God described Moses’ disobedience as a breach of faith with the LORD and lowering God’s holiness among the Israelites. We do not value God’s holiness as He does. “This is because both of you broke faith with Me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold My holiness among the Israelites” (Deuteronomy 32:51 NIV). Here is what happened at Meribah. “8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. 9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? 11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. 12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed Me not, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. 13 This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and He was sanctified in them” (Numbers 20:8-13 KJV).

The eternal consequences of not maintaining Christ’s holiness are damnation. “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14 NIV). Christ’s warnings are not empty for the finally penitent and believing, but are ineffectual to the deceived, overconfident, impenitent. “We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end” (Hebrews 3:14 NIV). Peter’s admonition is possibly the most unassailable warning of the possibility of finally falling away from the holiness of Christ. “20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: A dog returns to its vomit, and, A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud” (2Peter 2:20-22 NIV). God assures an eternal security to the believer, and an eternal insecurity to the sinner. “3 We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands. 4 Whoever says, I know Him, but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person” (1John 2:3-4 NIV). Assurance from God that we “know Him” only comes while we are keeping His commands. It would be contradictory and counterproductive for God to give anyone assurance that they “know Him,” while at the same time, they are disobeying Him. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24 NIV). But, take heart, the elect will always repent, for “godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2Corinthians 7:10 NIV).

Heavenly Father, when Christ our holiness returns to this earth, may we be found in Him, not having our own righteousness, but one that comes through faith in Christ. May the proof of our holiness in Christ not be our filthy rags of self-righteousness, but our lives consistent and dependent upon You. Secure us, O LORD, in Your holiness, for no one can snatch us out of Your hand. 

Amen and amen.