What is “holiness” biblically and theologically? What does it mean to have holiness or be set apart? It’s all too easy to be so caught up in teaching what we believe to be applications of holiness, that we forget what holiness even is.
Why do we pursue holiness? Is it so we’ll be good enough for God to accept us? Do we have to purify ourselves before the Holy Spirit will dwell in us? No! Holiness cannot come from works; Christ alone is the source of holiness. However, when the Holy God comes to an unholy human, when Christ’s righteousness is given by faith, He will inevitably begin the work of transforming us into His image. Our responsibility is to allow Christ to have His way in our lives. We do this by drawing close Him, obeying His Holy Word, and striving to be like Him in every way. “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your conduct [be set apart from the world by your godly character and moral courage]; because it is written, “You shall be holy (set apart), for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:15-16 AMP
We all know holiness is so much more than a list of standards—so much more than merely rules or lists of “do’s and don’t’s.” Holiness is Christ inside of us, transforming us to His image and likeness. The Greek root words for “holiness” (primarily ἁγιασμός / hag-ee-as-mos’) is defined in the Helps Word Study as “use of the believer being progressively transformed by the Lord into His likeness” and the Strong’s definition is “the process of making or becoming holy, set apart, sanctification, holiness, consecration”. However, when we are disciples of Christ, growing and becoming more like Him, the inner holiness will certainly yield outward results! True holiness will always impact the way we walk, talk, look and live. If we love Jesus, we’ll obey His commandments. This means there will be things we “do” and “don’t do.”
So, how should we preach and teach holiness? What does holiness look like? Thankfully, scripture doesn’t leave us in the dark. When the biblical authors “preach a little holiness” they have no qualms about telling us what the external evidence will be. In this video, I focus in on one passage in particular where Paul is specifically addressing the holiness lifestyle, Ephesians 4:25-32, 5:1-4. When we preach and teach holiness, we should be careful to model our instruction after the biblical pattern exemplified in Ephesians, among other passages. After all, you can’t get better than the Bible!
What does holiness look like? What actions, attitudes, appearances, behavior and conduct should be taught and associated with a holiness lifestyle? Thankfully, this not a question the biblical authors are silent on. In the passage we look at in this video, 1 Thessalonians 3:12 – 4:12, Paul shows us a few of the outward evidences of having our hearts “established in holiness.” He talks about 4 key areas—love, obedience, purity, labor—all of which are repeats from his teaching on holiness from Ephesians 4 – 5. Clearly, a biblical pattern of how holiness should be taught is beginning to form, and it is this pattern from which we should model our own holiness teaching.
One thing that Paul is careful to point out is that his teachings on holiness are not his own. They were not his personal convictions, traditions, opinions, or man-made rules. No, Paul’s teaching on holiness living came directly from the Holy One Himself. It was divine authority which gave his words so much weight and power. The standard for holiness is an indisputably high one—it’s Christ Himself. The more we become like Christ the more we will increase and abound in His love, the more we will seek to please Him and obey His commands, the more we will control ourselves in purity and labor with honestly and meekness. Holiness is a beautiful virtue. There are many counterfeits, but there is still a genuine. We must determine to pursue authentic holiness with all of our hearts.