A Case for Holiness: Introduction

holiness definition international pentecostal church

We are called to holiness

1 Peter 1:15-16 says, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”

Many Christians have heard of and believe in the concept of holiness.  Many churches talk about holiness, but neglect to address specific scriptures that directly and poignantly speak to what holiness looks like.  By keeping things generic, interpretable, and up to the individual, many of today’s leaders have taken the easy route, because they are afraid to talk about elephants in the room.  People not living lives pleasing unto the Lord, falling for the traps the enemy has laid for humanity, giving into their fleshly desires in the name of grace. This all sounds harsh, but I would rather know what the Bible says, than be ignorant, because my leader was afraid of being legalistic.

The definition of holiness is as follows:  the state or quality of being holy.  Purity or integrity of moral character.  Freedom from sin.  Sanctity.

Differing beliefs

While many mainstream Christians prefer to relegate holiness to a mindset, an attitude or an inner goodness or purity, Pentecostal or Apostolic Christians believe that holiness includes inward purity as well as outward purity, which includes behavior and appearance.  

·      Mainstream Christianity relegates holiness standards to legalism or “working for your salvation.”  While holiness Christians claim mainstream Christians are only following scripture as it is convenient – using grace as a justification for their incongruence with scripture.

·      Mainstream Christians say that holiness standards are man-made customs that controvert scripture, while holiness Christians say they are simply trying to obey God’s word.

Who’s right?

Middle ground

Moderation or balance is needed when talking about holiness.  I’m not talking about compromise or justification of sin or anything like that. I’m talking about rightly dividing the Word of God, understanding the principles the Bible stands for, while earnestly and openly seeking the truth.

Here are some Biblical principles to start with:

·      Only God is holy – we are not – we cannot make ourselves holy.

·      Holiness starts on the inside when we receive the Holy Spirit.

·      Having and obeying holiness standards will not save you.

·      God’s grace plays a major role in our obedience to Christ.  We can obey God, with God’s grace and power.

·      As with almost everything, God has the big part, and we have a very little part (but we do have a part).

·      Holiness is a good thing and a concept that we should all strive for.

The Bible has a lot to say

Here are some cornerstone scriptures from both the New and Old Testaments that clearly, beyond a doubt, stress the importance, necessity, and beauty of holiness.  Not just a state of mind, or a mental attitude, but a life living out holiness.

·      2 Corinthians 7:1 says, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

·      Hebrews 12:14 says to make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

·      Psalm 119:9 asks the important question, How can a young person stay on the path of purity?  And gives us the answer:  By living according to your word.”

·      2 Timothy 1:9 says God saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.

·      Romans 12:1 Paul strongly urges us, as brothers and sisters, to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

·      Ephesians 5:3 says that among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

Up next

There are two types of holiness that are neglected and not really talked about today, but there are many scriptures woven throughout the Bible that speak to them, namely:

1.     Modesty

2.     Separation

Parts 2 and 3 of “A Case for Holiness” will address these holiness concepts directly and scripturally.

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