Holiness, Necessary but not Complicated

Image of Augustus Henry
Inspiration from New Creation Ministry —
By Augustus Henry (PhD)

Holy people demonstrate holiness

Since God alone is holy, does human holiness mean that one has to be sinless, or is the focus on obedience?

Here is a story that informs on how to think about holiness:

The donkey told the tiger: The grass is blue. The tiger replied: No, the grass is green​. The discussion became heated, and the two decided to submit the issue to arbitration, and to do so they approached the lion. Before reaching the clearing in the forest where the lion was sitting on his throne, the donkey started screaming: ′′Your Highness, isn’t it true that the grass is blue?”​ The lion replied: “True, the grass is blue”​. The donkey rushed forward and continued: ′′The tiger disagrees with me and contradicts me and annoys me. Please punish him”​.  The king then declared: ′′The tiger will be punished with 5 years of silence”​. The donkey jumped with joy and went on his way, content and repeating: ′′The grass is blue”​. The tiger accepted his punishment, but he asked the lion: ′′Your Majesty, why have you punished me, after all, the grass is green?”​ The lion replied: That has nothing to do with the question of whether the grass is blue or green. The punishment is because it is not worthwhile for a brave, intelligent creature like you to waste time arguing with an ass…  When ignorance screams, intelligence shuts up. Your peace and tranquility are worth more (Tata Steel, 2021).

Moral: If you are tiger act like a tiger. In the same way, if you are pronounced holy, act in like manner!

In 1Peter 1:15, the Bible says, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.” I would add to that, behaviour.

Perfection, the sister of holiness

Jesus told his disciples: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect, Matt. 5:48. It was common for writers and speakers in Jesus’ days to conclude a list of points with a summary. Therefore, as Jesus ended the B-Attitudes and distinguishing his followers as the light and salt of the earth in Matthew 5, he commanded them to be perfect – implying that adherence to the B-Attitudes and taking the role of salt and light is one type of being perfect.

However, the Apostle Peter takes it much further: it is written, be ye holy; for I am holy 1Pet. 1: 10. What does that mean? Our church recently went out to do evangelistic outreach and I approached an elderly man to introduce myself and our church. Before I even got close, he barked at me saying, I am sanctified and don’t need what you have! And I thought to myself, can someone be so holy that they can’t get any holier? Is holiness the state of being sinless? Is holiness the act of being religious? Why is that scripture asking to be holy when it says only God is Holy? Is holiness the inheritance of holy flesh? Some people believe that Jesus flesh was superior to ours, and he therefore had holy flesh, had a genetic advantage and was unable to sin. Is that what is referred to as being holy?  As it relates to holiness as an expectation for humans, I think not!

Holiness is commitment to being different and being obedient

When you revisit the earlier scripture in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus commands his followers to be holy. All he is doing in that scripture is listing the attributes of holiness not of sinlessness. He listed the behaviour that enumerated holiness – that makes the Christian different – not sinless. The focus here is different, not sinless. There is certain behaviour that projects a Christian’s holiness.  Pet. 2: 9: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Here again Peter returns to behaviour of holy people.  The four clauses in this text are similar to a rhetorical technique called tricolon that writers use to bring emphasis to a critical point.  Although this is not exactly tricolon, but there are four clauses in that scripture that means the same thing, and emphasizes the same point: chosen people, royal priesthood, holy nation, and God’s special possession. All this is saying is that we are expected to be different – in deportment – in attitude and mindset, (Deut. 6: 25 CSB).

Purpose of the Christian’s holiness

Why are we to be different, or for that purpose be holy?

Peter says so “that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” The purpose is so that our behaviour will demonstrate the potency of the power of the blood of Jesus to save people. That his power has the vigour or the spiritual muscle to pull people out of the darkest of darkness. It is to demonstrate that Jesus can save people from the depth of hell – can relieve people from the agony of emotional trauma – that Jesus can turn liars into truth-tellers – can transform thieves into vessels of honesty. Holiness means that the change you demonstrate brings attention to the name of God and that your behaviour declares the wonder that God is.  The beauty of the holiness defined here is not to be good, but that people can see the drastic change in you – That’s when people see your change in behaviour, they recognize a miraculous God.

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