The Vital Necessity of Holiness

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” – Heb 12:14

We need to continually be on our guard and to even contend against, go on the offensive against, the diabolical doctrine of hyper-grace, antinomianism, semi-antinomianism cloaked under the modern term of eternal security, which is nothing but an invention of Satan and his emissaries to lure and destroy souls in carnal security.

Again, while it is forever true that a man is justified by faith alone in Christ alone without regards to his works (e.g. Rom 3:28), yet true faith is never without true works (Rom 6:1-2, Eph 5:6, etc.). In fact, the only way we may know if we have been truly saved is by our fruits, by our works, to examine ourselves and measure it against the standards of a true Christian pilgrim contained in the Scriptures. “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:18-25). Holiness is an expression of the reality of the Gospel in our lives.

For instance, the warnings are replete across the whole volume of Scripture, that without holiness, no man, whoever he claim to be, whatever anointing he claim to posses, whatever gifts he claim to have, shall not see God. Not that a true Christian is justified or even saved by holiness or works, but holiness is the invevitable result of a life that is heavenly-bound and in union with Christ. True holiness is to follow Christ in both doctrine and life.

And holiness is not to be confused with morality. A man may abstain from all external pollutions without being holy. Also holiness is not to be confused with sinlessness. Sinlessness is the absolute absence of sin over the lifetime of faith (only Christ achieved this). Sinlessness is absolute, it has no degrees. But holiness has degrees. A man may be holy without being perfect; we are called to perfection as a motive, encouragment, as something achievable, (e.g. Phil 3:15-16) but not all true Christians may attain it, yet they are still beloved and heavenly-bound, fellow heirs of the promises of God in Christ. Some do become more holy to the point of “resisting unto blood” (Heb 12:4); others to the point of “hating the garments spotted by the flesh” (Jude 1:23, etc).

Holiness is the continual pursuit after Christ-likeness and it has degrees; we are to make progress in holy living as we age in grace (e.g. 2 Pet 1:5-11). It is that frame of holy mindset, a holy nature, the love for God, for Christ, for truth and justice, the delight after God’s law and earnest strivings to obey Him fully, the love for his fellowmen, the excercising of our conscience to be free of offense towards God and towards man, the active obedience of faith on a continual basis, the active strivings against sin and Satan without and within the heart. It is the fruit of the Spirit produced in every true Christian at regeneration, when the heart is changed from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh (1 Pet 1:2, 2 Thess 2:13).

So by default, a truly born-again Christian will have a holy disposition and have been given, and do possess, the power to live holily and will not only desire holiness, but actively pursue holiness in all areas of his life. He may fail in certain areas like “anger, wrath, malice, [pardonable] blasphemy, filthy communication” etc (Col 3:8) as he learn to live by faith and the power of the Spirit, but he never justifies himself in any evil but repents and strive to gain victory over all known sins; indeed, the Christian life is a life of repentance and a contrite spirit. This is not legalism; he knows he is not justified by holiness but purely by His faith in Christ alone, but he must prove the sincerity and genuiness of his faith by walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, he must work out his salvation, prove his genuiness, his heavenliness, by his works. e.g. Luke 6:46

John Calvin’s commentary on Hebrews is one of the great and faithful expositions on these area of Scripture, and I find it appropriate to put some of his excerpts here for the reader:

“As however peace cannot be maintained with the ungodly except on the condition of approving of their vices and wickedness, the Apostle immediately adds, that holiness is to be followed together with peace; as though he commended peace to us with this exception, that the friendship of the wicked is not to be allowed to defile or pollute us; for holiness has an especial regard to God. Though then the whole world were roused to a blazing war, yet holiness is not to be forsaken, for it is the bond of our union with God. In short, let us quietly cherish concord with men, but only, according to the proverb, as far as conscience allows.

He declares, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord; for with no other eyes shall we see God than those which have been renewed after his image.

“15. Looking diligently, or, taking care, or, attentively providing, etc. By these words he intimates that it is easy to fall away from the grace of God; for it is not without reason that attention is required, because as soon as Satan sees us secure or remiss, he instantly circumvents us. We have, in short, need of striving and vigilance, if we would persevere in the grace of God.

“Moreover, under the word grace, he includes our whole vocation. If any one hence infers that the grace of God is not efficacious, except we of our own selves cooperate with it, the argument is frivolous. We know how great is the slothfulness of our flesh; it therefore wants continual incentives; but when the Lord stimulates us by warning and exhortation, He at the same time moves and stirs up our hearts, that His exhortations may not be in vain, or pass away without effect. Then from precepts and exhortations we are not to infer what man can do of himself, or what is the power of freewill; for doubtless the attention or diligence which the Apostle requires here is the gift of God.

“Lest any root, etc. I doubt not but that he refers to a passage written by Moses in Deuteronomy 29:18; for after having promulgated the Law, Moses exhorted the people to beware, lest any root germinating should bear gall and wormwood among them. He afterwards explained what he meant, that is, lest any one, felicitating himself in sin, and like the drunken who are wont to excite thirst, stimulating sinful desires, should bring on a contempt of God through the alluring of hope of impunity. The same is what the Apostle speaks of now; for he foretells what will take place, that is, if we suffer such a root to grow, it will corrupt and defile many; he not only bids every one to irradiate such a pest from their hearts, but he also forbids them to allow it to grow among them. It cannot be indeed but that these roots will ever be found in the Church, for hypocrites and the ungodly are always mixed with the good; but when they spring up they ought to be cut down, lest by growing they should choke the good seed.

“He mentions bitterness for what Moses calls gall and wormwood; but both meant to express a root that is poisonous and deadly. Since then it is so fatal an evil, with more earnest effort it behooves us to check it, lest it should rise and creep farther.

“16. Lest there be any fornicator or profane person, etc. As he had before exhorted them to holiness, so now, that he might reclaim them from defilements opposed to it, he mentions a particular kind of defilement, and says, “Lest there be any fornicator.” But he immediately comes to what is general, and adds, “or a profane person;” for it is the term that is strictly contrary to holiness. The Lord calls us for this end, that He may make us holy unto obedience: this is done when we renounce the world; but any one who so delights in his own filth that he continually rolls in it, profanes himself. We may at the same time regard the profane as meaning generally all those who do not value God’s grace so much as to seek it and despise the world. But as men become profane in various ways, the more earnest we ought to strive lest an opening be left for Satan to defile us with his corruptions. And as there is no true religion without holiness, we ought to make progress continually in the fear of God, in the mortifying of the flesh, and in the whole practice of piety; for as we are profane until we separate from the world so if we roll again in its filth we renounce holiness.

“As Esau, etc. This example may be viewed as an exposition of the word profane; for when Esau set more value on one meal than on his birthright, he lost his blessing. Profane then are all they in whom the love of the world so reigns and prevails that they forget heaven: as is the case with those who are led away by ambition, or become fond of money or of wealth, or give themselves up to gluttony, or become entangled in any other pleasures; they allow in their thoughts and cares no place, or it may be the last place, to the spiritual kingdom of Christ.

“Most appropriate then is this example; for when the Lord designs to set forth the power of that love which He has for His people, He calls all those whom He has called to the hope of eternal life His firstborn. Invaluable indeed is this honor with which he favors us; and all the wealth, all the conveniences, the honors and the pleasures of the world, and everything commonly deemed necessary for happiness, when compared with this honor, are of no more value than a morsel of meat. That we indeed set a high value on things which are nearly worth nothing, arises from this, — that depraved lust dazzles our eyes and thus blinds us. If therefore we would hold a place in God’s sanctuary, we must learn to despise morsels of meat of this kind, by which Satan is wont to catch the reprobate.

A servant of Jesus Christ, husband, father and an entrepreneur. Aspiring theologian and preacher. Owolabi is happily married to Oluseun and their union is blessed with children.

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