The central theme of the Bible is Christ. And each Book of the Bible has a specific theme. The one that dwells vividly on the subject of “holiness” is the Book of Leviticus. Lev. 19:2; 20:7,8 and 21:8 are three sample texts. A threefold truth emerges from these texts –
“Be holy” – The call of God the Father
“As I am holy” – The pattern of God the Son
“I make you holy” – The work of God the Holy Spirit
This is summarised in 1 Pet 1:15,16. A Precept, a Pattern and a Promise!
Christ is the followable pattern for a holy walk. To respond to God’s heavenly calling to live holy, we are to “consider Christ!” (Heb 3:1). In other words, we are to trace and follow His footsteps closely. Unfortunately the emphasis in Christian circles these days is on the miracle “power” of Jesus rather than on the life “pattern” of Jesus.
“Clean out of unclean”
The very genealogy of Jesus in Matthew gives us a positive hope that we can be made holy. Verse 3, Tamar, a childless widow who acted like a harlot to seduce her father-in-law (Gen. 38:15). Verse 5, Rahab, a professional prostitute called so even in the New Testament (Josh. 2:1; Js 2:25). Verse 5, Ruth, a Moabitess, who cannot enter the congregation of the Lord (Ruth 4:10,17; Dt 23:3). Verse 6, Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, with whom David committed adultery (2 Sam 11:3,4). This reminds us of a challenging question in the Book of Job: “Who can bring a clean thing out of the unclean?” (Job 14:4). The answer is, “Only God can!”
Fire of cleansing
The very first angelic announcement to Mary was that the Baby would be the “Holy One” (Lk 1:35). The very first public introduction of Jesus was by John the Baptist who presented Him as the Baptizer with the “Holy Spirit” and with “fire!” (Mt 3:11,12). There’s so much of trash, rubbish and unwanted material in our lives. These are “chaff.” The Baptism with fire speaks of the cleansing and refining work of the Holy Spirit. It is the thorough work of the Spirit to purify and sanctify us (1 Pet 1:2). John presented Him also as the “Lamb of God” who was to “take away sin!” (Jn 1:36).
Baptism and Righteousness
Jesus was extremely conscious of “righteousness” (holiness) from the beginning of His life and ministry. His voluntary act of submission to John’s water baptism was to fulfil all the “righteousness” of God (Mt 3:15). Our diluted doctrine emphasizes water baptism as an entry ticket to Heaven. No, it’s the first step of obedience to commence a walk of righteousness. Apostle Peter confirms that it’s not a ceremonial act but the answer of a “good conscience” (1 Pet 3:21). At baptism we say no to “sin” and yes to walk in the “newness” of life (Rom 6:1-4).
Externals or internals?
Jesus challenged His disciples to exceed the “righteousness” of the Pharisees (Mt 5:20). The Pharisees were the most religious group of His day. They had categorized God’s Law as … 613 rules, 248 commandments and 365 prohibitions. What was their problem? They kept the letter leaving out the spirit. Mere letter kills (2 Cor 3:6b). Apostle Paul contrasted the “outward” Jewishness and the “inward” (Rom 2:28,29). That’s why Jesus specifically preached, “Blessed are the pure IN HEART” (Mt 5:8). Modern Pharisaism, in the name of holiness, overoccupies itself with externals than internals (Mt 23:27,28). The “heart” religion is missing – It’s all just rules and regulations! For example, we teach tithing but leave out charity which is a “weightier” matter (Mt 23:23). Let’s beware!
“But I say unto you …”
While Jesus was making corrections relating to holy living, folks thought He was breaking the Law (Mt 5:17). On the other hand, He broadened “murder” by including “anger” (Mt 5:21-23); broadened “adultery” by including “lustful look” (vv27,28); broadened “oath” by including basic “truthfulness” (vv33-37); and so on. He raised the OT standard of holiness with the words, “BUT I say unto you.”
Holiness the watchword
Holiness was the watchword in the life of Jesus. In the prayer He taught, the very first request was, “Hallowed be Your Name!” (Mt 6:9). God’s name is already holy; we must not profane it as the people of Israel did (Ezek 36:20,21). Jesus was already holy, but He confessed to the Father, “I sanctify Myself.” This was just in order to sanctify us! (Jn 17:19).
No turning back!
In His farewell address in Heaven to the Father, He promised that He would do His will in the body prepared for Him (Heb 10:5-7). He never went back on this commitment. He kept that body pure. Consistency was the hallmark of His life. He testified, “I always please My Father” (Jn 8:29). We are sometimes good but many times bad. In Jesus there was no yes and no, but only “yes!” (2 Cor 1:9). He did not differentiate between important and unimportant things in the matter of holiness. He was faithful in all things (Heb 3:2,6).
Before the Pharisees who were accusing Jesus, He challenged, “Which of you can convict Me of sin?” (Jn 8:46). His practical holiness was seen in the words of His mouth. Peter, who had closely watched Him, wrote, “He committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Pet 2:22). Having said this, Peter admonishes us to “follow His steps” (v21). Because, tongue-control is the mark of perfection (Js 3:2). The Chief Priests and Scribes could not catch Jesus in His words (Lk 20:20,26). How even the holiest among us fail in words!
Friend of sinners
In the name of separation from the world, some believers are practising seclusion. They practise isolation and finally insulation instead of integration in the society to be its salt and light. This was not the lifestyle of Jesus. His accusers said, “Look, a friend of taxcollectors and sinners!” (Mt 11:19). Jewish men don’t talk to women in public. But Jesus had a long conversation with the Samaritan woman in the open (Jn 4:27). He allowed a sinner woman to touch Him and kiss Him (Lk 7:37-39,45). But He kept Himself holy. Here’s the comment by the author of Hebrews: “He is holy, undefiled and separate from sinners” (Heb 7:26). That is, He influenced the sinners, and not the other way round!
Love, not lust!
Jesus did have special love for some families like those of Lazarus and his sisters. May be these youngsters had lost their parents. No doubt Mary was sitting at His feet, but His love was clean. We read, “Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus” (Jn 11:5).
Holiness & Happiness
Jesus did not separate “happiness” from “holiness!” To Him, holiness was not dullness or joylessness. Here are some examples: His first miracle was in a wedding party making the latecomers happy! He gave nicknames to His disciples: Unstable Simon named as Cephas (Petros = rock) (Jn 1:42); James and John named as Sons of Thunder (Mk 3:17). He compared Himself to a bridegroom, the most joyous person in a wedding! The longfaced Pharisees went to the extent of calling Him a “sinner” (Jn 9:24,25). He loved righteousness with perfect love and hated lawlessness with perfect hated. The Father therefore anointed Him with the oil (= perfume) of “gladness” (Heb 1:9). Our youngsters need to be told that holy life is a jolly life! Holiness is happiness, and not vice versa.
Sanctified to sanctify!
The increasing burden of Jesus was to see His disciples grow in holiness. He spoke God’s words to them to cleanse them (Jn 15:3). He prayed for them to be sanctified (Jn 17:17). He sanctified Himself so they might be sanctified (Jn 17:19) -This means, He wanted to set a practical pattern before them. This has been His main “reason” in coming in flesh (Heb. 2:10,11).
No to the devil!
In the beginning of His ministry, Jesus rebuked the devil, saying: “Get behind Me, Satan!” (Mt 4:10). He never gave place to the devil in His life. Towards the end He could testify, “The prince of this world has nothing in Me” (Jn 14:30). Jesus was tempted like us in all points, but He never once yielded (Heb 4:15). The secret was the Scriptures in His heart and in His mouth (Psa 119:11; Lk 4:4,8,12). Let’s search our hearts to find whether in any area of our life we have given entry to the devil. Everytime we yield to temptation our fortress is weakened (Eph 4:26,27).
No fault in Him!
The testimonies of people about Jesus at the end of His earthly life are challenging. Pilate: “I find no fault in this Man” (Lk 23:4,14). Pilate’s wife: “He is a just man” (Mt 27:19). Herod’s testimony was the same (Lk 23:15). The thief: “This Man has done nothing wrong” (Lk 23:41). The Centurion: “Certainly this was a righteous Man!” (Lk 23:47).
Finally, Christ offered Himself as a Lamb without “blemish” and without “spot” (1 Pet 1:19). The Father God did not allow His “Holy One” to see corruption (Acts 2:27). If we follow Christ in His footsteps of holiness, we shall become like Him at His return! (1 Jn 3:2,3).