Growing up in a Pentecostal Holiness Church it was common to often hear the term “holiness” mentioned in messages that my Pastor preached. Much of what I understood about “holiness” growing up, I equated with standards of apparel as to what to wear or not to wear as a Christian. Also the list of rules regarding what we could or could not do seemed like a mile long to me. It didn’t seem to matter if a person had a real heart change and loved God and others as long as that person was compliant to all the rules and looked good outwardly. “Holiness” was understood to mean that real Christians were to look and act in the same way. Phariseeism is a by-product of that kind of holiness.
So what is true holiness? The Greek word “hagios” defines holiness as “set apart for God, to be, as it were, exclusively His.” “Those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead they will live for Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:15 (NLT) Holiness, then, is to separate ourselves from the world that once controlled our selfish desires and to live our new life to please Christ. The world is driven by selfishness, and so is the believer who is unholy. Holiness is based in conduct and behavior, therefore if a believer is not fully devoted to God, their conduct and behavior is self-centered and their priorities are centered upon what they want. Holiness is really about living in our new nature that is recreated in the image of Jesus with the inward ability to live the truly good life.
Paul instructs us to submit to the new inward nature of Christ, in Ephesians 4:21 (NLT) “Since you have learned about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God - truly righteous and holy.” Another definition of holiness means to have “pure, sinless, upright, behavior.” Of course this can only be possible through our position in Christ. Paul writes: “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.” Ephesians 1:4 (NLT) This holiness is solely due to what Jesus did for us and speaks of our place in Christ. We could never have earned this position by our behavior; it’s His gift to us. Our behavior is an aspect of holiness that results from holding this position. Peter writes in 1:15, 16 (NLT) “Now you must be holy in everything you do (behavior), just as God who chose you is holy. For the scripture says “You must be holy because I am holy.” This chapter tells us that God will judge us according to what we do, which is referring to our actions, not our position in Christ. Peter is talking about our behavior and lifestyle, not our position in Christ. The blood of Jesus forgives our sins, but there is a certain judgment that will occur with God’s children in regard to what we do. (Read 2 Corinthians 5:9-11)
If we have been saved by grace, we are enabled by the gift of our new nature to live differently than the world; to live a holy life.