What exactly is this "holiness" and how can we have it since we need it to be able to see the Lord?
ESV - 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
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Holiness (that is, absolute sinlessness) is indeed required to remain in God's presence, since God Himself is holy. Ever since the fall of humanity into sin (Genesis 3), it has been impossible for humans to attain this holiness through their own effort, since the tendency to sin (or sin nature) has been continuously passed down from one human generation to the next (Romans 5:12). In response to this situation, and motivated by pure, undeserved love and mercy toward humanity, God incarnated Himself in the person of Jesus, who, although He was truly human, was also (due to the method in which He was conceived through the working of God the Holy Spirit) born without the sin nature possessed by every other person who has ever lived. He then succeeded in living the life of perfect obedience to God that no one else had been (or could be) capable of achieving, and then, through His sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection, showed that He had paid the penalty demanded by God for the sin of all humanity from eternity past to eternity future. All those, therefore, who place their faith totally in the redemption and salvation that Jesus accomplished (rather than in their own imperfect works) to be found acceptable in God's sight can have Jesus' perfect holiness imputed to them by God, and thus live eternally in God's presence.
Holiness is God’s goal for our lives. Without this transformation we cannot be saved (Hebrews 12:14). God cannot coexist with sin and for us to be with God we must also have no sin (1 John 3:4-6). The Greek word for sanctification used in the NT means holiness. To sanctify means to make holy. When God sanctifies us, He sets us apart for a holy use, He makes us holy (Titus 2:14). In John 17:17 Jesus was asking that His followers should be made holy and, therefore, be useful for the holy work for which He had chosen them. Never does the Bible say that we sanctify ourselves or that our works makes us holy. The Scripture says that the Holy Spirit makes us holy (1 Peter 1:2). Our salvation is "through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth" (2 Thess 2:13) We have all sinned. Jesus is the only one who lived a perfectly holy life on earth (1 Peter 2:22; Romans 3:23). He alone can impart holiness and transform us to be like Him. The Bible is very clear - purity of heart is a prerequisite for entrance to heaven (Matt 5:8; Rev 21:27). Salvation begins with the free gift of a pure life record. When we confess our sins and accept the sacrifice of Jesus to cover our sins, we are justified by His merits. God gives us credit for the spotless life of His Son and sees us as if we never sinned (1 John 1:9). As we accept His free gift by faith, our hearts are transformed and we desire to have a daily relationship with Him (Ephesians 3:17). But even the act of total surrender is possible only through God's power. Christ did not come to save us from the consequences of sin only, but to save us from the sin itself. (Matt 1:21). He did not gave His life just to take away our guilt, but to give us victory over sin (1 Cor 15:57; 1 John 5:4; Philippians 2:5. Rev 14:12, 22:14).
Hebrews 12:14 is touching on the behavioral aspect of holiness. An aspect not many talk about for fear of falling into legalism. As a follower of Jesus Christ, the free gift of salvation cannot be earned. No one, in their own righteousness could live up to God's holy standard except Jesus Christ - God in the flesh. Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross exchanges our sinfulness for his righteousness to those who will believe. Our position in Christ is now made right and we are justified before God because of Jesus. This is your positional Holiness as a Christian. But now that we have been justified and made righteous in God's eyes, and we are unified with Christ, and we are his bride, there is a behavioral holiness that comes from being in this amazing position with God. 1 Peter 1:14-15 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. On the behavioral aspect of Holiness that Hebrews 12:14 touches on, its clear, without pursuing holiness - no one will see The Lord. Intimacy with God, communion with the Holy Spirit, will not be taking place unless one pursues holiness. According to Jude 1 - The love of God is not a license to sin and to live immorally. We do have the blood of Jesus that cleanses in case one does stumble, but that does not mean we go on sinning. No, we press on, pursuing holiness and enjoy seeing and experiencing the presence of God.
Many people confuse holiness with being sinless. That is true based on what context holiness is being used. In the book of Exodus the Bible speaks of holy water, holy garments and holy utensils. Can these things sin? Of course not. But what made them holy? It was the fact that they were being used for God. These items were set apart to be used for the temple. Holiness is not only about being sinless, but being set apart for God to use. When the bible speaks of holiness in the context of God, it refers to being sinless, having nothing to do with sin. But when the context is us, people, the word is referring to us being set apart from the world so God can use us for his glory. Remember 1 John tells us if we say we have no sin, then the father is not in us. We still have the sin nature in us and that does not get eradicated until the body is glorified. So the notion we can be sinless to see God is not biblical. We don't play with sin, but the context of the verse is referring to us setting ourselves apart for God's glory.
When we believe the gospel, that Jesus died for our sins, according to the scriptures, that He was buried and rose again the third day, according to the scriptures, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise. First Corinthians 15:1-4. Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also after ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise. Eternal security. IT is the Holy Spirit in us who is our righteousness before God. Romans 4:5 But to the one who worketh not, but believe on Him who justifieth the ungodly, (which we all are), His faith is counted for righteousness. We are given the righteousness of God when we quit trusting in our works to save us, (what we do or do not do) and put all our faith in Christ alone. When we accept Jesus as our only savior, Is when we get the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit in us that is perfect holiness. We are not Holy, But He is. That is why we have to accept Jesus as the only way to be saved. That there is no other way to be saved than what He did for us on the cross. We are all sinners. But the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin when we accept Him alone by faith alone as our only savior. That our works could never save us. We could never live up to Gods perfect Holiness, but now we have His Holiness in us. He is our eternal security. Once we have the Spirit by faith alone, we are sealed forever and ever a child of God. John1:12 But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name. We can only receive it by faith alone. Not by anything we do or do not do. Our works. Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace ye are saved, through FAITH, and that not of yourselves, it is the GIFT of God, not of works, (what we do or do not do) lest any many should boast. Once we receive the free Gift of salvation by faith alone, we have salvation by grace and are sealed by the Holy Spirit so that we can never be lost. It is the Spirit in us that says I will never leave you or forsake you. All of our sins have been paid for and we are given the righteousness of God through the Holy Spirit when we accepted Jesus as our only savior.
I'm glad you asked. We must first of all be born again, meaning: making a change in our lives, after we have accepted the Lord. After accepting Him, we're already holy, plus, we must follow (be at peace) with all men (male and female) if we want to see the Lord and live with him eternally.
Dianne, that's an excellent question. I was reading this verse this morning and had a similar question. Here are my musings. I hope they're helpful. As far as I can tell, the meaning of the verse is plain: we are to "make every effort" (as the NIV says) to live in peace and we are also to "make every effort" to be holy. So, it is explicit in the verse that we should make an effort to obtain holiness. That's problematic, of course. Further back in the same letter we're very clearly told that "we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:10). So what then, we have already been made holy but still have to strive to be holy? That doesn't seem to make sense. So what do we do? How can we bring those two verses together? (Or do we simply assume the author of Hebrews should have spent more time editing his letter before he sent it? Perhaps we should imitate Martin Luther and consider the inclusion of Hebrews in the canon something to be disputed.) Well, while Hebrews 10:10, as noted above, tells us "we HAVE BEEN MADE holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all," Hebrews 10:14—a mere four verses further on—says "he has made perfect for ever those who are BEING MADE holy" (emphasis mine in both verses). At first glance, this muddies the water even more. Now we've been made holy, are still being made holy, and have to strive for holiness (lest we never get to see God!). However, bear in mind that a large emphasis in Hebrews is on holding onto your faith because the real promised land is still ahead of us (that's essentially what the "cloud of witnesses" all demonstrate to us). So, yes, we HAVE been made holy by Jesus' all sufficient sacrifice, but we're still growing as Christians (albeit painfully slowly with a one-step-backward-two-steps-forward staggering gait). And, while we're doing that, we need to remember that there is a finish line. In fact, way back in Hebrews 4:11, the author tells us to "make every effort to enter that rest." Okay, so that's all well and good, but it doesn't really answer the fundamental question of what it means to strive for holiness. Additionally, you might now be wondering if you can lose your salvation if you don't live a holy enough life. In response to the question of losing your salvation, I would point back to Hebrews 10:14-18: 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy. 15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 16 ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’ 17 Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ 18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. So, we're already perfect and no further sacrifice is necessary. In other words, Jesus has fully and completely paid for your sins. As Ephesians 1:4 tells us, "God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes" (NLT). If you have placed your faith in him, you ARE saved and in his eyes, you're perfect, flawless, and absolutely wonderful. I love the way Jordan Seng, the pastor of the Bluewater MIssion church in Hawaii, puts it: "God would rather die than let your sins be a big issue between you and him" (here's a link to the message he says that in: https://youtu.be/RL5I3gC4s00?t=615). So, Dianne, thank you for asking the question. It gave me an excuse to consolidate and clarify my thoughts, which was very helpful for me. I hope they are of some help to you also.
To be "holy" is to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart so as to be set apart for God's purpose and glory. When sinners receive Jesus by faith as a gift, they become "holy" and are called "saints" (holy ones). (A "saint" is just a cleansed sinner who now belongs to God.) This is their position with God in Christ as their representative. It comes by the finished work of Christ on the cross. It doesn't come because we deserve it or have worked for it or have been good enough for God to give it to us. Our position as people made holy in Christ comes by "the offering of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:10, 14). Our sin--past, present, and future--is accounted for through what Christ did for us on the cross. Our relationship to God is secure for all eternity. We, though sinners, have peace with a holy God being thus justified by faith in Jesus (Romans 5:1). God sees us as already seated in the heavenly places with Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:6). Once we have this holy position of being secure in God's love forever because of Jesus, we are also to walk or live as God's holy people. This is the vocational aspect of holiness. God says: "Be holy as I am holy." That means that under the grace of God and by the work of the Spirit in our hearts we are to become in our conduct more and more what God already considers us to be in our standing with Him in Christ. This is a process that takes place over time. It is also a promise from God, since He Himself will sanctify us (or make us increasingly holy). This is what Paul means when he writes the following to Christians: "Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). At times this holiness is increased in our lives by our heavenly Father's wise, providential discipline. He is a good Father. He disciplines us for our good that we may share His holiness (Hebrews 12:10). In other words, though we are already counted holy in Christ once and for all (in our position), God graciously works in us by the Spirit to bring about more and more of an experience of His holiness in our conduct (Philippians 2:12-13). We will increasingly taste of His goodness in that way as both our character and behavior are conformed to the image of Jesus. This is that holiness the writer of Hebrews is speaking of when he tells us by the Spirit to strive for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. He doesn't mean that the Christians he is addressing are not holy at all. Nor does he mean that if they don't live holy enough they won't be saved. Salvation is ours as a gift by faith in Jesus and that gift is secure and eternal. The Holy Spirit given to us is a guarantee of our eternal inheritance which is life with God forever. That we are loved by God that much through Jesus Christ is what makes us want to be holy. We aren't holy in this sense so God will love us. We make it our aim to be holy more and more because God loves us, has made us holy in our standing with Him, and has assured us that we will be made holy in the end. We strive after holiness because the God to whom we belong is holy, the bride of Christ is holy, and our destination is holy. We make a complete work of holiness in our conduct because we are in awe of who Jesus Christ our Savior is and how great our Father's love for us is through His Son. As Paul says, "Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1). When Jesus comes, He will transform our mortal, sinful body into an immortal body (1 Corinthians 15:53). In a moment, we will be changed to be perfectly holy like Jesus. All who thus hope in Christ strive for that holiness that will be theirs when He comes (1 John 3:3).
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