Call to Holiness

Looking at the societal impact on Christianity one would think that holiness is a thing of the past. One can hardly tell the difference between the Christian and the non-Christian. Holiness has nearly become a curse word even in Houses of Worship. Moreover, the idea of holiness has become just shy of being taboo even among those that say that love God. Things have become so bad that it has become extremely difficult to differentiate between the church and the club.

The fact of the matter is that God is not pleased with this lack of holiness. God has made it known early on that He requires a high standard of His people. Exodus 22:31 points to that high standard without equivocation. The words “And ye shall be holy men unto me” is not a mere suggestion of how God wants His people rather it is a mandate that the people of God be separate and apart from the world in every aspect of life. God requires holiness of His people because of His own holiness (Leviticus 11:44). His is not in the world nor can God be part of the world system. And, if Christians are to immolate the teachings of Christ neither can they be a party to the things of the world that pull from holiness.

Paul recognized the lack of holiness in the Corinthian church. The people were found not only sympathetic with nonbelievers but that they also became party to much of what God called them out from. Among the things they gave in to was the idea of hedonistic practices which were the antithesis of the teaching of Christ. Yet the same practices are common today. The idea is if it feels good, do it. Hence we have many “Christian” entities endorsing homosexuality because the practice of this sin does not hurt anyone. It is the sexual preference of those involved and there is no one can determine who someone else will love. Still, the Scripture requires that the followers of Christ “come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you (II Corinthians 6:17). This declaration by Paul is a call to holiness.

While the way some act in the walls of the church building is quite sickening it is only a type of the way they act outside the church. God never intended the church to be like the world. In fact, the word “church” stems from the Greek ecclesia which means “the called out ones.” This is to say the Church, which is the people, are called out from the world in order to promote the virtues of Christ. It means the influence of the world at best minimally impacts those that seek to please the Most High. The idea of coming out from among them that that live riotous lives means that there is no conforming to the world or the world’s ideas (Romans 12:2).

This is why the idea of “Christian” alternatives must be taken issue with. Nowhere in the scriptural text is there any suggestion that the people of God are to seek alternatives to the world. This idea of alternatives only creates double standards among what is supposed to be a holy people. The fact is that if a certain thing derived from the things of the world that very thing or idea has no place among God’s people. It does not matter if it is ungodly dress, music or even ways of speaking; ungodliness is ungodliness and has no place among the people of God. It is high time the people of God relented on acquiescing to the dictates of the world choosing rather stand on the truths of the Word of God.

The lack of holiness not only means displeasure for God but also is a certainty for eternal damnation. Hebrews 12:14 clearly shows that holiness is a prerequisite for seeing God and without holiness, no man shall see God. If anyone does not see God it means that he is totally separated from God. Holiness, then, is not a simple way of thinking rather it is a way of life. This is because “God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness (I Thessalonians 4:7). Holiness means that there are distinct differences between the Christian and the non-Christian. The two have nothing in common.

The Church needs to return the old landmarks of holiness. Christians need to be holy in where they go, holy in what they see and holy in what they do. There should be neither smell nor likeness of the world on the Christian. Christians are called to be a holy nation and if holiness is not prevalent in Christendom that it could be safely argued that those claiming Christianity may well be not Christians by reason of their lack of holiness. Yes, it is high time the Christian returned to holiness.

Deuteronomy: Holiness Through the Promise

     The idea of holiness was to be a way of life for God’s people. God never intended His people to be like the others in serving false gods, living immoral lives and giving into the lusts of the flesh just because of simple cravings. God’s people were never at liberty to live as others did rather they were to live by a standard set down by God. That standard is reflected in the Law as God had given it to Moses. Part of that law is known as the Ten Commandments which begins with instructions for God’s people to have no gods other than the God of all. This primary instruction, if heeded, allows for no sin because the love toward God would be without barriers alleviating the need for sin.

     Unfortunately man had already proven that his love for God was often fickle at best.  Throughout biblical text God’s people loved Him one moment and seemed to despise Him the next. This is why God had to detail what is now considered the Mosaic Law. There were six hundred thirteen such laws which touched every avenue of life. Yet God knew that man could not adhere to the law without assistance. The real base of the Law was to love God. This is the reason it is the first commandment. Even so, man had a difficult time in following this first and simple mandate. It was extremely evident that man was fickle as the Hebrew children wandered in the wilderness for an extended period of time because of their hard hearts and stiff necks. It is for this reason that Moses looked through the annals of time and saw the coming Messiah.

     Promises of the Messiah were made as early as Genesis chapter three and continued until His manifestation in the Gospels. Moses’ words showed the Messiah as a Prophet in Deuteronomy 18:15. The words “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” say much about what was to come in the form of a Saviour. It is more than obvious that this Prophet is a direct reference to Jesus the Christ for at least three reasons that are outlined in the verse. The first is that the Prophet would come from the midst of the people. That is to say that this Prophet would be born into the Hebrew lineage. The Prophet would also be elevated by God and that same Prophet would be heard by the people.

     The promise of the Prophet is reiterated in verse 18 with “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.” This Prophet was to be sent because the people would not live a holy life on their own. Left to their whims the people would pull from holiness and celebrate not only false gods but their lives would be the very antithesis of what it meant to love God. The love for the true and living God would wax colder and colder whilst love for inordinate affections would be on the rise. With this the Prophet would turn the hearts of the people back to the God that loved them unconditionally. The whoremonging, backstabbing, loveless people would need to be taught how to be holy in the face of unholy surroundings. The Prophet needed to come before man’s false love would be his eternal downfall.   

     Mary was another that received information from on High that Jesus would be born as prophesied in the Second Law. Luke 1:31-33 reads, “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.  And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” And so was the birth of Jesus. He not only falls in the lineage of David but also reigns over the house of Jacob even to this day. His Words were not His own rather He spoke in accordance with the will of the Father (John 12:49-50). The will of the Father was and remains simple, to have a people that love Him and are willing to separate themselves from the things of the world in order to live life more fully.

     Holiness was never a suggestion from God rather it has always been a way of life for those that choose to live a life after His mandates. The law dictated how holy lives were to be lived but the law did little to change the hearts of man. As such there was a need for the Father to send His only begotten Son to die in order to restore a right relationship from man to the Father. That relationship has everything to do with holiness of actions as well as holiness of the heart. The promise in the Second Law pointed to the Holy One (Deuteronomy 33:8) while the Gospels show fulfillment of the promise. Recognizing the true intent of the Law and understanding the fulfillment of the promise is the basis to lead all God’s people to a life of love to Him which results in holiness. That holiness is predicated upon resting in the promise of the revealed Prophet Who came in the spirit of restoration.

 

Deuteronomy: The Law Then and Its Impact Today

     There is little doubt that the fifth book of the Pentateuch is a fascinating one. It is fascinating on many levels particularly in light of the fact that Moses is found rehearsing the law just prior to his death. The fact that Moses is rehearsing the law brings much to light about what Deuteronomy truly is. It is not a record of a dying man just getting some burdens relieved from his chest rather it is the work of a man of God providing focus to a new generation of followers.

 

     Before the new followers of God are brought to the forefront it needs to be noted that Moses, from an early age, was welcomed into Pharaoh’s house. He was taught by the best and dined well. Yet over a period of time Moses came to realize that he really did not belong to Pharaoh but that he had a much longer and sure history with the Hebrews; that is the Israelites. God used Moses to lead His people from the hands of tyrannical leadership that refused to let the Israelites worship God. After much ado the children were allowed to leave the house of bondage which was Egypt. After the release the people of God became rebellious and stiff-necked.  Unthankfulness was the order of the day even while God continued to provide for and protect His people.

 

     Because of their rebellion the Israelites, with Moses, wandered in the wilderness for a generation. During this time God provided Moses with the law the Israelis were to abide by. Meanwhile the older and rebellious people were dying in the wilderness leaving the younger people unfamiliar with the entire law. It is for this reason that there had to be a reiteration or a repeating of the Law. This is what “Deuteronomy” loosely means. It is a repeating or restating of the law. With this the new generation of God’s followers had to be instructed in the Law which is what prompted Moses to give a series of three speeches revisiting not just the law but also the very nuances of it.

     Moses, in chapter four provides distinct a warning in respect to the Word of God, or the Law. His warning was “Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you.  Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” The reason for this warning was to prevent what happened to the older generation who chose not only to rebel against the Law but often served other gods as is evidenced in Exodus 32:4. And while the term “law” is not used in the text the Law is most definitely referenced with the term “Commandments” and these commandments are from the Lord.

     The Law was to guide the people while the more important matter of the Law was to present a holy people before a holy God. The Israelites were to be separate from the world in every aspect of their lives. This is why the nuances of the Law were so important as laid out by Moses.  The people of God were to be holy from the onset and they were to see themselves as “an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6) The people of God were never to be like other peoples and had to be separated from things that were an offense to God. This is what holiness is about and this is what the Law sought to do- keep the people of God separate and apart from ungodly offenses.

     In order to maintain holiness the people of God were not to alter the Law in any form. It was to remain intact without exception. This can be furthered by the fact that because God is holy His Word must also be holy. This is why it cannot be altered and must be honored in whole. Revelation 22:18-19 repeats the very idea mentioned in Deuteronomy. The text reads, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:  And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Clearly the first freed generation of Israelites was caught in certain plagues because they chose not to adhere to the holiness of God’s Word.

     With this it is important to know that the Law (Word of God) was put in place for the holiness of a people. While it is evident that the Law was directed to the Israelites present day followers of God have been grafted into the Tree of Life (Romans 11). That Tree of Life is Jesus who came not to destroy the Law rather He came fulfill the Law. Matthew 5:17 makes this point abundantly clear. The Law, while the ceremonial aspects of it are not in use today, is directive for the holiness of a people. Moses, during his speeches, pointed the people to holiness. Jesus in His life lived holiness. Christians today need to take the Word of God and hide it in our hearts so that the impact of the law will be holiness. The fact is that without holiness no man shall see God yet with a life of holiness man walks with God. The Law then was pointing to holiness; the impact now, a life of holiness.