“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
The reason for the recent profiles of pastors, authors and theologians I’ve provided at hiswordtoday.org is that all of them have one biblical doctrine and subject matter in common. All of them placed great importance upon the doctrine of holiness. Not only did they find the holiness of God to be central to understanding the person, nature and work of God, but also that the believers ultimate quest is to be holy as God is holy (I Peter 1:13-16).
Recently, the LORD has impressed upon me the importance of this subject. Not only have I been focused upon a greater understanding of biblical holiness but also in the quest for increasing personal and moral holiness in my life and living. I am convinced that God requires all believers in Christ to be holy like Him wherever they are: at work, at home, at school, with strangers and with those closest to us. In other words, holiness is to be our passion, our pursuit and our purpose.
It is interesting to note that the writer of Hebrews stressed this important point in today’s text. Within the context of a series of practical exhortations, he writes in Hebrews 12:14 that believers are to strive not only for peace with everyone but also to strive for the holiness.
The word strive (διώκετε; diokete) is a present active verbal command. Striving is something the Christian is to do because God commands that it be done. It means to pursue, to make every effort, and to intensely do something with a definite purpose or goal. That goal, along with being at peace and harmony with everyone, the writer of Hebrews writes is for the holiness.
The phase “for the holiness” (ἁγιασμόν; hagiasmon) refers to a particular kind of holiness. It is a holiness which has as its object the person of God. Holiness means consecration. It is a dedication to the service of and loyalty to God. It is a dedication to the Lord, and/or dedication to moral purity (Romans 6:19, 22; 1Corinthians 1:30; 1Thessalonians 4:3, 4, 7; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:2). In other words, holiness it is to be consistently and fervently separate from sin. Holiness is often called sanctification.
A warning, following the command, that the writer also gives is stern and significant: “…without which no one will see the Lord.” Is it possible that the writer is teaching a works based salvation of personal holiness being the key to spending eternity with God in heaven?
When Hebrews says that without holiness no one will see the Lord, the writer is saying that holiness is not the means of salvation, but rather the evidence of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. The only way a believer in Christ can be holy in their life is because God has justified them by personal faith in Jesus Christ. The evidence of personal holiness is proof that God has truly converted the individual believer in question. One reference source explains it as follows.
“Along with mutual peace, the writer encourages a life of holiness. Again, this is a common theme of New Testament teaching. Christians are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live godly, righteous, moral lives (2 Timothy 1:7). Sin is always the result of rejecting that power, in some way (1 Corinthians 10:13). Those who persist in sin are proving that they don’t have the influence of the Holy Spirit in their lives (1 John 1:6).”
“At the same time, this verse does not mean we’re meant to be saved based on our “good behavior.” It is impossible for an imperfect, unholy sinner to stand before God (Isaiah 6:5) — we must be perfectly righteous to be in His presence (Exodus 33:19–20). That exact point will be made later in this chapter when the writer refers to God’s display at Mount Sinai (Hebrews 12:18–29).”
“That ability to stand in the presence of God, however, is exactly what we gain from Christ’s finished work on our behalf (Hebrews 9:11–12; 1 John 3:2). The holiness we need to “see the Lord” comes from Christ, by His grace, and through our faith in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18). Striving to live according to that standard should be the natural desire of every saved believer (John 14:15).”
The various categories to be examined regarding holiness will include (1) a definition of holiness; (2) the holiness of God; (3) the holiness of the Christian; (4) the trauma of holiness; (5) the difficulty of holiness; (6) the pursuit of holiness; (7) the enemies of holiness; and (8) the motivation for holiness.
As always, my prayer as we begin studying this important subject is that it will result in all of us living holier lives unto the Lord. May this passion, pursuit and purpose for holiness begin to arise within each of us.
Soli deo Gloria!