(Article for publication week of 2-5-2014 AD)
"But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, 'Be ye holy; for I am holy' " (I Peter 1:15-16).
Our text describes a Christian as a person who has been called effectually and efficaciously by the Holy Spirit out of the darkness of the world into the marvelous light of the Lord Jesus Christ (see also I Peter 2:9). To be saved is to have been called by God with an holy calling (II Timothy 1:9). By this effectual call, God implants within His elect a holy nature. The believer in Christ has been made a partaker of the divine nature in regeneration (see II Peter 1:4). Now those who have been granted the gift of spiritual life are commanded by the God Who hath saved them to be like Himself, that is holy.
We need to emphasize at this point in our series on sanctification (a.k.a. holiness) that justification must precede sanctification. Note well, our text this week is a command to those who already have spiritual life. Those who have been regenerated and effectually called are commanded to live a holy life. You cannot save yourself by living a holy life. What you who are unsaved need is spiritual life. You need the Holy Spirit to grant you repentance and gift you with faith that you may believe in Christ to the saving of your poor soul. The only way you may in some measure obey my text is if you are first justified freely by God's grace. You see justification and sanctification will always be found in the same characters, but justification is the foundation for sanctification. Justification and sanctification may never be separated, but they must be distinguished.
God commands His children to imitate Himself. In Ephesians 5:1 Christians are commanded to be "followers" of God. The word translated "followers" in that verse literally means "imitators." We are commanded to imitate or mimic God Who is holy. Now dear reader (who professes to be saved), this is a command that you had better take in dead earnest. The fact is you are not saved unless you are obeying my text and being holy as God is holy. Holiness is not optional, but indispensable, for the only ones who will ever see God in peace are those who are holy. We read in Matthew 5:8, "blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God." The truth of this text is that ONLY the pure in heart shall see God. Again, only holy people will ever see God in peace. The unsaved must face God forever as Judge and Executioner, but they will not see God in peace. My lost friend, you will not be able to get away from God. You will be eternally terrified by Him in hell (Psalm 139:8). The saved will be eternally fixed with a holy nature, and the unsaved will be left eternally in their unholy nature (Revelation 22:11).
No man will ever be as holy as God, but a saved man will be in dead earnest in obeying God's command to be holy. God in His grace has communicated His holiness to us, and He continues to work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. In coming articles we shall show you how the believer in Christ has a position of holiness by vital union with Christ (I Corinthians 1:30), and how the believer is able to be holy as God works in him both desire and ability (Philippians 2:13). Dear Reader, I hope and pray you will take my text seriously and endeavour to obey God's command to be holy, for He requires holiness.