The apostle Paul wrote, ‘Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God’ (2 Corinthians 7:1). This is a clear call to holiness to all who belong to God. In the previous chapter Paul outlined several wonderful promises that belong to believers: God promises to be with his people, to ‘dwell in them’ and to ‘walk among them’. These are the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to Abraham, to be God to him and to all who have believed. God promises that all who believe on Christ are his sons and daughters, adopted into the heavenly family (2 Corinthians 6:18). Every sinner who has been united to Christ can rejoice because the eternal God is now his Father.
With such glorious promises clearly stated, believers commence walking the highway of holiness the moment they are converted. They take positive action to rid themselves of sin and to practise holiness. Their aim is to ‘perfect holiness in the fear of God’. The gracious work of the Holy Spirit in the sinner’s heart breaks the power of sin. The new believer is a new creation, a lover of Christ and one who delights in the worship of God. The saint desires to obey God, not because he fears man or the church officers; not just in order to do good to others; not even for personal happiness; but simply because he holds God in awe; he has a holy reverence for the saving God.
The believer takes seriously the words of God as written by the apostle Peter, ‘As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in ALL your conduct because it is written: Be holy, for I am holy’ (1 Peter 1:15-16). The saints pay serious attention to the words found in Hebrews 12:14: ‘Pursue peace with all men and holiness, without which no one will see God.’ Their desire is to walk closely with God. They want to be identified with the heavenly host who praise God in magnificent words, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing … Blessing and honour and glory and power be to him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb for ever and ever’ (Revelation 5:12-13). They know the words of the Saviour: ‘If you love me, keep my commandments’ (John 14:15). Thus the motive for holiness is the most sacred love of Christ.
With the new birth the Holy Spirit begins his sanctifying work, for God has decreed that all who believe will be ‘conformed to the image of his Son’ (Romans 8:29). The life of obedience is difficult, for the devil and his demons are at work, tempting the saints to sin. The world looks delightful and enticing, and the temptations of the flesh are still there. And, as believers know, drastic action is required in many situations in order to avoid sin. Christ said that there would come times when the saints must ‘pluck out the eye’ and ‘cut off the hand’ in order to be righteous. In other words, they must take radical action in order to be holy. Now let’s make this teaching personal! If the TV causes us to sin, then we must block up the ears and pluck out the eyes – in other words, turn the TV off! If the theatre causes us to sin, ‘cut off the foot’ – in other words, don’t go to the place! If the beach with people dressed in scanty clothing brings lust to the heart, we must go somewhere else!
The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit sometimes appears slow and painful. Often the saint falls into sin, sometimes grievous sin, but, thanks be to God, the believer is brought to repentance and restored to holy living. All Christians agree with Paul when he wrote, ‘Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has already laid hold of me’ (Philippians 3:13). It is only when we reach heaven that we will be perfected in both body and soul. Certainly we are already clothed with Christ’s perfect righteousness, for this is our passport to glory, but the sanctifying work of the Spirit will continue till we meet our Saviour face to face. The apostle John wrote these words, that should thrill believers’ hearts, ‘Beloved, now are we the children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when he is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is’ (1 John 3:2). While we walk the earth God has not finished with us!
Holding to the God we love in holy awe, let all who name the name of Christ walk in the pathways of righteousness, for we are a special people. As Peter wrote, ‘You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special people, that you may proclaim the praise of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2:9). Thus we must ‘work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling’ (Philippians 2:12-13), which means we must put our faith into practice. Works of righteousness must be our constant companions, for without these faith is dead. The road is difficult, temptations abound, but the victory is ours through our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
All who have trusted savingly in Christ must live to his glory and this means living a life of holiness. May God be pleased to grant us victory over sin, so that Christ might be glorified in our lives!