Sin denounced, lives changed !
Our English Bible is often called The Holy Bible, but whatever the age-honoured reasons for this title, one of the most striking things about the Bible is that it is holy!
So, do we all stand back from it in awe, hardly daring to turn its pages? No, that sort of veneration was common in the medieval past, but left the wonderful truths of God’s word hidden and shrouded in mystery.
When we say that the Bible is holy we describe the nature of the truths revealed there, including the holy character of God, who is separate from every taint of moral imperfection. In fact, every facet of God’s character is marked by a gloriously beautiful, transcendent holiness.
That this transcendence can be revealed in the pages of Scripture – penned by mere human authors – flows from the verbal inspiration of the entire Bible by the Holy Spirit.
And this in turn gives rise to its remarkable influence on the lives of individuals and even whole societies.
One example of this took place during the sixteenth-century Reformation, when the Bible – under the blessing of God and often through the preaching of the gospel – brought salvation in Christ to countless people.
During the centuries that followed, and out of the holy goodness of God, law and order, health and education, social liberties, the benefits of science, and so much more, slowly spread, transforming many European societies and institutions.
Today, when the Holy Bible is so little read or known, we see the reverse process – as many people turn away from God to secularism and evolutionary atheism, leaving a dark trail of ‘I’ll do it my way’ in their wake.
This is unsurprising, of course, because people naturally love darkness rather than light (John 3:19-20). God is so utterly pure and holy he can never look on sin with approval for, at its heart, sin is a rebellion that seeks to eject God from his sovereign rule and replace him with idols of our own.
The Bible projects holy truths from the Holy Spirit, its Author. One of the marks of the Bible’s holiness is how it refuses to gloss over sinful failure in the lives of its own ‘heroes’, who were sometimes truly great people. It never gloats over their failure but it does highlight God’s strong disapproval.
Ultimately, amid all the heartrending guilt and failure, they and we are pointed to the cross of Christ as the only hope for sinners.
For a second example, consider Corinth in southern Greece, a large cosmopolitan city renowned for its loose living and degraded lifestyles. When Paul the apostle preached the gospel of Christ there, people began to renounce their old ways; they began all over again as new creations in Christ, having been made holy by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
This change was not brought about by strenuous self-improvement or withdrawal into a new philosophy, but by receiving the transforming grace of God – full, free, and totally undeserved.
Paul showed them how God’s grace is supremely focused in the message of the cross of Christ. He made much of the cross where Jesus, the spotless Son of God, gave himself up in love, as the sinner’s substitute, to suffer their condemnation so that they might go free.
New Christians, however, still need sound teaching. They struggle with sharp moral issues. Their past threatens to invade the present with subtle temptations that urge them to return to conformity with the world and loose living. And some fall into attitudes that distort the gospel of Christ.
At Corinth some got the idea that it would be easier to be Christians in name only and enjoy the benefits, while reverting to their old lifestyles. Some were trying to sue one another in the local courts. And that wasn’t their only problem.
So Paul writes a vigorous letter – warm with Christ’s affection and brotherly love but indignant at their compromise with their old lifestyles. He writes to clear up any confusion: ‘Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 6:9).
Paul leaves them in no doubt where he’s coming from and what he’s aiming at. If, as a professing Christian, you continue to let sin control your life, don’t presume you will ever inherit the kingdom of God!
Corrupt lifestyles raise questions about whether a person has truly embraced the gospel. Such living is completely unsuited to the enjoyment of fellowship with Christ in the kingdom of God.
Yes, a Holy Bible indeed! One that brings a message of joy at the repentant sinner coming to Christ for forgiveness, purity and peace. But also a Bible that denounces with a fiery, God-given indignation the sins from which Christ gave his life-blood to deliver us (Titus 2:14).
Remember who you are!
Then Paul makes an amazing comparison. Straight after his serious prohibition, he continues: ‘And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 6: 9-11).
‘Washed,’ – made clean through the new birth, the ‘washing of water by the Word’ (Ephesians 5:26). ‘Sanctified’ – set apart as holy by the Spirit (1 Peter 1:2). ‘Justified’ – declared righteous by God, who imparts a ‘right’ standing, clothing the sinner in the righteousness of Christ. What a change from depressing corruption to the joy and beauty of holiness!
There’s some of the proof, if proof were needed, that the Bible really is holy. Proof of how the gospel reveals God’s power to cleanse, sanctify and justify unholy sinners and bring them into fellowship with himself – the God of all grace, radiant in his holiness and patient in his forgiving love.
A Holy Bible? Yes indeed; one that reveals a holy God, who will never compromise his own perfection but who, amazingly, is able to make us holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:16-19).