God’s expectation of us as followers of Jesus is that we would be holy. This has always been His expectation. We think this is a New Testament concept because of the Sermon on the Mount (“Be perfect, therefore, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” -Matthew 5:48) and because of the reference in 1 Peter 1:15-16 – “Just as He who called you is holy, so you should be holy in all you do… be holy, because I am holy”.
But God has demanded holiness of His people from the very beginning. The whole Old Testament law and sacrificial system was built around providing a way for the people of Israel to maintain their status of holiness before God. In fact, the 1 Peter 1:16 reference is itself a quotation from Leviticus 11:44-45 and 19:2!
There is a massive problem with this expectation God has for us, though: only God alone is holy. And He is not just holy; He is holy, holy, holy! We are not holy and cannot be holy apart from divine intervention. We are incapable of holiness on our own. “For I know there is nothing good within me, that is within my sinful nature” -Romans 7:18.
Only God can be holy. We are nonetheless commanded by God to be holy – to be something we are not and cannot be.
Growing in holiness is a gift of grace that we can only receive by active faith. Only God is holy, and only God has the power to make one holy. But how? How does He make us holy? How do we grow in holiness?
To do so from the outside would be to “deny one of the most fundamental goods of human creatures, freedom” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies), so He won’t do it from without. He does it from within, by sharing His Spirit with us and bringing His holy touch into our inner lives. We become holy as He transforms us from within.
But let me push the question further: HOW? How do I get His goodness in me? By inviting Him in. And abiding in Him. And by obeying in faith.
John 14-16 is like Jesus’ biography of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s chief attribute is holiness, and it is crystal clear from John 14-16 that Jesus’ aim is to get the Holy Spirit into His disciples. That includes us. He not only wants to make us holy, He wants to get His holy self into us – indwelling us, abiding in us – and to get us abiding in Him, in His holy self as well.
In the next post, I’ll dig deeper into Jesus’ biography of the Holy Spirit in John 14-16, and what it means to abide in Him and He in us.