The Call To Holiness

1 Peter 1:3 – 2:3.

“You shall be holy, for I am holy.” Remarkably, spoken by God Himself, this predominant attribute of Yahweh is singularly the only trait we are apprised ‘to emulate.’ To grasp its meaning, one needs to comprehend that the word ‘holiness’ is synonymous with the very character of God, where His holiness is invariably marked by a separation between Him and everything else that is not holy – explicitly sinful. So, anyone or anything that is set aside for our Creator’s use is considered to be holy; that is God’s expectation of us! How does the acquisition of practical holiness work out in our mundane world? The Apostle Peter in his First Epistle exhorted believers to prepare mentally for action in view of an assured salvation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1Peter 1:3-12), by fixing our living hope completely on the grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Christ when He returns (1Peter 1:13-16). This requires us to intentionally and unremittingly anticipate its realisation by exercising self-control in practical holiness in every facet of our life (c.f., Lev 11-20). In the Old Testament, when God required holiness in all aspects of living, He also made provisions for purifications. His ultimate cleansing ritual was the sacrifice of His Son on the cross, where all sins, irreversibly a travesty against God Himself, are expiated by His death (c.f., Ps 51:4 in King David’s sin against Uriah, Bathsheba, and his baby).

Holiness has nothing to do with being compliant to a rules-based standard. It is always accompanied by a reverential fear of God (1Peter 1:17), as epitomised by the typical ancient Jewish father figure; the model in practised respect and reverence, disciplined, yet compassionate. Peter reminded us through the redemptive analogy of slaves in the New Testament days, in drawing a parallel that God had paid an extraordinary price on our behalf in our redemption from sin. Holiness is, therefore, a fear of God learnt through our cultivated relationship with Him as we appreciate His exploits in Scripture and experience His personal dealings with us and others, where confidence in His oversight and presence form a pragmatic grounding that gives us hope for a future. Hence, to ignore the import of holiness is to deprecate His immeasurable sacrifice that He had planned from time immemorial (1Peter 1:18-21; c.f., 1Peter 2:24-25).

A believer’s holiness is evidently observable as it embraces a sincere love for God’s people, where a depth of remarkable love inadvertently mirrors God’s agape (1Peter 1:22). The imperishable gospel, the living and enduring Word of God, correspondingly provides the foundational instruction on the nature and practice of Christian love (1Peter 1:23-25); made possible due to the transformation of our hearts by the eternal and abiding power of God’s creative Word through His Holy Spirit (Heb 8:10; c.f., Ezek 36:26-27). It then goes without saying that we ought to intentionally desist from our former ways of life (e.g., participating in malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander; 1Peter 2:1-3; c.f., Eph 4:17-24; Rom 6:6-7; Gal 5:19-21). And as milk is a critical ingredient for any baby, so is the study of the Holy Scriptures necessary for Christian growth (c.f., John 17:13-19). It is therefore indispensable that we reverently set our hope on Jesus Christ while keeping His Word close to our hearts. Holiness is tantamount to being in Christ, where the community of God is part of the Body of Christ. Hence, when the church side-lines or ignores holiness, it does so at her own peril!