Be Holy, for I Am Holy
If you are a believer, then you are a “saint!” This is how the Bible describes those who have trusted in Jesus for salvation (Ephesians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:2). What’s even more startling is that the term “saint” literally means “holy one.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary explains the usage of the term: “a common NT designation for all believers is ‘saints,’ i.e. ‘sanctified’ or ‘holy ones.’ Thus sainthood, or sanctification is not an attainment, it is the state into which God, in His grace, calls sinful men, and in which they begin their course as Christians.” Though I’m not sure I’d recommend it, you would be entirely theologically correct if on your next visit to church you were to greet a brother named John this way, “good morning saint John.”
The name and the position which underlies it have come by way of God’s gracious work through Jesus. As Scripture says in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The term “sanctified” is the verb form of the word “saint,” and speaks to the position into which God, in His grace, has called the believer through the sin-cleansing work of Jesus. Every believer has experienced this cleansing at their new birth, and henceforth possesses it.
All that being said, a distinction needs to be made between this positional sanctification and the progressive sanctification to which the believer is called upon to pursue. Because God is holy, we are to be holy. We are His children and in His holiness we inherit a beautiful attribute of our Father in which we are commanded to grow. In his book “the Knowledge of the Holy,” A.W. Tozer noted “we tend by a secret law of the soul to move towards our mental image of God.’ That’s certainly true in this case! As the Spirit of God works through the Word of God to unveil to us the holiness of God, we are drawn to the beauty of it and are called upon to pursue it. Likewise we are admonished in Hebrews 12:14 to “strive for…holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Our very identity, as His “holy ones,” speaks to our destiny. We are going to a beautiful place–a holy heaven where we will meet with a holy God and be joined to a holy company engaged in holy worship, in a place where sin will be no more. The question is, if we’ve no appetite for holiness in the here and now, would we have any interest in such a place in eternity? Holiness is something we are to pursue. We do that by purposefully engaging ourselves in the Spirit-led disciplines which are essential to our spiritual growth (i.e. prayer, being in the Word, being active and involved in the fellowship of believers, etc.).
J.C. Ryle, in his classic book “Holiness,” spoke to this pursuit of holiness: “There is not a brick nor a stone laid in the work of our sanctification till we go to Christ. Holiness is His special gift to His believing people. Holiness is the work He carries on in their hearts, by the Spirit whom He puts within them…Holiness comes from Christ. It is the result of vital union with Him, It is the fruit of being a living branch of the True Vine. Go then to Christ and say, “Lord, not only save me from the guilt of sin, but send the Spirit, whom Thou didst promise, and save me from its power. Make me holy. Teach me to do Thy will.”
Heavenly Father. Praise You in the majesty of your holiness. Open the eyes of my heart, that I will behold the glory of who You are in this and every one of Your attributes. Forgive me when I have not sought after holiness through the power of the Holy Spirit and Your Word. Help me to walk by your Spirit. Give me your understanding of sin and holiness, that I might learn and grow to hate the one and love the other. Help me to walk in holiness until I arrive home in heaven where sin will be no more and Your glory will be on display for all to behold.