Is Holiness A Necessity Or A Luxury?
It will be remembered that the estate that was possessed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden consisted, spiritually speaking, of holiness. When they sinned against God, this was lost. That the Scriptures seem to teach, that only in an accommodated way was this quality restored to them. Even then, it was to a greater or lesser degree imputed and not imparted. Through faith in a Redeemer to come, represented by the slain lamb, and the smoking altar, they were forgiven, and a degree of holiness was assigned to their credit.
But with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, God brought into being His great plan, not only for imputing the merits of the Redeemer to those who accepted and believed in Him, but arranged actually to make them “partakers of his holiness.” There is a clear intimation throughout the sacred record that through the atoning blood, there was brought into existence the plan for recovery of the “lost estate.”
There is a good reason for this. The heavenly Father, before the fall of Adam, fellowshipped graciously with him. It was because the man and his Creator were so alike in character that enabled them to do this without discomfort and restraint. When sin entered, and the character of the man changed, then the fellowship ceased. Their ability to fellowship one another was in their mutual holiness of character.
In the process of the restoration of mankind to the estate that was lost in Adam, we can readily see that one of the prime necessities is that he shall be restored to holiness. His forgiveness and regeneration are merely a step toward that desired end, but are not the end itself. When, therefore, a Christian secures forgiveness for his sins, and the regeneration of his soul, he has just begun in the good way in which God designs for him to walk, — the object or purpose of which He has already purchased with the blood of His Son. If a Christian stops short then, of holiness of heart, he is a case of arrested development. He has not attained to the chief end of the atonement. He has but entered the ante-chamber of the edifice called “the Kingdom of God.” The ante-chamber, to be sure, is a welcome protection from the pursuing beasts of sin. He is in his Lord’s house, and under his Lord’s protection. Many at this point are contented to revel in their safety, and rejoice in their security, and to be satisfied with the degree of fellowship, that the Lord of the mansion is able with occasional visits to bestow upon them. But all the time, there is the great parlor of the “House,” with its attractive couches, its satisfying food, its cheering pictures, and its constant fellowship with the Lord Proprietor of the place, that invites to further entrance. Is the divine Lord pleased to have one tarry in the ante-chamber while the guest room awaits him?
The Scriptures bear this out. God clearly commands that we be holy when the inspired apostle writes, “Be ye holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Here it is in the imperative mood. It is as much of a command as “thou shalt not steal.” One has just as much right to disobey the one about stealing as the one about holiness. The Lord is, no doubt, very pitiful, and full of compassion, and will tolerate much in His children, because of their ignorance, that He does not approve, and will thus continue to keep from breaking with many of His sons and daughters, when they unwittingly remain in the ante-chamber; nevertheless, there can be no manner of question but that He wills that they should come into the guest room, and desires that they should do so, and here in the above Scripture commands that they should enter. He also gives the reason why He commands holiness. He says, “for I am holy.” That is, He desires and commands His children to be holy, because they are to enter His holy dwelling, and fellowship with Him forever more. This they cannot do, unless they are holy men and women. Men touched with moral corruption cannot fellowship intimately with deity. He proposes, then, that He will apply the blood of His Son, and cleanse them from all their unholiness, in order to fit them for fellowship with Himself.
The Scriptures further allege that “He is able to save them to the uttermost, who come unto God by him.” Which can scarcely be interpreted to mean salvation from the depths of sin, only, but which must also include the heights to which He is able to bring them, after He had rescued them from the pit in which sin had lodged them. The “uttermost” to which God can lift a fully abandoned soul, cannot be thought of as less than that degree of heart purity, that characterized the race when first He created it. If He could create a race holy, in the beginning, He certainly is able to restore it to that same degree of holiness, if the members of it are fully abandoned to Him, and fully, believingly committed to His hands. To argue other than this, would be to argue that the devil had brought something to pass that God was helpless to undo, and that he had twisted a sin-thread that God could not untwine.
Again the Scriptures state that God calls us to holiness. “For ye are not called unto uncleanness, but unto holiness; he that rejecteth, rejecteth not man but God.” Shall God call His children in vain? Does He not mean what He says? Can His call go unheeded, and yet we find favor in His sight? It distinctly’ states that “He hath not called us unto uncleanness.” What has every regenerated soul found lurking in his heart, but a degree of uncleanness? What is that turbulent temper that would break out, and scold and complain, but for your very prayerful and agonizing resistance? Is that clean? What is that spirit of resentment that rises and asks for expression, and would obtain expression, too, but for your humble call upon the Lord for help? Is that clean? What is that secret spirit of pride that longs to ape the world, and pines because of narrowness of the way that will not permit a truly regenerated soul to give room to pride, but that still, occasionally, looks with longing at the things of the world, and the people of the world, and sighs for the ways they have and the dress and adornment they possess? Is that clean? What is that stinginess that rises and protests against your paying your tithe to God, or longs to expend it on yourself and let God’s cause go uncared for? Is that clean? What is that peevishness, that petulancy, that whimpering and whining that, but for much waiting on God, would break out in your life? Is that clean? And He states that He did not call you unto uncleanness. Do you suppose that He is content then to have you remain where you are harassed by it? Does He not desire to save you from it? Is God happy with the sort of experience that you possess? If God is not satisfied with your experience then you can never be, and any experience unsatisfactory to you, is displeasing to Him.
But He does declare that He has called you unto holiness. Here He contrasts “uncleanness” with “holiness.” Then holiness must be a freedom from all these unclean things It must be a freedom from a secret spirit of pride. From a temper that would defile you. From a disposition of resentment, touchiness, get-even, slap-back, or retaliation. From all desire of the world, or the things of the world, or worldly ways, or worldly doings. A freedom from all the moral defilement that produces these is holiness. This is that to which God has called us. And He states that if we object to this, or “resist” this, we are not resisting some preacher, or some movement, or some church, but that we are resisting God himself. Be careful reader, what you do, when you oppose holiness. God is the God of holiness. He loves heart purity. He has declared that He will have a holy people. Beware how you oppose even those who are called holiness people. They may have peculiarities, and they may be a bit eccentric, they may be, to your notion, extravagant, but, if they have found purity of heart, then God declares they are distinctly His kind of people. If you offend them, beware, you are offending Him!
The writer to the Ephesians states that “Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). If Christ purchased all this for His Church, if He made all arrangements to sanctify and cleanse it, if He planned to fix it up so that it might not have spot or wrinkle, if He designs His “called out” people to be without blemish, then we submit that it is the duty, as well as the high privilege of His church, to possess itself of this wonderful objective that He has purchased for it. Can Christ he satisfied with a church that does not yet have what He planned for it? Can He look with complacency on it? Can He bless it as otherwise He would? Will He not yearn over it, and plead with it, through the ministrations of His Spirit, and chide it, and beckon to it, and urge it, and call to it, with providential dealings, and rest not night or day till His own beloved people who have been called out of sin, are called into holiness, and stand before Him “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing”? Can we think of Jesus Christ who shed His blood to obtain this marvelous inheritance for His people, resting content until the last one has found that objective that He prized so highly for them, as to suffer and die to obtain it for them?
And reader, what would you think of a people who had already been called out of sin, and partaken of His grace to that degree, being still satisfied to retain a bit of that old corruption that filled the hearts of His enemies when they slew Him? Or what would you think of a people that would be so dilatory, so negligent, so indolent in the way, whose feet would drag with such leaden weights in their pursuit after the very thing that. He came all the way from heaven to bring to them, through the sacrifice of His cross? Can a Christian, himself, be content without holiness? Can he rest easy when he is harassed every now and then with the sin principle? Can he look at the wounds and bruises and blood stains of his Lord, and realize that “Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate” (Heb. 13:12), and then go on day after day without a mighty struggle, to obtain that for which our Lord suffered the unmentionable agonies of Gethsemane and Calvary? Can there be such a prize as to be made spotless and without blemish by the application by the Lord himself of the merits of His death, and we not want it? Can any one call himself a Christian and assume such an attitude of indifference toward the purchase of the sweat of Golgotha? In the Hebrew letter, the 12th chapter, and 14th verse, we read “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). No, this does not mean, we apprehend, that no unsanctified man or woman shall ever look on the face of the Lord Jesus, because the opposite of that is taught in many places. We are told, in fact, that every one of us shall stand in His holy presence and render there an account of our whole lives. But it means, so we are convinced that no man shall see the face of the Lord Jesus Christ in peace and comfort unless he stands before Him with a clean holy heart. Can, then, this matter of holiness be one that a Christian can contemplate without concern? When we are distinctly assured here on the authority of the Word of God that we cannot stand before Him at the great Judgment day with comfort, or satisfaction, or peace, if there is a lingering remnant of the moral corruption in our beings that was left there after we had been forgiven and our names written in His blessed book; how can we then be indifferent to the need of having it cleansed away? Is it not the paramount duty, as well as the marvelous privilege of a Christian to hasten at once, and seek with “strong cryings and tears,” to have this depraved nature removed? Can a person, in the light of these great Scriptures, longer fancy that the experience of heart purity is a mere spiritual luxury? Does it not, in view of the utterances of the Word of God leap at once into the position of a necessity?
Let us reason on this important matter a bit. What keeps a human being from the sweet fellowship of God? Is it not his utter unlikeness to Him? In what does that unlikeness consist? Is it not in the holiness of God, and the unholiness of the man? What can possibly give one a sense of great comfort as he faces the Judgment bar? Will it not be the possibility of having a moral similarity with the Judge? What can give that similarity? Holiness.
But some one interposes, will not Jesus, who has been our accepted Savior, vouch for us, accredit us, and accept us, and take His stand in our stead, at the Judgment Day of God? There are several things that must be said to that proposition. The first is, that Jesus is to be the Judge, and it is before Him that we must all appear. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10). The second is, that however much He may be our accepted Savior, that very acceptance carries with it the obligation on our part of obeying Him. He has called us to holiness, and if we have not obeyed Him, will He take His place by our side and accredit us, and vouch for us, and appear in our stead, thus guilty of disobedience? The third thing is, that we can hardly expect the blessed Son of God to ally Himself with persons who are cherishing, and excusing, and palliating the existence of the very thing in their hearts that animated the minds of His own murderers. His chief errand into this world was to make the race a “partaker of his holiness.” The grand purpose of His advent was to die in order to sanctify the people. His greatest gift was of Himself to His own Church, in order that He might “sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” If we appear, then, before His judgment seat not having obeyed Him, and still possessing moral defilement, and the carnal sin principle, is it reason for us to expect Him to look upon us with pleasure, and to extend His hands in peace and blessing? Will He then be, in point of fact, our Savior? Can He be the Savior of disobedient, carnal souls who have had the light of the second work of grace, and refused or neglected to walk therein?
Oh, friend, who reads these lines, are you made wholly free from this contaminating, dangerous enemy that would thwart the purpose of the coming to earth of the Son of God, make light of His promises, defy His commands, disregard His wishes, and think to make Him a companion and associate of the very nature He came to destroy?
Holiness is a necessity to any follower of Jesus Christ. It is the only thing that can fit one for the heavenly home wherein He dwells. It alone can equip the soul for eternal fellowship with the divine. To buy back the lost estate of Adam’s race and lift it out of sin into holiness was the very purpose of His coming. The establishment of the Church was for the purpose of having a household, that would encourage one another forward into that “holiness without which no man can see the Lord.” The ministry exists primarily for the purpose of winning men from the ways of sin, and then conducting them on into the ripe fitness for heaven. “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:28). The highest object of prayer is reached only when one is praying for the perfect Christian holiness to be possessed by those for whom he prays.
Woe unto that believer who looks upon heart holiness as a luxury. Would Jesus Christ suffer the agonies of the garden and the cross in order to purchase for us something that we did not actually need and that was only a superfluity? On the contrary it is as great a necessity as is forgiveness of sins. It is as needful in order to carry your soul to heaven, as the justification of your soul in God’s sight. It is as necessary as the implantation of new life in the person who is “dead in trespasses and in sins” (Eph. 2:1) at the time of the new birth. It is the one altogether necessary experience that the soul must have, in order to qualify it for admission to the gates of pearl.
Woe unto that church that fails to lead its members on into the cleansing of the heart. It is as false to its heaven-intended purpose, as would be a man who invited a freezing traveler out of a fearful ice storm, into a great house where there was no fire, nor means of producing. one, and yet assuring him that he was safe. He would walk, benumbed with cold from great room to great room looking for warmth and comfort. He would peer out into the wild storm of the night, and hesitate to re-enter that fierce whirlwind of death. He would turn back again to tramp his freezing way from frigid room to frosty hall. At length he would fall, and chill, and die, as much a victim to the cold in the house, as he would have been had he remained without in the blast. So is that church that kindles not the fire of holiness within her borders. To be sure, it offers a species of shelter, but the numbness of moral corruption is as sure to prove fatal within such a fold, as would the blasts of open sin in the outside world. No church can be the house of God unless it leads men to holiness; unless it inculcates the need of holiness; unless it shows the possibilities of holiness; unless it enables its people, who have entered it for safety, to find freedom from the moral defilement of inbred sin.
Woe to that ministry that contents itself in winning men away from sin, and then leaves them there to fight a hopeless battle against that inward foe, that at length opens again the gates of man-soul to the enemy and causes the last state of that man to be worse than the first. Woe to that ministry that does not set an example of holiness in its own heart and conduct; that allows slight evidences of carnality to besmirch the snowy garments of its priestly office; that excuses evidences of the “old man” (Rom. 6:6), stating that we are just being human; that gets peevish, and petulant, backbites and criticizes, seeks out the good places, and insists upon the good salaries. A fearful condemnation shall await it at the Assize of God. Woe to that ministry that ceases to agonize over souls, that they may be sanctified wholly, that commercializes the office of Shepherd of the flock, that complacency that looks upon the ministerial office as a field for gathering fees, and not an occasion when one shall battle desperately for the souls of men that they shall be saved from sin, and led into holiness. What shall such a shepherd say when he stands before the Great Bishop and Overseer of the Church?
Woe unto the Christian layman who neglects the central idea of Christianity, who evades the purpose and purchase of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, who thinks to carry unholiness with him to heaven. Who would bring a heart still tainted with the moral corruption that filled the hearts of the men who crucified our Lord, into His majestic presence at the day when He makes inquisition for blood, and think to get by with it.
Holiness is necessary. It is necessary here on this earth. It is necessary in order to calm the fears of the one whose soul is preparing to leave the body. It is necessary to give us “boldness at the day of judgment, because as he is so are we” (1 John 4:17). It is necessary when “the books are opened” (Rev. 20:12). It is necessary in order to live with a holy God in a holy heaven “while the years of eternity roll.”