By R.C Craft
Emphasizing the Important! Part Three Principles of Holiness: Identifying with Christ
There is considerable discussion in our time regarding right and wrong. One individual asserts that a particular point of view is an essential truth while others contend for a different point of view. There is room for discussion and divergence regarding some concepts; however, some foundational principles are not debatable. This series of articles will attempt to identify some of those essential concepts. If we are all to “contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3)” we certainly must be able to identify the precepts of that faith!
The first of this series of articles identified four Biblical principles that are significant to the Apostolic Pentecostal (Oneness) movement. They are:
1. There is a God that is involved in the affairs of men.
2. Men must have an understanding of the identity of Jesus Christ.
3. A born-again experience as described in Acts 2:37-38 is essential to salvation.
4. Born-again Christians will walk in “…holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb 12:14)
The second of the series presented one of the principles upon which a life of holiness should be established. God is holiness. He is pure, clean, perfect, immutable and unchangeable. Any human who entertains a relationship with God must choose to be separated from the appearance, actions and attitudes of the world. “You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mat 6:24; Luke 16:13). Separation from the ungodliness of this world is necessary if we are to be received by God and acknowledged as his spiritual children.
This article, the third of the series, will present a second perspective regarding holiness. To be received of God is to draw near to God. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Act 11:26). After a full year of teaching the members of the congregation apparently developed characteristics that resembled Jesus Christ. A born-again Christian should be a follower of Jesus Christ. A true child of God will resemble his/her Father! A Christian should strive to resemble Jesus Christ.
Identification with Christ
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2 Co 6:17-18).
The first phrases of seventeenth verse present three degrees of separation; “come out,” “be separate” and “touch not.” Followers of Jesus are to leave behind the unclean associations, activities, appearances and attitudes of this world. Ungodliness is to be forsaken as the Christian continues in this world. Yet, the holiness message is not only a negative pronouncement; the final phrase of verse seventeen and verse eighteen present three degrees of Identification with Jesus Christ: New Convert (Received into the family), Fatherhood, and Developing Christian. Separation is a necessary responsibility; Identifying with Christ is an essential privilege of a believer.
These three degrees of identification are related to the spiritual life of a convert. When an individual believes on Jesus, repents, is baptized in the name of Jesus, and receives the Gift of the Holy Ghost, he or she is born again. They become a babe in Christ. They become a member of the family of God (Acts 3:1-8).
He/she is received into the family as a New Convert. He takes on the family name in baptism (Eph 3:15). With that name come certain responsibilities. Among them is the necessity to uphold the honor of that name, not staining the reputation of the Father or the family. This can only be achieved by becoming like the Father. The characteristics that the Father possesses must be learned and displayed by each member of the family. Thus, it is the ultimate responsibility of every Christian to exemplify Jesus Christ in every aspect of life. Children of God should grow up to resemble God!
Spiritually, the New Convert is accepted as a member of the family but knows very little regarding the customs, traditions and principles by which the family functions. The basic principles that undergird the newly converted life have undergone a dramatic change and the spiritual infant must learn the expectations of the household as he/she attempts to begin the process of resembling the head of the household. Communication with Jesus through prayer and through Bible study must be initiated and sustained if the New Convert is to develop family characteristics.
Next the Fatherhood stage begins, as the heavenly Father leads, teaches and guides the reborn convert into a new life resembling the life of the Father (John 14:26). This occurs though (1) encounters with the Spirit in personal prayer and corporate worship and (2) encounters with the Truth in personal study and public teaching and preaching. In this stage there is significant involvement by the Father in order that the convert may obtain and absorb the requisite knowledge about the Father. The father may find it necessary to correct the growing child for his own good; such correction is applied to help the growing follower to develop the fruit of righteousness, to be like Jesus Christ (Heb 12:5-11).
Finally, the Developing Christian begins to bear a resemblance to his spiritual Father and embarks on a lifelong journey with the intention of becoming a more accurate reflection of the heavenly Father. The fruit of the Spirit must be evident: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance and faith will be a part of the life of one who attempts to identify with Christ. The attitudes and principles of the Sermon on the Mount reflect the priorities of Jesus; Identification with Jesus involves exemplifying those principles in one’s daily life.
The great commandment of the Old Covenant was, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Moses repeatedly admonished Israel to keep this commandment (Deut 6:4; 10:12; 11:13; 13:3); yet, they emphasized repeatedly the “thou shalt not …” commandments and failed to emphasize “Thou shalt love the Lord…” It is not sufficient to merely distance one’s self from ungodliness – every child of God must draw near to God (James 4:8). If you had lived at Antioch in those days, would they have called you a Christian?
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.