Holiness Standards: Part 1
The Christian’s Lifestyle
By: J. L. Hall
The Bible condemns murderers, idolaters, swindlers, thieves, adulterers, homosexuals, liars, drunkards, slanderers, and other sinners. People of such behavior–whether professing Christians or others–who fail to repent (change their way of life) will not be saved (I Corinthians 6:9-10; Revelation 21:7-8; Galatians 5:19-21).
As Christians we are not to participate in the evil in the world but to “purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (II Corinthians 6:17-18: 7:1, NIV). We are to “make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14. NIV).
The Bible addresses areas of lifestyle such as immodesty of dress, facial makeup, ornamental jewelry, women cutting their hair, and men having long hair (I Timothy 2:9-10; I Peter 3:1-5; I Corinthians 11:1-16). It teaches against such sins as pride, selfishness, lust, and malice. But it does not attempt to catalog all sins. Rather it gives examples and principles so that we may determine what activities, practices, and behaviors are unchristian. Each Christian, as a temple of God, is to keep both his body and spirit clean and holy (I
Corinthians 6:19-20; II Corinthians 7:1).
Although all of us were at one time sinners, when we came to God we repented by acknowledging and denouncing our sinful past, turning from our sinful lifestyle, and committing ourselves to serve God in body, soul, and spirit. In repentance we expressed not only our sorrow for our past sins but also our faith in God’s love and forgiveness; in water baptism we received remission of sins; and with the gift of the Holy Ghost we experienced regeneration, the beginning of a new life in Christ.
Servants of Righteousness
Our obedience to the plan of salvation in Jesus Christ set us free from sin to be servants of righteousness: “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye, have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).
In reality, our servanthood to Christ is freedom to live a life of holiness: “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness: “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Romans 6:22). As sinners we lived under the bondage of sin, but now we are free to live under the guidance of righteousness: “For as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness” (Romans 6:19).
Yielding ourselves as “servants to righteousness unto holiness” does not make us pharisees-hypocrites and self-righteous people. Hypocrites are those who profess to know Jesus Christ but still live as sinners. Thus a professing Christian who commits sins such as adultery, murder, lying, or stealing not only disgraces the name of Christ but also is a hypocrite in contrast to the Christian who adheres to righteous living.
Some people oppose standards (biblical guidelines for the Christian’s lifestyle) saying that the church has no right to judge any one; others perhaps reject standards because they wish to justify their own dislike of holiness. But there is nothing wrong and everything right about the word holiness in terms of our lifestyle; standards reflect God’s holy nature, which He communicates to us in salvation and which He expects us to live by in our new life in Christ. God’s holiness and His righteousness are woven into our salvation experience and displayed in how we live.
To refer to holiness standards as codes of legalism distorts the biblical teaching and wrongfully accuses those who want to be like Christ in spirit and behavior. A standard is nothing more or less than an expression of biblical teachings on how a Christian should live in a sinful world.
Unless a person completely disregards the biblical teachings on lifestyle, he will acknowledge that the Bible forbids Christians to practice sin in daily living. This does not mean that a Christian cannot or does not sin, for all of us are tempted to sin and we are capable of committing sin. However, when a Christian fails to guard himself from sinning, he must repent and change from his sinful behavior if he is to be saved. To recognize that sinners must either repent or be eternally lost is not to be legalistic or pharisaic but to
express biblical faith. Jesus warned us that a sinner must repent or perish (Luke 13:1-5).
Professing Faith and Obedient Faith
The apostle Paul stated that people who are sexually immoral, thieves, drunkards, covetous, railers, and people who commit other sins will not inherit the kingdom of God. But he also stated that salvation changes sinners: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but we are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:11).
The apostle John recorded the words of “a great voice out of heaven” saying that “the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). The voice made no difference between those who profess faith in Jesus and those who do not. A profession of faith will not save a person if he fails to live by faith, conforming his life to the righteous standards established in the Bible.
Jesus emphasized that some people who profess to know Him and to call Him Lord would not be saved (Matthew 7:21). If people who claim to do mighty works and to cast out devils in His name do not depart from their iniquity, they will be rejected by Christ, who will say to them, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23). The basis of salvation is not merely professing faith but doing “the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
To illustrate His teaching of obedient faith, Jesus told the parable of the two builders whose destinies were determined not by merely hearing his words but by obeying them (Matthew 7:24-27).
Mercy, Grace, and Holiness
A Christian may question if a particular standard is properly founded on biblical principles, but he cannot reject holiness as a way of Christian living. Neither can he successfully hide behind a false interpretation of Christian mercy and grace to justify a worldly lifestyle. Paul wrote, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
Paul’s appeal for us to live a life of separation is on the basis of God’s mercy. We received mercy when we came to God for salvation, and mercy abides with us as we walk with God. To reject or ignore mercy is to close the door to forgiveness. But when we acknowledge mercy. it becomes the backdrop for committing ourselves to God in a holy and acceptable lifestyle.
In another epistle, Paul wrote, “The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly. righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12).
God’s grace is not a license to live sinfully; on the contrary, it is a teacher of a godly, righteous lifestyle. It is true that Christians are not under the law of Moses, but it is equally true that under grace we are not given liberty to live in sin.
A true Christian, clothed with God’s mercy and grace, will not be comfortable with a sinful lifestyle, but He will serve God in the beauty of holiness. He will not seek to imitate the ways of the ungodly, for he will not allow sin-influenced values to shape his thinking, behavior, and appearance. His teachers, God’s mercy and grace, will show him how to live a life of truth, righteousness and holiness.
(The above material was published by the Pentecostal Herald in Hazelwood, MO.)
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