Holiness Versus Growth
By Ken Gurley
As the title of this paper suggests, there appears to be a conflict in some people’s minds concerning these two vital elements of the Church: holiness and growth. Are these two ideas mutually exclusive? Or, is it possible to have each simultaneously and in equal proportions?
The objective of this paper is to explore the relationship of holiness and growth. Then, it will be possible to draw some practical and beneficial conclusions that will be applicable to a saint, a church, or an organization of churches.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
HOLINESS. Holiness is an electrifying word in Christian circles. The reason is simple. God has implanted a passion for holiness deep in every born-again heart. The Puritans called this the “gospel mystery”, whereby a person senses a steady departure from the former life through his renewed nature and a growing closeness to 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 Corinthians 6:17-18)
Although holiness has a certain intangible quality, Scripture presents holiness in a clear, succinct manner. Holiness, as witnessed in the verses above, is twofold. It necessitates a separation from whatever is contrary to the mind of God; and a separation or dedication unto God Himself.1 “…Come out from among then, and be ye separate…” involves the primary separation from the word. “…And I will receive you…” involves the secondary separation or acceptance unto and by God.
The New Testament uses two words for holiness: hagiasmos, translated as sanctification; and hosiotes, translated as holiness. The words are synonymous and are used interchangeably. Both imply a consecration for service on the human side and an acceptance for use on the Divine side.
Holiness can also be understood by noticing its antonyms in the New Testament. Paul contrasted holiness with immorality and impurity (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7). Peter contrasted holiness with the lusts of the former life (1 Peter 1:13-16). John contrasted the person who is holy to those who are evil and vile (Revelation 22:11).
With respect to God, holiness means absolute purity and moral perfection. For man, holiness means conformity to God’s character, thinking as He thinks, loving what He loves, hating what He hates, and acting as Christ would act 2.
Thus, holiness is a distinctive quality of living that identifies a person to be a Christian or Christ-like. lt is walking in the Spirit, such that the fruit of the Spirit is evident (Galatians 5:16-25) and the desires of the flesh are not being gratified (Romans 8:13).
Paul, in Romans 6, explains that through salvation, we become new creatures. We are crucified with Christ, thus, ending a life dominated by sin. We are then raised to walk in newness of life which was wrought through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Dethroned of sin, we are given a deep, sustaining desire to know God, to please God, and to draw near unto God. This is the new birth. This is the starting point for
To a spiritually risen man, holiness is a natural way of life, just as sin is natural to a spiritually dead man. As we pursue holiness through obedience to God, we are actually following the deepest urge of our own renewed being. We could rightfully call the pursuit of holiness the “Christ instinct:” (Romans 6:10,11).3
In summary, holiness is God-taught, Spirit-wrought Christlikeness. In both sum and substance, it is seen as committed discipleship, consecration, and the responsive outflow of a grateful born-again heart.
Sydney Sheldon properly describes holiness in his book In His Steps. In every facet of life, holiness can be obtained and practiced by asking this simple question: “What would Jesus do?”.
GROWTH. Growth is defined by the The American Heritage Dictionary as “an increase in size, number, value, or strength”. The New Testament provides ample illustrations of growth, from which a definition can be obtained.
New Testament church-growth is both quantitative and qualitative. It involves an increase in number and an increase in spiritual knowledge. To concentrate on numbers alone would not constitute New Testament church-growth. Conversely, to emphasize spiritual growth to the exclusion of numerical growth would not constitute the growth as described in the New Testament. To qualify as Kingdom growth, there should be an increase in number as well as spiritual knowledge and practice.
These two ingredients of growth, quantity and quality, are often intertwined in the New Testament. After Peter’s message on the Day of Pentecost, we read that the Church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers”. This could be considered qualitative or spiritual growth. Thus, there were 3,000 added to the Church (quantitative growth) and they continued in doctrine, prayer, and fellowship (qualitative growth).
After Pentecost, the growth continues. Predicated on their continuance in prayer and the Word (qualitative growth), “…the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (quantitative growth). In Acts 6, after a problem surfaced concerning care for the Grecian widows, the apostles found themselves freer to give themselves “continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (qualitative growth). Through this, we read that “the word of God increased, and the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly…” (quantitative growth).
Growth, according to the New Testament, could thus be defined as an increase in the number of souls God saves (1 Corinthians 3:5-8, 2 Corinthians 9:10), coupled with a spiritual growth (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18).
The nature of this controversy, holiness versus growth, could rightfully be described as a dilemma. A dilemma is a situation that requires a person to choose between two desirable alternatives. But, in choosing one, the other is excluded, in pursuing one option, the other is left behind. holiness versus growth is definitely a dilemma. The task before us is to decide whether this dilemma is true or faulty.
A person is either saved or lost, dead or alive. These are situations where only two options exist. The electric current is either on or off. The car will either run or not run. Many situations exist that are of this two-valued nature. These situations are true dilemmas.
However, other situations exist where we are seemingly forced to make a choice between two alternatives and either way we choose, we lose. As Shakespeare wrote, “There’s small choice in rotten apples”. So it is in a faulty dilemma.
“The best example of a faulty dilemma is in The Plague, by Albert Camus. In his novel, thousands of rats bring a terrible plague to the city of Oran in north Africa. The doctors of the city fight the plague, while the Roman Catholic priest is not fighting it because he might be resisting the will of God. Camus confronts his readers with this dilemma:
1. Either we join the doctors and fight the plague, or
2. We join the priest and remain passive.”
“The choice is painful, for if we don’t join those resisting the plague we would be inhumane. But, to fight the plague would be to resist the God who sent it. Therefore, if humanitarianism is right, theism is wrong. To do good is to oppose God!”4
Of course, this is a faulty dilemma. As always, we can turn to the Bible and find direction. We can well argue that fighting the plague is not working against God, but working for God (Ezekiel 18:23). Moreover, we can also insist that God did not bring the plague upon the wicked, but they brought the plague upon themselves by their rebellion against God (Genesis 3:14-19).
It is possible to protect ourselves against a “faulty dilemma” by studying the Word of God. Each time we hear a dichotomy, an “either-or”, we should immediately look to the Word of God and see if there is any middle or common ground.
This is what we must now do with the dilemma, holiness versus growth. The simplest way of doing this is to analyze one in the light of history and Scripture and see if it is at odds with the other. If through studying holiness, we can find evidence of growth, then we know this dilemma to be false. However, if through the study of Scripture and history, we find no evidence of growth where holiness is taught, then the dilemma is true and we will have to choose between holiness or growth. As David Gray so aptly queried:
“Is it true that the masses of people do not want holiness, and that in order to have a large church we cannot preach strong holiness, standards?”5
This, then, is the object of our pursuit.
HOLINESS IN SCRIPTURE
In an effort to resolve our dilemma, we must decide if holiness is a scriptural doctrine and therefore worthy of our consideration. Turning to the Word, we will notice three key areas: THE NATURE OF GOD. God has a character, and his holiness is part of His character. We cannot believe as some modern theologians would have it, that God’s holiness only means His being God. Rather, it means there are some things that conform to His nature and some things that do not.
“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, ‘Be ye holy; for I am holy”‘ (1 Peter 1:15-16).
He is not a god who is everything and therefore nothing. But, there are things His character.6 Therefore, certain conducts, which are pleasing and unpleasing to attitudes, and lifestyles are pleasing to God, as well as some that are unpleasing.
To those that have seen God or at least a vision of His likeness, they have notice one thing: holiness. John in Revelation 4:8 described the four living creatures around God’s throne as saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is, and is to come”. The seraphim in lsaiah’s vision of God’s glory also uttered this threefold ascription of God’s holiness (lsaiah 6:3).
According to Stephen Charock, “Holy” is used more often as a prefix to God’s Name than any other attribute, Holiness is God’s Crown.7
Would preaching the Holiness of God impede growth or facilitate growth? Calvin said, “Man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God and come down after such contemplation to look at himself”.8 In the realms of qualitative or spiritual growth, the preaching of God’s Holiness is essential.
Without the preaching of God’s Holy Nature, a gradual dulling of our sense of outrage of the degeneration of society’s moral standards takes place. Then, we might slowly adopt society’s mores, or lack of them, as our own.
A. W. Tozer observed that “until we see ourselves as God sees, we are not likely to be much disturbed over conditions around us as long as they do not get so far out of hand as to threaten our comfortable way of life. We have learned to live with unholiness as the natural and expected thing. “9
To avoid falling back into our former lifestyles, we must constantly be reminding ourselves what God is like: “He is Holy!”. The fresh awareness of His Holiness is essential, not at odds, with sustained spiritual growth.
OBJECT OF ELECTION AND CALLING. The object of our election is that we might be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29b).
The object of our calling is the same: “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:7). The objective of our election and calling is holiness.
The Gospel that calls us to Christ summons us also to holiness, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. lt teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives. . . ” (Titus 2:ll-12, NIV). The actual call to salvation is a call to holiness! If it were not, the candidate for salvation could rightfully ask: “If Jesus Christ is to be my Saviour, from what does he save?”
“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame…” (Ephesians 1:4). Clearly the gate of salvation is a narrow one (Matthew 7:13) and those that enter and cause the Kingdom of Heaven to grow must also be willing to follow after holiness, “without which no man shall see the Lord…” (Hebrews 13:14b).
Again, the election and calling of holiness does not impede true scriptural growth. But, it does constrain an “anything goes” salvation message and thereby, turns away those that are not willing to heed this holy calling.
PURPOSE OF SALVATION, There are those that would say that any effort a person makes to practice holiness is “after the flesh”. To all of these, the Bible hosts a vast array of scripture:
“Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness and holiness” (Romans 6:19 NIV).
“…Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God”
(2 Corinthians 7:lb).
“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification…” (1 Thessalonians 4:2a).
The Bible explicitly states that the sole reason the Church is saved is that Christ 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” (Ephesians 5:25-26). As the call of God is holy, so is the life of the redeemed.
To summarize the doctrine of holiness in Scripture, notice these key items: (1) Since God is holy, we must be also. (2) The Gospel that calls us to Christ summons us also to holiness. (3) Holiness was Christ’s purpose when he died for us. (4) It was for holiness that we were raised to life in Christ.
The doctrine of holiness as it relates to growth could best be described as a glorious paradox. Detachment from all other creatures so that we might love the Creator most, makes it possible that we might love and reach the lost in a greater fashion. The holy are able to show superhuman love to others, only and precisely because we have learned to love Jesus more than we love other people (John 12:25). Detachment for God always results in increased service: “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use and prepared unto every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).
Therefore, the doctrine of holiness is not at odds with scriptural growth. Rather, it appears in scripture to actually incite growth. Righteousness does exalt a nation (Proverbs 14:34). If people will turn from their wicked ways, God will hear from heaven and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).
HOLINESS IN HISTORY
While the doctrine of holiness seems to assure growth for all who pursue it, we must look to history to verify that holiness and growth are not mutually exclusive goals.
EARLY CHURCH HISTORY. The Book of Acts describes several incidents which indicate surges of growth in the New Testament. In Acts 2, some 3,120 people were saved with a footnote that “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved”. In Acts 6, Luke refers to the number of disciples being multiplied. A seeming multitude of Samaritans were added to the Church in Acts 8. The Gentiles, represented by Cornelius and his household were welcomed into the Church in Acts 10. Then, Paul in the remaining chapters of Acts spreads the Gospel into much of the known world.
We have already witnessed how the early Church grew not only in terms of number, but in terms of knowledge and practice of God’s Word. But, to illustrate the scriptural growth the early Church sustained and how it interacted with their desire for holiness, we must go to the city of Rome in the first century.
In Jewish folklore, an interesting legend has developed concerning the origins of Rome: “When Solomon married Pharoah’s daughter, Gabriel descended and stuck a reed in the sea, which gathered a sand-bank around it, on which was built the great city of Rome”. Thus, in the mind of the Jew, through Solomon’s moral weakness, he laid the foundations of a hostile world, which eventually overthrew lsrael.
Regardless of the authenticity of the story, the legend does illustrate one significant point: Rome was founded on moral weakness. The Romans tried to build a society upon their gods. But there gods were not big enough because they were finite, limited. So, in 12 B.C., the emperor of Rome became the head of the state religion, taking the title Pontifex Maximus and urging everyone to worship the “spirit of
Rome and the genius of the emperor”.11
To this society came the Christians in the first century, A.D. In the supplementary section on Rome in Thompson Chain Reference Bible, we are told the Christians were despised by the Romans. They did not dress like the Romans, nor did they attend the amusements sponsored by the emperor in the arenas. But, worse yet, they refused to worship Caesar. The Christians were not killed because they worshiped Jesus – they were killed because they were rebels.
The two major reasons the Christians ran contrary to the Roman Empire were: (1) they worshiped Jesus as the only God, and (2) they had an absolute, universal standard by which to judge personal morals.12 For this they were thrown to the beasts.
Notice a couple of things about the early Church in Rome. Had they been willing to add Caesar-worship to their worship of Christ, they would have been spared. And, had they been willing to forego the practice of their personal holiness standards, they would have been spared. The temptation was clear and obvious: by letting down on holiness, we will be spared and we will have the chance to “win the world”. But, to the early Church, holiness meant more than fictitious growth. To win their physical freedom, they would have lost their spiritual freedom. For, “ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)
Later, in the fourth century, the Christians abdicated their holiness stance in favor of becoming the official state religion of the Roman Empire. From this point, the Church almost became nonexistent in terms of doctrine and holiness. In terms of numbers, the “Church” was powerful. But, as we have defined growth, this did not fit the New Testament pattern.
MODERN CHURCH HISTORY. Emerging from the dark ages, people began to turn to the Bible. For the first time in hundreds of years, the canon of Scripture was made available to the common man in the l5th century. Translating the Scripture into native tongues proved to be the tinderbox for the Reformation that ensued.
Tracing the development of the holiness doctrine through this time span, we notice that Luther stressed the importance of faith in producing good works (1517 A.D.) Calvin insisted the third use of the law as code and spur for all saints (1541). The Puritans demanded a changed life as evidence of regeneration and insisted that everything done in personal and community life be holiness unto the Lord (17th Century). The Dutch and German Pietists stressed the need for a pure heart expressed through a pure life (l8th Century). John Wesley, in the late l8th Century, pro- claimed that “scriptural holiness” was Methodism’s main message.13
The message of the Puritans became a significant matter for debate in the l8th Century, when John Wesley began to teach that the Spirit will root sin out of a man’s heart entirely in this life. Wesley thus parted company with Calvinist preachers such as George Whitefield and joined with his brother Charles, to form the Methodist movement.
Few, on both sides of the Atlantic, remained unaffected by such preaching:
“With grief of heart I speak it, and not with joy, that scarce is the form of godliness seen among us. We are all indeed called to be saints, and the very name of Christian means no less; but who has so much as the appearance? Take anyone you meet; take a second, a third, a fourth, or the twentieth. Not one of them has even the appearance of a saint any more than of an angel. Observe his look, his air, his gesture! Does it breathe nothing but God? Does it bespeak a temple of the Holy Ghost? Observe his conversation: not an hour only, but day by day; can you gather from any outward sign that God dwelleth in his heart? That this is an everlasting spirit, who is going to God? Would you imagine that the blood of Christ was shed for that soul, and had purchased everlasting salvation for it, and that God was now waiting till that salvation should be wrought out with fear and trembling.”
“Should it be said, Why, what signifies the form of godliness? We readily answer, Nothing, if it be alone; but the absence of form signifies much: it infallibly proves the absence of the power; for though the form may be without the power, the power cannot be without the form. Outward religion may be where inward is not; but if there is none without, there can be none within.”l4
Where did such “clothesline” , holiness preaching lead the Methodist movement? By 1844, the Methodists had become the largest denomination in the United States.15 Modern holiness preaching brought growth.
After the Civil War, Charles G. Finney (1792-1875) became the leading promoter of a particular form of Wesleyan-Arminian theology that became known as Perfectionism, or “Oberlin theology”. Along with Asa Mahan, the first president of Oberlin College and author of The Scripture Doctrine of Christian Perfection (1839), Finney became the leader of the new “Holiness Movement”. Under their tutelage along with the assistance of Phoebe Palmer, the Holiness Movement in America emphasized the “second blessing” or a crisis experience as evidence of sanctification.16 The Holiness Movement grew rapidly until 1900. By 1894, the Methodist Church officially rejected the Holiness Movement. From that time, the Methodist Church has not experienced the same measure of growth it enjoyed in the l9th Century. In fact, it is presently in a state of decline.17
Searching for a means of expressing this “second blessing” of sanctification ended on January 1 , 1901 . Students at Charles f. Parham’s Bethel Healing School began speaking in tongues at the dawning of the 2Oth Century. Suddenly, the Holiness Movement found the immediate and tangible evidence of its longed-for expression of the second blessing. Tongues-speaking became the major impulse of the Pentecostal Movement.
Parham, a former Methodist Holiness preacher, opened a Bible College in Houston, Texas in 1905. From there, one of his students, William J. Seymour, a black Holiness preacher, received a call to preach in a Negro Holiness Church in Los Angeles. When his message (that the baptism of the Holy Ghost was evidenced by speaking in other tongues) was rejected, Seymour rented an old Methodist church on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. From this now famous Azusa Street Mission, the Pentecostal message grew to shake the Christian world in the early 2Oth Century. In reality, Parham and Seymour merely extended the doctrines of the Holiness Movement.19
Phenomenal growth accompanied the Pentecostal movement in the first decade of the 2Oth Century. By 1908, Parham’s followers numbered 25,000, mostly in the southern states.20 The Pentecostal organizations that recognize Azusa Street as their 2Oth Century beginnings now have memberships numbering into the millions.
Prior to World War II , the holiness standards of all major Pentecostal movements were similar, if not identical. Yet, during the middle 1940’s trends carried the Pentecostal movements on different paths. Today, only the Oneness Pentecostals still follow, as a group, the holiness standards that were more or less adopted from the Holiness movement of the late l9th Century.2l
To deny the rapid growth through Holiness preaching in the 2Oth Century is to deny the fact that the Oneness Pentecostals exist today. We cannot admit the existence of Oneness Pentecostalism unless we underscore the growth that holiness preaching, teaching, and living has brought to our shores.
Church history, therefore repudiates our dilemma of holiness or growth. Growth, both qualitative and quantitative, has been experienced in early and modern Church history, where holiness was preached and practiced.
THE SIMULTANEOUS PURSUIT
Both history and doctrine refute the claim that we must choose between holiness or growth. So, our dilemma seems to have been solved, or has it? Although, the question of whether scriptural holiness and scriptural growth can exist side-by-side has been answered, there still remains the weightier question : “How can we grow and still maintain attitudes and lifestyles that are pleasing to God?” or vice versa: “How can we maintain attitudes and lifestyles pleasing to God that we might grow?”
The late Francis Schaeffer described the pastor’s toughest job in the 2Oth Century as being the necessity to teach saints: “to show forth the love of God and the holiness of God simultaneously. If we show either of these without the other, we exhibit not the char” acter, but a caricature of God for the world to see. If we stress the love of God without the holiness of God, it turns out only to be compromise. But, if we stress the holiness of God without the love of God, we practice something that is hard and lacks beauty.”22
God is Holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). God is Love(1 John 4:8). To man, these two just will not mix. Love and Holiness are like oil and water to mortals. In the flesh, we cannot reconcile these two concepts. We can stress purity without love or we can stress the love of God without purity, but in the flesh, we cannot stress both simultaneously. Therefore walking in the Spirit, prayer, and the study of God’s Word are essential in this simultaneous pursuit of love and holiness.
We must not choose between love and holiness. For true love will always produce true holiness both in doctrine and in life. And, true holiness will always produce love both in doctrine and in life. This is true, because neither love nor holiness hangs in midair; they both rest upon the character of the God who is both holy and loving. This, then is our simultaneous pursuit.
Each of us has preached an evangelistic message and through the conviction of the Spirit, sinners stream to the altars. We race from the platform and begin to pray with the nearest one, but we can hardly concentrate. For the “holy” members are visiting in the lobby and the “unholy” are in the prayer room, while the preacher is all alone praying with sinners in the altar. Heaven is poised to rejoice over a sinner come home, while the church is poised to fellowship at Denny’s.
We must not choose between love and holiness. We must pursue holiness and a lost humanity simultaneously! To choose is to lose.
LEGALISM. Legalism is strict or excessive conformity to a legal code or a set of rules. In a Christian context, legalism has two negative connotations: (1) basing salvation on good works or on strict observance of law; (2) imposing non-biblical rules.23
The Pharisees (Matthew 23) exemplified legalism. To them, Christ gave his most scathing rebukes and judgements. for Pharisaism leads to exclusivism, little capacity for self-criticism, joylessness, pessimism, and cynicism.
This Old Pharisaism or legalism is the logical destination for those who do not counter-balance the pursuit of holiness with a pursuit of love for souls. Of course, this path grows steadily narrower until there is absolutely no room for fellowship, because no one sees “eye-to-eye” on everything.
To avoid this derailment, we must “speak the truth in love”. Our standards must be based on applied truth and be presented in genuine compassion for the lost!
Francis Schaeffer, again: “What men find ugly is what they see in Christians who hold to the orthodox doctrine that men are lost, but show no signs of compassion.”24 Your people may turn from the Truth because of all that it entails. But, they will never be able to escape the genuine compassion shown by the preacher that told them the Truth. David Gray states:
“It’s not because of holiness preaching that men are often turned away and do not surrender to God, but because of lack of prayer, power, anointing, yieldedness to the Spirit so that He will draw men unto himself” (John 6:44).25
As Lloyd Jones observes in his exposition of Romans 8:13, it is the “Holy Spirit who differentiates Christianity from morality, from legalism, and false Puritanism”.26
The plight of the Old Pharisee is to pursue his ideas of holiness exclusively, thus growing insensitive to the Saviour’s call to evangelize (Matthew 28:19-20).
LICENTIOUSNESS. The opposite extreme which precludes New Testament growth is licentiousness, or lasciviousness which means the lack of moral discipline and the total disregard of accepted rules or standards.
Where there is only the pursuit of love, New Testament growth is derailed and the result is numbers without holiness. As proud as the Old Pharisee is of his legalism, so is this “New” Pharisee of his license to believe, act, and live in a manner strictly dictated by his own desires. Jude, a brother of Jesus, was none too kind to these “New” Pharisees:
“Ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness… these speak evil of those things which they know not… these are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage… these are they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit” (Jude 4:19).
In the 2Oth Century, the Old Pharisee (legalist) is on the decline, while the New Pharisee (licentiate) is multiplying. Gary Collins, in his much-needed work entitled Beyond Easy Believism, describes this phenomenon:
“Believing that they are free to attend X-rated movies, drink socially, or engage in other formerly taboo practices, some of the new fundamentalists flaunt this behavior. They are proud of their new-found freedom and intolerant of the “fundy-type of mentality” which still talks of separation from worldliness. . . the new fundamentalists are in danger of developing a snug, intolerant, and exclusivist mentality which says, We alone are right. Others are caught up in their old traditions and they lack the freedom which we are sophisticated enough to possess”‘. Collins continues to say the New Fundamentalists have inculcated a new style of preaching: “Sin, divine wrath and the cost of discipleship are rarely stressed and there is a tendency to overemphasize `KOINONIA’, Christian love, social reform, and easy-believism theology.”26
Pulling the cloaks of “Christian liberty” around haughty chests, the New Pharisees scorn others for trying to live clean and wholesome lives. This definition of growth has no cross, no holiness, no consecration, and therefore, no power to set men free (I Corinthians 1:18). James Packer, a British theologian writes:
“This relative eclipse of holiness as a main evangelical concern is little short of tragic, and I hope it will not long continue, particularly in a day of such striking evangelical advance in numbers, in institutional resources, in mission strategy, in academic achievement, in public standing, and in many other respects. We need to be very clear in our minds that none of these advances are going to count for much in the long run unless renewal in holiness accompanies them.”27
Neglecting the simultaneous pursuit of holiness and love could lead to either legalism or licentiousness. Phenomenal “growth” might be had by neglecting the preaching of holiness. But, to summarize Packer, this unscriptural growth will be meaningless and actually harmful unless the pursuit of holiness is also sought.
HOLINESS: A NEW PERSPECTIVE
To avoid both extremes, thereby sustaining God’s pleasure, it is time for Oneness Pentecostals to allow God to crystallize our beliefs through prayer and studying in the area of holiness. We don’t need to deviate to the left or to the right. But, we need to be able to lovingly draw a straight line in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
Outside of the two excellent books on holiness penned recently by David Bernard, precious little emphasis has been written and spoken on what we believe and why we believe it. We are living in an age that says: “Show me.” “Show me why smoking a cigarette is wrong”. They no longer accept, “Well, if God wanted you to smoke he would have given you a smokestack!” They want answers. And, Peter said we need to have them (l Peter 3:15).
So, in the remainder of this paper, let’s look at some key areas of holiness that will keep us out of the twin ditches of Pharisaism. In doing this, we can become much more confident of the scriptural basis for holiness standards, thus erasing the doubt and defensiveness we sometimes feel.
PERSONAL HOLINESS. Separation from the world, acceptance by God is the privilege found only through personal holiness. lt is freedom.
Freedom to choose not to sin. This freedom to choose not to sin, or sanctification, occurs instantaneously through obedience to Acts 2:38 (1 Corinthians 6:11). Yet, sanctification is something we must daily pursue (Hebrews 12:4), through the obedience and practice of three areas:
- Scriptural Teachings The Bible clearly gives general guidelines which facilitate our separation from the world and acceptance by God. A capsulized list of these areas and scriptures are as follows:
(1) Appearance: (Deuteronomy 22:5; I Corinthians 11:1-16; I Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 3:1-6). Teaches modesty, moderation in cost, distinction between male and female, and separation from
(2) Attitudes: (Galatians 5:19-23; Ephesians 4:23-32). Displace greed, hatred, wrath, envy,
strife, etc. with fruit of the Spirit.
(3) Thoughts: (Matthew 5:18-20; II Corinthians 10:5; Philippians 4:8). Rather than lustful thoughts that lead to sinful actions, the Christian is to let only things that are of good report occupy his or her mind.
(4) Stewardship:(1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:12, 19-20).
The Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so Christians should avoid things which harm their bodies, souls, spirits, minds, and hearts. Numerous issues would fail this vital test.
(5) Fellowship: (Matthew 18:15-18; I Corinthians 5:9- 6:8; 15:33; II Corinthians 6:14) Christians should not become unequally yoked in marriage or fellowship with unbelievers. 29
The scriptural statements which specifically teach for or against certain attitudes and lifestyles are “culturally resistant”. Since they are Biblical constants, they are consistently applicable to every culture and era.
(B) Scriptural Guidelines
Since the Bible does not attempt to catalogue every possible sin the depravity of humankind might possibly conjure, we are given specific scriptural guidelines to test modern situations that are not specifically addressed in Scripture:
(1) THE MASTERY TEST:
” All things are lawful for me, but I Will not be brought under the power of any” (l Corinthians 6:12). The Bible clearly teaches that Christians are to be controlled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Thus, when we face an issue not clearly spelled-out in scripture, we are to ask: “Will this thing control me?” The dominating nature of drugs, cigarettes, and television would fail this test.
(2) THE TEMPLE TEST:
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (l Corinthians 6:19-20). Only items that do not hurt the body (mind, soul, spirit) pass this test.
(3) THE STUMBLING BLOCK TEST:
“Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Corinthians 8:13). As part of Christ’s body, we have an obligation to live for each other. Paul tells us that any practice or habit that would hinder the growth of a brother or sister ought to be avoided.
(4) THE SOUL-WlNNING TEST:
“For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more” (I Corinthians 9:19). Beyond our responsibility to each other, we have a responsibility to win the lost. So, we cannot be involved in anything that hinders our outreach and witness.
(5) THE GLORIFICATION TEST:
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).30 Any area of our life that inhibits our ability to glorify God is wrong.
(6) THE BENEFIT TEST:
“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient…” (1 Corinthians 6:12). There are many things that are morally neutral, but may not be beneficial or expedient in one way or another.
(7) THE ASSOCIATION TEST:
“Abstain from all appearance of evil” (l Thessalonians 5:22) Somethings may be innocent, but actually have the appearance of evil. The association or form and not just the substance should be
In morally uncertain areas, seven New Testament guidelines form a test which asks the following questions :
(l) Will this issue control me?
(2) Will this issue hurt my body?
(3) Will this issue cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble?
(4) Will this issue hurt me in reaching other people?
(5) Will this issue detract from my glorifying God?
(6) Will this issue benefit me?
(7) Will this issue associate me with evil?
(C) Scriptural Convictions
The third area where God leads Christians into holiness is personal convictions. God is, of course, not the author of confusion, so He will not lead people into convictions that violate His Word. In Romans 14, Paul outlines a few points concerning personal convictions:
(l) We should not judge those whose convictions are more stringent than ours ( verses 1-4);
(2) Whatever the convictions are, they must be “unto the Lord” (verses 5-8);
(3) We must be true to the convictions we develop as “to the Lord”. In violating our convictions, we sin (verse 23).
To summarize personal holiness, Scottish minister, Robert McCheyne, said this, “My people’s greatest need is… my personal holiness”. As the old hymn stated, so is the message today: “Take time to be Holy”. Then, we shall be a chosen vessel for God’s service.
ECCLESIASTICAL HOLINESS. Besides personal holiness, a largely untapped area is crucial to our understanding of the simultaneous pursuit of growth and holiness, This is ecclesiastical holiness.
Two words have been traditionally the key thoughts in ecclesiastical holiness: “compromise” and “apostasy”. Apostasy is a direct repudiation of divine truth to which one has been clearly exposed and which one has professed. The scriptural basis for separation centers around the issue of fidelity to apostolic doctrine.31
A key passage is:
“I beseech you brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye had learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not the Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18).
Two separatist principles emerge from these scriptures. First, Christians are to “mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned.” Second, Christians are to “avoid them”. This implies withdrawal from all association with those who deny the fundamental doctrines of scripture. Another key passage is:
“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds (2 John 10-ll).
Lloyd Jones identifies the doctrine of Christ as the basis for all Christian fellowship. He states:
“My contention is that the teaching of the New Testament is quite clear about this, that there is an absolute foundation, an irreducible minimum, without which the term `Christian’ is meaningless, and without subscribing to which a man is not a Christian. That is the foundation of the apostles and Prophets… apart from that there is no such thing as fellowship, no basis of unity at all… In the same way the thought you can evangelize together without bringing doctrine into it is surely the height of folly. If you call upon me to come to Christ certain questions at once inevitably arise: Who is He? Why should one come to Him? How does one come to Him? Why is He called the Saviour? How does He save? From what does He save?”32
On the birthday of the Church, we are given the formula for Ecclesiastical holiness:
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day they were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship…” (Acts 2:41-42a).
Fellowship follows doctrine. The desire for unity must never be put first or regarded as something in and of itself. The starting point for unity is Truth. Nothing else produces unity. The knowing acceptance of false doctrine for the sake of fellowship will lead a church into apostasy. Ecclesiastical holiness, just as personal holiness, is necessary for New Testament growth.
“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3)
Within this Church, there must be a fundamental core of doctrine to which the vast majority strongly agree. Although there might remain individual differences, an organization can labor together for the common cause if there is agreement on the fundamentals. As Paul said:
“Keep the unity of the Spirit… Till we all come in the unity of the Faith” (Ephesians 4:3,13).
A SICK SOCIETY… A HEALTHY CHURCH
The era in which we live has been called “one of the most religious saturated periods in history.”‘ A recent national poll revealed that 84 percent of all Americans claim they believe the Bible is the answer to life’s questions, but only 11 percent read it regularly.
Churches tend to be filled with worshipers. Television and radio evangelists have attracted millions to the “electronic church”. Bible. studies and home cell groups have sprung up throughout out nation like mushrooms.
Yet, the divorce rate is increasing. Pornography sales are at a record rate. Crime is up and moral standards are down. Unborn babies are being murdered at the rate of 1.5 million a year in the United States. Millions claim to believe in God, but America appears to be in the most decadent era of her history.
The modern church-world is confused. Permissivism, humanism, narcissism, and philosophy have so muddled their thinking, they have no clear message for the world. Packer states that at no time since the Reformation have Christians as a group been so “unsure, tentative and confused” as to what to believe and how they should act. He goes on to say: “The outside observer sees us as staggering on from gimmick to gimmick…like so many drunks in a fog, not knowing at all where we are or which way we should be going. Preaching is hazy; heads are muddled; hearts fret; doubts drain our strength; uncertainty paralyzes action.”34
When Christ said the Church is to be the salt of the earth, he clearly meant that we are to be the moral disinfectant in a world where moral standards are low, constantly changing, or non-existent. To preserve, we must be in contact with the world, but not conformed to it.
Salt is a highly stable compound (Na+CI-). In scientific analysis, salt has been shown to never lose its saltiness or power to prevent decay. The only way in Bible times, where there were no refineries, for salt to lose its savor was to be mixed with impurities that rendered it useless. It still looked like salt, but it didn’t act like salt.35 The desire to blend with the world has caused many modern churches to lose their penetrating power.
To mix a metaphor, Moody said: “The place for the ship is in the seas, but God help the ship if seas gets into it.” As much as the modern West needs the impact of Christian truth, it needs the impact of Christian holiness even more, both to demonstrate that godliness is the true humanness and to keep community life from rotting to destruction. 36
How can we tell if our church is growing more sickly or healthy?
One writer suggests that the answer is available in our young preachers. Not so much in their lifestyle, although that is important, but in their burden for the lost.37 Are they sitting back waiting for a church to open so they can grace a ready-made pulpit with their inimitable presence? Or is their burden driving them to darkened cities which need this torch of truth?
For this sick society, there does stand a healthy Church. A church whose preachers need no pulpit, a street corner will do. A church that can be all she was meant to be by preaching and practicing
holiness in love.
In conclusion, a recent study identified the reasons for growth in fundamentalist churches. A few of these are:
(l) Commitment – willingness to sacrifice.
(2) Discipline – willingness to obey.
(3) Missionary Zeal – eagerness to spread the good news.
(4) Absolutism – belief that “we have the truth and all others
are in error”
(5) Fanaticism – “all talk, no listen”38
These have traditionally been the tools of all Apostolic Movements. Today is no different. America is ripe for revival. The true Church needs to refrain from chasing down “rabbit trails” with dogs that never barked. She must set her eyes upon the harvest. When reaching for the sickle, why should she reach for one never tested in the heat of the field? The preaching of holiness and a burden for the lost has worked for generations. Why not, let it remain the sickle of the United Pentecostal Church?
A father in his last moments of life called his five sons around his bedside and whispered six words: “My treasure is in the field.” After burying their father, the young men began to scour the large field their father had left them in search of his treasure. They dug-up stumps, removed boulders, and cleared hidden roots and stones from the large fief. Spring arrived and the treasure was still not found. But, the rich, dark soil of the large field beckoned the sons to plant. Each year, after a bountiful harvest, the sons would plow back the stubble in hopes of uncovering treasure. Only years later, after the young men were married and had children of their own, did they realize the treasure had already been discovered. Their diligent labors in their father’s field resulted in an annual, bountiful treasure.
To the third and fourth generation of Pentecost, “The treasure is in the field.” We can stand in the fields of our fathers and denigrate, criticize, and blaspheme our holiness heritage. Or, we can till-back the earth to expose a rich, pure soil capable of inciting and sustaining a plentiful harvest of souls.
1. Commentary on 2 Corinthians 6:17, The New Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 1257.
2. David Bernard, “The Theology of Holiness” (as presented to Oneness Symposium: St. Louis, 1986), p. 2
3. J. I. Packer, Keep in Step With the Spirit (Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1984), p.107.
4. A. J. Hoover, Don’t You Believe It! (Chicago: Moody Press, 1982), p. 33
5. David Gray, “Escaping the Either-Or syndrome” (as presented to the Texas Bible College Pastor’s lnstitute: Houston, 1985), p. 3.
Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian view of the West: How Should We Then Live? (Westchester: Crossway Books/Good News Publishers), pp. 172-173.
7. Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God (Reprint Edition, Evansville: Sovereign Grace Book Club, 1958), p. 449.
8. John Calvin, lnstitute of the Christian Religion, Book One of the Knowledge of God the Creator (MacDill: MacDonald, 1973), p. 8.
9. A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life (New York: Harper and Row, 1961), p. 110.
10. The Babylonian Talmud: Sedek Nezikin (London: The Soncino Press, 1935),p. 216..
11. Schaeffer, p. 86.
12. Ibid, p. 89.
13. Packer, p. 99.
14. John Wesley, “True Christianity Defended”, 20 Centuries of Great Preaching. (Volume 3), Waco: Word, Inc.., 1971, pp. 24-25.
15. W. G. McLoughlin, The American Evangelicals. 1800-1900 (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), pp. 30-40.
16. V. Synan, “Theological Boundaries” The Arminian Tradition”,The Evangelicals. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977, pp. 44ff.
17. P. Wagner, “Aiming at Growth in the Eighties”, Christianity Today. November 21, 1980, p. 26.
18. K. Kendrick, The Promise Fulfilled: A History of the American Pentecostal Movement (Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 1961) pp. 51ff.
19. V. Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United States (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), pp. 33-34.
20. Frank Bartleman, Azusa Street (Plainfieid: Logos International, 1980).
21. J. L. Hall, “Holiness as Perceived by Pentecostal Pioneers in the Twentieth Century” (As presented to Oneness Symposium: St. Louis, 1986), p. 3.22. Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian View of the Church: The Church Before the Watching World (Westchester: Crossway Books/Good News Publishers, 1982),p. 152.
23. Bernard, p. 3.
24. Schaeffer, p. 285.
25. Gray, p. 3.
26. D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, The Sons of God-Exposition of Romans 8:5-17 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), p. 136.
Gary R. Collins, Beyond Easy Believism (Waco: Word, Inc., 1982). p. 85.
28. Packer, p. 101.
29. For an excellent and thorough discussion of this subject, please see books authored by D. Bernard: In Search of Holiness and Practical Holiness: A Second Look (Hazelwood: Wor Aflame Press).
30. E. Dobson, E. Hinson, J. Fallwell, The Fundamentalist Phenomenon (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986), pp. 127-128.
31. Ibid, p. 117.
32. 0. Martin Lloyd-Jones, The Basis of Christian Unity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1962), pp. 45-46.
33. Harold C. Warlick, Jr. , Conquering Loneliness (Waco: Word, Inc.., 1979), p. 68.
34. J. I. Packer, God has Spoken (Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1979), p. 20.
35. John R. Stott, Christian Counter-Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961), p. 63.
36. J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, p. 103.
37. E. Dobson, E. Hinson, J. Falwell, pp. 17,159.
38. Dean M. Kelly, Why Conservative Churches are Growing ( New York : Harper & Row, 1972), p. 84.