Holiness appears to be taken lightly by Christians in the present day. It is often perceived and addressed as merely obeying commands. Holiness is much more than this. It is the hallmark of the Christian life decreed by our Heavenly Father whose very nature is holy.
Holiness is positional, progressive and a pursuit
To be holy is to be sanctified. This means being set apart unto God, consecrated for His special use and purposes. We are positionally holy at the moment of salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30, 6:11, and Hebrews 10:10). Holiness is also progressive as we are continually freed from sin and conformed into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18 and 2 Peter 3:18). Not only that, but God calls us to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14).
Holiness – It’s God’s nature
Isaiah 6 provides a majestic portrait of God’s holiness. Dr. R.C. Sproul beautifully communicates its centrality to the nature of our Heavenly Father in this passage:
“Only once in sacred scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree. Only once is a characteristic of God mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love or mercy, mercy, mercy; or wrath, wrath, wrath; or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is Holy and that the whole earth is full of His glory.”
God has a transcendental otherness. He is morally pure, separate from all sin, and superior over all creation. The weight of the seraphim’s voices shook the doorposts of the temple as they sang of His holiness (Isaiah 6:4). Isaiah was moved to pronounce judgement upon himself as his perilous, sinful condition was magnified in the presence of the holy God.
The most emphatic statement given about God in the whole Bible is His holiness which is communicated to the superlative degree (Isaiah 6:3). This makes our call to holiness in 1 Peter 1:13-16 one of great magnitude, and significance, and one that we should heed to by all means.
The KJV reads “gird up the loins of your mind“ (v. 13). This is akin to rolling up your sleeves in preparation for strenuous action. As seen above, the call to holiness is weighty. Therefore, Peter is ordering God’s people to be alert and focused so that they may adopt an active way of thinking, setting their minds upon holy living, set apart unto God for His glory.
The gradual longing for holiness in the heart
Peter addresses the Christian pilgrims to whom, throughout his epistle, are addressed as the “elect” (1 Peter 1:2); God’s chosen people whom He chose to save before the foundations of the Earth. Peter implores us to live as such, keeping at the forefront of our minds that we have been chosen by God for His glory which requires holy living on our part.
An essential result of our election is sanctification and obedience (v.2), fuelled by the new nature we receive when born again and the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Though the flesh and the Spirit are constantly waging war (Galatians 5:17), The Spirit is presently transforming our desires to those of the Father, making holiness not only a calling but also a deeper longing of the soul. Thus, we begin to take joy in holiness as the Spirit progressively renews our desires as we are moulded into Jesus’ image.
With our minds fixed on Jesus and our hearts increasingly longing for holiness, our actions respond accordingly and we pursue it with all our might. God is changing us from the inside out, patterning our nature and desires after Himself so that we may be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16 and Leviticus 19:1-2).
We were a people once dead in our sins and transgressions (Ephesians 2:1) but now made alive by God desiring us to be His holy vessels, set apart unto Him for His purposes. This has massive implications. Our transformed lives as God’s sanctified people are the greatest testimony to the power of the Gospel. Consequently, we have a higher calling which we ought to embrace and live out in complete submission to God through the enablement of His Spirit.