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Holiness: Part One

Overview

This first article is a synopsis of the whole study on holiness. I examine holiness in four parts,
namely:

  • Part 1 Overview (Synopsis).
  • Part 2 The Nature of God. 
  • Part 3 Sanctification and Sexuality. 
  • Part 4 What about Love? (with Conclusion).

Each Part stands on its own, but also can be understood within the whole.

Synopsis
These articles are an exploration of holiness. Holiness begins with the nature of God, for
right beliefs about God are foundational and essential for everything else in the Christian
life. Since God is holy He insists his people live holy lives. However sin is the obstacle to this,
for sin is essentially rebellion against God and makes a person think they can improve on
God’s revelation. Sin blinds in the sense that those who hold to sin are fully or partly
unaware of their own condition and motives.  Because God is holy, sin and rebellion incur
His wrath.

A Reformed understanding of how God’s people are to live holy lives is seen in terms of
justification and sanctification. I will fully explore these biblical concepts. Justification
describes God’s provision in Christ. His atoning sacrifice opens our eyes to the rebellion of
our sin and pride, and through faith in him our sins are forgiven. Justification declares we
have been made holy through his sacrifice. But sanctification is where God works to renew
our fallen and sinful natures by changing our inner being throughout our lives, here the
believer has active responsibilities in living a changed and obedient life. This is usually
understood in terms of the work of the Holy Spirit. This understanding of justification and
sanctification is a tenet of Protestant thinking.

It is against this backdrop of sanctification that I look at the theme of sexual immorality. The
Bible highlights very specific sinful behaviours that we must “put off”. The assumption
underlying the prohibition of sexual immorality, including homosexuality, is rooted in the
holiness of God. It was God’s idea to create men and women in such a way that physically
they complement one another sexually, and further that their sexual behaviour be restricted
to marriage. God’s holy ordinance of marriage between one man and one woman for life. 
An appeal is sometimes made to God’s love to counteract the exclusive sexual nature of this
holy ordinance between husband and wife. Witness Joseph Fletcher’s appeal to situational
ethics. He thinks that extra-marital sexual relationships may be acceptable in the sight of
God. However the biblical understanding of “God is love” is that His love is not self-
indulgent but self-sacrificial. Indeed sexual immorality is unloving. An evidence of this is that
sexual relations outside of the exclusive sexual union between a man and wife are leading to
a rampant transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. 

Thus God’s holy precepts – including the ordinance of Christian marriage – are for our real
good and wellbeing. They are there precisely because He loves us. 
This understanding signals an exploration of how God’s holiness and love complement one
another, and how the latter does not negate the former: A number of biblical references,
particularly Paul’s “vice lists” warn believers that unless they turn from sexual immorality
and these other vices they will not see heaven. God’s holiness is maintained. I then ask how
this is to be understood in relation to our justification and sanctification. Aren’t believers
exempt from God’s wrath? Those who profess belief but show no sign of a sanctified life in
humility or repentance, and who continue to promote sinful behaviour, remain under God’s
wrath. This necessitates church discipline; the aim of which is always to bring about
repentance and restoration. Again holiness and love work together.

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