THE HOLY DISCIPLE
Discipleship means that one is different from that which is common in this world. If a disciple is not different, then he has conformed to the life-style of the world. Peter defined this sacred life-style as a holy priesthood.
… you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Pt 2:5; see vs 9).
Now here is the challenge to everyone who would be a disciple of Jesus.
But as He who has called you is holy, so you be holy in all manner of behavior, because it is written, “You will be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pt 1:15,16).
The meaning of the word hagios (holy) defines one who is morally good. And since the holy are morally good, then they are different from those of this world. The holy ones are “sacred,” “sanctified,” and “set aside” from that which is common and ordinary of this world. There is something very uncommon about the saints of God when we judge them in reference to the moral standards of the world. And since the holy priesthood of God is “holy in all manner of behavior,” then this priesthood of disciples does not conduct themselves after the manner of this world.
Peter makes 1 Peter 1:15 a command. “Be holy in all manner of behavior.” If holiness is enjoined upon disciples as a command, then there is more to holiness than being cleansed and sanctified from sin. It is through the blood of Jesus that we have been cleansed of sin. When we walk after Him as His disciples, we continue to be cleansed when we mess up (1 Jn 1:7). So there is something about holiness over which we have control through our behavior. Our sin is cleansed by the blood of Jesus, but our separateness from that which is of this world is our choice. The basic meaning of holiness is to be “set apart.” The holy, therefore, set themselves apart from the activities and things of this world that are contrary to God. When we choose to live according to the instructions of the Spirit in the word of God, then we are being set apart from the world by our obedience.
I. Be holy as God.
God is set apart from the world, and thus, He is not of this world. The sin of idolatry is an effort to steal away the holiness of God. The idol worshipers bring God down to a god who is created after the imagination of the one who is of this world. If God can be created after the likeness of man, then He is not a God separate from the thinking of man who is of this world. It was for this reason that God strongly condemned Israel when they ventured into idolatry. They were destroying the holiness of God by making God to be something of this world. This is the meaning behind God’s condemnation of Israel in Amos 5:21-23:
I hate, I despise your feast days. And I will not take delight in your solemn assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them. Neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.
What Israel had done was to develop a syncretistic religiosity. They mingled the ceremonial rituals of the law of God with what they believed the gods they had created after their own imagination would desire. Amos continued to write, “But you have borne the shrine of your king and the pedestal of your images, the star of your god that you made for yourselves” (Am 5:26). When they performed the ceremonies that were required by the Old Testament law, they were thinking of the gods they had created after their own imaginations. It was a time when in their minds they had dethroned God to a god, and thus assumed that they could manipulate the behavior of their gods by their own desires. They sought to remove the one true and living God from His separation from the world in order to make Him conform to the wishes of their own thinking.
If the disciples of Jesus seek to be holy as God is holy, then they should make every effort that they do not dethrone God from His holiness in order to conform to their own imagination. Unfortunately, we see this idolatrous religiosity being played out as worshipers assemble for meetings that please themselves. They assemble in order to see what they can get out of an assembly, instead of seeing what they can give in worship. Israel tried this man-made religiosity. But God judged them with the statement: “Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments” (Am 5:23). In their idolatrous concept of God, apostate Israel assumed that if the melody of their songs and instruments was personally pleasing to them, then certainly it must be pleasing to the god whom they had created after their own imagination. There is something very subtle about idolatry for which worshipers must be very cautious. When we start believing that which we personally like for ourselves, it is time to search the Scriptures lest we be guilty of “will worship,” that is, forcing our worship on God (See Cl 2:23).
The purpose for the giving to Israel all the ceremonial laws concerning cleanliness was to separate them from the nations around them. It was God’s mandate to Israel, therefore, that they maintain their separateness (holiness) from the nations around them through their obedience of the ceremonial laws He gave them. This was the reason why God commanded,
For I am the Lord your God. You will therefore sanctify yourselves and you will be holy, for I am holy. Neither will you defile yourselves with any kind of creeping thing that creeps on the earth. For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You will therefore be holy, for I am holy (Lv 11:44,45).
If a disciple is to be holy as God is holy, then it is necessary that he clearly understands the holiness of God. God does not exist according to the imagination of man, but is separate from the world. He is uncommon according to the behavior of those who live after the manner of this world. Those who do not understand the separateness of God from that which is of this world, cannot be holy. An idolater can never be holy simply because he has created a god in his mind that conforms to his wishes that are of this world. One is as holy as his understanding of the holiness of God.
II. Called to be holy
Concerning the holiness of the disciple, the Holy Spirit proclaimed that the obedient were called into holiness. “For God has not called us to impurity, but in holiness” (1 Th 4:7). If one would reject this call, he rejects God who is holy (1 Th 4:8).
1. Motivation for holiness: Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we have been sanctified by His blood offering (Hb 7:27). And because we have been made holy through the eternal sacrifice of the Son of God, it is only reasonable to do what Paul exhorted the Roman Christians: “… present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rm 12:1). It is only reasonable service to remain separate from the world in view of the fact that Jesus separated us from our sin through His incarnation and the cross.
As His holy priesthood, God assumes that we will respond to His grace by keeping our lives separated from the behavior of the world. “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is … to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (Js 1:27). It is grace that teaches this lesson of discipleship.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age” (Ti 2:11,12).
This simply means that we “not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn 2:15). So Paul reminded the Roman disciples how this is accomplished in the life of a disciple. “And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind …” (Rm 12:2). Disciples continue to renew their minds through the word of God in order that they not lose their way in this world of unholiness. The only direction by which the disciples of Jesus can renew their thinking is in saturating their minds with the word of God. There is no other way to know Jesus.
2. Follow the pattern: The pattern is Jesus. “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow His steps” (1 Pt 2:21). We can find those “steps” only in the word of Jesus.
Jesus did not behave as the world behaves. He went to what we would consider an extreme in setting an example for us to follow as His disciples. As the Creator, and sacrificial Son of God, He washed the dirty feet of the disciples. After the foot bath, holy living is inspired by His sacrifice for us. He said, “For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:15). Holiness is “other world” behavior. It is not of this world. If we would be holy as our Father is holy, then it is imperative that we follow the example of the One who came from the Father in order to illustrate the holy behavior of the Father. He will stoop to wash our dirty feet, and then hang on a cross to wash our dirty souls.
3. Holy action glorifies God: Our holiness is meant to bring glory to God. Whatever we do, we must “do all to the glory of God” (1 Co 10:31). This means that our lives must be patterned after the holy example of Jesus. This is what Paul meant when he wrote,
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Cl 3:17).
II. Being unholy.
We can better understand holiness by the Bible’s description of the unholy life. Notice where Paul grouped the unholy person in 1 Timothy 1:9:
Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murders of fathers and murders of mothers, for murderers.
The unholy person is not in good company. But this is not the end of the crowd of unholy people. Paul continued:
Know this also, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy … (2 Tm 3:1,2).
Those who would live unholy lives have put themselves in the company of those who would be rejected from eternal dwelling. They have either rejected being set apart for Christ in obedience to the gospel, or if they have obeyed the gospel, then they have agreed to walk the sanctified life in submission to Jesus.
Under the Old Testament law, the priests of God were to keep themselves from that which was unholy (Lv 10:10). As priests of God, we too as the disciples of Jesus must keep ourselves from that which is unholy (1 Jn 5:21). Jude exhorted, “… keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jd 21). In view of the termination of all that we now behold, Peter wrote, “Since all these things will be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness …?” (2 Pt 3:11).
As the unholy have no fellowship with the holy of this world, the same is true in reference to eternal dwelling. In the context of the judgment of God upon the unholy, John encouraged the saints by saying, “And he who is holy, let him still be holy” (Rv 22:11). The interpretive meaning is that the holy must continue in their holiness, without involving themselves in that which is unholy of this world. The Hebrew writer explained, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man will see the Lord” (Hb 12:14).
Since no man can claim to be holy from sin on the basis of his behavior—for we all sin—then our sanctification from sin was made possible through the blood of Jesus. Our holiness in reference to sin, therefore, is the gift of God. It is the gift of the shed blood that came through the cross. This gift of grace is our motivation. We were set apart from the world through our obedience to the grace of God in order to be holy for God’s purpose in this world. Jesus’ sacrifice to make us holy from sin inspires us to keep ourselves holy from the unholy things of this world.