"It has always been God's plan that His people should be a holy people."
Review and Herald, September 11, 1952
"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." 2 Cor. 7:1.
Many Christians have but a vague idea of what holiness is. They find the word used frequently in the Bible, but regard it as applying to God, and when used in connection with men as representing an earnest Christian life. They hear of "holiness movements," which are often fanatical, and therefore see no reason to give the subject special study.
This is one of those subtle snares of the enemy to keep us from a clear understanding of one of the most fundamental truths of the plan of salvation. Our whole conception of God's eternal purpose for us will be narrow and limited until we prayerfully study and understand what He has revealed concerning holiness.
"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Heb. 12:14.
We may believe that God calls us to pardon and cleansing, salvation and heaven, without realizing that all this depends upon our attaining holiness.
Holiness Essential to Salvation
"In the midst of a world by its iniquity doomed to destruction, Enoch lived a life of such close communion with God that he was not permitted to fall under the power of death. The godly character of this prophet represents the state of holiness which must be attained by those who shall be 'redeemed from the earth' at the time of Christ's second advent."—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 88, 89.
It has always been God's plan that His people should be a holy people. "For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy. . . . For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy." Lev. 11:44, 45.
"Holiness is the foundation of God's throne; sin is the opposite of holiness; sin crucified the Son of God. If men could see how hateful sin is, they would not tolerate it, nor educate themselves in it. They would reform in life and character. Secret faults would be overcome. If you are to be saints in heaven, you must first be saints upon the earth."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 145.
"John was a teacher of holiness, and in his letters to the church he laid down un- erring rules for the conduct of Christians. . . . He taught that the Christian must be pure in heart and life. Never should he be satisfied with an empty profession. As God is holy in His sphere, so fallen man, through faith in Christ, is to be holy in his sphere.
"'This is the will of God,' the apostle Paul wrote, 'even your sanctification.' The sanctification of the church is God's object in all His dealings with His people. He has chosen them from eternity, that they might-be holy."—Acts of the Apostles, p. 559.
It is true that sanctification, or holiness, is the work of God, and is impossible for any human being to attain for himself.' On the other hand, we have a part to act; we must cooperate with God. We understand that salvation is not compulsory, for we are free moral agents, and we decide whether we shall be saved or lost. The Bible makes plain what our part is in cooperating with God for the accomplish- ment of His purpose in us. We are told by the apostle Paul to "put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceit- ful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in right- eousness and true holiness." Eph. 4:22-24.
It is deliverance from bondage in sin that prepares us for the holiness of Jesus. "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." Rom. 6:22. When we have surrendered body, soul, and spirit to God, He promises the new life of holiness. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." I Thess. 5:23, 24.
We are sanctified by the truth, and God's word is the truth. God is holy, and His law is holy; it is a transcript or revelation of His own character. As we approach the crisis of the great conflict of the ages between truth and error, light and darkness, holiness and sin, we need to realize as never before the deep significance of this contrast, and the everlasting sign God has given by which those who are loyal to Him will be distinguished from all others.
Let us go back to the beginning of God's revelation to man. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Gen. 1:1. After this we have the simple record of what God created day by day by His word. "For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." Ps. 33:9. Thus for six days God carried on His work of creation, and everything that came from His word, including. Adam and Eve, God pronounced "good."
It is not easy for the human mind to conceive of the measureless power of the Omnipotent One who could by His word alone bring all these things into existence. Day by day the key word was "created," but finally the seventh day came, and another word is introduced. On this day God did something that is not mentioned before, something of infinitely greater importance.
"And on the seventh clay God ended his work which he had made: and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." Gen. 2: 2. 3. To sanctify is to make holy.
Creation shows the power of God. Omnipotence is His great natural attribute.
But sanctification shows the character of God. Holiness is His great moral attribute. All that God had created day by day was very good; it was perfect and without sin, but it was not holy. God had created Adam and Eve in His own image, and it was His eternal purpose that they should share in the holy character of their Creator. And then on the very next day after their creation God revealed the method by which He made holy that which He had created.
God made the seventh day, entered into it, rested, and was refreshed. By His very presence He blessed that day and made it holy. Wherever God is it is holy; where He dwells it is holy. When He spoke to Moses from the burning bush He said, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." Ex. 3:5.
Jesus came to earth and took our humanity, and thus revealed the holiness of God in humanity. When by faith we are born again, and are washed, sanctified, and justified (1 Cor. 6:11), we become partakers of the divine nature, and Jesus imparts His own righteousness and shares His own holiness with us.
"For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." Heb. 2:11.
There is a very common expression used among Christian people that may, if we are not alert, lead us unconsciously into serious danger. Some people who feel that they are broad-minded and respect the faith of others say, "You keep Saturday, and we would not condemn you for that, but we feel that since Sunday is the resurrection day, the Lord accepts our service on that day." What they think of is simply having a day of worship. What we need to think of is the command of God: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." It may make an infinite difference whether we remember the Sabbath day to keep it, or remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. God made the seventh day holy, and it is still holy, for He is still in that day with His presence. No human being could make a day holy; therefore, no other day could be kept holy. It is this very point that brings us face to face with the climax of the great controversy, for God Himself has made this the sign.
God entered into the Sabbath day, blessed it, made it holy, and He gave us the Sabbath to be an everlasting sign of allegiance to Him. "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you." Ex. 31:12, 13.
Thus the keeping of the Sabbath holy, in harmony with His commandment, is not only a declaration of our faith in the Omnipotent One as our Creator but also the sign of our faith in the Holy One as our Sanctifier.
"The Sabbath given to the world as the sign of God as the Creator is also the sign of Him as the Sanctifier. . . . To those who keep holy the Sabbath day it is the sign of sanctification. True sanctification is harmony with God, oneness with Him in character. . . . And the Sabbath is the sign of obedience. He who from the heart obeys the fourth commandment will obey the whole law. He is sanctified through obedience."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 350.
"Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them." Eze. 20:12.
"There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." Heb. 4:9-11.
Let us earnestly seek the Lord that by His grace we shall not be satisfied with merely keeping the Sabbath, but shall enter into that wonderful experience with Him of keeping the Sabbath holy. In this experience do we find the evidence of true holiness in the life of the true follower of our Lord Jesus Christ.