Wednesday, February 08, 2017

What is required to be Holy?

"The Holy Spirit and Living a Holy Life"
February 11, 2017


What is required to be Holy?
As a college student was perusing the course catalog for his school, he noticed that beside the description for certain classes the word prerequisite was written. Curious, he looked more closely and noted that beside a particular class, a list of lower level classes was marked with an asterisk. Puzzled, the student figured perhaps it meant that he should take the required classes (the classes marked with asterisks) before he took that particular class. His conclusion, however, wasn't quite correct as that is not the definition of the word prerequisite. Of course, the prefix "pre" means before, and "requisite" does mean requirement. Thus, a requirement is something which is needed in regards to a condition or quality. What the catalog was saying was this: a student taking this class would need the knowledge and or skill set taught in the pre-required classes. Yet, requirements are not always about something that can be personally achieved or acquired.
Typically we speak of requirements in terms of fulfilling, not doing. To fulfill means to satisfy; to satisfy is to meet the requirements. Twenty pilots were selected to fly Vostok 1 (the first spaceship to orbit the earth). The final choices for the first launch were made based on the pilots' performance in training, as well as their physical characteristics. Since space was at a premium in the small Vostok cockpit, the pilots chosen needed to be of small stature. Advantageous to the Soviets was Yuri Gagarin because he was 1.57 meters (5 ft 2 in). So, they chose him, as he met the size requirement, and would fit the small cockpit. While Gagarin's height was his advantage, it was not something he could acquire or achieve, it was his by genetic inheritance.
The Lord has told us to be holy, but it is not something we can acquire or achieve on our own, nor is it ours by genetic inheritance. We read from the Apostle Peter in I Peter 1:14-16,
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
What is holy or holiness, and how do we meet this requirement? According to Romans 7:12, the law is holy. Therefore we could make the case that holiness has something to do with the law. And of course we can note throughout scripture that various writers have emphasized keeping the law as a requirement. But, what does keeping the law mean? Is it something we do? Or is it a requirement that can be fulfilled, and then we move on to something else? Contrary to our focus on doing, both Paul, and Christ speak time and again of the commandments as something to be fulfilled. Here are some examples from the books of Romans, Galatians, and lastly from Matthew.
"That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:4).
"Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law" (Romans 13:10). (The love referred to is Agape-- the self-denying, putting others first, gift from God found in I Cor. 13. So here's a thought, if the Law is Holy, and love is the fulfilling of it, then conversely, Love is the fulfilling of holiness.)
Continuing on, we are to, "Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law" (Romans 13:8). "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Galatians 5:14).
And lastly, Jesus Christ Himself has said, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17).
According to Paul, whom Christ Himself taught through His Spirit, there is a difference between the doing of the law and the fulfilling of the law. Paul intentionally used each phrase to make an important distinction between two different ways of defining Christian behavior in relation to the law. So, when Paul refers positively to Christian observance of the law he never describes it as "doing the law." He reserves that phrase to refer solely to the misguided behavior of those who are living under the law and are trying to earn God's approval by "doing" what the law commands.
Paul is not implying that those who have received salvation in Christ do not obey. Nothing could be further from the truth. Paul is saying they "fulfill" the law. He means that true Christian behavior is much more than the outward obedience of just "doing" the law; it is the fulfillment of the law of Love. Paul uses the word fulfill because it goes far beyond just "doing." This type of obedience is rooted in Jesus' positive fulfillment of His Father's requirements (see Matt. 5:17) through the power of the Spirit (John 5:19, 30). This is not an abandonment of the law, nor is it a reduction of the law to sentimental human love based on feelings. Instead, Agape-love is 'the way' through which the believer experiences the real intent and meaning of the whole law!
Ellen White also sees the Law as a requirement. And, she is clear on how we can fulfill that requirement. She says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Romans 4:3-5). Righteousness is obedience to the law. The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner's account. Christ's righteousness is accepted in place of man's failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son. This is how faith is accounted righteousness; and the pardoned soul goes on from grace to grace, from light to a greater light. He can say with rejoicing, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:5-7). {1SM 367.1}
Only those who live by faith, attain the righteousness required to be holy as God is Holy. This holiness is not something the believer can achieve or acquire. It is not something genetic inheritance gives us. It can however be blocked by seeking after our own way/things (I Corinthians 13:5, Philippians 2:21, Isaiah 53:6). Holiness is the result of the grace (power) of God working in the believer's heart through the Lord's indwelling Holy Spirit. It is of grace, that it might be through faith, being activated by agape-love which purifies the soul. And thus filled with God's Spirit, we fulfill God's will toward others from the heart.

~Raul Diaz

Raul Diaz