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Why Christians Must be Holy


It is very clear in the teachings of the Scripture that no Christian is sinless (1 John 1:8-10), but it is also clear that God expects the true believer to not sin habitually. “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in Him, and he cannot practice sin because he is born of God” (3:9).

To “practice” sin is to sin as a way of life. An unsaved person lives a life of habitual sin. The sin of unbelief is a normal thing for the lost person. A true believer does not live in habitual sin. He may commit occasional sins but he will not make it a habitual practice.

The word “holy,” “holiness,” “saint” and “sanctify” comes from a Greek root meaning, “to set apart to God.” The believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is set apart for God by the Holy Spirit. The “saint” is a person set apart for God, enjoying a holy standing before God in Christ Jesus, with the obligation of living a holy life (1 Pet. 1:15-16).

The evidence of the new birth is righteous behavior in the life of the believer. Sanctification is evident in a changed life. God changes us from the inside out (2 Cor. 5:17).

J. C. Ryle in his book on holiness gave eight reasons why holiness is necessary in the Christian’s life (Holiness, pp. 40-44).

1. God commands that the Christian be holy (1 Peter 1:14-16; Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7). God said, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” Be holy, and not conforming to evil desire. God’s holiness expresses His divine perfection. His innermost nature is holy, and a holy God calls for a holy people (1 Cor. 6:19; 1 Pet. 2:9; 1 Cor. 1:2).

Holy living demands determination (Rom. 12:1). The Christian is responsible for his inner life and outward walk. All areas of our life should be in the process of being conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. Sin is abnormal and unnatural for the believer. The Christian does not experience the sinless life perfectly on this earth (1 John 1:8, 10), however we do overcome sin through the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-21).

Holiness or sanctification can be perfected, i.e., completed or matured (Phi. 3:8-16). A maturing, or growing holiness, is an increased Christ-likeness (2 Cor. 3:18). It is a progressive sanctification, not sinless perfection.

We will receive glorification when we see Jesus in heaven, and not before then. Until then, we are to grow in His likeness (1 John 3:3). Our responsibility is to yield ourselves to the inner working of the Holy Spirit and keep on growing in His likeness (James 4:8).

2. The eternal purpose of God in Christ is for us to be holy. God has saved you by the Holy Spirit to make you His holy people (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; Eph. 5:25-27).

Jesus Christ died to make us holy. The purpose of God in the atoning death of His Son for our sins is to save us from the penalty of sin, and to set us apart to God to become like His Son (Rom. 8:29). Our eternal destiny is to be conformed to the image of God in Christ Jesus (1 Jn. 3:3).

God loved us while we were His enemies and sent His Son to die for us, and we are now His children who are to be like their Father. A Christian who sins is a child sinning against His Father.

3. The only safe evidence that we have a saving faith in Jesus Christ is a holy life (Heb. 12:14; Jas. 2:26; 1 John 2:6; 3:9). No one can see the Lord God without holiness.

“God does not call us to live in immorality, but in holiness” (1 Thess. 4:7, GNT). “God wants you to be holy . . .” (v. 4, GNT). Sanctification is God’s stated purpose for the believer.

The Christian has been set apart to God and is therefore “holy” unto the Lord. Because we have been declared to be “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).

The person who sets his hope by faith on the Son of God experiences an inward purification that is as complete as a Christ’s own purity. We become like Christ as we focus our faith on His saving grace.

4. The only proof that we sincerely love the Lord Jesus Christ is a holy life.

John 14:15 reads, “If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” “Whoever has My commandments and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me” (v. 21). “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching” (v. 23). The answer to the obedience problem is love. If you love Him, you will obey Him. “You are My friends if you do what I command” (v. 14).

If you love Jesus, you will be holy. If you love Him, you will become like Him.

If you do not obey Him, you do not love Him. If you love Him, you will obey Him. You do not love Him if you do not do what He teaches.

Because the Christian knows God, he lives a life of obedience and does not practice sin.

5. The only sound evidence that we are true children of God is a holy lifestyle.

“Everyone who lives in union with Christ does not continue to sin; but whoever continues to sin has never seen Him or known Him” (1 John 3:6, GNT). The child of God does not have the habit of sin because He has God’s divine principle of life dwelling in him. We cannot go on continuing to sin because we now have God’s very nature in us. A person who “abides” in a sinless Person must himself be sinless because he has a sinless regenerate nature.

God’s children act like their Father. “Those who are led by the Holy Spirit of God are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). The Spirit of God leads to holiness because He will not lead you into sin and disobedience. If the Spirit leads you, you will live a holy life.

“Everyone who lives in union with Christ does not continue to sin; but whoever continues to sin has never seen Him or known Him” (1 John 3:15, GNT). “None of those who are children of God continue to sin, for God’s very nature is in them; and because God is their Father, they cannot continue to sin” (v. 9, GNT). “The new birth involves a perfect purification from sin.”

6. People who live holy lives are a blessing to others (Galatians 5:13).

Consistent holy behavior is a powerful testimony to God’s saving grace.

God blesses the service of people who are holy. People who live holy lives are not selfish; they are a blessing to other people (1 Pet. 1:22).

7. Our present comfort depends upon living a holy lifestyle.

 You cannot walk with the Lord and the world at the same time. God will chastise the sinning saint (Heb. 12:6, 9-10).

Our sanctification is not a personal attainment, but is a state or position into which God in grace has called us (2 Tim. 1:9). It is our responsibility, moreover to “sanctify” ourselves (1 Pet. 1:15; 2 Pet. 3:11). If we are going to enjoy an intimate relationship with Him, we must keep our lives from all known sin. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

8. “Without holiness on earth we shall never be prepared to enjoy heaven.”

“Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). “And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appear, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 John 2:28). The physical changes of our redemption will take place when Christ returns and our bodies are glorified. “We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him” (1 Jn. 3:3; Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Cor. 15:52-54). We will have new glorified bodies made for living in heaven. Because Jesus Christ shall return, we can and should keep our lives pure.



Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006





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Unless otherwise noted "Scripture quotations taken from the NASB." "Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE" © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://www.bible.org/. All rights reserved.

Wil is a graduate of William Carey University, B. A.; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Th. M.; and Azusa Pacific University, M. A. He has pastored in Panama, Ecuador and the U. S, and served for over 20 years as missionary in Ecuador and Honduras. He had a daily expository Bible teaching ministry head in over 100 countries from 1972-2005. He continues to seek opportunities to be personally involved in world missions. Wil and his wife Ann have three grown daughters. He currently serves as a Baptist pastor and teaches seminary extension courses in Ecuador.


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