“I am Adonai, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. Therefore you are to be holy, because I am holy.” ~ Leviticus 11:45
“Following the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in your entire way of life; since the Tanakh says, ‘You are to be holy because I am holy.’” ~ 1 Kefa 1:15-16
In my last post, we focused on some practical habits to develop in our pursuit of holiness. In this post, we will look at the issue of holiness and faith.
Holiness and Faith
“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8 HCSB)
In the pursuit of holiness Believers are often called on to perform duties that appear unreasonable and even absurd to an unbelieving world. We often think of holiness in a narrow sense of separation from impurity and moral evil; however, in its broader sense holiness is obedience to the will of God in whatever God directs. It is saying with Yeshua, “I have come to do Your will.” (Hebrews 10:7) No one can pursue holiness who is not prepared to obey God in every area of his life. The holiness described in the Bible calls us to do more than separate ourselves from the moral pollution of the world around us. It calls us to obey God even when that obedience is costly, when it requires deliberate sacrifice and even exposure to danger.
Obedience to the revealed will of God is often just as much a step of faith as claiming a promise from God. In fact, one of the more intriguing thoughts from the book of Hebrews is the way the writer appears to use obedience and faith interchangeably. For example, He speaks of the wandering Israeli who would never enter God’s rest because they were “disobedient” (Hebrews 3:18). Yet they were not able to enter because of their “lack of trust (faith)” (Hebrews 3:19). This interchange of lack of trust and disobedience also occurs later in the book (see Hebrews 4:2, 6).
These heroes of faith were said to be “still living by faith when they died” (Hebrews 11:13NIV). But we will see that the element of obedience – responding to the will of God – was just as prominent in their lives as was claiming the promises of God. The important point, however, is that they obeyed by faith. And since obedience is the pathway to holiness – a holy life being essentially an obedient life – we may say that no one will become holy apart from a life of faith.
Faith is not only necessary to salvation, it is also necessary to live a life pleasing to God. Faith enables us to claim the promises of God – but it also enables us to obey the commands of God. Faith enables us to obey when obedience is costly or seems unreasonable to the natural mind.
The path of obedience in the pursuit of holiness is often contrary to human reason. If we do not have conviction in the necessity of obeying the revealed will of God as well as confidence in the promises of God, we will never persevere in this difficult pursuit. We must have conviction that it is God’s will that we seek holiness – regardless of how arduous and painful the pursuit may be. We must be confident that the pursuit of holiness results in God’s approval and blessing, even when circumstances make it appear otherwise.
Often in our lives a specific act of obedience will require both conviction and confidence. God’s commandment to keep the sabbatical year was one such instance. He commanded that every seventh year the land should have a Sabbath rest to the Lord, during which no sowing or pruning was to be done (see Leviticus 25:3-4). Along with this command God promised that He would bless their crops in the sixth year so that they would have enough to eat till crops in the eighth year were harvested (see Leviticus 25:20-22). Only as the Israelites had confidence in the promise of God would they dare to obey the command of God.
A New Testament application of this spiritual principle is found in the words of Yeshua, “But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33). The command is to seek God’s kingdom first. The promise is that as we do, God will provide for our temporal needs. Because we are often fainthearted regarding the promise of God, we find it difficult to obey His command. Consequently we often give the affairs of this life top priority in the basic decisions of our lives.
We do not believe that humility is the path to God’s exaltation. However, Kefa (Peter) wrote: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that at the right time he may lift you up.” (I Kefa 5:6) We want to want to get even when offended because we fail to believe God’s Word when He says, “Vengeance is my responsibility; I will repay.” (Romans 12:19) Because we do not have a firm conviction that “Pursuing shalom with everyone and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14), we do not seriously pursue holiness as a priority in our lives.
Faith and holiness are indivisibly linked. Obeying the commands of God usually involves believing the promises of God. One definition of faith might be “Obeying the revealed will of God and trusting Him for the results.”
“Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6HCSB). If we would pursue holiness we must have faith to obey the will of God revealed in the Scripture and faith to believe that the promises of God will then be ours.
In my next post, we will look at another of God’s Appointed Times – Pesach (Passover). We will return to finish this series on Holiness after that with two final posts.