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How to be holy

It is of great astonishment to me, that so much is said to Christians about 'duty' and what we 'must' and 'mustn't' do. But when I read the New Testament there is actually surprisingly little that we must do in order to please God and be holy. One cause of confusion can be that the admonitions to do what's right are seen and taken as law, as if, if anyone fails to do them, they are sinning. But admonitions or practical encouragements aren't law. There is no other way to say to someone "This is what you should do" without saying, "This is what you should do". But just because something is encouraged doesn't make it a law. There are only 2 laws that the believer is under, that if not obeyed will result in judgment:

1John 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

Now if these are the only 2 commandments (laws) that the believer is under, then what else is it that he has to do? Nothing!

The second great confusion is exactly how to be holy. I've just mentioned what to do in order to be holy, which is to 'keep his commandments' (1 Jn 5:3). But how to actually put into practice what is right is also either falsely or unclearly taught to Christians, aside from laying down all sorts of rules and practices which are not laws or aren't even taught in the scriptures. The answer is found in the very nature of the 2 laws that the believer is under.

Commandment No1:
That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ.

So the subject in view here is faith. There is initial faith in Christ at repentance that brings salvation, and there is living faith which is continuing to believe and trust in Christ. I'm talking here to believers, so I'm speaking to those who are now continuing to believe. It can been seen from the New Testament, that once a person is saved, he is delivered from the Old Testament law that could only condemn and bring knowledge of sins and could not justify.

It is seen that faith is the gift of God: Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. This is the initial saving faith.

After we are saved we are to live by faith, Rom 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. Gal 3:11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. Heb 10:38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

Now I ask you, where is our Lord adding to our faith any works or commandments other than this? We already know that our own works cannot justify us or please God, and that's why the law was abolished because it had no power to give us ability to keep it. Notice that to move away from simple faith in Christ is to backslide or fall away.. Hebrews 10:38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. And this reference also manifests the fact that what pleases God is that we believe in Him.

How to obey the first commandment.

It is that initial saving faith in Christ and his work on the cross that saves, and it is by continuing to believe in Him that we continue in Him and in that justification from sin that only He gives. This is like me asking you to do nothing, and in a way I am asking you to do nothing, except believe. Under grace, the greatest sin is unbelief. If you want to be holy, stop sinning by trying to do anything to please God except give up your own works and believe (Heb 4:10). And seeing as faith is the gift of God, and not something we can generate of ourselves, we can only give up on ourselves and ask God to do it for us.

Commandment No 2:
and love one another.

So the subject here in view is love. Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. Romans 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 1Ti 1:5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.

How to obey the second commandment.

Now I ask you, what unbelieving man has ever had enough love within himself to be able to fulfil this law? No one. I'll tell you why. The love required here is not human compassion, it is not human care, it is not human sympathy, it is not human emotion, it is not helping the needy out of human motives. This love can be nothing else but the love of God produced in the believer's heart by the Holy Spirit. Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love. And why was a person saved? - Not that he may do his own works but Romans 7:4 that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

So again, as with faith and so with love, we have no ability within ourselves to produce such things, and like when we repented to salvation, we need to throw ourselves helplessly upon the mercy of God, and ask for Him to give us what we need.

Once we understand this truth, that everything is of Him, and always will be, it becomes more apparent in the scriptures:
Colossians 2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him. I.e. as you received Christ by giving your life to Him and letting him save you from your sins, so walk in this same manner. No-where does the gospel suddenly say 'now that you're saved you have to do works'. The work that we're required to do is to believe John 6:28,29 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.


I no doubt can imagine some objections right now. 'What about James which says 'faith without works is dead'? Well lets look carefully at what James is saying.

First lets look at James 1:22-25, But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass (mirror): For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

Is James saying here "do works of your own effort" No. Is James saying here "unless you do works of your own effort you deceive yourself" No. He is saying be a 'doer of the truth'. He is not saying, "do works of your own effort". The fundamental difference is that works of our own effort are of no value to God (and are in fact disobedience and unbelief in the truth). But works born out of obedience to the truth that God does it all, and of faith and trust in Christ for Him to do it, are of the Holy Spirit. Yes, God expects us to do deeds, but He's only expecting that out of a heart that is fully believing and depending on Him, that He can produce in the believers heart many changes, which result in changes in life, or outwardly towards men in love.

What is it that the believer is seeing in the word of God (the glass)? He is seeing 'the perfect law of liberty'. I.e. the perfect law of freedom from dependence on self to dependence on Christ. THIS is what the believer is expected to do. And if he sees this truth in the word, and goes off and does his own works or his own thing, he immediately forgets what manner of man he was supposed to be.

Secondly lets look at James 2:14-26, What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

First of all, who was this written to? It was written to someone who would think, that faith doesn't result in works. To someone who would speak blessing, and not actually help someone. (There are many so called Christians like this today, who love to pronounce "blessing" on everyone, but never do anything for anyone). James is saying works are the evidence of faith and the proof of faith.

But notice this; put it the other way round 'works without faith is dead'. There may be some of other religions that have done some good works, but are they saved? No. The believer, did he get saved by works? No. So works don't bring salvation. If this were true, it is in direct contradiction of many other scriptures including Romans 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

The subject in view here, isn't Justification by faith before God, but rather evidence of faith before men. Looking at the example of Abraham we see in Rom 4:2,3 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Abraham believed the promises of God and was Justified by faith. Only some 40 years later did God test his faith with the offering up of Isaac, and so James says Jam 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Well, he was already Justified before God as God knew his faith in his heart toward Him, but Abraham was justified before men with this evidence of his faith. Jam 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? (complete).

The error men make here is to move away from the truth of the gospel, making the opinions of men the priority instead of Christ. If so, then we are seeking to please men, instead of God. All such works as spoken of by James are a direct result of genuine faith. Rather like the inevitable result. If and when God requires our faith to be manifest before men, He will do it and it's not us that should seek to do it. Genuine faith is entire dependency on Christ with no dependence on ourselves whatsoever. It is this faith that will inevitably at some stage produce evidence- in the case referred to with Abraham- some 40 yrs later.

It is confirmed in Rom 14:10 and 2 Cor 5:10 that we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ in heaven, and our works in this life will be rewarded. 1 Cor 3:10 says the believer is to 'take heed how he buildeth thereupon' (i.e. upon the foundation of faith in Christ). A believer can either do (or build) spiritual works produced by obedience to the truth and by the Holy Spirit called v12 'gold, silver, precious stones'. Or he can do (or build) fleshly works produced by disobedience to the truth and of self effort called v12 'wood, hay, stubble'. There is hardly any need to say that the fleshly works are of no value and will be burned in the testing fire of this judgment. But he himself shall be saved: yet so as by fire.

There is much more that can be said about holiness, but holiness is obedience to the truth. Obedience is to obey the commandments of God. And these are the only 2 commandments for the church. Everything else is an outflow of obedience to these:

1John 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.