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Be Ye Holy As I Am Holy

by John Edmiston

a chapter from the ebook "Temples And Tithes"


This chapter deals with issues of practical holiness now that we are free from the Law and under the direction of the Spirit. It deals with the question:"If I don't have these external things such as giving, church attendance, circumcision, feast days and dietary taboos to tell me how to be holy how do I be holy?"

There are two answers here that seem to be a paradox. Firstly you are already holy because you have been made holy by the blood of Jesus Christ. Secondly you become holy by obeying the teachings and commandments of Jesus Christ by faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Now for the explanation. I'll take the second aspect first.

The commandments of Jesus are impossible for the "natural man" to follow you need to be "born again" to obey them. They are not like a ritual or a gift that anyone can bring, they require us to be a DIFFERENT KIND OF PERSON. However we can be that kind of person by believing that we can and asking God for the strength to be it. For instance Jesus commands us to "Love your enemies.."

(Matthew 5:44-45 NKJV) "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, {45} "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

This is impossible for the natural man but Christians can do it by acting out of their new nature. When the situation arises where we need to love our enemies we just screw our courage to the sticking point, ask God for help, and "just do it" and behold we do! We do manage to love our enemy and afterwards we have a wonderful warm glow of rejoicing that we have obeyed the Lord. So here is the "method" we use, often without knowing it!

That's it. We obey the commands of Jesus, day by day, one at a time, by faith, through the power of the Holy Spirit. As this happens our new nature is strengthened and we become holy as He is holy. We make the choices that separate us from sin and which dedicate us to God.

The other bit I promised to discuss is that we already made holy by the blood of Jesus Christ. This sort of holiness allows us to be present in the courts of heaven and to boldly approach the throne of grace. Unholy people cannot be citizens of heaven or have access to God or be called sons and daughters of the living God. We are holy from the moment of our conversion. We are acceptable in the heavenly realms. We are new creatures, with a new and holy status and a new nature. Lets look at this a bit further.

All Born-Again Christians Are Saints!

Christians are never called "sinners" but they are often called saints (though it is obvious from the NT that Christians sin). Paul even called the Corinthians "saints" even though they were a very mixed up church! This is his way of acknowledging their new nature in Christ. "Saint" means "holy one". When we come to Jesus we are made a "holy one" and a participant in the heavenly realms where we are seated with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). Here are a couple of uses of the word "saints" in 1 Corinthians.

(1 Corinthians 1:2-3 NKJV) To the church of God which is at Corinth,to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: {3} Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 6:1-3 NKJV) Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?{2} Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you,are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? {3} Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?

We Receive A New Nature That Is Christ In Us And Is Therefore Sinless

There are two of you and two of me. There is the John who I see in the mirror when I shave - this John is not sinless. Then there is the John in the heavenly realms, the true John who will be revealed when Christ returns, the John who is hidden in Christ with God. This John is the Real Me and is sinless. Lets take three verses in the NT that make no sense at all unless this is true.

(Romans 7:17 NKJV) But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

(Romans 7:20 NKJV) Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

(1 John 3:9 NKJV) Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.

Now Paul makes this amazing comment "it is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells in me…" if I was caught speeding and I said to the policemen "it wasn't me it was sin that dwells in me" the policeman would still write me a ticket! He (or she) would think I was just trying a "cop out" (no pun intended). But Paul writes this as Scripture. That's because there are two people called "I". One person is "born of woman" and does sin. The other person is "born of God" and cannot sin because he has been born of God. When I die or Christ returns the "born of woman" John will pass away and be no more. I will be left with my true eternal self and I will have absolutely no desire to sin and I will not sin and neither will you if you are also born of God.

One way to get hold of this truth that helps me is to ask the question "Is there a part of me that absolutely hates sin and sees it as an unwelcome intruder and wishes it was never there". There certainly is if you are born of God and you will hate sin and regret sinning. Its "not you". That is the new nature which is born of God. Then there is another part of you that seems sold into sin. That's the old "born of woman" natural man sometimes called "the flesh".

(Romans 7:18-19 NKJV) For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. {19} For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

Paul then goes on to show how a perfect nature incarnated in sinful flesh faces a dreadful and ongoing struggle. The inward man delights in the law of God. The flesh ensnares and corrupts that good intent.

(Romans 7:20-25 NKJV) Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. {21} I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. {22} For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. {23} But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. {24} O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? {25} I thank God; through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

So we see that we are saints, holy ones, with new Christ-like and sinless natures seated in the heavenly realms but battling against sinful flesh which so often thwarts our best intentions.

The Expression of Our New Nature In Holy Living Is Not Through Works Of The Law But Through Walking In The Spirit.

Though the OT Law was holy and righteous and good it was flogging a dead horse. Our old corrupt fleshly nature was "dead in trespasses and sins". It was unresponsive to righteousness and actually managed to twist the Law into an opportunity to sin.

(Romans 7:7-13 NKJV) What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." {8} But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. {9} I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. {10} And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. {11} For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. {12} Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. {13} Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.

To take a modern example: Before I went to school I was blissfully unaware of the law "thou shalt do thy homework". I was alive apart from the law. Not doing homework was not a worry for my conscience. But when the commandment came - the commandment meant for my good produced all sorts of desires NOT to do my homework. I rebelled and came into judgment and the wrath of my teachers and parents descended on me. Now that's a trivial example of how the commandment brings forth rebellion in the "old nature".

A more frightening fact is that children whose parents are in teetotal denominations are three times more likely to be alcoholics. The commandment they hear so often produces rebellion and in their rebellion they drink to excess. As a student counselor I can tell you the worst wreckage of life, the most dissipated students often come from strict Christian or Catholic backgrounds. The commandment produces rebellion in the old nature.So the old nature cannot be improved by the law , it is only corrupted by it.Paul says that this is a clear demonstration of how utterly sinful sin is and our desperate need for a new nature. (Romans 7:13 above).

The law is holy and righteous and good but it is dreadfully weak because of our natures.

(Romans 8:3-4 NKJV) For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, {4} 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.

(Galatians 3:21-22 NKJV) Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. {22} But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

(Hebrews 7:18-19 NKJV) For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, {19} for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

The "former commandment" all the things in the OT Law have been annulled because they were weak and unprofitable and unable to bring about righteousness in the old nature. If they were able to bring about righteousness in the old nature then Christ would not have had to come and we could have established our own righteousness rather than receiving the righteousness that is by faith.

The Law is gone, we have died to it, we are no longer bound to it or any of its requirements. Righteousness comes through the Spirit and not by obeying a written code.

(Romans 7:4-6 NKJV) Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another; to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. {5} For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. {6} But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

Our new inner nature, which is holy, does not need an external written code in order to be holy. It just IS holy.Your new inner self, is by its very nature holy and pure and sinless and is perfectly happy never to sin, indeed it cannot sin nor does it desire to sin because it is born of God. It does not need a written law code to know what is right any more than a dog needs a book on how to bark or a baby needs a book on how to smile at its mother. The new nature is instinctively and naturally righteous. Paul says it is "enslaved to God". (Romans 6:19-23).

Because the new nature is like this it does not need rituals to make it holy - it already is holy. Neither does it need tithing or circumcision to make it holy - as it is holy by nature. Neither does it need Sabbath-keeping, church attendance, religious festivals or bible-reading to make it holy - it is holy. It doesn't even need prayer to make it holy (though the new man prays!) it already is holy. We don't extract holiness from outside us and become holy by sort of "sucking it in" from holy people and holy books. We are sanctified by the blood of Jesus Christ at conversion, made holy and good new creations and we live out what Christ has created within us.

The new nature is expressed in a holy life of good works as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Yet we are confident that God is working in us, not through our conforming to new laws but through living in union with His Spirit.

The new creation is holy and good and born of God and therefore wants to do good works. Paul describes it thus:

(Ephesians 2:8-10 NASB) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; {9} not as a result of works, that no one should boast. {10} For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are saved by grace through faith without any works on our part but the result of our grace-filled salvation is a new person, a new creature, born of God. This new person is "His workmanship created in Christ Jesus" it is formed of God with a unique nature and destiny. This destiny is that the new person is made "for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them". Good works do not get us saved but they are what we are saved to do. They are the job description for the new humanity.

Christians are to be characterized by a holy life of good works done in the power of the Holy Spirit. Christians are not characterized by a host of dead religious observances done slavishly to please God, by the flesh. To turn it around another way the purpose of the Abrahamic blessing is that "all the nations will be blessed.." (Galatians 3:14) Christians, as sons of Abraham are to bring blessing to others through the good works they do. If we are focused on earning merit points from God then the focus is on self. Religion in this sense is self-centered and does not bless the nations. A Spirit-filled existence gives from the still center that is the new creation in Christ Jesus. Blessing flows from the inner man like "rivers of living water". The new humanity is a Spirit-filled humanity that flows in good works and holy deeds and lives in purity and truth.

The calling to purity and truth and holiness is not a calling to ever stricter laws and more and more restrictions. Rather it is a calling to a higher way of being rather than a more restrictive way of doing. It is a calling to be a new person who is in very nature like Jesus Christ. We work out our salvation in fear and trembling not because we have so many laws to obey but because of the height from which we can fall. We can easily lose the sense of our new humanity and bury it under legalism, doubt it to death with human philosophies or choke it with worldliness and anxiety just like the thorn-choked growth in the parable of the sower. There is a very real need to "put to death" the deeds of the flesh and to be severe on sin. Not out of legalism but because we cherish that which God has put within us.

The fear and trembling comes because we have such a precious and holy deposit placed within us through the Holy Spirit. We are guarding a spiritual treasure. We have been made new people and placed in a Kingdom where only holiness is appropriate. We have what the apostles call " a holy calling".

(2 Timothy 1:8-9 NASB) Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, {9} who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.

We thus live up to a call rather than under a law. The difference is like that between someone who does their homework because they want to become a doctor and someone who does it because they will get in trouble if they don't. In fact the difference is far greater than even that. We are new creatures with a new vision for life and that vision is high and holy and compels us to higher and higher living in our desire to be like Jesus.

This high calling can make us nervous and we need the confidence and assurance that Scripture provides and the assurance of a "throne of Grace" in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). God provides much grace, kindness, forgiveness and love as we respond to His call to live a holy life. God does not leave us to pursue holiness alone. It is actually His work within us. A works he has predestined us to (Romans 8:28-31). He will ensure it is completed on the day of Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 1:6 NASB) For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Thus our holiness does not come from conformity with human rules and regulations, tithes and offerings, diets, new moons and Sabbaths or even church attendance but from God and is expressed in good works done to bless others and performed in the power of the Holy Spirit.

How then can we be holy without tithing and Sabbaths and religious festivals and circumcision and dietary laws and various taboos?.

We are holy, from the moment of our conversion, and all our holy deeds are just a natural outworking of this. We do not "get holiness" from external observances or rules rather we express it out of our new humanity.




© Copyright GlobalChristians.Org 1997

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.