Grace and Holiness

4:33 pm grace, holiness, Uncategorized

Grace and holiness are often misunderstood.  Christianity Today published an article titled, “Do American Christians need the message of grace or a call to holiness?” (Dec. 2012, p. 58).  That’s a good question.  Grace is often portrayed as a pushover.  He’s the toll-free number to call in every situation.  Just call 1-800-GRACE and you get off scot-free.  Holiness, on the other hand, is viewed as outdated and prudish.  Holiness is stuffy and a real party squelcher.  How can we better understand both concepts?
Paul states, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid.  How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Rom. 6:1-2).  We are not the only ones who struggle with grace and holiness.  Many did in Paul’s day too.  To continue in sin is to persist in a life of sinful conduct.  Some do not believe that you can live in sin, but Paul makes it clear that you can.  Sin is a transgression of God’s law.  It is lawlessness.  If one gives himself over to a persistent life of sinful conduct, he becomes the servant of sin (Rom. 6:16).  Grace saves from sin.  It saves from the eternal penalty of sin (hell) and it saves from the practice of sin.  Grace secures our salvation and at the same time it sanctifies us to God.  To be sanctified is to be set apart for a holy use.  Jesus Christ redeems us by His precious blood.  We are bought with a price and therefore, we must glorify God in our bodies and in our spirits (I Cor. 6:19,20).
In the Gospel call, there is a call to salvation (II Thess. 2:14).  And, there is a call to holiness (I Thess. 4:7).  The same Gospel, the same call; but two objectives: salvation and sanctification.  Many desire salvation without sanctification.  Many want the blessings of salvation without the responsibility of discipleship.  It won’t work.  You cannot save the soul without dealing with the desire to sin.
The glory of grace is not diminished by the honor of holiness!  Grace is important.  Without God’s grace we could not be saved (Eph. 2:8,9).  But, grace without holiness is a sham.  The honor of holiness begins when we repent.  The Gospel call also contains the call to repentance (Acts 17:30-31).  Repentance is a change of heart.  It takes place in our heart and affects real change in God’s direction.  Repentance is a turning away from sin and a turning to God.  God’s does His part (grace), but we must do our part (repentance).  Repentance sets us out on a new course.  It puts us on the pathway of righteousness.  It is an important aspect of holiness before God.  Paul said, “we…are dead to sin.”  Repentance brings about that death to sin.  We who are dead to sin do not live any longer therein (holiness).  We become the servants of righteousness (Rom. 6:16).
Baptism changes our spiritual status.  Rom. 6:3-4.  The “old man of sin” is buried and a “new man in Christ” is raised from the waters of baptism.  This imagery denotes that baptism is an immersion in water.  A real change takes place in the waters of baptism.  Our sins are remitted (forgiven–Acts 2:38) and new life is begotten (-regeneration–John 3:3-5).  Baptism is the new birth.  We are purchased by God and belong to Him (I Cor. 6:19-20).  We become the servants of righteousness.  This new pursuit defines us in holiness.  As God is holy, so we must be holy (I Pet. 1:14-16).
The glory of grace and the honor of holiness are both a part of the Christian life.  You cannot claim salvation apart from sanctification.

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