By Pastor Mark
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
How we treat other people matters. As Christians, how we treat others is a reflection of our spiritual maturity. That’s why our fighter verse calls us to “strive for peace with everyone.” Jesus taught the same thing when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
But, then the author calls believers to [strive] for holiness. The first command is directed to our relationships with people, but the second is directed to our relationship with God. The Greek word for “holiness” here means “sanctification.” Sanctification is the process by which Christians are freed from the power of sin and transformed into godliness.
Sanctification is not an arbitrary or optional aspect of the Christian life. The author tells us how serious we should take our sanctification when he says “without which no one will see the Lord.” Wow. That sounds harsh doesn’t it? What is the author saying?
He is not saying that holiness is a necessary condition for us to be accepted by God. We affirm the NT teaching that a person a justified by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). But we also affirm the NT teaching that holiness is a necessary consequence of our acceptance with God. In other words, a person who has definitely trusted in Jesus Christ will definitely be gradually transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.
That’s what James is saying when he declares, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). And Paul says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). These biblical writers are not saying that our works save us, but that a true salvation will result in the fruit of a changed life.
If you are a Christian, striving for holiness is a serious calling. But, if you are like me, it sounds overwhelming. And if we are not careful, we might think this means our holiness depends entirely on our striving. That is the farthest from the truth.
The only reason you can strive for holiness is because you have already been declared holy. Speaking of Christ’s sacrifice, Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Meaning, if you are in Christ, God has declared you holy because of the imputed righteousness of Christ. And this is what allows you and empowers you to pursue sanctification. That’s why Hebrews calls Jesus the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
This is good news Christian! If your pursuit of holiness were all on you, you would be doomed. Instead, you have a Savior who has not only died to forgive you, but to indwell you and transform you.
The more you seek the face of Christ, the more he changes your desires, attitudes, mindsets, feelings, and actions. That’s because Jesus didn’t just die to justify you, but to sanctify you. And he will do it. How can I be so confident he will do this?
I am confident because you have been “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29). And because “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) And because when you “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” you can know, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
So strive for holiness. Yes, it’s serious. But, it’s also full of life and joy. It’s about letting Christ live his life through us and change us from the inside out. What could be more thrilling?