oly living, Christlike living, and Christian integrity are all vitally related; so much so, it is not possible to have one without the others. Doctrinally and practically, all three are the same.
- Question About Holy Living
It is somewhat amusing that so many Christians are reticent about holy living as God’s way of life for Christians. Ask a Christian of any stripe (Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal), “Do you believe holiness is God’s standard of living for His people?” and you will get silence more than anything else. But ask those same people, “Do you believe Christians should live Christlike?” and each of them is likely to answer with a definite “yes.”
These contrasting responses strike me as strange. Is not Christlike living holy? Is not holy living Christlike? Is not Christian integrity holy and Christlike?
Why are Christians reluctant to affirm holiness is God’s standard of living for them? Consider three factors:
1. There are Christians who believe holy living is not possible, at least not for most Christians, themselves included.
2. Some Christians have been turned off to any consideration of holy living by the “holier-than-thou” attitude of certain Christians they have known.
3. Many Christians simply do not understand what is meant by “holy living,” and they do not know how a believer in Christ becomes holy. They mistakenly equate holy living with the evils of legalism and self-righteousness.
These three issues need to be addressed by stating what holy living is not, and what it is.
- What Holy Living Is Not
Holy living is not legalism. As it relates to religion, legalism is the attempt to save oneself from sin by obeying the commandments of God and doing good deeds.
Holy living is not self-righteousness. Making oneself righteous is the end product sought by legalism, but is, in fact, never possible to obtain. Simply stated, we cannot make ourselves righteous in the sight of God, no matter how hard we work at it.
In any honest discussion of holy living, two crucial questions must be answered:
(1) What must I do to be saved from sin?
(2) Once I am saved from sin, how ought I to live?
Both questions are answered in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (NKJV).
We do not—in fact, we cannot—lead holy lives to save ourselves; but when we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, we are created in Christ Jesus for good works. Doing these good works (“walking in them”) is living in holiness with Christian integrity.
- What Holy Living Is
When we understand from Scripture how a person is made holy, and what holy living is, we realize it is not legalism nor self-righteousness—holiness by virtue of one’s own goodness.
In the Bible, certain places are regarded as holy because of some memorable manifestation of God’s presence in those places; and objects such as altars, tables, cups, and buildings are regarded as holy because they are dedicated to God’s service in worship. Things are made holy by their relation to God, who is holy.
Likewise, people are made holy by consecration to God, because God makes holy those whom He brings into relationship with Himself. In simplest terms, sanctification (holiness) is consecration to God that results in our being made holy by God.
As told in Scripture, as Christians we are made holy by God imputing to us (giving us credit for) His righteousness and the righteousness of Christ. Also, God makes us holy by imparting to us His holiness and the holiness of Christ. This He does by the agency of the Holy Spirit applying the cleansing blood of Christ to our lives in conjunction with our belief in and obedience to the sanctifying Word of God.
Practically, for the Christian, holy living (living in holiness) is the pursuit of spiritual and moral excellence in likeness to Christ by dependence on continual cleansing from all unrighteousness by His blood (1 John 1:9); by submission to the holy influence of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16); and by sanctifying belief in and obedience to the Word of God (John 17:17). This pursuit of spiritual and moral excellence in likeness to Christ must be done with an attitude of humility toward God, and without an attitude of moral superiority to others (1 Peter 3:15). If the pursuit of holiness is done in the wrong attitude, the endeavor fails (James 4:6-10).
- Our Belief in Holy Living
Early in our history as a Christian movement, the Church of God adopted the doctrinal position that “holiness is God’s standard of living for His people.” In the “Resolution Relative to Principles of Holiness of Church of God,” adopted by the General Assembly in 1994, the first paragraph reads: “The foundation of the Church of God is laid upon the principles of Biblical holiness. Even before the church experienced the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, its roots were set in the holiness revival of the past century. It was, and is, a holiness church—holiness in fact and holiness in name.”
While the Church of God has long taught that holiness is God’s standard of living for His people, we did not invent this doctrine, and neither did our Wesleyan-Holiness forebears invent it. The apostle Peter restated God’s commandment to Israel, “Be ye [all of you] holy; for I am holy,” as a commandment for Christians to obey (1 Peter 1:16; cf. Lev. 11:44). Reading the church fathers and major Christian commentaries on Scripture leaves no doubt that the belief that holiness is God’s standard of living for His people has always been an essential part of orthodox Christian doctrine.
- Holy Living and Christian Integrity
The word integrity can have a number of definitions, depending on how the word is used. Generally speaking, integrity is associated with being honest and good. However, it can mean being loyal to a code of professional, scientific, political, or artistic values that may or may not be consistent with the values taught by Holy Scripture. For many, integrity is regarded as being true to one’s own character, which may or may not be good when judged by God’s Word. Therefore, it is important for Christians to define integrity from a Christian perspective.
For the Christian, a life of integrity is not the practice of socially acceptable morality; it is something far superior—it is living in holiness before God, which is Christlike living. Christian integrity is a reflection of the integrity of Jesus Christ, in whom all the virtues of true godliness, righteousness, and holiness were found.
Our calling as Christians is that we not be conformed to the world, but that we be conformed to Christ in our attitudes, words, and deeds.