Other "Thinking Drafts" and writing by Keith Drury -- http://www.indwes.edu/tuesday .

 From: Holiness for Ordinary People by Keith Drury
(c) 1983 Wesley Press

Chapter 2

It's Everywhere


Holiness in the Scriptures

The idea of holiness is virtually everywhere in the Bible and in Christian history. It is

not some new notion dreamed up by John Wesley or the "holiness churches." Holiness is taught

clearly in the Old and New Testaments, and has continually been a concern for serious Christians

through the ages.

The Idea of Holiness

Holiness originates with God. He alone is perfectly holy. His holiness is such an

essential part of His nature that the prophet, Amos, declared He has "sworn by his holiness." All

holiness begins with God. He is the Holy One.

However, the idea of holiness in the Bible is not limited to God. Sometimes places were

considered holy. On the occasion of Moses' encounter with God at the burning bush, he stood on

"holy ground." There are many times which were to be kept holy. The most obvious one was the

seventh day of each week.

Certain objects were considered holy; for instance, the altar, sacrifices, and related items

used in temple worship. Even people could be considered holy, including priests, Levites, or

even the entire nation of Israel. In fact, the idea of separation, purification, and holy living is a

dominant theme of the entire Bible.

Holiness Promised

Throughout God's Word there is the dual promise of forgiveness for sins and deliverance

from the power of sin. God's Word repeatedly emphasizes themes of individual cleansing from

all impurity, renewing our hearts in righteousness, and conforming human beings to God's


In the New Testament, John the Baptist announced to those repenting of their sins that a

greater One was coming who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire, burning away all

the "chaff" of men's hearts.

The hope for true deliverance from sin that would enable a believer to live in obedience

to God's laws is found throughout God's Word.

The Standard of Holiness

Since God is a holy God, what does He expect from His followers? Nothing less than

holiness. Moses prefaced the giving of carious laws to the Israelites with the command that they

be holy because God himself was holy. In the New Testament, Peter recalled this ideal by

commanding Christians to be holy, since the God who called them was holy. Jesus concluded

His demand to love even our enemies by stating that we should be perfect as our Heavenly Father

is perfect.

The logic here is simple: (1) God is holy; (2) God called us to be like Him; (3) We must

be holy, like him.

What is this holiness that God expects of His people? It is obedience. God expected

each Israelite to fear Him, obey Him, and serve Him with all his heart and soul. Obviously, this

cannot be done with human strength. So God promises a work in the heart - a "circumcision of

heart" - that can enable a follower to actually love God with all his heart and soul.

Solomon dedicated the new Temple in the presence of all Israel. he concluded his

dedication by commanding them to fully commit their hearts to God. He warned them that God

would not be satisfied with partial commitment; He demands total commitment. The record of

the Israelites illustrates how infrequently they achieved complete obedience. But their failure has

not altered God's standard of holiness. he wants total and complete commitment.

Jesus reinforced this high standard of holiness. he established it as the "most important

commandment." Believers are commanded to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and

strength - their whole being; not with part of their being; not even with most of their being.

Jesus commanded loving God with all our being. "ALL" means just that - 100%.

Then, just in case we are tempted to become holy recluses, Jesus attaches the second

command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." These two commands - loving God and loving

your neighbor - provide the clear standard of holiness commanded throughout the Bible. God is

holy. He expects us to be holy. Holiness is loving devotion to God and others.

The most obvious command toward holiness is "be holy, because I am holy." Because

we are God's, and He is holy, we, too, are commanded to be holy.

Jesus prayed, on His last night with His disciples, that His Father would sanctify them -

His closing intercession for His disciples. This sanctification was for service - they were headed

into a hostile world with a holy message. Jesus expected a future sanctifying work to be done in

these followers which would equip them with the power and unity to work in an evil world.

All through the epistles the early believers are repeatedly urged to be filled with the

Spirit, or to put on a new man, or to believe that God will sanctify them through and through.

Paul wrote to his Christian brothers in Thessalonica that it is simply God's will that they be holy.

Holiness is clearly God's will for His followers. It always has been. It still is. It always

will be.

Holiness is for Believers

Some have been inclined to think that the commands to holiness in the Bible are not

meant for believers. They reason that a Christian "gets it all at once." A serious reading of the

Bible does not support this notion. Repeatedly the Bible writers urge Christian brothers and

sisters to pursue holiness.

Paul tells the Corinthians "saints" to purify themselves of everything that contaminates

either the body or the spirit in order to perfect holiness in their lives.

Paul reminds the "brothers" in Rome that their old, sinful nature. The deeds of their old

nature are to be put to death.

John tells "children of God" who do not yet see what God is making of them, that they

will be like Jesus when they see Him. This exciting hope is to cause these believers to purify

themselves, just as He is pure.

Paul tells the Corinthians Christians that his prayer is for their perfection - that they will

become whole, mature, and complete. He concludes with an admonition that they should aim for

nothing less than - you guessed it - perfection.

In Hebrews, the readers are scolded for being baby Christians so long. They are urged to

leave the elementary teachings, and "go on" to maturity or completeness in Christ.

Finally, after detailing God's faithfulness throughout eleven chapters, Paul urges the

Roman believers to present their bodies as living sacrifices, holy to God. He promises them a

spiritual transformation or renewal of spiritual transformation or renewal of their minds, so that

they will no longer be conformed to the patterns of this world.

There is no doubt about holiness being a clear emphasis of the Scriptures. In God's

Word believers, brothers, children of God, Christians, are repeatedly called to something more -

to go on to holiness, full maturity, completeness, perfection.

The idea of holiness is everywhere in the Scripture. It appears in one form or another

more than 600 times. It literally pervades both the Old and New Testament. The standard of

holiness is clear: loving God with al my heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loving others as

myself. It is not merely some distant goal we pursue with no hope of attaining. It is commanded

as God's will for all believers. It is thus a present possibility for me to have a heart full of love for

God and others.

The Holiness Quest in History

Down through the ages serious Christians have thought, spoken, and written about

holiness (perfect love for God and others) and sanctification (God's work in us which perfects this

love). Holiness is not a new idea in recent history. There have always been people who took

God's demand to "be holy" at face value. These people searched for a means of becoming as holy

as God commanded.

The writings of early Christians, like Clement and Ignatius, ring with the hope for

deliverance from sin in this life - to actually "walk as He walked."

Some early seekers of holiness figured they might find holiness through self-

renunciation. These ascetics denied themselves comforts of life, isolated themselves from the

world, practiced daily disciplines of righteousness, and became the long-lasting lay monastic

movement. Monasticism is probably the most organized quest for holiness in history. The hope

was that self-denial and spiritual discipline would produce holiness in this life. For many

hundreds of years, the search for holiness and piety sometimes led to a monastery or convent.

Despite the inadequacies and limitations of the monastic and mystical movements, the holiness

which was to be found during these times was most often found in these movements.

During the early 1300's, there were other examples of sincere piety like Eckart and other

members of the "Brethren of the Common Life." In the late 1300's, Thomas a' Kempis wrote his

Imitation of Christ. He emphasized that personal holiness - a complete purity of intention - was

possible in this life. Through this time there remained within the Roman Catholic Church a

strata of faithful seekers after holiness through sanctification.

Like most reformers in the 1500's, Martin Luther provided no hope for deliverance from

sin in this life. But some of Luther's contemporaries, notably Schwenkfeld and Munzer and a

group called "Confessors in the Glory of Christ," emphasized the real possibility of holiness in

this life.

In the 1600's, Jeremy Taylor attempted to explain holiness as a practical possibility for

the workaday world in his book, Holy Living and Holy Dying. The emphasis began to swing

closer to everyday living. Holiness could be for anybody who sought it, not just for those who

dedicated their lives to hiding away in monasteries, seeking all of God.

George Fox, a contemporary of Taylor, was father of the Quaker movement. Fox not

only refused to relegate holiness and piety to a monastery, but merged it with social concern and

activism, as Wesley did one hundred years later.

During this same century (the 1600's), German pietism was fathered by Philipp Spener

who proclaimed the necessity for holy living. He and his followers held small group meetings for

Bible study, reading, prayer, fasting, sharing, and mutual edification.

In the 1700's, the Moravians carried on the pietist concern for personal holiness. The

Moravians' bravery in face of apparent death, during a stormy voyage to America, shook Wesley

deeply and led him to continue the spiritual search that resulted in his conversion.

In the 1700's, John and Charles Wesley preached, wrote books, composed hymns, sang,

and debated; as did John Fletcher and Bishops Coke and Asbury, in America. The great

Methodist movement which emerged emphasized the definite practical possibility of deliverance

form willful sin and being filled with love for God and others. John Wesley's writings continue

to provide a central reference point for today's "holiness people."

During the 1800's, the doctrine and experience of holiness continued to ripple through

most Christian movements and denominations. The Keswick movement was organized in 1874

to "promote scriptural holiness." Colleges and "holiness associations" sprang up as waves of the

holiness "revival" spread further. Special "holiness camp meetings" were planned.

Denominations were organized, including the Wesleyan Methodist connection (1843) and the

Free Methodist Church (1860), and the Pilgrim Holiness Church and Church of the Nazarene

(late 1800's).

In the 1900's, the doctrine of holiness continued to spread, though not without some

distractions and abuses, Methodism seemed to downplay this experience. In some holiness

churches, "legalism" became a problem. "Special" associations or events for holiness promotion

declined. In many places, the holiness message became limited to the pulpits of the "holiness

churches," the remaining holiness camps, and the work of certain scholars. Some holiness

people gave greater attention to doctrinal purity than heart purity, resulting in a curious "creedal


In this last quarter of the 1900's, there are clear signs of a new revival in holiness

doctrine and experience. This new wave of holiness is especially apparent among the younger

generation. They, like Wesley, are vitally concerned about merging personal piety with

evangelistic and social concern. There is dramatic evidence of an increasing emphasis on

holiness in Keswick and Calvinist para-church organizations and in the "mainline"

denominations. retreats are making a strong bid to be a new "special" means of promoting the

experience of entire sanctification. Young adults, fed up with the hollowness of the lukewarm

life, are beginning to search for something more. There are signs that we are on the verge of a

widespread holiness revival.

We can say with certainity that the ideas of holiness and sanctification are not new.

They are not merely "pet doctrines" of a few denominations. Holiness is rooted soundly in the

Bible, has been sought throughout the ages of church history, and is now experiencing a revival

around the world. There are always people who will read God's Word and see His demands

clearly - to put off all sin, put on righteousness, be filled with the Holy Spirit, and experience His

complete cleansing from sinful inclinations. These honest believers simply assume that God

would not command more than He would provide for. Since He commands holiness, He will

provide the power for them to become holy. They believe God is able to make them holy in this

life. Thus, they reach out in faith to God and consecrate themselves to Jesus. Christ's response

today is the same as it has been all down through history. Those who hunger and thirst for

righteousness - He fills. Those who become seekers - will find. Those who ask - receive.


In this chapter, we observed scriptures from both the Old and New Testaments to

illustrate the frequency of references in it to holiness. In fact, it may appear that we have been

"proof-texting." However, attempting to see what the whole Bible says about one subject, is a

sound approach for the serious student of Scripture.

Bible survey, though, is not the only worthwhile approach. Another method of studying

the Bible is to work intensively on a small section, e.g. Romans 12:1-2. This is an exciting way

to study, but we may tend to bring our own prejudices to these verses. In this kind of detailed

study, we should, in fact bring to bear on that small portion of scripture, the "whole Bible

approach" mentioned above.

A third way to study an idea in the Bible is to take a large portion of scripture, say an

entire book of the Bible, and see what it says. This has some of the advantages of the "whole

Bible approach," yet the size is more manageable.

The following Bible study (and the one at the end of the next chapter) proceeds along

the lines of this third method. Let's study the book of Ephesians and see what Paul says to these

people about the Christian life and holiness.

1. What kind of people were these Ephesians?

Ephesians 1:1

Ephesians 1:13

Ephesians 1:15

Ephesians 2:1, 5

Ephesians 2:19

2. What does Paul urge these believers to "put off" in Ephesians 4:22?

3. What characteristics of the "old self" does Paul give?

Ephesians 4:25

Ephesians 4:26

Ephesians 4:28

Ephesians 4:29

Ephesians 4:31

Ephesians 5:3

Ephesians 5:4

4. What are these believers to "put on" according to Ephesians 4:24?

5. What are some characteristics of the "new self?"

Ephesians 4:2

Ephesians 5:1

Ephesians 5:2

Ephesians 5:4

6. What does Jesus Christ want to do with His church, according to Ephesians 5:25-27?

7. Paul urged the Ephesian Christians to put off the deeds of the old self, and to put on

righteousness. The goal was to make them holy and blameless. In his prayer for these believers

in Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul describes how he hopes they will actually become holy. According to

this prayer, what is Paul saying?

Ephesians 3:16. The Ephesians were already strong believers. What does Paul ask God

to do now?

Ephesians 3:16. Who is to do this strengthening?

Ephesians 3:17. What is the word in this verse that is the key to holy living?

Ephesians 3:18. What does Paul pray that they will have the power to grasp?

Ephesians 3:19. But grasping God's love is not even enough. What does Paul actually

pray that these believers will experience?

Ephesians 3:20. Then, just in case we can't even imagine being completely filled with

God's love, what does he say about God?

Ephesians 3:20. Where is the power to do this already at work?

8. Ephesians 5:17-18, Paul commands these believers not to get drunk on - under the

control of - wine. Instead, what does he direct them to do?

To Think About

a. Since all believers already have the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9), what does filled

with the Spirit mean?

b. When we say something is filled, how full is it? Does this bring any other

verses to your mind?

c. Are there possible parallels between being drunk on wine and being filled with

the Spirit?

For Review and Discussion

1. What Old Testament passages speak of holiness?

2. What is the standard of holiness in the Bible?

3. Who are some of the individuals and groups who are part of the holiness movement's

"family tree?"

4. What is the common denominator among all these groups?

5. What are the similarities among these groups and today's movement?



 From: Holiness for Ordinary People by Keith Drury
(c) 1983 Wesley Press
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 To contribute to the thinking on this issue, or to contact the writer e-mail Tuesday@indwes.edu