Your response to the question “Who desires a church that is holy?” could depend on your church background or on your level of doctrinal understanding or even on your desired lifestyle. I’ve heard responses on opposite ends of the spectrum. Some shy away from even talking about holiness while others emphasize it so much they make Christianity sound like a works-oriented religion which it is not.
What does God desire in regard to holiness?
Despite the feeling it generates within us, we cannot dismiss holiness when we read passages like Ephesians 5:25-27 — “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
While Jesus does want His Church to be holy, we must understand some key truths from the above verses about being holy that will help us not go to the other end of the spectrum.
1) God’s means for becoming holy was made possible by Jesus. Ephesians 5:25-26 makes it clear that Jesus “gave himself up for her (the Church) to make her holy.” We cannot attain to the level of holiness a holy God requires. Jesus died so we can be made holy in God’s sight. Only because of His grace can we stand holy before Him. That same grace is what enables us to live holy lives. — “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14)
2) God’s motivation behind Jesus providing the means for us to be holy is love. He was not driven by a quest to dominate us with a bunch of rules and regulations. Rather, love compelled Him to desire what is for our good. — “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11)
Since being a holy church is such a high priority with Jesus, we must seek to understand God’s heart in this matter. We must pull on His power to live in such a way that we reflect His holy character. — “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Pet. 1:3-4)
2 Peter 1:3-4 contains some key phrases that help us understand God’s method for our sanctification (process of making us holy) — “through our knowledge of Him” and “His very great and precious promises” — which will be the topic for the next post.
Also Read: God’s Heart for the Church