This is an excerpt from Randal’s upcoming book, tentatively entitled “Total Transformation.”
In God’s eyes, holiness is the goal. Without it, we are nothing and can go nowhere, spiritually. “Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, for without it no one will see the Lord” Heb 12.14. Holiness is the basic condition for seeing the Lord. It arises out of Christ’s sacrifice for us, so it is not strange to read this statement in the book of Hebrews. The Lord makes the effort effective. But without the effort there is no change and no chance of a future with him.
“Seeing the Lord” is an expression that means to participate in his eternal life, a “gift of the end-time” (Thompson 1971, 168). The author of Hebrews may be echoing Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” Mt 5.8. This future vision “metaphorically refers in this case to being admitted into intimate and blessed fellowship with God in His future kingdom” (Taylor 1967, 163).
Holiness means to be like God. The great message of Leviticus, carried forward to the New Testament, is, “I am the Lord your God and you are to sanctify yourselves and be holy because I am holy” Lev 11.44. Peter quotes it,
Like obedient children, do not comply with the evil urges you used to follow in your ignorance, but, like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct, for it is written, “You shall be holy, because I am holy” 1 Pet 1.14-16.
In the same way, Peter associates God’s virtue with man’s, in his second letter. After mentioning the Lord’s “glory and virtue” 2Pet 1.3, virtue is the first characteristic mentioned that Christians should add to their faith, 2Pet 1.5. By this connection Peter indicates that our virtue is a reflection and imitation of God’s and of Christ’s.
Virtue is moral excellence or moral courage. It is being what one should be. In God’s case, it is his glory, majesty and sovereign activity (Donaldson 1988, 993). In man’s case, he should be in the likeness of Christ (Green 1983, 64).
Pursuing holiness is the way to fellowship with God. Anything which interferes with this goal must be discarded.
R. Kent Hughes’s comments about lust in King David’s life can be extended generally to sin in the life of the follower of Christ.
When we are in the grip of lust, the reality of God fades. The longer King David leered [at Bathsheba], the less real God became to him. Not only was his awareness of God diminished, but David lost awareness of who he himself was—his holy call, his frailty, and the certain consequences of sin. This is what lust does! It has done it millions of times. God disappears to lust-glazed eyes (Hughes 2001, 25).
If we want to see God, the passions of this life must be abandoned.
Donaldson, T. L. (1988) “Virtue,” in Geoffrey W. Bromiley, gen. ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 4, p. 993. Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans.
Green, Michael (1983) II Pedro e Judas: introdução e comentário. Cultura Bíblica. São Paulo: Mundo Cristão e Vida Nova.
Hughes, R. Kent (2001) Disciplines of a Godly Man. Rev. ed. Wheaton IL: Crossway.
Taylor, Richard S. (1967) “The Epistle to the Hebrews,” in Ralph Earle, ed., Beacon Bible Commentary, vol. 10, pp. 17-183. Kansas City MO: Beacon Hill Press.
Thompson, James (1971) Letter to the Hebrews. Living Word Commentary. Austin TX: R. B. Sweet.