Introduction: The Importance of Philosophy | Part I: New Testament Passages
Excursus: Romans 1:5

The past few posts have been examining ministry as presented in the Bible. The first aspect of ministry noted was the importance of teaching, not just what should be taught but why it should be taught (see Deuteronomy 6:4-7; 2 Timothy 2:2). The second characteristic examined noted the focus on missionary work in ministry (see Acts and Romans). Now, I realize what follows in this and the next essay will step on many toes, but I believe the Bible is very clear on this topic and I heartily encourage discussion on the issue.

When discussing a proper God-centered philosophy for our respective ministries a highly important aspect is that of holiness. God’s absolute holiness sets Himself apart from all of creation and therefore requires his chosen to also be holy: “For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy” (Lev 11:44a). The thrust of this phrase enforces the entirety of the law. The surrounding context of this verse shows God is reminding Israel that it is He who brought them out of Egypt; hence, Israel is to follow the example set forth by their Sovereign. This imperative is a necessity to achieve the moral holiness God requires; for Israel was called to be separated from all other nations of the world to serve as an example for other nations to follow. Robert V. McCabe points out apart from a few faithful individuals, Israel ultimately rejected this command; it is their disobedience to separation which eventually hindered the holiness that God desired for them.

Furthermore, the Apostle Peter emphasizes the importance of this command; for he writes: “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, also you be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet 1:14-16). Peter solely focuses on the truth that holiness facilitates a change from one’s former way of life. Karen H. Jobes points out the contrasts between the former self and the new present self of a believer in vv. 14-19. She notes that Peter is not only focusing on the religious aspects of a believer’s life but more specifically that there is a call to live differently than before; it is a transformation that coincides with the believer’s new identity in Christ. Along the same lines Lewis Sperry Chafer contends that “separation is going from something unto something, consequently in doctrine it means going from evil unto Christ.”

Therefore, the church is called—as was Israel—to the holiness of the one who has chosen them. Furthermore, God’s holiness requires praise: “Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holy name” (Ps 30:4). Believers are to praise God’s holiness because everything, whether it be His wrath or His mercy, flows from the fact that God is holy. Consequently, singing, praising and otherwise acknowledging God’s holiness is the ultimate form of worship.

So, what does this all mean to us? The apostle John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17). Believers are called to be separate from the world; John takes the fundamental truth of God’s holiness and presents it as a warning to those under his care: worldly attitudes and values which are opposed to God have no place in the life of a believer. Christians are called to be separatists, for God’s holiness cannot be violated. Remember, Israel was called to be separate from the world and it was their inability to follow that command which led to multiple captivities under foreign nations; yet, when they followed that command and remained pure they flourished. The same is true under grace, when Christians fail to remain distinct from the influences of the world God is not glorified and his testimony is ineffective. This is why holiness matters, it projects the glory of God.

-Next, the practice of holiness-

[1] McCabe, “Old Testament Foundation For Separation,” DBSJ 7 (Fall 2002), p. 22.

[2] Jobes, 1 Peter, BECNT [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005], pp. 112-113.

[3] Chafer, Systematic Theology, 7:287.

[4] Keil and Delitzsch contend all of redemption history sets the stage to show God’s holiness (Commentary on the Old Testament, 5:240-241). Robert V. McCabe takes this notion further holding that due to God’s own holiness, Israel was to be separated from all the other peoples of the earth; they were to be His “holy people” (“Old Testament Foundation For Separation,” DBSJ, 7 [Fall 2002], p. 12). As McCabe notes, apart from a few faithful individuals, Israel ultimately rejected this command; it is their disobedience to separation which eventually hindered the holiness that God desired for them (p. 22).