God's Provision to Come into His Presence

Jesus – God's Perfecting High Priest

– Hebrews 6

 

The High Priestly position of Jesus is superior to any fallen human priesthood. God instituted a priesthood to prepare people to understand the High Priesthood of Jesus. A priest is a mediator. He mediates between God and man and man and God. Jesus our High Priest is superior to any earthly priesthood because Jesus was tested with suffering and remained sinless and obedient. He is also the highest High Priest because His priesthood is eternal. Because of this He is the Author of eternal salvation. We go to God the Father through Jesus the Son and God the Father speaks to us through His only Son Jesus. We can enter the holy presence of God through faith in Christ. That is God's provision to connect with us.

Hebrews 5 concludes with an indictment that those Paul was writing to should have been able to teach such truth and perpetuate it to others. But they remained spiritually immature. Hebrews 6 continues this problem and speaks of its seriousness. Life develops and grows. When life fails to develop and grow it is sick and unhealthy.

Hebrews 6 has been a source of confusion for many Christians. The contents of this chapter have been used by the enemy to shake the spiritual stability and security of believers. We need to remember that from the very start Satan has sought to undermine people's faith by bringing the trustworthiness and truth of God's word into question. The first temptation began with the words, "Has God indeed said. . . ?" (Gen. 3:1). In the wilderness temptation time of Jesus Satan quoted a portion of a verse to try and trip up Jesus (Mat. 4:5-7). Jesus was able to resist the enemies' temptation because He knew the whole verse Satan misquoted (from Psalm 91:1-2). Satan seeks to enflame doubt and confuse by taking scripture out of context. We should keep this in mind as we study Hebrews 6.

Hebrews 6 speaks falling away, losing salvation and losing hope. This is a chapter that indeed carries a warning. But we need to receive what is written from the proper perspective.

Hebrews 6 (NKJV)

6 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

"Therefore" is a grammatical connector to what has preceded this chapter. Chapters 5 and 6 are connected in particular and in general to what has been written previously in the letter of Hebrews. Context is essential to proper and accurate interpretation of scripture.

Six "elementary principles" which are foundational to the Christian faith are listed here. They are:

1.     Repentance - Repentance from sin and from the idea that salvation is something earned by works instead of received by faith.

2.     Faith toward God - This would include the "rest" mentioned earlier in Hebrews 3 and 4.

3.     Baptism - This would include water baptism as an outward sign of an inward reality. It would also include the baptism of the Holy Spirit

4.     Laying on of hands - This refers to finding your spiritual gift(s) and being empowered to serve. Leaders would lay hands on people to show unity as well as to affirm spiritual gifting.

5.     Resurrection - This would include the resurrection of Jesus as well as eschatology involving the resurrection of the saints in the Latter Days.

6.     Eternal judgment - This would include non-believers coming before God's judgment to be sentenced to eternity in hell for their sin and unbelief. It would also include believers coming before the Judgment Seat of Christ to be judged in terms of their rewards.

These six things are the basics that every Christian should understand. Knowing and having a solid understanding of these six foundational areas will assure a person is stable spiritually.

Pastor Chuck Smith in the Word for Today Bible  makes the following comment on these verses:

            In my early years of ministry, every Sunday I preached evangelistic messages of             repentance, faith in God, baptism, and the life and death nature of the gospel, even as         Paul talks about here. I never really led my congregation into maturity in their Christ walk because I was feeding them milk and not solid food.

            Then I discovered a pastor's job is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph.   4:12). This revolutionized my understanding of the ministry, and I set out to make God's   people the best-equipped and best-taught people around. We began to teach             systematically through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. As Paul said to the elders from Ephesus, "I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God" (Acts   20:27).

            There is a place for evangelism, and I thank God for many people we see saved very             week, but the primary focus of our ministry is to bring the people into maturity. The time     comes when you need to graduate from elementary school. [1]

Paul exhorts those he writes to, "let us go on to perfection." "Perfection" (Greek teleiotes) means mental and moral completeness, full growth, maturity, reaching or accomplishing the end in view. There is more to grow in once the above six areas are grasped and understood. And God in His holy word exhorts us to continue on to the fullness of life in Jesus. Of course this is a work of God in us (Phil. 2:12-13) and the Holy Spirit in particular (Romans 8; Gal. 5). This place of perfection or experience of perfection begins with the work of Christ as Savior in us (Heb. 1-2). And having been born again the Promised Land of perfection is that place of faithful rest in Jesus as discussed in Hebrews 3-4. [2]

Paul then says, " And this we will do if God permits." Spiritual growth is a work of God in the believer. We are weak  but He is strong. The Holy Spirit helps us when we are weak to carry on to perfection (e.g. Romans 8:26). With Him and in Him we are more than conquerors (e.g. Romans 8:37-39). We cooperate and submit to God, but it is He who makes us what we need to be so that we can do what He calls us to do, for His glory, until He returns. Our focus should always be on God and His empowerment and enablement.

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

 

These are the words that people frequently find troubling and confusing. Some state that these words are directed at those who "tasted" (Greek geuomai) to try, to taste but have never really consumed and digested the foundational things of God mentioned; they were never genuinely saved from their sins. However, to be enlightened, to taste the heavenly gift, be a partaker of the Holy Spirit, taste the good word of God and the powers of the age to come seems to be referring to someone who has accepted Christ as Savior.

 

Another view is that the word "if" conveys the idea of merely a theoretical possibility or hypothetical situation. In other words, if someone who has genuinely experienced the rebirth of the Holy Spirit and God's good word, and they fall away, then they would in effect re-crucify Jesus and put Him to open shame. There is some credibility to this view given Paul goes on to say, "But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner" (Hebrews 6:9). Based on these words Paul seems to be addressing something he fears could and might happen, but has yet to happen.

 

To "fall away," based on the context, would refer to those Hebrews believers in Jesus who are returning to the futile ways of salvation based on works. They aren't robbed of their salvation or relationship with God, but have chosen to walk away from it and return to their old religious ways. If they return to the old religious system and try to earn salvation it will be futile for them and impossible. Salvation is only through faith in Jesus.

 

These first two views may have an element of truth to them. In the Parable of the Sower Jesus spoke of those who rejected the seed of God's word outright. But He also spoke of those who received the seed of God's word and gospel only superficially and those who merely made the word and gospel another part of their cluttered life. These second and third soils give an initial appearance of salvation but have no real genuine life; they die. The good soil is the soil that grows and is fruitful (Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8). We can see in these second and third soils a tasting of God but not really a taking of God by faith.

 

A third possibility, one that takes into account the context of resting by faith in Jesus, is that these words are referring to those who are in danger of deciding to leave the simplicity of salvation and life in Christ. The idea here is that these words are aimed at those who would leave the truth that salvation is a gift of God to be received by faith in Jesus alone and revert to old religious ways of Judaism trying to work their way to eternal life. If they revert to such thinking then their reverted ways make it "impossible" (Greek adynatos) or unable, weak, inadequate, unable, impotent, not possible, impossible to save them. In other words it's impossible to be saved apart from the simplicity of faith in Jesus. But what we have to keep in mind is that Jesus said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:27). Jesus also said, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out" (John 6:37). And He says, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Mat. 11:28). Come rest in Jesus. Come as you are.

 

Pastor Chuck Smith in The Word for Today Bible comments:

 

            This is a difficult passage of Scripture to interpret. For Calvinists and others who believe            in eternal security, it introduces the problem of a person who is apparently saved but then             falls away. They try to bend these verses to imply that the person is not a Christian. But it             is really a stretch to say that someone who has been "enlightened, who has been a             partaker of the Holy Spirit, and who has tasted the good Word of God and the powers of            the age to come," could not be a Christian.

 

            This passage is also problematic for Arminians who believe that people can be saved   and lost as many times as they want.

 

            It is important to remember that the people being addressed here were those who were    leaving the faith to go back into Judaism and the Law. If they fell back into Judaism,             there was no other hope for salvation for them. There may also be an application to             certain people today who leave the faith and turn radically against God, doing everything       they can to lead others astray. It may be possible to sink so far that they get to a point of    no return.

 

            What this passage is certainly not teaching is that if you fall into sin, you can never             repent.             That is contrary to what the Bible teaches and would leave us all lost. [3]

 

But these words do serve as a sobering warning. Bible teacher Jon Courson conveys this warning well when he comments:

 

      You’ve walked away, sister? You’ve walked away, brother? It is impossible in your own     energy, in your own strength, by your own efforts to renew yourself again to repentance.     But guess what? Even now God is doing a miracle. He’s brought you into this      understanding. He’s made you see the stupidity of what you’ve been doing. And He has       done the impossible. He has brought you back once again. But understand that if it             weren’t for His miraculous power and matchless mercy, it would be impossible for you to return to Him.

     

      A glorious truth—yet a sobering one as well, for Scripture indicates it is possible to             wander away once too often. Like the rich young ruler, there can come a day when you      just can’t return. The job’s too demanding; the movie’s too enticing; the guy’s too             handsome. There can come a day when a person can wander away to the point where his       heart becomes hardened.

 

      You cannot lose your salvation—but you can leave it because God won’t force eternal             life on anyone. What can separate us from the love of God? Neither height nor depth nor principalities nor power nor things present nor things to come. No outside force can         separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38, 39). Only you can. And that’s the warning of this passage.[4]

 

Paul may simply be using hyperbole to make an effect or get the attention of His readers. But we can't be dogmatic about any of the views. It may not be a matter of either or but both and; there may be a element of truth in all the views. We simply need to heed the warning and stay close to the Lord. Just seek to love Jesus more and more and these words won't be a concern. No one can steal your salvation. We can neglect and it looks like, walk away from this great salvation. That would be tragic.

 

There is a principle of God found in His word that a person reaps what they sow (Gal. 6:7-9). If they sow to the Spirit they will reap a harvest of righteous things. But if they sow to their flesh and sin nature they will reap a harvest of destruction. An example of this is found in the Exodus. It states there that God foreknew that Pharaoh would harden his heart to God's command through Moses to let God's people go to worship Him (Exodus 3:19-21). Pharaoh will choose to harden his heart toward God (Exodus 5:1-2; 20-23; 7:13-14, 16-17, 22-23; and 9:16). The principle of sowing and reaping comes into play as God firms up Pharaoh's decision to harden his heart to God. Pharaoh's willful decision to disobey God is described as sin (Exodus 9:34-35; 10:16). And ultimately Pharaoh is destroyed (Exodus 14:4-5, 8, 13-18, 26-30). God foreknew this entire situation (Exodus 3:19-21). Similarly, if a person chooses to depart from the glorious salvation they are offered in Jesus, if they forsake the incredible gracious experience of entering and living in God's presence, God will allow them and will firm up their decision. If they persist and refuse to repent, this end may prove permanent and fall under the "impossible" state to repent.

 

For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

 

Perhaps Paul had the Parable of the Sower teaching of Jesus in mind when he mentioned the "thorns and briers" here. Those who understand and rely by faith fully resting in Jesus are those who "bears herbs" or who are fruitful and receive blessings from God. Those on the other hand who remain thorny and relying on their old ritual and traditional ways will, if they persist, "be burned" in judgment. The point is, God rains and makes refreshing and life available to all, it's up to people to receive the benefit of what He provides.

But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.

The dangerous return to old ways mentioned by Paul has not yet taken place. Therefore, Paul moves to encourage and affirm that he believes his readers will in the end not get caught up in the thorns and briers of self-reliance and the old ways of the Old Covenant. Paul was an encourager. Just like he encouraged the Philippians (Phil. 1:6) he encourages the Hebrews of his confidence in them. Encourage others. It's the godly thing to do.

10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

Their work was a "labor of love." Their works were an expression of loving appreciation toward God whose favor they believed by faith that they had in Christ. They were not working to gain God's favor. They were loving on God for the favor they knew they had from Him.

 

Again Courson states, " Faith without works is dead (James 2:26). It’s not faith and works. It’s not faith or works. It’s faith that works. True faith works. When you’re madly in love with someone, you do things you would never have done otherwise. True faith works because true love works." [5]

 

We may forget the good works we've done for the Lord but He won't forget. God keeps an account for each of us. Anything and everything, no matter how mundane or massive, that we have done with a pure heart for the Lord is taken into account by the Lord. Jesus said it is the things done in secret  or not done to impress people or garner credit or attention from people, but that are done purely out of love for the Lord, these are the things that earn heavenly deposits (cf. Mat. 6:1-5). God is aware of our efforts on His behalf. Even if people are uncaring and unappreciative of what we do, if we simply trust and obey and do what is right to please God, God knows and He is really the only One who we should care to know about what we do.

11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

In other words don't give up! Be diligent (Greek spoude) or eagerness, earnestness, careful attention to, haste in the things of God. Be fully assured (Greek plerophoria) or have an entirely full confidence, a most certain confidence. Be filled with hope (Greek elpis) or have faith in God for the future. Don't "become sluggish" (Greek nothros) sluggish, lazy, stupid, slothful, or dull. But be people of faith; "imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises."

13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

God's promise of blessing to Abraham and His descendants was made based on God Himself. And because Abraham "patiently endured" (Greek makrothymeo) or was long-spirited, patient, longsuffering, patiently endured, did not lose heart, persevered he received what God had promised.

 

We should not forget the context and who Paul is writing to here. He is writing to Hebrews who have accepted Jesus as their Savior Messiah. Perhaps when Jesus ascended to heaven and the years without Him passed by, the allure of the present Temple and Jewish rituals was tempting them to leave faith in Jesus for their old ways.

 

There's a lesson to be learned here. There is always a gap of time between God's promise stated and His realization of it. Why does God include a time of waiting in bestowing His promises?

 

First, God makes us wait before He fulfills His promises in order to build endurance in us. God knows what is ahead. Endurance is needed to weather the inevitable storms of life that God knows are in our future. We live in a fallen world filled with trials and suffering. If we are to finish the race we will need to endure. Waiting is Gods' way of building the character quality of endurance in us (e.g. Jer. 12:5). It is enduring the trials of life patiently that builds our faith strong (e.g. 1 Peter 1:6-9).

 

Second, God makes us wait before He fulfills His promises in order to perfect His promise. God's word speaks of Him doing exceedingly abundantly beyond what we ask or think (Eph. 3:20). But for that to happen time is required. Like a baby impatiently crying for their bottle that is being warmed, we cry and don't understand it's in our best interests for the bottled milk to be warmed. If God requires we wait, it's for a good reason. Abraham and Sarah had to wait 25 years for Isaac the son of promise to arrive (Gen. 21). Zacharias and Elizabeth were old and past child rearing years when John the Baptist was born to them (Luke 1:16). James spoke of allowing patience to have its perfect work in the believer (James 1:2-4).  God often makes us wait in order to exhaust our human resources so that what promises He fulfills will be seen as clearly from Him. God wants to do great things in our lives but it takes time for the promise to be perfected.

 

Third, God makes us wait before He fulfills His promises in order to build faith in to us. God uses time to remove second guessing, doubts, faltering and faithlessness from us. God uses time to build faith in us. Faith is the language spoken in eternity and so God uses these temporary times in life now to prepare us for eternity where we will exist by faith.

 

God is heating the bottle. Don't cry. Don't whine. Don't fuss and carry on. Just wait, God is heating up the bottle and when its ready oh boy, it will taste great!

 

Faith is what helps us bridge the gap between promise made and promise received from the Lord. Abraham waited approximately 25 years for Isaac, the son God promised, to be born. How long have you been waiting for God's promise? Are you being tempted to give in and give up? Don't give up, be long-spirited, endure, you won't regret it!

16 For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.

Humans are inherently distrustful. In their interactions they swear oaths and invoke references to things greater than themselves as proof of their word. "I swear on a stack of Bibles!" they say. God knows this and so He swears by the greatest possible Person, Himself.

17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.

The word "immutability" (Greek ametathetos) means unchangeable, unchangeability, fixed. God is determined to demonstrate that He will keep His promise. God is faithful. He stands by His word. You can count on Him. You can trust God. Just like Joshua we will see that in the end, "And you know in your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed" (Joshua 23:14). There are two proofs of God's faithfulness and that His promise will come to pass.

 

First that God cannot lie. When God says something you can depend on it. God because of His holy nature, cannot lie. The god of Islam, Allah, makes "truth" meaningless by abrogation of previous statements. This leads to a view of Allah as capricious and unreliable. The God of the Bible on the other hand is true to His word. He doesn't ever have to backtrack or correct Himself.

 

Second, His oath that He doesn't have to make but does to condescend to the needs of people. God in love is always condescending in mercy and grace toward humanity. And so here He swears by Himself to in order that "we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us."

 

19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul,

 

So you want to keep from drifting from Jesus? Then just remember God won't lie to you and you can depend on His word. God is trustworthy. If you trust in Him you will never be put to shame.

 

            In the catacombs of Rome, where Christians hid in times of persecution, one symbol can      be seen more than any other: the anchor. No matter what storms come our way, we are       anchored in the Word of God, in the promises He made. We have this sure hope that He       will do what He says. So don’t go back to temple worship, entreats the author. Don’t go        back to heathen practices, to partying, to wherever else you came from. Be anchored in         the immutable, unchangeable, sure, and steadfast Word of God.[6]

 

both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil,

 

The hope we have in Jesus is "sure" (Greek asphales) that is, secure, certain, safe, sure, firm. This hope we have in Jesus is "steadfast"(Greek bebaios) that is, steadfast, sure, reliable, dependable. And this hope gets us to where we want to be, close to God - "which enters the Presence behind the veil."

 

To the Hebrew the idea of entering into the presence of God was an enormous promise fulfilled in Christ. As we mentioned in Hebrews 5 only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies and him only once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). To think that now they themselves through faith in Christ, could enter the presence of God was an incredible blessed thought. Certainly such a thought would keep them anchored to Jesus and from drifting back to their old futile and failing works righteousness ways.

 

On the day of Jesus death the gospel account states, "Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Mat. 27:51). Prior to the atoning death of Jesus no one other than the high priest, once a year, could enter the Holy of Holies were the ark of the covenant was kept and where God made His presence known. But when Jesus died on the cross the temple veil was torn in two "from top to bottom" signifying that it was done by God and that it was now open access to God's presence through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

 

Jesus is our forerunner in that just as He busted through the veil into the presence of God, so can we! Like the captain of a football team leading his team busting first through the school banner before a game, so we, follow Jesus our Captain through the torn asunder banner and into the presence of God.

Entering and living in the presence of God is what the destination aimed at when Paul opened this chapter with the words, "let us go on to perfection." How about you? Will you follow Jesus into the throne room and presence of Almighty God? Will you grow and mature and receive this promise of God in Christ?

Jesus is our eternal High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. A Jew would question how Jesus, of the tribe of Judah, could enter behind the veil when only priests from the tribe of Levi were qualified to do so. In Hebrews 7 we will learn more about Melchizedek and how his priesthood qualifies Jesus as the greatest High Priest.

 

Perfecting Holiness?

 

2 Corinthians 7:1 - Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

 

Whenever you see the word “therefore,” in a passage you should ask, “What is it there for?” In this case “Therefore,” serves to connect 2 Corinthians chapters six and seven. 2 Corinthians 7:1 is an inspired call to holiness based on what was said in chapter six.  

 

The verse continues, “having these promises.” What promises is Paul speaking of? In chapter six Paul speaks of the promise of an intimate personal saving relationship with the LORD Almighty (6:16-18). This is a promise Paul testifies he has been willing to sacrifice greatly to communicate to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 6:1-10). It is a promise Paul has openly shared with them from his heart (cf. also 2 Cor. 5:14).  They on the other hand were being hindered in their relationship with God because of certain “affections” or gut feelings (2 Cor. 6:11-13). They were apparently allowing their relationship with the Lord to be “restricted” or cramped by relationships with unbelievers that were inappropriate (2 Cor. 6:14-16). These relationships were leading them into “lawlessness,” “darkness,” idolatry and worthless things, things more closely associated with Satan than Christ. Christian relationships with unbelievers are necessary for God to work His salvation in them. But such relationships should never hinder our walk with God. We are to be in the world but not of the world. The problem for some is that they are so in the world that they become like the world. We should never allow affections for the world to hinder our love for God (e.g. 1 John 2:15-17). It is this context that Paul calls the Corinthians to cleansing from worldly “filthiness” and to living a holy life.

 

Paul addresses the readers as, “beloved.” Paul wants the Corinthians to receive the call of God to holiness in the context of His love. That is why chapter five precedes chapter six and seven in context. God loves us. We are His “beloved.” And because He loves us He calls us to live a holy life. God does not direct us to and call us to a holy life because He wants to restrict us or keep something good from us. God calls us to a holy life because He loves us and knows a holy life is what is best for us.

 

In this key verse we are exhorted to, “let us cleanse ourselves . . .” The word “cleanse” is translated from the Greek verb katharidzo and means, “to cleanse; make clean, purge, purify.”[7] We get the English word catheterization from this term. A catheter is a medical device used to purge the body of waste and impurities when the body is unable to do so itself. This verb is in the Greek subjunctive tense which expresses a possibility. Cleansing from sinful impurities is possible if we turn to God and ask Him to do it. For instance in Hebrews 9:14 it states the blood of Jesus is able to cleanse or purge our consciences from dead works associated with sin. There are actions needed to be taken by us in order for cleansing to occur. But the actions we take are always based on the power God gives us (e.g. Acts 15:8-9; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Philippians 2:13; James 4:8). We need to keep that in mind otherwise the holy life becomes a disciplinary pursuit instead of an experience of God’s grace and work in us.

 

What are we to seek cleansing from? It states, “from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit . . .” “Filthiness” refers to “a stain.” It is figuratively used to refer to immorality.  Like a mud stain sin can stain our souls. The “flesh” can refer simply to our physical bodies. It can also refer to the sinful nature in people. Even after we become Christians we continue to have a sinful nature. This sinful nature is characterized by self-centeredness, selfishness, self promotion and everything that exalts self as a priority in life. The way of the world is centered on self. There is nothing wrong with caring for things pertaining to self.  Being unkempt, poor and out of shape doesn’t make us more spiritual. The problem arises when self becomes the center and priority in our lives. The throne of our hearts was meant for Jesus to reign as Lord, not self-rule. Our flesh is at war with God over who will be in control us (Romans 7 and 8). Your “spirit” refers to that part of your being which is eternal. Your spirit is that part of you that has the life breath of existence. Your spirit is the core of your being. Now ask yourself, “What do I allow to stain me to the core? What do I allow to enter my being through what I watch with my eyes, or listen to with my ears?” Living a holy life takes into account those things that might stain my being and avoids them. There are a lot of perverse selfish things in this world and when we entertain them they sinfully stain us deeply. But those stains can be cleansed from our system. How might this happen?

 

The answer is, “perfecting holiness.” The word “perfecting” comes from a Greek Present Tense verb epiteleo which conveys an ongoing process. It’s going to take a lifetime to complete the holy work God has planned for us. The Greek verb epiteleo means, “to fulfill further or completely.” It means to execute a task. It means to finish something. It means to work until something is terminated. And it means performing until the end. [8]  In other words, we are to press on and persevere in the process set before us. And what is that endeavor we are to press on to complete? We are to press on to the end of holiness.

 

There is a sense in which God’s righteousness and holiness is imputed to a believer (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is the standing of all believers (John 1:12-13; Romans 8:1). This is why all believers are referred to as “saints” or literally, holy ones (2 Corinthians 1:1). But there is a sense in which holiness is imparted in a very practical way to believers. This is the state of believers (1 John 2:1-2; Hebrews 10:14). There is a process of sanctification or making one holy in life and conduct that God starts and continues in the person who is saved from their sin and born again spiritually. It is this later work of God in the believer that Paul is speaking about in these chapters. 

 

The word “holiness” comes from the Greek term hagiosune which means, “sacredness.” It refers to the property or quality of holiness.[9] Something that is sacred is “dedicated or set apart for the service or worship . . . .” That which is sacred is “devoted exclusively to one service or use.” [10] The road to God’s comfort involves the process of becoming completely set apart for His use, completely dedicated to presenting your life as an act of worship to Him. The way we can cleanse the filthiness of sin from our hearts and minds to experience all God has for us is by this process of “perfecting holiness.”

 

What is holiness? Holiness is loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-31). Holiness in a person’s life is important. God calls all those who follow Him to live a holy life (1 Peter 1:15-16). It is God’s will that we live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). Without holiness we will not see the Lord; we won’t experience Him the way we should (Hebrews 12:14-15). Holiness involves a choice on our part to present ourselves to God for holy purposes (Romans 6:19a). Holiness is God’s work in us and involves being freed from sin (Romans 6:20-22; 8:26; Philippians 2:13). The Bible says God disciplines us so that we can partake of His holiness (Hebrews 10:14). Biblical holiness is something to be learned (Ephesians 4:20-21a). God uses His word for the cleansing work involved in the holy life (Eph. 5:26). It is based on the truth of Jesus (Ephesians 4:21b). It involves putting off sinful conduct from your life, being renewed in the Spirit and putting on holy Biblical conduct in the power of God (Ephesians 4:22-24). Biblical holiness is God’s love overflowing us and was an object of prayer by Paul on behalf of other believers (Romans 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13). How about you? Are you even interested in living a holy life? God calls every believer to holiness. Will you commit your life to God for this purpose, now?

 

Lastly, there is a holy perspective we are to have in this ongoing process of the holy life. That perspective is “in the fear of God.” The fear of God refers to a reverential awe toward God. The closer we draw to God the more clearly we will see our sin (e.g. Isaiah 6). The closer we draw to God, to Jesus, the more able to turn from sin we will be (John 15). We are to have a consciousness of God and who He is. God is holy and calls those who follow Him to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). He holds our eternal destinies in His hand. We are to work out our pursuit of holiness in reverence and awe of our Holy God (Philippians 2:12).

 

But there is another way of looking at the fear of the Lord. Let me illustrate. I love my wife very much. And because I love my wife so much, I would never intentionally do anything that would bring her sadness or pain. In fact, I am so in love with my wife and so serious about not doing anything that would bring her sorrow or pain that I fear doing so. In other words, I love my wife so much that I fear doing anything that would grieve her. In the same way we should love God so much that we fear doing anything that would bring Him pain over our actions. In this sense the fear of the Lord is closely connected to that holy love relationship with Him.

 

This is my prayer for myself and all of us - that in light of God’s glorious promises we determine to avail ourselves of God’s provisions to cleanse ourselves from the filth of this world and our fleshly ways. I pray we proceed in the Spirit to perfect holiness as a love gift to our awesome God. May God bring it to pass in us for His glory!

 

 

 



[1] Chuck Smith, Word for Today Bible, (Costa Mesa, CA: Word for Today Pub., 2012) p. 1585.

[2] See Perfecting Holiness? at the end of this study.

[3] Ibid. Chuck Smith, p 1585

[4] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (pp. 1470–1471). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1471). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1472). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[7]Strong, J. (1997, c1996). The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) (G2511). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[8]Strong, J. (1997, c1996). The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) (G2005). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[9]Strong, J. (1997, c1996). The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) (G42). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[10]Merriam-Webster, I. (1996, c1993). Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary. Includes index. (10th ed.). Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.: Merriam-Webster.