'To those that are made holy
in Christ Jesus, called to be holy
.' -- 1 Cor. i.2.
'To all the holy ones in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi. Salute every holy one in Christ Jesus.' -- Phil. i.1, iv.21.
HOLY! IN CHRIST! In these two expressions we have perhaps the most wonderful words of all the Bible.
HOLY! the word of unfathomable meaning, which the Seraphs utter with veiled faces. HOLY! the word in which all God's perfections centre, and of which His glory is but the streaming forth. HOLY! the word which reveals the purpose with which God from eternity thought of man, and tells what man's highest glory in the coming eternity is to be; to be partaker of His Holiness!
IN CHRIST! the word in which all the wisdom and love of God are unveiled! The Father giving His Son to be one with us! the Son dying on the cross to make us one with Himself! the Holy Spirit of the Father dwelling in us to establish and maintain that union! IN CHRIST! what a summary of what redemption has done, and of the inconceivably blessed life in which the child of God is permitted to dwell. IN CHRIST! the one lesson we have to study on earth. God's one answer to all our needs and prayers. IN CHRIST! the guarantee and the foretaste of eternal glory.
What wealth of meaning and blessing in the two words combined: HOLY IN CHRIST! Here is God's provision for our holiness, God's response to our question, How to be holy? Often and often as we hear the call, Be ye holy, even as I am holy, it is as if there is and ever must be a great gulf between the holiness of God and man. IN CHRIST! is the bridge that crosses the gulf; nay rather, His fulness has filled it up. IN CHRIST! God and man meet; IN CHRIST! the Holiness of God has found us, and made us its own; has become human, and can indeed become our very own. To the anxious cries and the heart-yearnings of thousands of thirsty souls who have believed in Jesus and yet know not how to be holy, here is God's answer: YE ARE HOLY IN CHRIST JESUS. Would they but hearken, and believe; would they but take these Divine words, and say them over, if need be, a thousand times, how God's light would shine, and fill their hearts with joy and love as they echo them back: Yes, now I see it. Holy in Christ! Made holy in Christ Jesus!
As we set ourselves to study these wondrous words, let us remember that it is only God Himself who can reveal to us what Holiness truly is. Let us fear our own thoughts, and crucify our own wisdom. Let us give up ourselves to receive, in the power of the life of God Himself, working in us by the Holy Spirit, that which is deeper and truer than human thought, Christ Himself as our Holiness. In this dependence upon the teaching of the Spirit of Holiness, let us seek simply to accept what Holy Scripture sets before us; as the revelation of the Holy One of old was a very slow and gradual one, so let us be content patiently to follow step by step the path of the shining light through the Word; it will shine more and more unto the perfect day.
We shall first have to study the word Holy in the Old Testament. In Israel as the holy people, the type of us who now are holy in Christ, we shall see with what fulness of symbol God sought to work into the very constitution of the people some apprehension of what He would have them be. In the law we shall see how HOLY is the great keyword of the redemption which it was meant to serve and prepare for. In the prophets we shall hear how the Holiness of God is revealed as the source whence the coming redemption should spring: it is not so much Holiness as the Holy One they speak of, who would, in redeeming love and saving righteousness, make Himself known as the God of His people.
And when the meaning of the word has been somewhat opened up, and the deep need of the blessing made manifest in the Old Testament, we shall come to the New to find how that need was fulfilled. In Christ, the Holy One of God, Divine Holiness will be found in human life and human nature; a truly human will being made perfect and growing up through obedience into complete union with all the Holy Will of God. In the sacrifice of Himself on the cross, that holy nature gave itself up to the death, that, like the seed-corn, it might through death live again and reproduce itself in us. In the gift from the throne of the Spirit of God's Holiness, representing and revealing and communicating the unseen Christ, the holy life of Christ descends and takes possession of His people, and they become one with Him. As the Old Testament had no higher word than that HOLY, the New has none deeper than this, IN CHRIST. The being in Him, the abiding in Him, the being rooted in Him, the growing up in Him and into Him in all things, are the Divine expressions in which the wonderful and complete oneness between us and our Saviour are brought as near us as human language can do.
And when Old and New Testament have each given their message, the one in teaching us what Holy, the other what in Christ means, we have in the word of God, that unites the two, the most complete summary of the Great Redemption that God's love has provided. The everlasting certainty, the wonderful sufficiency, the infinite efficacy of the Holiness that God has prepared for us in His Son, are all revealed in this blessed, HOLY IN CHRIST.
'The Holy Ones in Christ Jesus!' Such is the name, beloved fellow-believers, which we bear in Holy Scripture, in the language of the Holy Spirit. It is no mere statement of doctrine, that we are holy in Christ: it is no deep theological discussion to which we are invited; but out of the depths of God's loving heart, there comes a voice thus addressing His beloved children. It is the name by which the Father calls His children. That name tells us of God's provision for our being holy. It is the revelation of what God has given us, and what we already are; of what God waits to work in us, and what can be ours in personal practical possession. That name, gratefully accepted, joyfully confessed, trustfully pleaded, will be the pledge and the power of our attainment of the Holiness to which we have been called.
And so we shall find that as we go along, all our study and all God's teaching will be comprised in three great lessons. The first a revelation, 'I am holy;' the second a command, 'Be ye holy;' the third a gift, the link between the two, 'Ye are holy in Christ.'
First comes the revelation, 'I am holy.' Our study must be on bended knee, in the spirit of worship and deep humility. God must reveal Himself to us, if we are to know what Holy is. The deep unholiness of our nature and all that is of nature must be shown us; with Moses and Isaiah, when the Holy One revealed Himself to them, we must fear and tremble, and confess how utterly unfit we are for the revelation or the fellowship, without the cleansing of fire. In the consciousness of the utter impotence of our own wisdom or understanding to know God, our souls must in contrition, brokenness from ourselves and our power or efforts, yield to God's Spirit, the Spirit of Holiness, to reveal God as the Holy One. And as we begin to know Him in His infinite righteousness, in His fiery burning zeal against all that is sin, and His infinite self-sacrificing love to free the sinner from his sin, and to bring him to His own perfection, we shall learn to wonder at and worship this glorious God, to feel and deplore our terrible unlikeness to Him, to long and cry for some share in the Divine beauty and blessedness of this Holiness.
And then will come with new meaning the command, 'Be holy, as I am holy.' Oh, my brethren! ye who profess to obey the commands of your God, do give this all-surpassing and all-including command that first place in your heart and life which it claims. Do be holy with the likeness of God's Holiness. Do be holy as He is holy. And if you find that the more you meditate and study, the less you can grasp this infinite holiness; that the more you at moments grasp of it, the more you despair of a holiness so Divine; remember that such breaking down and such despair is just what the command was meant to work. Learn to cease from your own wisdom as well as your own goodness; draw near in poverty of spirit to let the Holy One show you how utterly above human knowledge or human power is the holiness He demands; to the soul that ceases from self, and has no confidence in the flesh, He will show and give the holiness He calls us to.
It is to such that the great gift of Holiness in Christ becomes intelligible and acceptable. Christ brings the Holiness of God nigh by showing it in human conduct and intercourse. He brings it nigh by removing the barrier between it and us, between God and us. He brings it nigh, because He makes us one with Himself. 'Holy in Christ:' our holiness is a Divine bestowment, held for us, communicated to us, working mightily in us because we are in Him. 'In Christ!' oh, that wonderful in! our very life rooted in the life of Christ. That holy Son and Servant of the Father, beautiful in His life of love and obedience on earth, sanctifying Himself for us -- that life of Christ, the ground in which I am planted and rooted, the soil from which I draw as my nourishment its every quality and its very nature. How that word sheds its light both on the revelation, 'I am holy,' and on the command, 'Be ye holy, as I am,' and binds them in one! In Christ I see what God's Holiness is, and what my holiness is. In Him both are one, and both are mine. In Him I am holy; abiding and growing up in Him, I can be holy in all manner of living, as God is holy.
BE YE HOLY, AS I AM HOLY.
O Most Holy God! we do beseech Thee, reveal Thou to Thy children what it meaneth that Thou hast not only called them to holiness, but even called them by this name, 'the holy ones in Christ Jesus.' Oh that every child of Thine might know that He bears this name, might know what it means, and what power there is in it to make Him what it calls him. Holy Lord God! oh that the time of Thy visitation might speedily come, and each child of Thine on earth be known as a holy one!
To this end we pray Thee to reveal to Thy saints what Thy Holiness is. Teach us to worship and to wait until Thou hast spoken unto our souls with Divine Power Thy word, 'I am holy.' Oh that it may search out and convict us of our unholiness!
And reveal to us, we pray Thee, that as holy as Thou art, even a consuming fire, so holy is Thy command in its determined and uncompromising purpose to have us holy. O God! let Thy voice sound through the depth of our being, with a power from which there is no escape: Be holy, be holy.
And let us thus, between Thine infinite Holiness on the one hand and our unholiness on the other, be driven and be drawn to accept of Christ as our sanctification, to abide in Him as our life and our power to be what Thou wouldst have us -- 'Holy in Christ Jesus.'
O Father! let Thy Spirit make this precious word life and truth within us. Amen.
1. You are entering anew on the study of a Divine mystery. 'Trust not to your own understanding;' wait for the teaching of the Spirit of truth.
2. In Christ. A commentator says, 'The phrase denotes two moral facts -- first, the act of faith whereby a man lays hold of Christ; second, the community of life with Him contracted by means of this faith.' There is still another fact, the greatest of all: that it is by an act of Divine power that I am in Christ and am kept in Him. It is this I want to realize: the Divineness of my position in Jesus.
3. Grasp the two sides of the truth. You are holy in Christ with a Divine holiness. In the faith of that, you are to be holy, to become holy with a human holiness, the Divine Holiness manifest in all the conduct of a human life.
4. This Christ is a Living Person, a Loving Saviour: how He will delight to get complete possession, and do all the work in you! Keep hold of this all along as we go on: you have a claim on Christ, on His Love and Power, to make you holy. As His redeemed one, you are at this moment, whatever and wherever you be, in Him. His Holy Presence and Love are around you. You are in Him, in the enclosure of that tender love, which ever encircles you with His Holy Presence. In that Presence, accepted and realized, is your holiness.
There is one disadvantage in English in our having synonyms of which some are derived from Saxon and others from Latin. Ordinary readers are apt to forget that in our translation of the Bible we may use two different words for what in the original is expressed by one term. This is the case with the words holy, holiness, keep holy, hallow, saint, sanctify, and sanctification. When God or Christ is called the Holy One, the word in Hebrew and Greek is exactly the same that is used when the believer is called a saint: he too is a holy one. So the three words hallow, keep holy, sanctify, all represent but one term in the original, of which the real meaning is to make holy, as it is in Dutch, heiliging (holying), and heiligmaking (holy-making).