Arminian Today

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Striving for Holiness While Falling Short

We tend to not embrace the center of biblical tension.  We tend to go to extremes on various issues.  This is especially true of holiness.  On the one side are those who either teach the antinomian view that says that we can live in sin and it not affect us to the other side where we teach that a believer can obtain sinless perfection in this life.  We fail to find the center of biblical tension.

The truth of the gospel opens our eyes to our sins.  1 Timothy 1:8-11 is clear that the law of God exposes our sins and shows us that we are guilty before God (Romans 7:7).  The law, however, does not save.  The law merely shows us our guilt before a holy and just God whose law we have violated (1 John 3:4).  As David expressed in Psalm 51:4, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”  Sin is against God and it is His laws that we have broken (James 2:10).  Paul tells us in Galatians 2:21 that if the law could produce the absolute righteousness that God requires, Christ died needlessly.  However, the gospel is the truth that Christ died for our sins (Galatians 1:4) and it is through faith in Jesus that our sins are forgiven and washed away (Ephesians 1:7) so that we are declared righteous before God through faith in Christ (Romans 3:22-27; 10:4; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 2:16; 3:14; 1 Peter 3:18).

The gospel consistently reminds us of God’s grace toward us sinners (Romans 5:8-9).  The gospel reminds me that I can’t save myself, cannot earn God’s salvation, am not saved by my good deeds (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7) and the gospel reminds me that apart from Christ, I have no hope (John 15:1-11; 1 Peter 1:18-19).  The gospel reminds me that my standing before God is based on Christ alone and not my works nor am I kept in the faith by my works but by faith in Christ alone (2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Peter 1:5).  The gospel is faithful to show me that my salvation is all of God’s grace (Acts 15:11) and not my works.

The gospel then is my focus for holiness.  Because of my salvation in Christ and because I have the Holy Spirit abiding within, I can live a life of holiness.  Holiness is not obtained by law.  Holiness is not obtained by human efforts.  Holiness comes from the gospel being applied to my life.  As I walk with Christ and abide in Him by faith, the Spirit of God helps me to be holy and He helps me to apply the gospel to all of my life.  God does not want me to be holy only when it come to being around other disciples but He wants me to be holy in all my conduct (1 Peter 1:15-16).  This cannot be produced by my power.  It is not in me to be holy (Romans 3:10-18; cf. Proverbs 20:9).  Jeremiah 17:9 says that our hearts are wicked and sick.  Our only hope for holiness is Jesus Christ and His saving work being applied to the entirety of my life.  It is out of the gospel that I can be holy (Colossians 3:1-4).  It is out of my understanding that just as I cannot be saved apart from Christ, so I cannot be holy apart from Christ.  Christ is my salvation and He is also my holiness (Hebrews 10:10, 14).

Now here is where we tend to go astray.  We read all that truth about the gospel and how God has made us righteous in Christ but then we tend to avoid the obligation to be holy.  We know that we are positionally holy because of Christ but we fail to see that God also calls us to be practically holy.  1 John 3:4-10 is clear that we are righteous if we practice righteousness.  This righteous living flows from the gospel.  Righteousness flows in my life from the Holy Spirit who is working to help me to be more like Jesus.  The balance of grace is that I am to strive for holiness (Hebrews 12:14) while also trusting in the gospel alone to produce holiness in my life.  This passionate pursuit of holiness never ends.  It is the cry of the disciple of Christ their entire days to be holy as He is holy (Ephesians 5:1-2).

I pray that you and I would not fall into the performance trap and think that our salvation comes through faith in Christ but our standing before God is based on our performance.  None of us would have much standing before a perfect and holy God.  Yet the other equal truth is that we are called to be holy.  Sin is not to have dominion over us because we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14).  The gospel not only forgives us of our sins through Christ but the gospel also helps us to slay sin in our lives (Colossians 3:5).  All of our lives in Christ flows from the grace of God given to us in His Son (Titus 2:11-12 NIV).

May we be holy as Jesus is holy through the power of the gospel that is at work in our lives.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/04/2013 at 9:45 PM

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  1. Good article with a catchy title that captures its message.

    Bob Hunter

    08/05/2013 at 1:36 AM


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