In Scripture, God reminds His people, “Be holy, because I am holy” (Lev. 11:44-45; Lev. 19:2; 1 Ptr. 1:16, NIV). For those who desire to obey this command to “be holy,” it is helpful to discover how God is holy.
There are many ways that Scripture describes the holiness of God. God is the very essence of “good,” the measurement of what is right and just. God is also loving and compassionate. However, one key aspect of God’s holiness, according to John Wesley, is the “social” aspect of God’s holiness. Wesley once declared, “The gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness.” For Wesley, this meant primarily that holy people are not holy on their own.
Holiness is God’s gift that allows us to share the ways of God with the whole world.
This kind of “lived out loud” holiness bears witness to God’s loving ways, allowing the Holy Spirit to draw people to the kingdom of God. Wesley reminds us that we are not to be holy in an isolated or solitary fashion. Instead, we are called to be holy by a God who creates community, works through community, and desires that His unique (holy, set apart) community bears witness to Him through loving words and deeds.
The apostle John reminds us of this “social holiness” to which we are called when he writes, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18, NIV) or, as the New Living Translation puts it, “Dear children, let’s not merely say we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”
That is what Wesley called “social holiness.” Purity of the heart is just the beginning of holiness. The transforming love of God remakes us inwardly, so we may bear witness outwardly to God’s redemptive work through our words and actions. Jesus modelled this outward witness through His earthly ministry. All of this is holiness—the kind of holiness to which we are called as Christians.
Entire sanctification is not a private exercise of Christian piety. It is a full surrender of our lives to God who is constantly seeking ways to bear witness of His love to the world, especially to those in greatest need. The result of such a relationship for us individually is the ability to experience true fellowship with the Living God, now and forever.
This week, how can the holiness that we declare as a cornerstone of our faith be lived out to bear witness to those in need?
Prayer for the week:
Gracious and holy God, may Your Spirit clothe us with the ways of Jesus, allowing us to surrender our own ways, so Your holiness can shine through us. We know that true holiness results in love for others, partnership with Your people, and works of love toward those in need. May this be our witness to Your holiness. In the name of our loving and humble savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Charles W. Christian is managing editor of Holiness Today.
Written for Coffee Break with Holiness Today.