Ephesians 1:4, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
R.C. Sproul said, “To be a saint means to be separated. But it means more than that. The saint also is to be involved in a vital process of sanctification. We are to be purified daily in the growing pursuit of holiness. If we are justified, we must also be sanctified.”
God is holy. The holiness of God is not up for debate. All of Scripture details the incredible and magisterial holiness of God. God is completely unlike anything that’s ever existed because God created all things that have existed, are in existence, and will exist.
The angels in Isaiah declare that the Lord is holy and that the entire earth is full of his glory. In Revelation 4:8b the apostle John records the angels in a constant state of worship “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” His holiness defines him, describes him, shines through him, radiates to all of creation, strikes fear into the hearts of his enemies, and comforts those who call him “Father.”
He is holy. He is perfect. He is blameless. He is righteous. He is God, and we are not. We are not holy. We are not blameless. We are not righteous. We are not perfect. Now before you get upset with me and say,d “But James! What about the gospel? Doesn’t Jesus Christ fix our ruined and fallen state? Doesn’t Jesus impute his righteousness to us?”, yes, I do believe the gospel does all those things. In fact I believe it does far more than this, such as reconciling us to God and one-another, cleanses us of our sin, wipes clean the stain of Adam’s sin on our hearts and within our souls, and enables us to live for eternity in the presence of God. Before we flesh out the finer points of the gospel, we must understand who God is, who we are apart from salvation, and why this verse is so incredible.
Important Truths about the Gospel
On his death bed the great German Reformer, Martin Luther, uttered these final words as he drew his last breath “We are beggars. This is true.” Luther rightly understood who he was and who all humans are in relation to God and the Lord Jesus.
We are but beggars seeking a righteousness that is not ours. We are lame, sick, and sinful creatures looking for the slightest reprieve from our afflictions. We are beggars searching for answers to life’s greatest questions. We are beggars seeking table scraps that could sustain us. We are beggars with nothing to contribute to our salvation other than our own sinful selves and nature. We are beggars living in illegitimate and illegal rebellion against a holy and perfectly righteous God. We are beggars, this is true, but God in his infinite mercy and glorious grace has chosen us and set his affection upon us.
He’s chosen us out of his wondrous love. He’s chosen us for salvation. He’s chosen us for restoration. He’s chosen us for forgiveness. He’s chosen us to be redeemed. He’s chosen us by his grace. He’s chosen us for holiness. This doesn’t necessarily change the fact that we’re still beggars and sinners, but now we’re redeemed beggars and redeemed sinners. We’re saints who are begging for more of God’s love. We’re begging for more of his mercies because we now know that they are new every morning because of the grace of God. We’re begging for his wisdom because it’s surer than anything else on Planet Earth. We’re begging for more of his love because out of it flows everlasting grace, forgiveness of sins, and hope for the future. Now we beg to be more like Christ because Christ is our all in all. Now we beg for Gods will to be done and his kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven. Now we beg for holiness.
Holiness though is something we cannot attain to perfection while still here on Earth because we are still marred by our sinful nature. Our flesh is constantly at war with our spirit. We, like the Apostle Paul, want to be separated from this mortal body and be in the presence of God where sin cannot afflict us anymore. Yet, while we do remain on Earth, we are to live our lives in pursuit of holiness because God has charged us to be holy because he is holy.
We are charged to be holy to demonstrate to the rest of the world who God is. We are charged to be holy to show the redeeming grace, mercy, and love of God to those who’ve yet experienced it. We’re charged to be his priest to a pagan world. God has sovereignly decreed that we who are called Christians will be his heralds to all of creation declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In his choosing us for holiness we will display his immeasurable grace to others so that they may come to know God as Father and Jesus as Savior. While we are still prone to sin and fight against temptation to sin it is in our pursuit of holiness, our pursuit towards Christlikeness, that people will see how radically different we are compared to them.
People will see the joy in our hearts, the love in our speech, and the charity in our deeds. People will see the holiness of God shining through us. They will see his holiness in our actions and hear it in the way we communicate and relate to our fellow man. It is because we are chosen for holiness that God will use us to spread the message that his kingdom has come and it was inaugurated at the coming of his one true Son.
While it has oft been attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, there is no proof he ever said these words “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary use words.”, and while I do wholeheartedly believe in and practice verbally preaching the gospel and doing the work of an evangelist I do believe there is some merit to this phrase. As men and women chosen for holiness, we’re called to live our lives radically different from the rest of the world. We’re called to be imitators of Christ in word and deed.
The same gospel that changed our hearts and eternal destinations should also cause a change in our behavior and interactions with others in our day to day lives. We aren’t chosen to be holy only on Sundays or just at Christmas and Easter, but rather it is a 24/7 365 days a year kind of lifestyle. The holiness of God must compel us to live like Christ.
The mark of a believer is if he or she demonstrates a repentant lifestyle. Jesus said you will be recognized by the fruit you produce in your life. If you’ve been chosen for holiness and strive to live as such, then the fruits of your life will bear that out.
Therefore, my friends live a life worthy of the calling to which you’ve been called to and chosen for. Live a life in pursuit of Christ and the holiness of God. Live a life that proves you’ve been justified by the righteousness of Christ. Live your life as one who’s chosen for holiness.
James Forbis is a graduate of The University of Arkansas, a former Jr. High and High School football coach, and American history teacher. He is completing his M.DIV at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Great Commission Studies and Expository Preaching. He’s a self-proclaimed sweet tea connoisseur and Tex-Mex addict. Most Saturday’s you can find him cheering on his Arkansas Razorbacks, hiking or fishing, or reading up on his favorite subject, the Revolutionary War, or spending time with his wife.