Hebrews 12:14, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
Yesterday, we examined Hebrews 12:12–13 and looked briefly at the call for us to keep on the straight path so that we might run the race of faith. This injunction is given so that the elect may not grow weary and so that they will hear the voice of God to stay in the race. Yet, by God’s Spirit, all of the elect will most certainly hear these commands and pursue the prize of Christ with all of their might.
Before we look at some of the ways we can strengthen ourselves for the race ahead, we will once again remind ourselves that ultimately it is God who sustains and strengthens us and not we ourselves. The Spirit imparts spiritual gifts to us so that we will mature (1 Cor. 12:1–11). It is Christ who enables us to do all things (Phil. 4:13).
Nevertheless, once we have been granted gifts by the grace of God for our strength, we are responsible to live in gratitude for these gifts with a changed life. We are responsible to exercise these gifts and follow His commands. When we do these things, we take the gifts that Christ has given us and further strengthen ourselves. If we do not obey, we will not be empowered to run to the fullest.
In today’s passage, the author of Hebrews begins to tell us some of the ways we can prepare ourselves to finish the race. In 12:14, we are told to “strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” This is such an important exhortation because the church is often tempted to pursue peace at the expense of holiness. In our own day, many denominations call for peace but not for holiness. They look askance on anyone who breaks fellowship over sin, insisting that unity is more important than truth.
However, we can see from verse 14 that this is not the right way. We are to pursue peace and holiness. If we get along but tolerate sin, then peace does not benefit us at all. Things might be quiet, but festering sin will cause us to stumble in the race. Indeed, as John Owen says, “peace with other people is not to be carried out at any price.”
However, we must avoid the other extreme of pursuing unbiblical standards of “holiness” that create a morass of strife and legalism. For if we impose rules not based upon Scripture, or if we split churches over peripheral matters, we will be so focused on arguing with one another that we will not run the race with vigor.
Are you doing things that might disrupt the peace or holiness of the church? Go to the Lord in prayer, and ask whether you might be exhibiting divisiveness or whether you are unconcerned with the church’s purity. Whatever the case, take steps to further the peace and purity of your church.