Holiness is defined as the state or quality of being holy; sanctity. About holiness, Jesus said, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Holiness or sanctification is a lifetime work, something not accomplished by any one act or at any point of time in this life (2 Peter 3:18). The Bible teaches that there are two stages in the Christian’s life to attain holiness:
The first stage of holiness is justification. It is the cleansing and putting on of the new man (Ephesians 4:24). Justification is the doorway to holiness and it includes God’s forgiveness of all past sins, reconciliation, and new birth. A man must confess his sins (1 John 1:9) and be forgiven before he can do what is right by God’s power. This is an instant experience that a person obtains once he accepts the sacrificial death of Jesus on his behalf. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
In justification, the primary requirement of the believer is faith. “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). And God alone can bring about, with man’s permission, repentance, and acceptance. This experience takes place at the very beginning of the Christian life, and must be repeated in case of backsliding.
The second stage of holiness is the continued development and growth of the new man in the process towards perfection. This is a lifelong experience where God and man cooperate together (Philippians 3:12–14). The moment a man becomes a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and spiritual life is given him (Romans 6:4), he must cooperate with God. The believer is to submit his will to the Lord by using the divine resources of grace and power.
Thus, the holiness that the Bible speaks of is gained through daily relationship with God through communion with Him and a study of His Word (John 17:17; 1 Peter 1:22), and by the mediation of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). In this manner, the believer is linked with the Holy spirit (1 Corinthians1:8; Colossians 1:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).
The High Standard of Holiness
Cooperation with God in the work of sanctification needs acceptance of God’s high standard of holiness. The original high standard is the character of God (Exodus 15:11; Isaiah 6:3; 1 Peter 1:15; Revelation 4:8). To help man understand something of His holy character, God has given man His holy law (Exodus 20: 3-17), which is a revelation of His nature of love (Psalms 19:7–10; Romans 7:12). His law (Exodus 20:3-17) describes the kind of loving character He wants us to have.
The Restoration of God’s Image
As the life is measured by God’s divine law, the grace and power of God change the character of man to reflect that of His Creator (2 Corinthians 3:18). Thus, the holiness of the Creator, lost when man sinned, is to be restored in man (Genesis 1:26, 27; 2 Corinthians 3:18) by the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
Only when probation closes at the end of time will the believer who has strove for holiness by the grace of God, be pronounced “holy still” (Revelation 22:11, 12). Many so-called believers fail short of God’s holiness and true sanctification because they disregard God’s high standard of holiness. They are comfortable with low a standard of character, they have the form of godliness, but deny its power (Matthew 7:21–27; 2 Timothy 3:5).
In His service,