Saturday, 20 April 2019
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: Hebrews 12:14
The author has just finished the thought of having oneself strengthened in body, and set in their paths in order to meet a set purpose. That purpose was noted as being tied into the race set before us which was recorded in verse 12:1. On that race, and with our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, the believer is admonished to “Pursue peace will all people.”
This thought is explained elsewhere in the epistles, such as Romans 14 –
“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” Romans 14:19
Paul repeats and builds on that in 2 Timothy 2:22 as well. In this, the word “people” is inserted. It simply says, “Pursue peace with all.” In this, it is obvious that it is speaking not merely of persecutors, nor merely of those in the church who may be forming rival factions, but of all people in all contexts. For persecutors, it is to be as a witness to them. For believers, it is to be one of harmony within the body leading to contentment without strife. From there, the author says, “and holiness.”
The word signifies “the process of making or becoming holy, set apart, sanctification, holiness, consecration” (Strong’s). Some translations prefer the word “sanctification” here. That is probably the better idea. It is an active pursuit of sanctifying oneself in order to be holy. However, if one pursues holiness, it is because of the sanctification process. One looks to the work in getting to the goal, the other looks to the goal while understanding that a process is required in order to attain it.
With that understanding, he says that “without which no one will see the Lord.” Again, the same thought applies here. Without being sanctified as holy, no one will see the Lord, and so the translation could go either way. Sanctification is the process; holiness is the goal. We are to work to be set apart.
However, as noted elsewhere, the author is not saying that we must do the work in order to see the Lord. He is simply making a statement of fact. “Without holiness no person shall see the Lord.” This is why we are to sanctify ourselves in our lives. But this does not negate that we are already sanctified by Christ. There is a positional sanctification which took place when we received Jesus. That is what allows us to see the Lord. There is also a progressive sanctification which we should pursue in this life. In essence –
*We are sanctified and made holy through Christ. Therefore, let us live out our lives in sanctification leading to holiness for Christ.
Life application: The theme of God’s holiness is revealed throughout Scripture, but it is particularly highlighted in Leviticus, Isaiah, and Hebrews. Depending on the stem of the Hebrew word qadosh, the word “holy” will normally mean set apart or consecrated, or it will mean to show oneself sacred or majestic. What the author is telling us is that we are to be set apart from the stain of sin in the world. We are not to remove ourselves from the world as monks and other ascetics have done over the centuries. Jesus Himself – the Holy One incarnate – walked among us, ate with sinners, and never attempted to stay away from fallen man. Rather, He kept Himself set apart from what people did, not from the people. He lived at peace with those around Him and we should as well.
This does not in any way mean that we are to not call sin what it is. Jesus called out the hypocrites, the unrepentant, and the arrogant without hesitation. We should not feel any less angry at the sins of such people. Sin is an offense against God, and it should be considered offensive to us as well.
When we come to God through Christ, we are set apart because of our faith. In response to that gift, we should continue to make every effort to increase in holiness all our days. Remember these things as you go out into the world today. You are set apart. Live that way for the sake of the name of Jesus.
Lord Jesus, forgive me for often failing to be holy and set apart to You. Forgive me for not being angry at sin the way that I should be. Give me the ability to see sin as You see it so that I may never condone it. I know this will lead me to holiness and to a state which pleases You. This I ask in Your beautiful name. Amen.