I have been told on more than one occasion that all you have to do is be good and do your best, and you will be invited to share in eternal life. Is this true? Is behaving ourselves along with trying not to lie, cheat and manipulate others all we have to do? Is there a final authority on this, some sort of guidelines we are to follow?
If it’s eternal life we are seeking, to be with our creator and the author of life, shouldn’t we consult the book that instructs us on how to live? The Holy Bible?
How does the Bible tell us to conduct ourselves so that we may walk in such a way that is holy and pleasing to God? Doesn’t Peter quote Moses in Leviticus when he penned his letter in 1 Peter 1:15:
“be holy, because I am holy.”
Okay, be holy. So how are we to be holy? What exactly is holy? What are the definitions of the Hebrew and Greek terms? Let’s find out (cf. Hebrews 12:14).
The quotation in 1 Peter 1:16 comes from Leviticus 11:44,45, when God commands the Hebrews not to defile themselves or make themselves unclean by eating certain foods. He then tells them to consecrate themselves (to make or declare sacred), and to be “Holy, because I am Holy.”
The word ‘holy’ in Hebrew is Strong’s #6918, qadowsh, which means holy and describes something or someone. The first time this word is used in the Bible is in Exodus 19:6 “and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” The key here is that this word describes an object or place or day to be devoted, or dedicated to a certain purpose. To be devoted or dedicated, we need to remember this.
The Greek word for ‘holy’ is Strong’s #40 – Hagios, which signifies separation from sin and consecrated (to declare sacred) to God. It is used for men and things in so far as they are devoted to God. So here we are again with the word devoted.
To be devoted to something is to be faithful, true or dedicated. This is what we are commanded to do by God. How do we do this? We don’t. It’s not up to us. God is the only one who can make anything or anyone holy. How do we know this? Deuteronomy 7:6 says
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession.”
The New Testament correlates this to the new people of God and the New Covenant by the references to Jesus’ deity and holiness. John 10:36 tells us of Jesus being consecrated by God before being sent into the world, and in John 17:19 Jesus says:
“for them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified”.
If it is God who truly sanctifies, then this is Jesus’ claim to be Him.
It is the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:6) that sanctifies the church through belief in the truth (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:13). So, it is us, “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nature, a people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9) that are called to be dedicated, faithful, and true to obedience to God’s truth.
So, to recap what we have just learned, we have discovered that God, through His use of the Hebrew and Greek language has commanded us to be holy, which is to be faithful, true and dedicated to Him. It is not we who make ourselves holy. It is God, as we have seen through Deuteronomy 7:6 and John 17:19, who has chosen us through His Son, Jesus Christ… us, the true church that is sanctified through the truth.
Now, to be sanctified is to become more and more free from sin, and to become more and more like Christ in our daily living. The truth is what we read in Romans 3:22:
“And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe”.
Okay. We become more free from sin and more like Jesus through our faith in Him, but how? Well, to have faith in Jesus is to have faith that He came into the world for the purpose of rescuing us from darkness. It is through Him that we are turned from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God so that we receive forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 26:18). Since we have these promises, the Bible commands that we purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God (2 Corinthians 7:1).
We know now that we are to be holy (devoted and dedicated), and we are to separate ourselves from all the foolishness that makes us worldly. It is the saving grace of God that teaches us to say, “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives (Titus 2:12).
We also know that faith without deeds is useless (James 2:20), and we can clearly see the evidence of sanctification in the true child of God by the fruits of the spirit he bears. The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:22,24). Without evidence or these fruits, we would have to question the sincerity of the believer.
Jesus told us in Matthew 7:24 that any man who hears His words and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house on a rock. If we follow Jesus’ command, we will exude the fruit of the spirit, and the Holy Spirit will reside in us. If we don’t practice what Jesus teaches us, we are like the foolish man who built his house in the sand. As soon as the flood came, it was washed away (Matthew 7:26-27). Our floods, and our winds are the adversities we face in life. Without the Spirit in us, we will never have the strength to persevere in in our faith. Our belief dies and we’re back in darkness, sin and death.
At that point we have to ask, “Were we ever saved?” Remember, Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:21:
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in Heaven.”
We know what the will of the Father is. First and foremost, it’s to have faith in the atoning work of His perfect sacrifice. Saving faith is when we have complete confidence that Jesus Christ has the power to save us from our sin. When we put our trust in this faith, we are given the strength through the Holy Spirit to walk in obedience through the desire to renew our minds, thoughts and attitude, and truly make Jesus our Lord and Savior.
Like I said before, when the flood comes and we face the adversity of trials and temptations, how does our house stand? Are we the house that falls with a great crash, or is the Lord our rock, fortress and deliverer in whom we take refuge (Psalm 18:2)?
Now let me get to the point of this article. I have heard some people say that they think all they need to do is be good, as good as they can be, and they will be rendered righteous in God’s eyes without any effort to be obedient to God’s commandments. How good is good enough? Is good enough good enough? What does the Bible teach us about obedience? How does the Bible instruct us to live?
In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus tells us to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls and minds, and then He tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. The link between these two commandments is love. Remember Galatians 5:22? The first act that Paul lists as evidence of the fruit of the Spirit is love. Paul exhorts in 1 Corinthians 13, that even if he had all the spiritual gifts that God has to offer but does not have love, he is nothing. We are nothing without love. We are commanded to love the Lord our God with all our heart. How do we do this? By obedience to His written word.
God has revealed His mystery hidden for long ages past (Romans 16:25), which is salvation through grace, which brings us to obedience that comes from faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:5). His will (our obedience) has been revealed and made known through the prophetic writings (in the written word) by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey Him (Romans 16:26).
The bottom line is this: we have God’s written word, a gift from Him, an instruction manual on how we are to live obedient lives that are holy and pleasing to Him. Loving Him is holy and pleasing to Him, and then passing that love on to others.
Our true love for God, if it is true love, drives us to have a relationship with Him. And like any true loving relationship, we want to honor and respect the one we’re in the relationship with. We are in a loving relationship with God’s Living Word (John 1:1 and John 1:14), so we must hold to certain promises, or vows, just as we would with our spouses and families. This vow we make is to love, and love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10). True obedience = love, and that is what is good enough. Do you have that?