Jerry Bridges

B. Childress
May 15 2009 08:00 AM

           "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we
                           might be made the righteousness of God in him."

                                                                        I Corinthians 5:21

Let us consider the holiness of Christ.  We need this first of all to be firmly grounded in our security in Christ.  As we
study more fully the implications of "Be holy because I am holy," we will see more of our own sinfulness.  We will see the
wickedness and deceitfulness of our hearts, and how far we miss the mark of God's perfect holiness.  As this happens,
the true Christian will in his heart flee for refuge in Christ.  It is important therefore that we understand the righteousness
of Christ, and the fact that His righteousness is credited to us.

On numerous occasions the Scriptures testify that Jesus during His time on earth lived a perfectly holy life.  He is
described as "without sin" (Hebrews 4:15); as One who "committed no sin" (I Peter 2:22); and as "him who had no sin" (II
Corinthians 5:21).  The apostle John stated, "In him is no sin" (I John 3:5).  The Old Testament describes Him
prophetically as "the righteous servant" (Isaiah 53:11), and as One who "loved righteousness and hated wickedness"
(Psalm 45:7).  These statements, taken from six different writers of Scripture, show that the sinlessness of Jesus Christ
is the universal teaching of the Bible.

Even more compelling, however, is Jesus' own testimony concerning Himself.  On one occasion He looked the Pharisees
squarely in the eye and asked, "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?" (John 8:46).  As someone has observed, it was
not their failure to answer His question that is so significant, but the fact He dared to ask it.  Here was Jesus in direct
confrontation with people who hated Him  He had just told them they were of their father the devil, and that they wanted
to carry out his desires.  Surely if any people had a reason to point out to Him some careless act of His or some flaw of
His character, they would.  Furthermore, Jesus asked this question in the presence of His disciples, who lived with Him
continuously and had ample opportunity to observe any inconsistencies.  Yet Jesus dared to ask the question because
He knew there was only one answer.  He was without sin.

But the holiness of Jesus was more than simply the absence of actual sin.  It was also a perfect conformity to the will His
Father. He stated that He came down from heaven "...not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." (John
6:38).  On another occasion, He said, "
My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." (John 4:34).  
Perhaps His highest testimony to His positive holiness was His statement, "...
for I do always those things that please
" (John 8:29).  

Such a positive declaration must include not only His actions but also His attitudes and motives.  It is possible for us to
do the right action from a wrong motive, but this does not please God.  Holiness had to do with more than mere acts.  
Our motives must be holy, that is, arising from a desire to do something simply because it is the will of God.  Our
thoughts should be holy, since they are known to God even before they are formed in our minds.  Jesus Christ perfectly
met these standards, and He did it for us.  He was born into this world subject to the law of God that He might fulfill it on
our behalf (Galatians 4:4-5).

Whenever we seriously contemplate the holiness of God, our natural reaction is to say with Isaiah, "
Woe is me, for I am
undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have
seen the King, the LORD of hosts
."  (Isaiah 6:5).

A serious view of the holiness of God - His own moral perfection and infinite hatred of sin - will leave us, as it did Isaiah,
seeing with utter dismay our own lack of holiness.  His moral purity serves to magnify our impurity.

Therefore, it is important that we receive the same assurance that Isaiah received: "...this hath touched thy lips; and
thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged."  (Isaiah 6:7).  It is not only at the initial point of salvation that we need
this assurance.  In fact, the more we grow in holiness, the more we need assurance that the perfect righteousness of
Christ is credited to us.  This is true because a part of growing in holiness is the Holy Spirit's making us aware of our
need of holiness.  As we see this need, it is well for us to always keep in mind the righteousness of Jesus Christ on our
behalf, and the fact that "
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the
righteousness of God in him.
"  (II Corinthians 5:21).

The truth of our acceptance by God through the righteousness of Christ may seem so elementary that you wonder why
it is stressed here.  It is because we need to dwell on it to thwart the attacks of Satan.  The Holy Spirit makes us more
aware of our lack of holiness to stimulate us to deeper yearning and striving for holiness.  But Satan will attempt to use
the Holy Spirit's work to discourage us.

One of Satan's attacks is to try to convince you that you are not a genuine Christian after all.  He will say something like,
"A true Christian wouldn't think the evil thoughts you've been thinking today."  Now it may be that six months ago Satan
would not have come to you with such a suggestion because you were not troubled about your thoughts.  But now that
the Holy Spirit has begun to reveal how sinful your thoughts of lust and resentment and pride really are, you may begin
to have doubts about your salvation.

A number of years ago, God was allowing me (Jerry Bridges) to go through some deep inner struggles to teach me
something of the sinfulness of my heart.  During this time I was leading a weekly Bible study at a military base about an
hour's drive from where I lived.  Every Monday night as I left the fellowship of that Bible study and started my lonely drive
home, Satan would begin to attack me:  "How can anyone who is having the struggles you are having be a Christian?"
he would ask.  I began to fight him by resorting to an old gospel hymn.  I would sing through that hymn, and by the time I
finished I would be praising God for His salvation given freely to me through Jesus Christ.

You, too, if you diligently pursue holiness, must often flee to the Rock of your salvation.  You flee there, not to be saved
again, but to confirm in your heart that you are saved through His righteousness alone.  You begin to identify with Paul
when he said, "
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save
sinners; of whom I am chief.
" (I Timothy 1:15).  It is at this point that Christ's holy life lived on your behalf becomes so
important to you.

A second reason we need to consider the holiness of Christ is because His life is meant to be an example of holiness for
us.  Peter told us that Christ left an example for us to follow in His steps (I Peter 2:21).  Peter spoke particularly of
Christ's suffering without retaliation, but in the following verse he said also that Christ committed no sin.  Paul urged us
to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1), and also said "
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." (I Corinthians

Clearly then, the sinless holy life of Jesus Christ is meant to be an example for us.  Consider then His statement, "I
always do what pleases Him."  Do we dare take that as our personal goal in life?  Are we truly willing to scrutinize all our
activities, all our goals and plans, and all of our impulsive actions in the light of this statement: "I am doing this to please

If we ask that question honestly, we will begin to squirm a bit.  We know we do some things, good things in themselves,
to gain admiration for ourselves rather than glory for God.  We do other things strictly for our own pleasure, without any
regard for the glory of God.

I (Jerry Bridges) recall an unpleasant business encounter once with a person who later became a Christian through
another's witness.  When I learned of this, I was deeply chagrined to reflect on the fact that I had never once thought of
him as a person for whom Christ died, but only as someone with whom I had an unpleasant experience.  We need to
learn to follow the example of Christ, who was moved with compassion for sinners and who could pray for them even as
they nailed Him on the cross on Calvary.

In the words of nineteenth-century Scottish theologian John Brown, "Holiness does not consist in mystic speculations,
enthusiastic fervours, or uncommanded austerities; it consists in thinking as God thinks, and willing as God wills."  
Neither does holiness mean, as is so often thought, adhering to a list of "do's and don'ts," mostly don'ts.  When Christ
came into the world, He said, "I have come to do your will, O God" (Hebrews 10:7).  This is the example we are to follow.  
In all of our thoughts, all of our actions, in every part of our character, the ruling principle that motivates and guides us
should be the desire to follow Christ in doing the will of the Father.  This is the high road we must follow in the pursuit of


The Pursuit of Holiness, by Jerry Bridges, Copyright 2006, NAVPRESS.