Jerry Bridges

B. Childress
May 22 2009 08:00 AM

 "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."

                                                                            Hebrews 12:14

Just what do these words, "without (holiness) no man shall see the Lord" actually mean?  Does our salvation in the final
analysis depend to some degree on our attaining some level of personal holiness?

On this question the Scripture is clear on two points.  First, the best Christians can never in themselves merit salvation
through their personal holiness.  Our righteous deeds are like filthy garments in the light of God's holy law (Isaiah 64:
6).  Our best works are stained and polluted with imperfection and sin.  As one of the saints of several centuries ago put
it, "Even our tears of repentance need to be washed in the blood of the lamb."

Second, Scripture repeatedly refers to the obedience and righteousness of Christ on our behalf.  "
For as by one man's
disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
"  (Romans 5:19).  
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in
the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.
"  (I Peter 3:18).  These two passages teach a two-fold aspect of Christ's work on
our behalf.  They are often referred to as His active and His passive obedience.

Active obedience means Christ's sinless life here on earth, His perfect obedience and absolute holiness.  This perfect
life is credited to those who trust in Him for their salvation.  His passive obedience refers to His death on the cross
through which He fully paid the penalty for our sins and placated the wrath of God toward us.  In Hebrews 10:5-9 we
read that Christ came to do the will of the Father.  Then the writer said, "And by that will,
we have been made holy
through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all"  (Hebrews 10:10, emphasis added).  So we see that our
holiness before God depends entirely on the work of Jesus Christ for us, by God's will.

Does  Hebrews 12:14 refer then to this holiness which we have in Christ?  No, for at this point the writer speaks of a
holiness which we are to strive after; we are to "make every effort to be holy."  And without this holiness, the writer says,
no one will see the Lord.

Scripture speaks of both a holiness which we have in Christ before God, and a holiness which we are to strive after.  
These two aspects of holiness complement one another, for our salvation is a salvation to holiness:  "
For God hath not
called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.
"  To the Corinthians Paul wrote: "Unto the church of God which is at
Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of
Jesus Christ our Lord, both their's and our's
"  (I Corinthians 1:2).  The word sanctified here means "made holy." That is,
we are through Christ made holy in our standing before God, and called to be holy in our daily lives.

So the writer of Hebrews is telling us to take seriously the necessity of personal, practical holiness.  He comes to make
us holy in practice.  If there is not, then, at least a yearning in our hearts to live a holy life pleasing to God, we need to
seriously question whether our faith in Christ is genuine.

It is true that this desire for holiness may be only a spark at the beginning.  But that spark should grow till it becomes a
flame - a desire to live a life wholly pleasing to God.  True salvation brings with it a desire to be made holy.  When God
saves us through Christ, He not only saves us from the penalty of sin, but also from its dominion.  Bishop Ryle said, "I
doubt, indeed, whether we have any warrant for saying that a man can possibly be converted without being consecrated
to God.  More consecrated he doubtless can be, and will be as his grace increases; but if he was not consecrated to
God in the very day that he was converted and born again, I do not know what conversion means."

The whole purpose of our salvation is that we be "holy and blameless in his sight" (Ephesians 1:4).  To continue to live
in sin as a Christian is to go contrary to God's very purpose for our salvation.  One of the writers of three centuries ago
put it like this:  "What a strange kind of salvation do they desire that care not for holiness...They would be saved by
Christ and yet be out of Christ in a fleshly state...They would have their sins forgiven, not that they may walk with God in
love, in time to come, but that they may practice their enmity against Him without any fear of punishment."

Holiness, then, is not necessary as a
condition of salvation - that would be salvation by works - but as a part of salvation
that is received by faith in Christ.  The angel said to Joseph, "
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his
JESUS [which means 'Jehovah is salvation] for he shall save his people from their sins." (II Corinthians 5:17).

Therefore, we may say that no one can trust in Jesus Christ for true salvation unless he trusts in Him for holiness.  This
does not mean the desire for holiness must be a conscious desire at the time a person comes to Christ, but rather it
means that the Holy Spirit who creates within us saving faith also creates within us the desire for holiness.  He simply
does not create one without the other.

Paul said, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say "No' to ungodliness
and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age" (Titus 2:11-12).  The same
grace that brings salvation teaches us to renounce ungodly living.  We cannot receive half of God's grace.  If we have
experienced it at all, we will experience not only forgiveness of our sins but also freedom from sin's dominion.

This is the point James is making in his hard-to-understand passage on faith and works (James 2:14-26). He is simply
telling us that a "faith" that does not result in works - in a holy life, in other words - is not a living faith but a dead one, no
better than that which the demons possess.

God's nature demands holiness in the life of a Christian.  When He calls us to salvation, He calls us to fellowship with
Himself and His Son Jesus Christ (I John 1:3).  But God is light; in Him is no darkness at all (I John 1:5).  How then can
we have fellowship with Him if we continue to walk in darkness?

Holiness then is required for
fellowship with God.  David asked the question, "LORD, who shall abide in thy
tabernacle?  who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
"  (Psalm 15:1).  That is to say, "Lord, who may live in fellowship with You?"  
The answer given in the next four verses may be summarized as "he who leads a holy life."

Prayer is a vital part of our fellowship with God; yet the psalmist said, "
If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not
hear me.
"  (Psalm 66:18).  To regard wickedness is to cherish some sin, to love it to the extent that I am not willing to
part with it.  I know it is there, yet I justify it in some way like the child who says, "Well, he hit me first."  When we are
holding on to some sin, we are not pursuing holiness and we cannot have fellowship with God.  

God does not require a perfect, sinless life to have fellowship with Him, but He does require that we be serious about
holiness, that we grieve over sin in our lives instead of justifying it, and that we earnestly pursue holiness as a way of life.

Holiness is also required for
our own well-being.  Scripture says, "The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he
punishes everyone he accepts as a son" (Hebrews 12:6).  This statement presupposes our need of discipline, for God
is not capricious in administering it.  He disciplines us because we need discipline.

To persist in disobedience is to increase our necessity for discipline.  Some of the Corinthian Christians persisted in
disobedience to the point where God had to take their lives (I Corinthians 11:30).

David described the discipline of the Lord this way: "
When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all
the day long.  For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.
(Psalm 32:3-4).

When God speaks to us about some sin, we need to heed and take action.  To fail to deal with that sin is to risk
incurring His hand of discipline.  One icy morning as I (Jerry Bridges) was turning into the driveway of The Navigators
headquarters where I work, my car skidded out of control into a corner fence post.  Someone else in a similar
predicament had already bent the post, and I only increased the angle.  I said nothing to the property manager, despite
several gentle proddings from God.  Two weeks later I had another slight accident.  After over fifteen years of accident-
free driving, I knew God was trying to get my attention, so I called up the property manager, reported my first accident,
and offered to pay for a new fence post.  As Peter said, "
And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons
judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.
"  (I Peter 1:17).  God is serious
about holiness in the lives of His people, and He will discipline us to attain it.

Holiness is also necessary for
effective service to God.  Paul wrote to Timothy, "If a man therefore purge himself from
these [iniquity], he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every
good work.
"  (II Timothy 2:21).  Holiness and usefulness are linked together.  We cannot bring our service to God in an
unclean vessel.

The One who makes our service effective and who empowers us for service is the Holy Spirit.  Note well that He is called
Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of Holiness.  When we indulge our sinful natures and dwell in unholiness, the Spirit of God is
grieved (Ephesians 4:30) and will not prosper our service.  These are not times when we fall into temptation and
immediately seek God's forgiveness and cleansing, but lives that are characterized by unholy living.

Holiness also is necessary for our assurance of salvation - not at the moment of salvation, but over the course of our
lives.  True faith will always show itself by its fruits.  "
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:  old things
are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
"  (II Corinthians 5:17).

I (Jerry Bridges) recall a young man, a fairly new Christian, whose father was visiting him.  He had not seen his father for
several years and not since he had become a Christian.  He was eager to share his newfound faith with his dad, and we
prayed together that he might be an effective witness to his father.

Several days later I asked him how it had gone with his witness.  He told me his dad had claimed to have trusted Christ
as his Savior when he "went forward" at age ten in an evangelistic meeting.  I asked the young man, "In all the years you
were growing up, did you ever see any evidence that your father was a Christian?"  His answer was "No."  What reason
have we to put confidence in that man's salvation?  He was almost sixty and had never once given his son any evidence
that he was a Christian.

The only safe evidence that we are in Christ is a holy life.  John said everyone who has within him the hope of eternal
life purifies himself just as Christ is pure (I John 3:3).  Paul said, "
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are
the sons of God.
"  (Romans 8:14).  If we know nothing of holiness, we may flatter ourselves that we are Christians but
we do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

Everyone, then, who professes to be a Christian should ask himself, "Is there evidence of practical holiness in my life?  
Do I desire and strive after holiness?  Do I grieve over my lack of it and earnestly seek the help of God to be holy?"

It is not those who profess to know Christ who will enter heaven, but those whose lives are holy.  Even
those who do "great Christian works" will not enter heaven unless they also do the will of God.  Jesus said,

    "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of
    my Father which is in heaven.

    Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?  and in thy name have cast out
    devils?  and in thy name done many wonderful works?

    And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."   (Matthew 7:21-23)


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