Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Last week someone asked me if she was holy. I told her that in Christ she was, but on her own...anything but!
I think this idea of holiness is confusing for many Christians. It is as if somehow, over time, we get this idea that we are actually holy people by our own merit. We understand (maybe) that Jesus died for our sins to make us holy (Colossians 1:22). We understand that God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that we in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). These are things that we understand toward the beginning of our relationship with God.
Then, time fades our memory in terms of what God has actually done, and we forget that we were sinners. We forget that Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). We can't have any claim on holiness whatsoever. That is all God's doing. As a result of God's action in Christ, we receive a state of being called holiness.
Let me explain by using one verse: 1 Corinthians 1:2. Paul writes, "to the church of God in Corinth, who have been made holy in Christ Jesus..."
The tense of this one Greek word explains the idea I'm trying to explain. This word is in the perfect tense. In Greek, the perfect tense describes an event that, completed in the past, has results existing in the present time. The emphasis here is on the current state of being that came about as a result of some past action. To explain this word in 1 Corinthians 1:2, as a result of the actions accomplished in Christ Jesus, we are now in a state of holiness.
So, we have been made holy. Paul, later in the same letter, makes this point again. After discussing who will not inherit the kingdom of God in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul says, "And that is what some of you were, but you were washed, you were made holy, and you were made right in the name of the Lord Jesus and in the spirit of our God."
In this text however, he draws out the past action by using a different tense. The point, though, is still the same: someone else beyond us is the actor; we are the recipients. In Jesus, we are made holy.