Holiness not included

Holy-Spirit fire“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 KJV).

Here’s a little word study about that fruit description.

Fruit means produce, as from a fruit tree; also the result of efforts, such as fruit of your labor.

Those nine character attributes show up and begin to develop as the result of having God’s Spirit dwell inside of you. By the way – these aren’t ordinary human traits, they are supernatural. God’s love. God’s joy. God’s peace, etc., etc.

Love, joy, peace – those familiar words have the usual meanings. Longsuffering means being patient with circumstances, remaining the same and keeping the same attitude no matter what happens around you. Goodness means integrity, honesty, morality. Meekness means mildness, gentleness; also controlled strength, as a horse that has been tamed and bridled. Temperance means self-control; similar to controlled strength in some ways.

All of these describe God’s character, which will become our character as the Holy Spirit lives in us, leads us, teaches us, co-labors with us in various assignments.

Notice what isn’t in that list? Holiness. Why is that? God is holy, it’s certainly part of his character. He tells us, “Be ye holy.” So why is it missing from this list?

The word for holiness has two meanings:

The first is a status, the second is an action. And in order to be the first one, you need to do the second one. It isn’t something that grows like fruit. It either is, or it is not. It’s an action of your will, a choice that begins with choosing to say Yes to Jesus as Savior and Lord.

2 Cor. 7:1 says, ” Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

“Cleanse” simply means to make clean, such as bathing, washing our hands, or scrubbing dirty pots and pans. Our flesh and our spirit need a bath. But we must cleanse ourselves? I always thought God did that – you know, he catches the fish (us), then he cleans them.

And he does, with his Word. Jesus told the disciples that they were clean, by the words he had spoken to them. Also see Ephesians 5:26. This looks like a contradiction… keep reading.

“Perfecting” means accomplishing or completing, as finishing a job.

2 Cor. 6:16-18 specifies what the promises from 7:1 are: “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” Those are spectacular promises!

“Walk in them” is interesting language. Literally it means walk around inside of them. I like that. “My people” means a people group of the same tribe, origin, culture, and language. “Receive you” means favor you, show favor to you.

II Peter 1:3 says, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:” Okay, now that we have faith in him, the knowledge of Jesus contains everything we need to live successfully.

He goes on to say that we should add some things to our faith – the very same things mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. All of those attributes are found in the knowledge of Jesus, and all are able to grow and mature.

However – and this is a big however – this knowledge isn’t dropped into our brains automatically when we are born again. It takes studying, appropriating, and practice. Like muscles, these attributes will grow with use.

We are co-laborers with Christ. Note, that word includes labor. Work. He doesn’t do all the work to produce character in us, or holiness in us. We have to do some of the work ourselves. He won’t force us to do our part.

And that explains a lot, doesn’t it.

Set asides

Christians sometimes make things more complicated than they should be. They use religi-speak instead of ordinary English, muddling up the plain meaning of some basic concepts.

“Holy” is one of those. In the Old Testament, the definition is simple and clear – set aside for a single purpose.

Something doesn’t have to be extraordinary to be holy – just dedicated for a single purpose. Like a dedicated phone line connected to a computer.

One key in my pocket fits my front door. It doesn’t fit the ignition in my car or a safety deposit box at the bank. It has a single purpose: to lock and unlock my front door. Not everybody’s front door – just my front door.

God assigned Aaron and his sons to a specific task that no-one else was given. They were not assigned to be soldiers or farm hands. God gave them the job of priest, with a single purpose: protect the children of Israel from God himself. If they didn’t do their job, God’s presence in their midst would prove deadly.

Because God planned to come and reside inside their camp, and the essence of his presence was not compatible with contaminated creatures.

Before he could come, they would need a shield from his presence. The work of the priests, making animal sacrifices to obtain blood to create a barrier, would shield them. That blood and the intention of its use – payment, forgiveness, mercy – would protect them. Much like a lead apron shields and protects the x-ray technician in the radiology department. And so Aaron and his sons were set aside from the other tribes of Israel for this one single purpose.

In the New Testament, the word for “holy” still means set apart for a single purpose, but the definition also carries the connotation of “pure.”

100% one thing, not contaminated, not mixed with anything else, whole. Not pure human, however – pure good. 100% good, the way God defines it. No wrongdoing. No sin. No contamination.

Pure gold is 100% gold. That sounds great, but you can’t make jewelry from pure gold, it is too soft to be usable. Even diamonds aren’t 100% pure, there’s some tiny flaw somewhere. That’s why there are so many classifications of diamonds, so many price ranges.

Jesus said, there is none good but God. Nothing on this planet is 100% pure and nothing is 100% good, except God. But I Peter 1:15-16 tells us to be holy. How can God expect us to be holy, if that means 100% good?

He doesn’t, not in our own ability if that was even possible. What he does desire is that we agree to be set aside for a single purpose, like Aaron and his sons. Set aside for God’s purpose, his use and no-one else’s.

The purpose of our agreement to this request (accepting the blood sacrifice of Christ) is simple: it permits God in the person of the Holy Spirit to reside in us. He himself will provide our protection and prevent his presence from destroying us. He’ll improve us as we go along. He created the human race; he doesn’t want it obliterated.

Seen this way, being holy makes perfect sense to me, perfect, practical and wonderful.