You Are Holy
I want you to imagine a classroom full of school children. Surprisingly, they have all arrived on time and can be found sitting in their seats patiently awaiting the arrival of the teacher.
Fifteen minutes after the class should have started the teacher saunters into the classroom. He is wearing a shirt, tie and jacket—but the shirt is untucked, the tie is crooked and his top button is undone. To top it off he is wearing trainers instead of dress shoes. Rather than standing at the front of the classroom he takes a seat with the school children. Rocking his chair back on two legs, he throws his feet up onto the table. All the while munching on a chocolate bar and sipping on a fizzy drink.
In stunned silence the children stare wide-eyed at this “teacher” as he asks (with his mouth full), “What should we do today then?”
If you were a studious student, an interested parent or indeed the principal of the school, what would you want to say to this man? Surely, it would be something along the lines of: “You are supposed to be a teacher—tidy yourself up, stand at the front of the classroom and act like a teacher!” In other words, we would want to tell him to be who he is—if you are a teacher, act like it.
As we continue our reflections on The Hole in our Holiness the same words should be echoing in our ears: be who you are.
You are Holy
Naturally, the question that follows is “who are we?” For Christians the answer to that question is: holy. We are holy.
Hebrews 10 is the climax and culmination of the author’s argument that Jesus is the superior priest. From chapter 5 onwards the author of the book of Hebrews has been forcing home the reality that Jesus’s priesthood is superior to the Levitical priesthood, and even the strange priest-king Melchizedek. Ultimately this is accomplished in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice:
And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. . . For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Heb. 10:10, 14)
The argument being made throughout Hebrews 10 is that Jesus’s priesthood is shown to be superior because he offered a single sacrifice, which is effective for all time (vv. 11–12). That once-for-all-time sacrifice is of course Jesus Christ himself—the perfectly righteous one enduring the consequence of sin—death. In verses 10 and 14 we see the outcome of this sacrifice.
The author to the Hebrews tells his readers that through this sacrifice we have been sanctified (v. 10) and perfected (v. 14). What we see here is that because of an act in the past (Jesus’s sacrifice), Christians in the present enjoy a standing of perfection which guarantees a future glorification. This is what is called definitive or positional sanctification. The Bible sometimes talks about being made holy or being sanctified (Heb. 10:14) and this is known as progressive sanctification—something that grows and develops as we mature. But there is also a definitive or a positional sanctification which is a statement of our cleansing in light of Jesus’s saving us. In other words, we are pure and spotless in God’s sight. We are holy.
Union with Christ
DeYoung connects all of this to the doctrine of Union with Christ. He writes:
Union with Christ is not a single specific blessing we receive in our salvation. Rather it is the best phrase to describe all the blessings of salvation, whether in eternity past (election), in history (redemption), in the present (effectual calling, justification, and sanctification), or in the future (glorification). (pg. 94)
Union with Christ is what happens when we are saved, we are united to Jesus. All of the blessings that flow from this are then conveyed in the NT through phrases like “in Christ”, “in him”, and “in Jesus”. In this salvation, in Jesus Christ, asserts the author to the Hebrews, we have been sanctified/perfected. We are holy. Therefore, argues DeYoung, “Christlikeness is possible, but not by merely working with Jesus or simply imitating his example. Only by knowing our position in Jesus can we begin to live like Jesus” (pg. 93–94).
By considering our union with Christ, the fact that we are united to him, we can think differently about the call to personal holiness. Instead of fighting to be something we are not, we are striving to be who we really are—“Don’t think of Christianity as having to do what a peevish God wants. Think of it as being able to do what God demands. Through union with Christ we are empowered for holiness” (pg. 112).
We return to the words I want echoing in our ears: be who you are. In Christ you are holy, so act like it. DeYoung suggests, “In effect God says to us, ‘. . . Your position right now, objectively and factually, is as a holy, beloved child of God, dead to sin, alive to righteousness, and seated in my holy heaven—now live like it’” (pg. 105).
This is the hope we, as Christians, enjoy when it comes to the fight for personal holiness. We are already holy. And so DeYoung can write, quite forcefully:
No matter how entrenched the patterns of sin, I tell you on the authority of God’s word: your situation is not hopeless. With the gospel there is hope of cleansing. With the spirit there is hope of power. With Christ there is hope of a transformation. With the Word of God there is hope of holiness. (pg. 122)
How can he be so certain? Read Hebrews 10.
“As a believer, you belong to Christ. More than that, you are joined to Christ. By faith, through the Holy Spirit, we have union with him. Christ lives in you and you live in him. You are one with Christ, so live like Christ. Be who you are.” (pg. 100–101)
1) Examine who you are in Christ according to Romans 6:11; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 2:6; Philippians 3:9.
2) Is there a difference between aiming at something you are not and becoming something you are?
3) Why might understanding who we are in Christ help us to strive for personal holiness?