When we speak of the holiness of the church, then we are speaking of an attribute of the church. The others are oneness, catholicity, and apostolicity.
The holiness of the church is first the holiness it has as the body of Christ and in union with Christ. The church's holiness is in Christ. It has no holiness of its own (I Cor. 1:2, 3:16-17, I Pet. 2:9).
That holiness belongs to the church in principle, i.e., it belongs to the church and to every elect member of the body as something purchased by Christ's death. It will be and is given to every member of the body, therefore, as Christ brings them into union with Himself Christ through faith.
Thus, too, that holiness is something that we can see in the visible church and in her members. We see it in several different ways.
Remembering that holiness means "separateness," we see the holiness of the church in the separation of the visible church from the world. It is a separate kingdom with a different King, different laws and customs, and a different hope (I Pet. 2:9).
Indeed, holiness is the boundary of the church in the world. It has no political boundaries - no boundaries of race or language. Holiness is the line that divides the church from the world. Therefore, those who will not be holy must be put out and kept out of the visible church.
That holiness is also the cause of the continued conflict in which the church is involved. Always the church opposes that which is unholy, first of all in believers themselves. But it also condemns those who are hypocrites and carnal within the church, as well as all the wickedness of this sin-cursed world.
If the church and its members are striving to be holy there will always be that conflict (Jn. 15:18-20). That holiness is God's own shining in the church and its members (I Pet. 1:15-16). And the unholy hate the holiness of God (Jn. 3:19, Rom. 8:7).
We also see that holiness in the members of the church. They are "saints" because they by grace are given the gift of holiness and called to be holy. Their holiness becomes evident in their separation from the wicked and from wickedness (II Cor. 6:14-7:1).
That is not to say there is no sin in believers or in the visible church. In fact, there is much carnality in the church and much sin in the members of the church for which we grieve (Ps. 119:53, 136).
That is why the holiness of the church must be a matter of faith, not of sight. We believe that the church is holy, even the church in the world.
If we go only by what we see, we will surely despair of ourselves and of the church. Believing that it is a holy communion of saints, we can be sure that it will be presented to Christ "a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing" (Eph. 5:27).
Let us, then, in practice and in prayer, as members of the church, follow after holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
- Volume: 6
- Issue: 5
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address13823 Clear Lake Rd.
State or ProvinceWA