Before the word “Christians” was invented in Antioch, the followers of Christ were commonly called “disciples” (Acts 6:7 and over 20 other times in the book of Acts) and “saints” (60 times in the Epistles and Acts). The significance of the use of the word “saints” is that it means “holy” (hagios in the Greek, Strong’s #40). No other word other than hagios is translated “saint” or “saints”. But hagios is used 178 times in the New Testament! How else is it translated? Every other time it is translated “holy”. Hagios is never translated any other way other than “holy”, “saint”, or “saints”, the vast majority being “holy”, speaking most often of the Holy Spirit. This indicates that the correct translation of hagios is “holy”, including when it refers to Christians. When the recipients of Paul’s letters read the word “saints” they actually read “holy”. When the Apostle Paul wrote “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints”, he was actually saying “…called to be holy.” And when he wrote “unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia…” he was actually saying “…all the holy which are in all Achaia.”
Do we understand that to be born again is to be made holy? And do we understand how much Christ wants our lives to be holy? The highest aim
of the Church, His bride, is to be pleasing in His eyes. “…a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” Eph. 5:27. Therefore the highest work of the Church is to publish the good tidings of salvation (Isaiah 52:7) by which people are made holy. An unholy church is an ugly church in the eyes of her God. “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. 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” 2 Cor. 6:17-7:1. Do my activities help me to perfect holiness in the fear of God? Does my music help me to cleanse myself from the filthiness of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-25)? My thoughts? My friends? Holiness encompasses all that is good and clean and beautiful and wholesome, full of joy and glory. After people interact with us, do they feel clean inside? Are they challenged to do away with anything that is not right in their lives? How do we use our influence and whose side are we on in the great controversy?
Do you understand Christ’s vision for a holy church? Do you want to do great things for Christ’s kingdom and bring many into His fold? Will they be an ugly, spotted, wrinkled part of His bride or clothed in righteousness? When the Holy Spirit indwells a person, He gives a desire to be holy because He is holy (Leviticus. 20:26 and 1 Peter 1:6). You cannot be like Christ without being holy. As you fulfill the great commission and make disciples of all nations, will you be an example of holiness that they can follow or will you cause them to blaspheme His name through your hypocrisy?
It amazes me how paranoid the church of America seems to be at the idea of holiness. Somehow we have confused holiness with pride and hypocrisy. It sometimes seems more acceptable to commit sin than to uplift a standard of holiness. If the Lord will not tolerate sin, how can His Church (Rev. 2:18-23)? The whole concept of “holier than thou” is a self-contradictory idea because holiness requires a focus on Christ. And when the focus is on Christ I cannot put myself above others. We are instructed in Proverbs 28:13 to both confess and forsake our sin.
The “holier than thou” group tries to forsake their sin without confessing it. The “more sinful than thou” group freely confesses sin without forsaking it.
Both groups have fallen into the trap of comparing with others (“than thou”) and forgetting Christ. But when we see Christ for who He is we will see ourselves for who we are and there will be no pride in our righteousness or pride in our sin. By focusing on Christ we seek to purify ourselves and encourage others to do the same. If our delight in holiness is a delight in being better than someone else, it is not holiness at all. What will the Lord say when He comes? He will reward those who feed His flock but those who eat and drink with the drunken He will cut asunder and appoint them their portion with the hypocrites. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” 1 John 3:2-3. “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares” Luke 21:34.