What does the Bible say about holiness?

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Is Holiness necessary? The answer is a resounding "YES"!

The problem lies in the UPC view of holiness. For those who are unfamiliar with the UPC view, let me explain.

The UPC (again, I am using the word UPC as a general term for any holiness Oneness Pentecostal organization or church) believes that there are specific "holiness standards" that we must adhere to. Some churches debate whether or not adhering to these standards is required for salvation, but–in my experience–people who do not adhere to the "standards" are considered rebellious. Many Oneness Pentecostals view these people as unsaved. Also, people who initially adhere to the standards and then begin to doubt their validity are viewed as being "backslidden."

So, once again, the problem lies in the UPC view of holiness.

The question we must ask is, "What does the Bible say about holiness?"

The flagship Scripture used by the UPC is Hebrews 12:14, which says:

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord… (Heb 12:14 KJV)

The word holiness that is used in this Scripture is "sanctification." Sanctification means "Separation unto God1." That’s it. Separation unto God. It has nothing to do with standards of dress. Every time that the word was used in Scripture it referred to separation from sin or general separation from the old, unregenerated lifestyle. To illustrate this point, here is a list in context of all the times this particular Greek word that we translate "sanctification" or "holiness" was used in the New Testament:

(Rom 6:16-22 NASB)
Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.

(1Co 1:26-31 NASB)
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD."

(1Th 4:1-8 NASB)
Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.

(1Th 4:1-8 NASB)
For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

(Heb 12:12-14 NASB)
Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

(1Ti 2:9-15 NASB)
Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

Now, I saved 1 Tim. 2:15 for last, because this is a Scripture that is commonly misunderstood in UPC circles. The reason for the misunderstanding is two-fold:

  1. First, the KJV translated (sanctification) as "holiness" in 1 Tim. 2:15.
  2. Second, since the UPC already has the concept of "holiness" as being a standard of dress, and since the UPC uses the KJV almost exclusively, this Scripture passage is often used to teach that women should not wear jewelry (note the reference to "gold and pearls" in verse 9). I will cover this more when I deal with Jewelry, but even the casual reader will see that if Paul is saying that women cannot wear jewelry, then he is also saying that women cannot braid their hair or wear "costly clothing." Obviously, Paul is teaching a concept, not giving specific rules on how to dress.

So, once again, is holiness (sanctification) necessary? YES! Our goal should always be to be separated to God in everything we do, not just in specific "holiness standards." Women and men should both dress modestly. But does a church have the right to dictate certain rules such as "women can’t wear jewelry," "women can’t use make-up," "women can’t wear pants," and other similar rules? I cannot find any Biblical basis for doing so.

References:

  1. The Complete Word Study Dictionary, © 1992 By AMG International, Inc., Chattanooga, TN 37422, U.S.A., Revised edition, 1993 []

29 thoughts on “What does the Bible say about holiness?

  1. Bill Iskra

    I appreciate the discussion regarding holiness . It is good to see people communicating with Christian attitudes . What the Scriptures actually say regarding holiness is what matters to God .

  2. Christine

    McKenzie,
    So are you saying that people who don’t practice your ”standards” are going to Hell? That’s nonsense. You say that women can’t wear pants, yet you wear them for pajamas? You say that you can’t wear jewelry, but you approve of broaches and hair clips? You say that you can’t wear make up, but you wear lip gloss and curl your eyelashes? You say that you can’t cut your hair, yet you give a pass to those with cancer treatments? Plus, the word ”uncut” isn’t mentioned in the Bible, not once. Please respond back.

  3. Buxton04

    I would like to share my feelings on this, The Bible doesnt specifically Speak about what a Person should and shouldnt wear as it pertains to holiness, however it does say that we need to be seperate from the World and holy unto God! It does speak about Not causing your Brother to Lust after you, if you can look in the Mirror and feel that you are not gonna cause someone to sin then you should feel free to wear what you want, but know that By Praying and having that true Relationship with God then he will let you know what is appropriate, its called Conviction!

  4. Ann

    Isn’t holiness simply a matter of attitude? Doesn’t Colossians 3:12 lay it out so simply: Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

    Mercy/Compassion says, I’ll do anything I can to stop your hurt.

    Kindness – When should we be kind? When we see someone in need.

    Humility – It’s not denying your strengths but being honest about your weaknesses. It’s admitting your mistakes.

    Gentleness – Nothing is as strong as gentleness.

    Patience – What is that? Could it be putting up with those that you’d rather put down because they don’t think like you? Act like you? Believe like you?

    Then the very next verse (Col 3:13) says to forgive others as the Lord has forgiven us. What does that mean? Forgive often, because we’re forgiven over and over and over.

    Then, the next verse (Col 3:14) says that over all these virtues, we should clothe ourselves in love. So love is like the over coat that you put on and keep on while being compassionate, merciful, kind, humble, gentle, patient and forgiving.

    This is holiness to me. The Bible says so. :)

    1. Sandra Gulley

      Ann I believe you hit the nail on the head when it comes to holiness. It’s not the outward but the inward man. I think that was very well put.

      Sandi

  5. Kat Cortez

    What are we willing to put aside for our God? The weights that so easily beset us are plenty. Holiness is all about being more like Him, and less like us. It starts with a heart broken, as His is broken. Jesus on the inside, working His way out into the outside. I appreciate modesty. My protection, and my choice. I don’t want anyone telling me what to wear, what not to wear. Do this, don’t do that. Lead me, Lord! Show me the ways in which to walk! Your ways! For they are perfect. Speak to me, God. I long to be led by your spirit, not by my flesh! I praise God, brothers and sisters in Christ, that I was loved and accepted from day 1 in my church. No condemnation. Smothered in love. God is a gentleman, He is never forceful. I’ve grown in my spiritual walk with the Lord, I continue to grow…I will NEVER arrive. It’s so sad to hear of all the condemnation, back-biting, all the fighting and strife. Just what the enemy wishes; to keep God’s people at odds with one another, to turn away from the Truth to fulfill our fleshly desires. I’m sorry you’ve been judged, hurt, condemned. Jesus will heal that, oh, yes, He will! Choices..they are mine. I consider the Lord, and His wishes and desires for me. My flesh is so strong, almost unbearable. God, there are things that I desire SO STRONGLY, that it’s almost unbearable. Help me, Lord, to desire YOU so strongly, let it be completely unbearable.

    1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author

      Kat,

      The “what are we willing to put aside for God” argument could be used for anything.

      Me: I’d like you to eat this jar full of sugar, with nothing else, in less than 30 seconds.
      You: No way, you’re crazy!
      Me: Wow, after God did so much for you, you won’t even eat a jar full of sugar? That makes me sick.

      The fallacy with that line of thinking is that God never asked us to eat a jar full of sugar. He also never asked women to wear nothing but dresses, and to have them down to their knees, and to wear sleeves to the elbows, and to never cut their hair, and to never wear jewelry, and for men to not wear shorts, and the list goes on and on. Using God’s name to try to enforce all of those man-made rules is just as silly as me using God’s name to try to get you to eat a jar full of sugar.

      Are there things God has asked us to do? Yes. Modesty, godly living, giving of ourselves to those in need, even dying for the sake of His Name. But the UPC rules on modesty? No. Don’t use God’s Name to try to enforce those rules, because they’re not His.

      In Christ,
      Josh S.

  6. Tracey McCoy

    Akeem (and everyone else really)… I have been a oneness pentecostal for 6 years and have recently been seeking things out that I didn’t understand like “holiness standards”. I left the UPC 3 months ago because of my own growth. I looked in the mirror one day and saw a Pharisee and was disgusted. Not that all UPC members are Pharisees, but the outward holiness standards placed upon us promotes a Pharisee’s attitude. I too have even recently gone to the UPC website and re-read all the “holiness” doctrine. I read every single scripture that was written down as proof that the standards are what God wants. What did I find? That there is different meaning placed on every one of those scriptures to make it mean outward “holiness” when that is not what it is talking about at all. I’m not saying God doesn’t care how we dress and present ourselves. It says to be moderate… temperate… but that’s all it says.

  7. Jason

    WTG Josh! Our faith is found upon Christ. Christ is the object of our faith. Holiness is more of an “inward” condition rather than and outward expression. However, the correct inward condition reveals itself outwardly. We are “justified” by Christ. We can’t justify each other nor ourselves because we are not the “Standard” of measure, Christ is. If we set up a set of “rules” we are legalists and Christ profits us nothing, for we depend on them. You see we have an “approval” problem. We want to be approved of what we do to “validate” our faith, instead of letting Christ do that. If we love Christ, that love reveals itself in how we handle everything else in life; speech, dress, lifestyle, etc; for “freedom” is not license. This is where we struggle in making everyday decisions. We critize others, as if we’ve never made wrong choices. Each person has to allow God to “approve” them and their choices. If we are following hard after God, we will wear appropriate cloths, not necessarily a clothing standard but un-offensive. As well as, all the other choices in our daily lives. That’s why our faith is termed a “relationship” and not “religion”.

  8. Akeem

    Oh by the way Josh. Many of our standards our scriptural. If you would like Josh I would suggest that you go to our website upci.org and look under the resources tab and click the articles tab. Then go down to the article that says Holiness and Culture. Read it you will see that many of our standards are biblically based.

    1. Carl

      I know a man in my UPC church who cheated on his wife with a strict “outer standard” holiness woman. Did she dress “lustfully” and cause him to sin?! No! It’s the heart! How insulting to men to say that unless we dress so “modestly” they are like animals who can’t control themselves. We must keep our hearts and minds holy as well but to what extent the outer is- well I don’t see how that’s for the church to dictate. My Lord and my husband are the men who let me know how they feel about my clothing and what’s offending. What if I told you any man who wears pants that outline his crotch in any way shape or form is causing people to lust? Should they then wear such baggy pants so that it doesn’t cause anyone and everyone to possibly lust? Think about it!

  9. Akeem

    I am United Pentecostal and I will agree that some churches do make holiness all about the outer appearance. I know that many people say that we are all judgemental and such and some can be that way. In my church I have seen a change in our congregation. I used to be quite judgemental, but in recent years my definition of holiness has shifted. I no longer view holiness as outer but inner. Inner holiness will normally produce outer holiness because when we are pure inside we desire to please God. The author of this article made it seem as if my denomination was a dogmatic, strict denomination. In truth we view inner holiness as of more importance than outer because outer holiness without a clean heart is a facade. We do have standards and I firmly stand by them. But we are not going to condemn someone just because they wear make-up or wear pants. We love first and then the standards come in time and with the persons own spiritual growth.

    1. Carl

      The sad part about UPC people is that they believe they are the only people with “truth” and only people who practice inner and outer holiness. You are sadly mistaken. Youve been preached and lied to to death! They tell you we don’t buy guess what- other Christian religions believe in the same one God as you and read the same bible as you and apply holiness inside the same. You’ve been made to believe you e found a truth no one else has but you’re sadly mistaken. I’ve been raised as an Assemblies of God Christian and been in a UPC church for 8 years. But this year with fasting and prayer, God showed me that the truth was with Him and His word all along and I had been made to feel better than all these years when I was really being a Pharisee. I hope some day you will see that there is such holiness and freedom and that you too can be free.

    2. Joanna

      Thank you, Akeem for saying what I am feeling. I have been oneness for 27 years now. I am not a pharisee in any way, and no one told me I had to change my outward standards, though I have through prayer over the years. I do not judge others that may not agree completely, but it is hard to see so many people here that seem so bitter towards outward holiness (that comes from within in most people that I know). In any church group or organization you will find some hypocrites and pharisees, not just UPC. Why is there such a harsh spirit towards UPC if it’s that same harsh spirit you are claiming to separate yourselves from? Really this is a rhetorical question. Just think about it. Love you all!

      1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author

        Joanna,

        Disagreeing with somebody doesn’t mean that you have a harsh spirit. You disagree with me but I don’t think that your spirit’s harsh :)

        I find most of the comments on this site to be well written. Many people on both sides of the discussion are frustrated. Some are struggling with bitterness. Nevertheless, every comment is moderated and I don’t let comments through if I judge them to be overly harsh or inflammatory. That goes for both current and former apostolics. For what it’s worth I tend to be much more lenient on current apostolics than I am on former ones. The reason is because I don’t want there to ever be a cause to accuse me of censorship. I tend to let comments that disagree with my views go through when I probably wouldn’t let the same comment past moderation if it agreed with them.

        Just wanted to clarify that :)

        In Christ,
        Josh S.

        1. Tim

          I’d just like to apologize on behalf of those of us which don’t agree with strict legalistic approaches to teaching what we refer to as “Biblical Holiness”. I’ve seen the damage it can cause and I am tired of hearing so many stories that sound something similar to, “I use to be Pentecostal but . . . .” then followed by so kind of story similar to the ones that I have read here. Hurt, judgment, ridicule all in the name of obedience to Christ (but some equate that with blind obedience to their Pastor which is not scripturally sound either. . . We must try every spirit to see if it is of Christ). I believe wholeheartedly in the essentials of the United Pentecostal Church, yet differ in some points on it’s application. Nobody likes anything to be forced on them. And Jesus nor any apostle ever forced anything on anyone. (Accept when Jesus forced the merchants from the temple.)
          I stand for the love that Christ displayed for us and try my best to reflect such love into the sphere of influence that God has called me to. As such, I don’t condemn and typically do not “teach” on holiness as a theological subject of study in my ministry. I tend to lean more towards leading by example as a primary means of teaching such. I hear “We are a Book of Acts Church!” a lot but never once in the Book of Acts is there a sermon in which Peter or Paul or any other apostle preached on any other subject other than Salvation in the Name of Jesus Christ. Yes, they did have theological debates over gentile Christians and how they should live, but not a rigorous set of laws for us to live by. Legalism is exactly what Jesus taught against and so do I. And so does the leadership I have aligned myself with.
          I watched a video today in which President Obama (then Senator) said that we cannot use the Bible to guide public policy and one reason he gave is that even if we did, “Who’s Christianity would we teach?… Al Sharpton’s or Jessie Jackson’s”. With this said I will say this, the problem with modern Christianity is the lack of ability to present a unified front to the non-Christians of this age. The Bible itself says that a house divided cannot stand, and Christianity is such a house when looking at it from an organizational perspective (please don’t misunderstand this as a lack of faith. . . in the end the Church will prevail). I guess my core a point is I am sorry that something happened which sparked a motivation to develop an entire website devoted to expressing the hurt and injustice people have suffered at the hands of legalistic Pentecostalism. Please don’t give up on us. My hope is to heal these wounds and mend these relationships.

          With Sincere Love,
          Tim

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