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:
- First, the KJV translated (sanctification) as "holiness" in 1 Tim. 2:15.
- 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.
- The Complete Word Study Dictionary, © 1992 By AMG International, Inc., Chattanooga, TN 37422, U.S.A., Revised edition, 1993 [↩]