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February 27, 2011

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Aren't we now able to go boldly to the throne of grace? Was Moses completely pure and unblemished? Yet he was in the presence of God. Was Isaiah completely pure and unblemished? Yet he was in the presence of God ashamed of his unclean lips. Were the Apostles completely pure and unblemished? Yet they were filled with the very Spirit of the living God. Where do we get this teaching that we are to be completely pure and unblemished in order to be in intimate connection with God? Are we interjecting the tension of holiness by our misunderstanding of the Gospel?

Thanks for your comments, David. I wholeheartedly agree with your reminder that believers can right now approach the throne of grace. 1 Peter communicates a similar idea in different language, when it is stated that we are already made holy and are right now a part of God's family through the redemption of Christ's blood. In fact in 1 Peter 3:5-6, the example he gives for holy women of old is Sarah, the one who abused the servant woman she insisted her husband marry, repeatedly lied to government officials, and laughed at God's word. This holiness Sarah and believers today already have, comes to us through the gracious forgiveness of God, blotting out our past sins and allowing us to enjoy the intimate closeness to Him of being part of His family.
At the same time, 1 Peter reminds us, we are participating members in a very messed up world, and neither we nor our Father want us to remain that way. Read 1 Peter carefully and you will find that he enthusiastically and repeatedly encourages God's children to grow in holiness. Now reborn into God's family (already in intimate connection with God), we want to be like Daddy! And He has provided the way.
In other words, neither 1 Peter nor I have "this teaching that we are to be completely pure and unblemished in order to be in intimate connection with God." Rather, "we are going to be pure and unblemished because we have continued in intimate connection with God."

Thank you for your response Teresa. In reference to the holiness of Sarah, is holiness measured by the absence of sin (transgression of the law)? Is holiness and intimacy measured by law? Or is holiness the surrender of the human will that presumes to be like God, knowing good and evil; destroying ourselves on the altar of faith resulting in our rebirth as we are made alive by the Holy Spirit? Do we know we are holy by measuring ourselves against the law or by observing the work of the Spirit in us and through us?

Important questions, but not ones 1 Peter specifically seeks to answer. My focus was to hear what 1 Peter had to say (which, by the way, obviously speaks of the holiness of Sarah as one set apart to God, not as perfectly sinless.) 1 Peter certainly focuses on holiness as a response to and result of what God has already done. You’ll find the other part of the holiness tension brought out more in other Biblical books, including Leviticus, to which 1 Peter points. (Importantly, Leviticus points similarly to atonement as the resolution of this tension.)

Each biblical book gives a slightly different dimension on this and is worth looking at in its own right.

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Memory, Meaning & Faith is a blog covering Christian history in light of contemporary issues.

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