I am an ordained minister, and ordained ministers are expected to show dignified manners, exemplary life and commitment to God’s word. In some way, ordained ministers are even required to be holy. I also confess myself to be a believing person, a child of God. Believing people are expected to be sinless and perfect, at least when they have fallen into sin.
I do not feel myself to be holy either as an ordained minister or as a Christian and a human being. I am quite startled by the question in the title. Could I ever be holy? I feel anything but holy. Am I not only evil and sinful on my own part? Like Paul, I must say: “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Rom. 7:18)
There are people who try to do everything to perfection. The effort to be as good as possible or perfect is called perfectionism. The unhealthy side of perfectionism is inability accept anything imperfect in life. That makes life constant ambition and aspiration.
People can also strive to be perfect in their spiritual life. They may try to please God with their own works and to devote their whole life to Him. Some religions allow a person who has shown heroic virtue in life to be declared a saint, to whom people can turn in intercessory prayer.
As a young man Mart¬in Lut¬her wanted to devote all his life to God and therefore became a monk. He wanted to please God by his monastic life. He had been taught that, if a person does all things in his power, God will not deny him His grace. But the possibility to please God by monastic life did not provide a solution. Outwardly he was a devout monk, but he still felt uncertain and desperate, wondering if the things he was able to do would suffice before God.
God allowed despairing Luther to make a momentous discovery: Neither human love nor any human deeds can reach God. Instead, God forgives sins for free because of the merit of Christ. A divine exchange takes place. Christ takes away people’s sins and gives them His own righteousness and holiness. People can accept this treasure through faith, which is not a reward for what they have done but a gift of God.
But isn’t God alone holy? We read in the Bible: ”For this is what the high and exalted One says — he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” (Isa. 57:15.) God’s name, essence and word are holy. He lives in a high and holy place, where we as humans cannot enter. And yet He also calls us and wants to live with those who long for His presence because of their sinfulness and weakness.
When Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in Rome, he greeted them like this: ”To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people” (Rom. 1:7). Paul also addressed the Christian is Colossae as ”God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” (Col. 3:12). A footnote of the Bible tells us that the word holy was originally applied to members of the Jerusalem congregation and later to members of all congregations. According to God’s word, therefore, believing people, including me, are holy, although it seems unbelievable!
When and how does a person become ”God’s chosen and holy”? That happens when he is preached all sins forgiven in Jesus’ name and atoning blood through the Holy Spirit in God’s kingdom. At that moment he receives the gift of Christ’s merit and holiness. Even I, although I was a sinful and evil human being, became righteous through faith and a holy one of Christ.
Sanctification is a work of God through His Holy Spirit. Mart¬in Lut¬her explains this in his Large Catechism: ”I believe that the Holy Ghost makes me holy, as His name implies. But whereby does He accomplish this, or what are His method and means to this end? Answer: By the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. For, in the first place, He has a peculiar congregation in the world, which is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God, which He reveals and preaches, [and through which] He illumines and enkindles hearts, that they understand, accept it, cling to it, and persevere in it.”
When a person believes out of grace and begins to follow Jesus in His congregation, sanctification by the Holy Spirit begins in his life. That was what also happened in my life, although I did not become a saint or a perfect person, because I am sinful on my own part.
My old portion did not and cannot repent. It is the sinful body. We must haul it along until we are buried in the grave. Quoting Luther: ”For now we are only half pure and holy, so that the Holy Ghost has ever [some reason why] to continue His work in us through the Word, and daily to dispense forgiveness, until we attain to that life where there will be no more forgiveness, but only perfectly pure and holy people, full of godliness and righteousness, removed and free from sin, death, and all evil, in a new, immortal, and glorified body.”
Text: Olavi Vallivaara
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen
You will find the original blog post here.
Monet suunnitelmat ovat tänä poikkeuksellisena keväänä muuttuneet. Muun muassa perhejuhlien järjestelyjä on pitänyt miettiä uudelleen. Tämä on koskenut myös avioliittoon vihkimisiä. Nyt vihkimisiä on toimitettu niin, että koolla on ollut vain joitakin läheisiä, ja muu juhlaväki on seurannut tilaisuutta ehkä virtuaalisesti.