August 22, 2022, 10:00 AM

Peace, Holiness, and God’s Means of Sanctification

The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). There are so many warnings given to Christians in the Bible! This one is perhaps the clearest and yet the most violated and misunderstood. Of course, the striving for peace is offered as the real impact of Christianity. After all Christians are supposed to be peace-loving people, aren’t they? Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

The Nobel Foundation awards a Peace Prize to the one whom they determine seeks peace. Although in recent years, it appears to have lost a degree of objectivity by focusing on words that affirm the current cultural agenda regardless of actions. Nevertheless, the prize is still highly esteemed.

The secular world defines peace as simply the absence of conflict. Likewise, secularism views tolerance as the consideration of all world views as equally valid and, goodness is now a relative term, based not on the objective standard of goodness (who is the God revealed in the Bible) but on affirming peoples’ feelings.

Yet, Christians are called to be people of peace, putting their words into action. Rather than simply talking about peace, they are to demonstrate it in their lives by striving for it. The word translated “strive” also means to pursue, run after or chase. Christians should be known as people who live peaceably with others, as much as it is possible, or as much as peace depends upon us (Romans 12:18) and surely by not compromising truth.

King David in Psalm 34, verse 14 wrote, “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Those who have been declared right with God, justified, are at peace with Him. It is “the justified” to whom the author of Hebrews declared the command to strive for peace. I believe that it is intuitively obvious even to non-Christians that the Bible teaches God’s people to live in peace. The striving for peace is an outward sign that Christians possess the inward knowledge that they are at peace with God.

The more difficult part of the command of Hebrews 12:14 is to strive for holiness! Christians are sinners who have been changed by God into new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christians have been given new desires. These new desires compel those in Christ to run after Jesus, to seek to obey Him.

God’s declaration that a sinner is right with Him (at peace) is called justification. Justification is the beginning. God’s will for His people is their sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). In other words, God’s will for Christians is holiness. Sanctification is a work of God in the life of every sinner whom He justifies. Justification is not all of God’s work of salvation. God continues to change the justified from the inside. He causes believers to die more and more to sin and live more and more unto righteousness (doing what is right).

Those who think that the Christian life is not about being changed, that it’s simply about Jesus are ill-informed and superficial. The Christian life is about Jesus as He is revealed in the gospel changing a sinner into a saint. Jesus’ name means God saves. God saves us from His wrath. We are saved by God from God for God. Looking to Jesus alone is the means that God has chosen to save us for eternity. No unholy or unclean person can be in the presence of the Living God. Before entering heaven and being in the presence of God, we will be made perfectly holy. God promised to do it by His work of free grace called sanctification.

Philippians 2:12-13 reveals God’s work of sanctification, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Revelation 22:14 makes this declaration, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” Only those who continually repent of their sins and trust in Jesus will be allowed entrance to heaven.

Hebrews 12:14 is an exclusive statement, “without which no one will see the Lord.” Without striving for peace and holiness it will be impossible to see Jesus in heaven!