Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14, NKJV)
People pursue many things in life that are (to coin James’ phrase) here today and gone tomorrow (Jas. 4:14). Life on earth is temporary, but our existence does not end here. We are immortal beings, and our souls reach into the eternal realm (Matt. 10:28; Heb. 9:27). Therefore, we must pursue eternal things (2 Cor. 4:16-5:1). Peace and purity are among life’s highest pursuits. Peace with God and holiness (sanctification) of obtained in Christ (Isa. 9:6; Acts 3:13-19). Christians are called by Him to press forward for peace with all (as much as it depends on us, Rom. 12:18), and to have amiable tranquility among ourselves (Rom. 14:19; Heb. 13:1). Commenting on this passage, brother Dan King observed, “The church is forever at war with the world, but ought never to be at war with itself” (Truth Commentaries: The Book of Hebrews, 427). Our reason for actively running after peace and purity is that we may see the Lord. Our desire to gaze upon the Lord calls us to strengthen the weak and straighten the paths of others rather than hinder them (Heb. 12:12-13). This desire also urges us to shun profane endeavors (Heb. 12:15-17). Make peace and holiness your daily pursuit, and your treasures will last eternally (Matt. 6:19-21).
14 And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. 15 Then Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, saying: 16 “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.” (Isaiah 37:14–16, NKJV)
Jerusalem was besieged and it appeared the city would soon be captured by Assyria. God’s prophet assured king Hezekiah that God would overthrow the Assyrian king (Isaiah 37:1-7). Now, messengers from Assyria’s king delivered a letter of intimidation and reproach to the king of Judah (Isaiah 37:8-13). Hezekiah’s faith remained in the Lord, and he brought the threat before Him. In verse 16, Hezekiah honored three attributes of God that we do well to remember when we come to God in time of trouble. He honored 1) God’s holiness and mercy (“the One who dwells between the cherubim” referred to the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place of the Jerusalem temple), 2) God’s sovereignty as the One true God (“You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth,” and 3) God as Creator of all things (“You have made heaven and earth”). When the enemies of truth and righteousness press down upon Christians, we assure our hearts and our faith with these eternal truths. Let us follow Hezekiah’s good example of faith. God does not forsake the faithful (Hebrews 13:5-6).
And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine. (Leviticus 20:26, NKJV)
Have you ever read Leviticus? It is a detailed record of many of the laws God gave Israel concerning the priesthood, sacrifices and offerings, purification and moral living. The overriding theme of the book is “be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45). The holiness of God is the compelling reason His people must be holy. Whether we speak of Israel under the Sinai law, or the whole world under the gospel of Christ, we cannot live unholy lives and then somehow demand that God accept us “as we are” and even reward us in our unholiness. Yet, that is the attitude of many toward God. The context of today’s verse commanded Israel to keep all the statutes and judgments of God “that the land where I am bringing you to dwell may not vomit you out” (Leviticus 20:22). Today, if God’s people neglect the salvation we have in Jesus Christ we will not escape an even worse punishment (Hebrews 2:1-3). Holiness demands we make a distinction between what is clean and unclean, what is sin and righteous, what is evil and good (Leviticus 20:25). God separated Israel so it would be holy before Him. We must separate ourselves from unholiness or we, like Israel, will be defiled and condemned (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1).
27 Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? 28 Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? 29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; Whoever touches her shall not be innocent. (Proverbs 6:27–29, NKJV)
Just as one cannot put a firebrand to his chest without getting scorched, or walk on hot coals without burning his feet, adultery will not leave the person who yields to its temptation untouched by its pain, sorrow, and regret. Then, there is the broken trust, the broken marriages, and the lives of spouses and children that are left is tatters. And for what? For a tantalizing, momentary thrill? To fulfill fleshly lust? To escape the monotony of marriage? To follow the deceptive lie that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence? Adultery is a betrayal of vows made before God and of trust mutually shared. It dishonors the bodies of those involved, while shaming God who gave the body for holiness, not moral defilement (1 Corinthians 6:16-20). Guard yourself against this transgression against your own flesh (Genesis 2:23; Ephesians 5:28-31). God’s warning is clear: “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul,” and, “Wounds and dishonor he will get, and his reproach will not be wiped away” (Proverbs 6:32, 33). God’s command against adultery is for your protection and purity (Romans 13:9). Honor your marriage by maintaining holy sexuality (Hebrews 13:4).
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9, NKJV)
Some nations are ungodly, like Assyria (Isaiah 10:5-6). Some nations are angry and headstrong, like ancient Babylon (Habakkuk 1:6). Israel was a “sinful nation” during the days of Isaiah (Isaiah 1:4). But, the church of Christ is a spiritual nation of holy people (saints). We are sanctified in Christ Jesus – set apart from sin and made holy before Him (1 Corinthians 1:2). The call of the gospel is a call to holiness in heart and life, not a call to continue living in the defilement of sin (1 Thessalonians 4:1-7). “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, therefore, as its citizens we must not be of this world and we must not love this world (John 18:36; 1 John 2:15-17). The church is a holy nation that constitutes a holy priesthood, serving in the house of God under the kingly and priestly rule of Jesus Christ (Zechariah 6:12-13; Psalm 110:1-4; Hebrews 1:8-9; 5:5-6). Therefore, let us “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14, NKJV)
Peace without holiness is a facade that quickly falls away when rattled by the stresses and trials of life. Just as buildings crumble under the force of an earthquake, peace is shattered where holiness does not hold it together. Peace is much more than brokering a truce between enemies. Genuine peace is not merely the absence of conflict. Lasting peace includes the presence of tranquility and harmony. For peace to exist and thrive, Christians must inject the purity of holiness into every situation and relationship. Our text says to chase after peace with everybody. Another inspired text says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). So, let us couple our pursuit of peace with the pursuit of holiness. Allowing holiness to direct our words and deeds will promote the peace we pursue. Unholy anger, bitterness and resentment will only sabotage the peace we intend to seek. Furthermore, without holiness, we will not see the Lord, who is holy (1 Peter 1:13-16).
Your testimonies are very sure; Holiness adorns Your house, O Lord, forever. (Psalm 93:5, NKJV)
God is the eternal sovereign over heaven and earth. As our Creator and Sustainer, we have calm assurance that His commands attest to His power, wisdom, and holiness (see Psalm 19:7). His testimonies are “very sure” (they are certain, without discrepancy, and having no doubt). God’s commandments reflect His holiness and His certainty (James 1:17). The psalmist observed that holiness beautifies the house (temple) of God. The New Testament teaches that God’s house is not the temple Solomon built; it is the church Jesus built (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5). Like our God, the church is to be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:26-27; 1 Peter 1:15-16). As we choose to trust and obey the sure and holy testimonies of God, we put our faith in Him whose “throne is established from of old,” and in Him who is worthy of eternal praise (Psalm 93:2).
16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:16–18, NKJV)
These are not pleasant words, nevertheless, their warning is needful. The sexual appetite is strong, and when fed within God-approved marriage, it is undefiled (Heb. 13:4). Every sin we commit begins in the heart (thus, “outside the body”). But, sexual immorality (“fornication,” translated from the Greek word, porneia) is “against the body”, that is, it is opposed to the God-intended purpose of the body (v. 18). After all, your body does not belong to you, but to God (1 Cor. 6:20, 15). Therefore, “glorify God in your body” by fleeing fornication and maintaining sexual purity. Our society is saturated with sexual sins and their allurements. The gospel calls us to the purity of holiness, not to return to the shameful and destructive sins of the flesh (1 Pet. 1:15; 4:1-3). Stolen water is not sweet, and stolen bread feeds the flames of hell (Prov. 9:17-18). While the world indulges itself in this soul-destroying use of their bodies, let us flee fornication and pursue righteousness (2 Tim. 2:22).
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God (1 Thessalonians 4:3–5, NKJV)
God has always called His people to holiness: “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44; 1 Pet. 1:16). Sanctification is a state of purity, set apart from defilement and dedicated to God and His service. This includes keeping our bodies from fornication (sexual immorality). To do that, the Lord calls on us to refuse the “passion of lust” that generates sexual sins (Matt. 5:28; Mk. 7:21). God expects us to “possess” (gain control over) our bodies by renewing our minds (Rom. 12:2). By doing so we can use our bodies in holy ways that honor God. On the other hand, those who do not know God live to satisfy their fleshly lusts. By doing so, they dishonor themselves and God. But, Christians are called out of sin’s defilement to be holy and pure in mind and body.