The call of God is the manifestation in time of the purpose of eternity: 'Whom He predestinated, them He also called.' Believers are 'the called according to His purpose.' In His call He reveals to us what His thoughts and His will concerning us are, and what the life to which He invites us. In His call He makes clear to us what the hope of our calling is; as we spiritually apprehend and enter into this, our life on earth will be the reflection of His purpose in eternity.
Holy Scripture uses more than one word to indicate the object or aim of our calling, but none more frequently than what Peter speaks of here -- God has called us to be holy as He is holy. Paul addresses believers twice as 'called to be holy' (Rom. i.7; 1 Cor. i.2). 'God called us', he says, 'not for uncleanness, but in sanctification' (1 Thess. iv.7). When he writes, 'The God of peace sanctify you wholly,' he adds, 'Faithful is He which calleth you, who also will do it' (1 Thess. v.24). The calling itself is spoken of as 'a holy calling.' The eternal purpose of which the calling is the outcome, is continually also connected with holiness as its aim. 'He hath chosen us in Him, that we should be holy and without blame' (Eph. i.4). 'Whom God chose from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification' (2 Thess. ii.12). 'Elect according to the foreknowledge of the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit' (1 Pet. i.2). The call is the unveiling of the purpose that the Father from eternity had set His heart upon: that we should be holy.
It needs no proof that it is of infinite importance to know aright what God has called us to. A misunderstanding here may have fatal results. You may have heard that God calls you to salvation or to happiness, to receive pardon or to obtain heaven, and never noticed that all these were subordinate. It was to 'salvation in sanctification,' it was to Holiness in the first place, as the element in which salvation and heaven are to be found. The complaints of many Christians as to lack of joy and strength, as to failure and want of growth, are simply owing to this -- the place God gave Holiness in His call they have not given it in their response. God and they have never yet come to an agreement on this.
No wonder that Paul, in the chapter in which he had spoken to the Ephesians of their being 'chosen to be holy' prays for the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God to be given to believers, that they might know 'the hope of their calling' (i.17, 18). Let all of us, who feel that we have too little realized that we are called to Holiness, pray this prayer. It is just what we need. Let us ask God to show us how, as He who hath called us is Himself holy, so we are to be holy too; our calling is a holy calling, a calling before and above everything, to Holiness. Let us ask Him to show us what Holiness is, His Holiness first, and then our Holiness; to show us how He has set His heart upon it as the one thing He wants to see in us, as being His own image and likeness; to show us too the unutterable blessedness and glory of sharing with Christ in His Holiness. Oh! that God by His Spirit would teach us what it means that we are called to be holy as He is holy. We can easily conceive what a mighty influence it would exert.
'Like as He which called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy'. How this call of God shows us the true motive to Holiness. 'Be ye holy, for I am holy.' It is as if God said, Holiness is my blessedness and my glory: without this you cannot, in the very nature of things, see me or enjoy me. Holiness is my blessedness and my glory: there is nothing higher to be conceived; I invite you to share with me in it, I invite you to likeness to myself: 'Be ye holy, for I am holy.' Is it not enough, has it no attraction, does it not move and draw you mightily, the hope of being with me, partakers of my Holiness? I have nothing better to offer -- I offer you myself: 'Be holy, for I am holy.' Shall we not cry earnestly to God to show us the glory of His Holiness, that our souls may be made willing to give everything in response to this wondrous call?
As we listen to the call, it shows also the nature of true Holiness. 'Like as He is holy, so be ye also holy.' To be holy is to be Godlike, to have a disposition, a will, a character like God. The thought almost looks like blasphemy, until we listen again, 'He hath chosen us in Christ to be holy.' In Christ the Holiness of God appeared in a human life: in Christ's example, in His mind and Spirit, we have the Holiness of the Invisible One translated into the forms of human life and conduct. To be Christlike is to be Godlike; to be Christlike is to be holy as God is holy.
The call equally reveals the power of Holiness. 'There is none holy but the Lord;' there is no Holiness but what He has, or rather what He is, and gives. Holiness is not something we do or attain: it is the communication of the Divine life, the inbreathing of the Divine nature, the power of the Divine Presence resting on us. And our power to become holy is to be found in the call of God: the Holy One calls us to Himself, that He may make us holy in possessing Himself. He not only says 'I am holy,' but 'I am the Lord, who make holy.' It is because the call to Holiness comes from the God of infinite Power and Love that we may have the confidence: we can be holy.
The call no less reveals the standard of Holiness. 'Like as He is holy, so ye also yourselves,' or (as in margin, R.V.), 'Like the Holy One, which calleth you, be ye yourselves also holy.' There is not one standard of Holiness for God and another for man. The nature of light is the same, whether we see it in the sun or in a candle: the nature of Holiness remains unchanged, whether it be God or man in whom it dwells. The Lord Jesus could say nothing less than, 'Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.' When God calls us to Holiness, He calls us to Himself and His own life: the more carefully we listen to the voice, and let it sink into our hearts, the more will all human standards fall away, and only the words be heard, Holy, as I am holy.
And the call shows us the path to Holiness. The calling of God is one of mighty efficacy, an effectual calling. Oh! let us but listen to it, let us but listen to Him, and the call will with Divine power work what it offers. He calleth the things that are not as though they were: His call gives life to the dead, and holiness to those whom He has made alive. He calls us to listen as He speaks of His Holiness, and of our holiness like His. He calls us to Himself, to study, to fear, to love, to claim His Holiness. He calls us to Christ, in whom Divine Holiness became human Holiness, to see and admire, to desire and accept what is all for us. He calls us to the indwelling and the teaching of the Spirit of Holiness, to yield ourselves that He may bring home to us and breathe within us what is ours in Christ. Christian! listen to God calling thee to Holiness. Come and learn what His Holiness is, and what thine is and must be.
Yes, be very silent and listen. When God called Abraham, he answered, Here am I. When God called Moses from the bush, he answered, Here am I, and he hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. God is calling thee to Holiness, to Himself the Holy One, that He may make thee holy. Let thy whole soul answer, Here am I, Lord! Speak, Lord! Show Thyself, Lord! Here am I. As you listen, the voice will sound ever deeper and ever stiller: Be holy, as I am holy. Be holy, for I am holy. You will hear a voice coming out of the great eternity, from the council-chamber of redemption, and as you catch its distant whisper, it will be, Be holy, I am holy. You will hear a voice from Paradise, the Creator making the seventh day holy for man whom He had created, and saying, Be holy. You will hear the voice from Sinai, amid thunderings and lightnings, and still it is, Be holy, as I am holy. You will hear a voice from Calvary, and there above all it is, Be holy, for I am holy.
Child of God, have you ever realized it, our Father is calling us to Himself, to be holy as He is holy? Must we not confess that happiness has been to us more than holiness, salvation than sanctification? Oh! it is not too late to redeem the error. Let us now band ourselves together to listen to the voice that calls, to draw nigh, and find out and know what Holiness is, or rather, find out and know Himself the Holy One. And if the first approach to Him fill us with shame and confusion, make us fear and shrink back, let us still listen to the Voice and the Call, 'Be holy, as I am holy.' 'Faithful is He which calleth, who also will do it.' All our fears and questions will be met by the Holy One who has revealed His Holiness, with this one purpose in view, that we might share it with Him. As we yield ourselves in deep stillness of soul to listen to the Holy Voice that calls us, it will waken within us new desire and strong faith, and the most precious of all promises will be to us this word of Divine command:
BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.
O Lord! the alone Holy One, Thou hast called us to be holy, even as Thou art holy. Lord! how can we, unless Thou reveal to us Thy Holiness. Show us, we pray Thee, how Thou art holy, how holy Thou art, what Thy holiness is, that we may know how we are to be holy, how holy we are to be. And when the sight of Thy Holiness only shows us the more how unholy we are, teach us that Thou makest partakers of Thy own Holiness those who come to Thee for it.
O God! we come to Thee, the Holy One. It is in knowing and finding and having Thyself, that the soul finds Holiness. We do beseech Thee, as we now come to Thee, establish it in the thoughts of our heart, that the one object of Thy calling us, and of our coming to Thee, is Holiness. Thou wouldst have us like Thyself, partakers of Thy Holiness. If ever our heart becomes afraid, as if it were too high, or rests content with a salvation less than Holiness, Blessed God! let us hear Thy voice calling again, Be holy, I am holy. Let that call be our motive and our strength, because faithful is He that calleth, who also will do it. Let that call mark our standard and our path; oh! let our life be such as Thou art able to make it.
Holy Father! I bow in lowly worship and silence before Thee. Let now Thine own voice sound in the depths of my heart calling me, Be holy, as I am holy. Amen.
1. Let me press it upon every reader of this little book, that if it is to help him in the pursuit of Holiness, he must begin with God Himself. You must go to Him who calls you. It is only in the personal revelation of God to you, as He speaks, I am holy, that the command, Be ye holy, can have life or power.
2. Remember, as a believer, you have already accepted God's call, even though you did not fully understand it. Let it be a settled matter, that whatever you see to be the meaning of the call, you will at once accept and carry out. If God calls me to be holy, holy I will be.
3. Take fast hold of the word: 'The God of peace sanctify you wholly: faithful is He which calleth you, who also will do it.' In that faith listen to God calling you.
4. Do be still now, and listen to your Father calling you. Ask for and count upon the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Holiness, to open your heart to understand this holy calling. And then speak out the answer you have to give to this call.