'He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love.' -- Eph. i.4.
There are two Greek words, signifying nearly the same, used frequently along with the word holy, and following it, to express what the result and effect of holiness will be as manifested in the visible life. The one is translated without blemish, spotless, and is that also used of our Lord and His sacrifice, the Lamb without blemish (Heb. ix.14; 1 Pet. i.19). It is then used of God's children with holy -- holy and without blemish (Eph. i.4, 5, 27; Col. i.22; Phil. ii.15; Jude 24; 2 Pet. iii.14). The other is without blame, faultless (as in Luke i.6; Phil ii.15, iii.6), and is also found in conjunction with holy (1 Thess. ii.10, iii.13, v.23). In answer to the question as to whether this blamelessness has reference to God's estimate of the saints or men's, Scripture clearly connects it with both. In some passages (Eph. i.4, v.27; Col. i.22; 1 Thess. iii.15; 2 Pet. iii.14) the words 'before Him,' 'to Himself,' 'before our God and Father,' indicate that the first thought is of the spotlessness and faultlessness in the presence of a Holy God, which is held out to us as His purpose and our privilege. In others (such as Phil. ii.15; 1 Thess. ii.10), the blamelessness in the sight of men stands in the foreground. In each case the word may be considered to include both aspects: without blemish and without blame must stand the double test of the judgment of God and man too.
And what is now the special lesson which this linking together of these two words in Scripture, and the exposition of holy by the addition of blameless, is meant to teach us? A lesson of deep importance. In the pursuit of holiness, the believer, the more clearly he realizes what a deep spiritual blessing it is, to be found only in separation from the world, and direct fellowship with God, to be possessed fully only through a real Divine indwelling, may be in danger of looking too exclusively to the Divine side of the blessing, in its heavenly and supernatural aspect. He may forget how repentance and obedience, as the path leading up to holiness, must cover every, even the minutest detail of daily life. He may not understand how faithfulness to the leadings of the Spirit, in such measure as we have Him already, faithfulness to His faintest whisper in reference to ordinary conduct, is essential to all fuller experience of His power and work as the Spirit of holiness. He may, above all, not have learnt how, not only obedience to what he knows to be God's will, but a very tender and willing teachableness to receive all that the Spirit has to show him of his imperfections and the Father's perfect will concerning him, is the only condition on which the Holiness of God can be more fully revealed to us and in us. And so, while most intent on trying to discover the secret of true and full holiness from the Divine side, he may be tolerating faults which all around him can notice, or remaining, -- and that not without sin, because it comes from the want of perfect teachableness, -- ignorant of graces and beauties of holiness with which the Father would have had him adorn the doctrine of holiness before men. He may seek to live a very holy, and yet think little of a perfectly blameless life.
There have been such saints, holy but hard, holy but distant, holy but sharp in their judgments of others; holy, but men around said, unloving and selfish; the half-heathen Samaritan more kind and self-sacrificing than the holy Levite and priest. If this be true, it is not the teaching of Holy Scripture that is to blame. In linking holy and without blemish (or without blame) so closely, the Holy Spirit would have led us to seek for the embodiment of holiness as a spiritual power in the blamelessness of practice and of daily life. Let every believer who rejoices in God's declaration that he is holy in Christ seek also to perfect holiness, reach out after nothing less than to be 'unblameable in holiness.'
That this blamelessness has very special reference to our intercourse with our fellow-men we see from the way in which it is linked with love. So in Eph. i.4, 'That we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love.' But specially in that remarkable passage: 'The Lord make you to increase and abound in love toward one another, and toward all men, to the end He may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness.' The holiness and the blamelessness, the positive hidden Divine life-principle, and the external and human life-practice -- both are to find their strength, by which we are to be established in them, in our abounding and ever-flowing love.
Holiness and lovingness -- it is of deep importance that these words should be inseparably linked in our minds, as their reality in our lives. We have seen, in the study of the holiness of God, how love is the element in which it dwells and works, drawing to itself and making like itself all that it can get possession of. Of the fire of Divine holiness love is the beautiful flame, reaching out to communicate itself and assimilate to itself all it can lay hold of. In God's children true holiness is the same; the Divine fire burns to bring into its own blessedness all that comes within its reach. When Jesus sanctified Himself that we might be sanctified in truth, that was nothing but love giving itself to the death that the sinful might share His holiness. Selfishness and holiness are irreconcilable. Ignorance may think of sanctity as a beautiful garment with which to adorn itself before God, while underneath there is a selfish pride saying, 'I am holier than thou,' and quite content that the other should want what it boasts of. True holiness, on the contrary, is the expulsion and the death of selfishness, taking possession of heart and life to be the ministers of that fire of love that consumes itself, to reach and purify and save others. Holiness is love. Abounding love is what Paul prays for as the condition of unblameable holiness. It is as the Lord makes us to increase and abound in love, that He can establish our hearts unblameable in holiness.
The Apostle speaks of a twofold love, 'love toward each other, and toward all men.' Love to the brethren was what our Lord Himself enjoined as the chief mark of discipleship. And He prayed the Father for it as the chief proof to the world of the truth of His Divine mission. It is in the holiness of love, in a loving holiness, that the unity of the body will be proved and promoted, and prepared for the fuller workings of the Holy Spirit. In the Epistles to the Corinthians and Galatians, division and distance among believers are named as the sure proof of the life of self and the flesh. Oh, let us, if we would be holy, begin by being very gentle, and patient, and forgiving, and kind, and generous in our intercourse with all the Father's children. Let us study the Divine image of the love that seeketh not its own, and pray unceasingly that the Lord may make us to abound in love to each other. The holiest will be the humblest and most self-forgetting, the gentlest and most self-denying, the kindest and most thoughtful of others for Jesus' sake. 'Put on therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering' (Col. iii.12, 13).
And then the love toward all men. A love proved in the conduct and intercourse of daily life. A love that not only avoids anger and evil temper and harsh judgments, but exhibits the more positive virtue of active devotion to the welfare and interests of all. A charitable love that cares for the bodies as well as the souls. A love that not only is ready to help when it is called, but that really gives itself up to self-denial and self-sacrifice to seek out and relieve the needs of the most wretched and unworthy. A love that does indeed take Christ's love, that brought Him from heaven and led Him to choose the cross, as the only law and measure for its conduct, and makes everything subordinate to the Godlike blessedness of giving, of doing good, of embracing and saving the needy and lost. Thus abounding in love, we shall be unblameable in holiness.
It is in Christ we are holy; of God we are in Christ, who is made of God unto us sanctification: it is in this faith that Paul prays that the Lord, our Lord Jesus, may make us increase and abound in love. The Father is the fountain, He is the channel; the Holy Spirit is the living stream. And He is our Life, through the Spirit. It is by faith in Him, by abiding in Him and in His love, by allowing, in close union with Him, the Spirit to shed abroad the love of God, that we shall receive the answer to our prayer, and shall by Himself be established unblameable in holiness. Let it be with us a prayer of faith that changes into praise: Blessed be the Lord, who will make us increase and abound in love, and will establish us unblameable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with His holy ones.
BE YE HOLY, AS I AM HOLY.
Most Gracious God and Father! again do I thank Thee for that wondrous salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, which has made us holy in Christ. And I thank Thee that the Spirit can so make us partakers of the life of Christ, that we too may be unblameable in holiness. And that it is the Lord Himself who makes us to increase and abound in love, to the end our hearts may be so established; that the abounding love and the unblameable holiness are both from Him.
Blessed Lord and Saviour! I come now to claim and take as my own, what Thou art able to do for me. I am holy only in Thee; in Thee I am holy. In Thee there is for me the power to abound in love. O Thou, in whom the fulness of God's love abides, and in whom I abide, the Lord, my Lord, make me to abound in love. In union with Thee, in the life of faith in which Thou livest in me, it can be and it shall be. By the teaching of Thy Holy Spirit lead me in all the footsteps of Thy self-denying love, that I too may be consumed in blessing others.
And thus, Lord! mightily establish my heart to be unblameable in holiness. Let self perish at Thy presence. Let Thy Holiness, giving itself to make the sinner holy, take entire possession, until my heart and life are sanctified wholly, and my whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto Thy coming. Amen.
1. Let us pray very earnestly that our interest in the study of holiness may not be a thing of the intellect or the emotions, but of the will and the life, seen of all men in the daily walk and conversation. 'Abounding in love,' 'unblameable in holiness,' will give favour with God and man.
2. 'God is Love;' Creation is the outflow of love. Redemption is the sacrifice and the triumph of love. Holiness is the fire of love. The beauty of the life of Jesus is love. All we enjoy of the Divine we owe to love. Our holiness is not God's, is not Christ's, if we do not love.
3. 'Love seeketh not its own.' 'Love never faileth.' 'Love is the fulfilling of the law.' 'The greatest of these is love.' 'The end of the commandment is love.' To love God and man is to be holy. In the intercourse of daily life, holiness can have its simple and sweet beginnings and its exercise; so, in its highest attainment, holiness is love made perfect.
4. Faith has all its worth from love, from the love of God, whence it draws and drinks, and the love to God and man which streams out of it. Let us be strong in faith, then shall we abound in love.
5. 'The love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which was given unto us.' Let this be our confidence.