By Lisa Harp Hinds
The Church and Our Duty
As followers of Christ, we are commanded to be holy. Part of living a holy life includes engaging in the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and study, prayer, fasting, worship, and obedience to God. Another part of living a holy life includes how we treat others. I will explore the relationship between the spiritual disciplines and our duty to engage in social action and gospel witness as outlined in article 10 of the Church of God (Seventh Day) Statement of Faith.
As J.R. Williams states in the Second Edition of the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, “Holiness, in a great variety of expressions, is the inmost core of religious faith and practice” (561). We find many Scripture texts in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that expound upon the holiness of God, but we also find evidence in the New Testament (NT) of why we should live holy lives. I Peter 1:16 tells us, “Be holy, because I am holy.” Williams makes the claim that the NT highlights the ethical dimension of holiness, that Christians are a people who should be inwardly holy (563).
GROW IN RIGHTEOUSNESS
D.W. Diehl contends that the NT explicitly shows that we who have been made righteous through faith should also “do the deeds of righteousness and … grow in righteousness by God’s grace” (Elwell 1034; Rom. 6:12-18; Eph. 4:24; 5:9; Phil. 1:11; Heb. 11; James 2:17-26; 1 Pet. 2:24; 1 John 2:29). God’s righteousness is an attribute that is closely related to His holiness and to His moral law (Elwell 1034). God is righteous and holy, and He desires His people to be righteous and holy. Because of the justification, or imputed righteousness that Christians receive through salvation, we are supposed to grow in the likeness of Christ, which is the process of sanctification or renewed righteousness (1034).
Christ tells us what holiness is: loving God and loving others. In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus gives us a summary of the law: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
OUR RESPONSE TO GOD AND TO OTHERS
On page 130 of the book This We Believe, the Church explains that our response to God and our response to others are due to our love for God:
True love for God is demonstrated by obedience to His Word, submission to His will, and adoration of His person (Deuteronomy 11:1; John 14:15; James 4:7; I John 5:2, 3). True love for our fellowman is demonstrated by caring concern, unselfish relationships, and refusal to harm others (Romans 13:10; I Corinthians 13:1-8).
We show our love for God and develop our relationship with Him through the following spiritual disciplines: “Bible reading and study, prayer, fasting, worship, and obedience” (This We Believe 130). These disciplines aid us in discovering more about God and His Son. As we come to know God better, we gain a deeper relationship with Him. Our love for Him and our desire for Him will grow. This should also lead to a desire to continue to participate in these spiritual disciplines, making them an essential part of our lives, for we will benefit by gaining a closer relationship with God (132). We have also been called to be like Jesus, so we must “actively pursue His purpose also, thus advancing God’s kingdom in the world” (132).
FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JESUS
Following in the footsteps of Jesus and advancing His kingdom means that we will serve others with Christ’s love. This is our mission in life, and “we seek to carry out this mission through compassionate service to those most profoundly affected by sin (e.g., orphans, widows, the poor and oppressed, the sick, the imprisoned, and victims of war, crime, violence, etc.) and through the presentation of the salvation message to all” (132).
In This We Believe, the text of Ephesians 2:8-10 is used to show that God intends for believers to be obedient to Him and that, in fact, He created us for this purpose (130). Notice in particular verse 10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Our love for God should show through our “obedience to His Word, submission to His will, and adoration of His person (This We Believe 130).
OUR LOVE FOR OTHERS
Even our love for each other and for non-Christians should show through our behavior and our actions toward others (130). If we love God, we will worship Him, and worship “is that which draws us into His presence, changing us into His image (Rose 29). We will also serve others, for “to model the life of Christ, it is necessary to be a servant” (33). This is what it means to live a holy life.
Thus, we should be holy because God is holy and because we love Him and are followers of Christ. In order to be holy, we must engage in the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and study, prayer, fasting, worship, and obedience to God, and we must treat others with the compassion of Christ and tell them about Christ’s love. As we grow in the knowledge of our Lord, we will continue to become holy, and we will follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.
New International Version. Daily Bible Application on Android Smartphone.
Rose, Whaid Guscott. Dream in Progress. Denver: General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day), 2012.
This We Believe: Teachings of the Church of God (Seventh Day). Denver: Bible Advocate Press, 2012.