Holiness Today: The New Administration

God commanded Israel to be holy under the Law, and He expects the same of Christians in the Age of Grace.
God chose Israel to be a holy nation. He told the Israelites, “You shall be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine” (Lev. 20:26).

Four other times in Leviticus, God commanded them, “Be holy, for I am holy” (11:44–45; cf. 19:2; 20:7); and He made a similar statement to Israel’s priests (21:8).

Once in Exodus and seven times in Leviticus, God said, “I am the LORD who sanctifies you” (Ex. 31:13; Lev. 20:8; cf. 21:8, 15, 23; 22:9, 16, 32).

So, what exactly did He mean? How does a nation become holy? What did God expect from His Chosen People, whom He called to be “a special treasure to [Himself] above all people” (Ex. 19:5)? And what does He expect of Christians today?

Israel’s Calling
God is holy, different from all others. He is unique, in a class by Himself, completely distinct in all His attributes and characteristics. No one compares to Him. God will not share His glory with another (Isa. 42:8) because no one is worthy of it.

Yet God created humankind in His image to have fellowship with Him. At first, God only called individuals into a holy relationship with Him—people like Adam, Enoch, Noah, and Abram. Then, after delivering the patriarch Jacob’s descendants from Egypt, God brought the Israelites to Mount Sinai; formed them into a nation; and called them into a holy relationship with Himself. This relationship involved three elements:

1. Adherence to God’s Requirements. Because God wanted Israel to pursue closeness with Him, He gave instructions for a Tabernacle designed to enable a holy God to dwell in the midst of a sinful people (Ex. 25:8). Along with the Tabernacle came an elaborate system of priests, offerings, and protocols.

Israel alone, out of all the peoples of the earth, possessed access to and fellowship with the only living, true, and holy God. Adhering to this system consecrated the Jewish people to their God and set them apart from the world. So, closeness to this holy God is first and foremost a fellowship provided by carefully following the requirements of the Almighty Himself.

2. Observance of the Decalogue. Israel also was to conscientiously obey the Ten Commandments (Decalogue), a summary of the Mosaic Law:

Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God. Do not turn to idols, nor make for yourselves molded gods: I am the LORD your God” (Lev. 19:2–4).

The Jewish people were told to worship God only, to make no images of their God, and to live separated lives. The sanctity of their interpersonal relationships was to set them apart to their God and provide a holy people for the Lord.

3. Obedience to the Regulations. Israel’s holiness was to be manifested through a uniqueness created by the various laws and observances of the Mosaic Covenant. Circumcision, dietary laws, dress restrictions, and instructions regarding clean and unclean were all designed to make God’s people unique.

The fact that most of these requirements were removed under the New Covenant indicates they were not health-oriented, as many people believe. Rather, they were designed to make Israel stand out as a holy nation.

A New Administration
It is impossible to read Leviticus, the third book of the Jewish Torah, without realizing it is all about holiness. Israel’s holy living was meant to glorify its holy God.

On the one hand, the Mosaic Law pointed out humanity’s utter sinfulness. On the other hand, it provided the means whereby redeemed people could glorify and approach their Creator.

Over the next 1,400 years, Israel had ample opportunity to fulfill its God-ordained purpose; and many men and women did exactly that. Yet the nation’s history pulsates with ups and downs. Over and over, the Israelites turned away from God, choosing instead to identify with the pagan world around them, thereby incurring God’s chastening (Dt. 28).

Eventually, because of Israel’s disobedience and sin, God stripped the nation of its sovereignty, its land, and its Temple, as recorded in the Hebrew Writings and Prophets.

Finally, Messiah Jesus came to fulfill the Law by living a sinless life; dying on behalf of His people as the ultimate, sufficient sacrifice for their sins and those of all humankind; and bringing an end to the Law.

Holiness Today
So where does that leave us today? Many of God’s Chosen People still pursue Him through an obsolete system (Heb. 8:13), trusting in their own good works. The New Covenant established at Jesus’ death terminated the Mosaic administration.

No amount of good works has ever been able to make anyone good enough to stand in the presence of a righteous, holy God.

God has established a new administration, as He promised the Jewish people in Jeremiah 31:31: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”

This administration of the New Covenant is based on faith in Messiah Jesus as the final sacrifice for sin. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, repentant sinners now have direct access to God by faith in what Christ did for them—not by faith in what they think they can do for themselves to earn merit with God.

No amount of good works has ever been able to make anyone good enough to stand in the presence of a righteous, holy God. Under the Law, the sacrifices were meant to be accompanied by “a broken and a contrite heart,” which God accepted (Ps. 51:17; cf. 34:18). Today, we still must come to God that way, acknowledging Jesus as the final sacrifice for sin and asking Him to apply that sacrifice to our lives, remove our sin, and clothe us in His righteousness (Phil. 3:9).

Everyone, Jew and Gentile, must come to God through the resurrected Messiah of Israel (Jn. 14:6). The Mosaic system is no longer efficacious: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Gal. 6:15); and God admonishes us to “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).

However, the same sanctification God required through the Mosaic system is still required today. God still says, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:13–16).

Today, holy living comes by walking consistently under the control of the Holy Spirit, who indwells all genuine, born-again believers in Jesus:

Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (Gal. 5:16–18).

God still longs for His people to have a close, loving relationship with Him. This fellowship comes through timely confession of sin (1 Jn. 1:9) and consistently yielding to the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:19).

We also are to obey the New Testament commands, starting with the royal law, the law of Christ, which actually fulfills all of the Mosaic Law (Mt. 22:37–40): “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ And . . . ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mt. 22:37, 39; cf. Dt. 6:5; Jas. 2:8). Furthermore, we are to adhere to the biblical teachings of the New Covenant:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness (1 Th. 4:3–7).

The same holy God solicits the same holiness in today’s believers who glorify Him through the new administrative system.

Photo: Adobe Stock

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