Posted on Oct 02, 2021 by Mike LeDuke
Holiness refers to separateness but if separateness does not necessarily denote status, why does it matter? Why did God want the Israelites to be separate? And what did it mean to be separate?
When writing to the believers in Corinth, the apostle Paul discussed the values of separation:
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16).
But the range of what Paul could have meant by this is immense. Did he mean that believers were to live as monks, away from everyone? Did he mean that believers were to cut off every relationship and tie with those who did not believe? In this case, the context demonstrates his meaning — before discussing separation, the apostle discussed the experiences of him and his associates. They were “treated as imposters,” they were “dying” but still alive, they had nothing yet they possessed everything (2 Corinthians 6:8-10). At that point, he urged the Corinthians to recognize his position and to disassociate themselves from what was holding them back from supporting him: “you are restricted in your own affections” (2 Corinthians 6:12). Instead, they were to widen their hearts and offer support. It is with that command that the apostle reminded them of the importance of separation.
Do you see what Paul was doing there? He was not randomly beginning to discuss their relationship with people in the world after urging them to think about his position and offer support. Instead, he was rebuking their thinking. He was teaching them that the reason they were not more supportive was because their thinking was still grounded in worldly thinking. Their problem was their connection to faithless things. In other words, separation is a way of thinking. God physically separated the Israelites from the nations, but they continually associated with those nations and undid their physical separation. But the point was to effect mental separation. It was for God’s people to see themselves differently, and, because of that vision of themselves and their lives, to live differently just as Paul urged.
This mental separation is again seen in a prayer that the Lord Jesus prayed on the last night of his life:
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:14).
Jesus was speaking here about his disciples. Notice how he uses the term “the world.” This was about mindsets! It was about those who held to worldly thinking versus those who held to spiritual thinking. Clearly, both Jesus and his disciples were physically in the world. But they were not mentally. To underscore this point, consider Christ’s next words:
“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
Jesus did not want them to physically leave! He wanted them to think of themselves and to think of life differently. He wanted their attitude to change.
So, holiness is a way of thinking. It is a separation because we see life differently than the world does. But then, thoughts and perception inevitably affect actions and so while holiness is a way of thinking, there are also ways of acting that go along with it. What do those actions look like, and how does holiness truly affect one’s life?
— Jason Hensley