"Making holiness primarily consist of externals confuses what holiness is versus what holiness does."

The Scripture upholds true godliness and holiness with statements like “Godliness is profitable unto all things” (I Tim. 4:8), and warns against the counterfeit, with statements like “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:5). While the context of 2 Timothy primarily addresses counterfeit religion among the unsaved, by way of application it addresses a potential counterfeit holiness among the saved. There is a counterfeit holiness to be guarded against.

True holiness is accessing the holy life of Christ in you. The essence of true holiness is a person—the holy life of Jesus animating your personality. The evidence of this true holiness, or fruit of the Spirit of Jesus, is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22). The ninth grace listed is “temperance” or Spirit-energized self-control. This restraint will inevitably involve “externals.” When you are led by the Spirit, you obey His leadership regarding external lifestyle applications. This surrender is vital to holy living, or living in the Spirit. However, when you do, you’re depending on the Spirit, not the applications. The essence—accessing the Holy Life—is the issue, not the external applications.

“Temperance” is one-ninth or 11% of the expressions of the fruit of the Spirit (or if the fruit of the Spirit is essentially love, making the following eight graces express that love, then one-eighth or 12.5%). Yes, Spirit-led self-restrained living is an expression of holiness, but it is not the essence. Sprit-led expressions of holiness are important, but what is primary is the essence of Christ’s life, the true source of holiness.

Counterfeit holiness makes holiness primarily consist of a set of external applications. This is a major error for at least three reasons.

  1. Externals can be imitated by unsaved moralists. Therefore, externals are not the essence of holiness, though they can be expressions of holiness.
  2. The given set of external applications varies from person to person and group to group. The taboos and “big” issues vary even in conservative churches. Therefore, these external applications cannot be the core issue of true holiness. While the essence of holiness is absolute, the applications within that absolute vary. Therefore, the applications must not be made primary.
  3. Making holiness primarily consist of externals confuses what holiness is versus what holiness does. Defining holiness by what it does leads to works-dependence. Defining holiness by what it is leads to God-dependence.

Genuine holiness accesses the holy life of the indwelling Christ—the fruit of the Spirit. The primary issue is the person of holiness, not the expressions of holiness. Any emphasis of holiness other than the Holy One is an error and produces counterfeit holiness.

Next week, we will address some marks of counterfeit holiness.

John Van Gelderen

John Van Gelderen

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About This Blog

Hello, I’m John Van Gelderen. I am an evangelist and the president of Revival Focus Ministries, an organization for the cause of revival in hearts, homes, churches, and beyond, and for evangelizing. This blog is focused on experiencing Jesus. I believe in order to really live, you must access and experience the very life of Jesus Christ.