Summary: God, who is holy, calls His people to consecrate themselves in a lifestyle of holiness.
Be Holy, Leviticus 11:39-47
“In these days there is a great deal of lowering the standards. Businessmen say that business standards have been lowered, and now a good deal of business runs into [corruption] gambling. In politics the standards have been lowered. There has been a lowering of standards in theology and in reference to the supreme authority of God’s blessed Book. We must keep the standard up to the very tip-top peak of God’s flagstaff. Be careful, my brother, about lowering your standard of right, obedience, and holiness. You remember, perhaps, that scene in the days of conflict when a color-sergeant had carried the colors so near to the enemy’s redoubt [encampment] that the regiment shouted to him to bring them back, or they would be captured. The color-sergeant said, “No, no; bring your men up to the colors!” With a magnificent dash they carried the colors themselves into the rampart… [Our Lord commands us!] “Bring my church up to my colors, and then we will go forward and capture the enemy.”
Our topic today: holiness – the raising of the standard of God’s worth, His holiness, in us.
The central thesis for this message: God, who is holy, calls His people to consecrate themselves in a lifestyle of holiness. While we are no longer bound to the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, we do a great disservice when we trivialize, ignore, or relegate the holiness laws of the Old Testament to little more than a mundane historical interest.
There are great lessons for Christians to be found in these laws that are intrinsically connected to the Gospel.
It would be easy to examine this text and run immediately to the Cross. This is most often the way that Old Testament Law is explored by New Testament preachers and teachers.
We run to the shelter of the Cross where we find forgiveness from our inability to keep the law. This is a right and proper teaching. However, the great majority of teaching concerning Old Testament Law fails to address the highest principal of that Law: God, who is holy, calls His people (ALL OF HIS PEOPLE) to consecrate themselves in a lifestyle of holiness. God is unchanging.
That applies to us as well. Ultimate holiness that is acceptable to God for salvation is only achieved through Him who fulfilled the Law – Christ. However, we are no less children of the covenant than Israel.
The highest principal of the Law – propositional holiness – is our calling from God as well. As we will see, holiness though is not the stodgy drudgery of mundane legalism. The pursuit of Holiness is the pure delight of the heart gripped with the love of God and aware of its own lack.
The pursuit of holiness is the positive result of God’s light shining in us. It is growth in grace. It is the evidence, not the means, of grace working in us.
As I enter the text I am keenly aware of the many ways in which Christ has completed the law. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus fulfilled the Law in at least two ways:
I. The animal sacrifices of the Hebraic Covenant were only a shadow of the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. He is the spotless lamb without blemish whose blood covers our sin. His death alone satisfies the wrath of God for sin. His righteousness alone, imputed to us alone sanctifies us.
II. “He completes this law, and the sayings of his prophets, in his members, by giving them grace to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbor as themselves; for this is all the law and the prophets.” All of the Tanakh (Old Testament) is fulfilled in Christ. The teachings of the Torah teach of Christ! The prophecies of the Nevi'im (The Prophets) foretell the coming of Christ! The wisdom of the Ketuvim (The Writings) presage the wisdom of God revealed in Christ!
While it is true that the Law of the Old Testament, and indeed all of the Old Testament, in specific ways, points to Christ, this does not let us off of the “hook of holiness.” Remember the central thesis of this sermon: God, who is holy, calls His people to consecrate themselves in a lifestyle of holiness.
There are many who cite Mathew 5:17 as a means of casting aside completely the Law of God as though it has no relevance for us today. In some sense they are right to do so. We are not bound in chains to the law. However, we are under obligation to the highest principal of the Law: God’s call to propositional holiness.