Summary: God commands that we be Holy as He is Holy. We can bring the Holiness of God to our lives by prayer, study, trust, fellowship, and allowing our lives to be led by His Spirit.
You Shall Be Holy
Text: 1 Peter 1:16
Colossians 3:16 (NASB) Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
I found out this morning during the opening of our service that I didn’t have a full understanding of this verse. Or perhaps it is fair to say that my understanding became more complete as our brother Logan directed us to this hymn this morning. As we prepared to begin offering up our voices in praise to God I read the scripture written beneath the title of the hymn “Take Time To Be Holy.” The reference was 1 Peter 1:16. What followed in the breath before singing was a flurry of thoughts in my head which became the lesson I offer you this evening.
Let me begin with what little I could glean concerning this hymn and its author:
For many years the only information known about this gospel song was what Ira D. Sankey wrote in his autobiography. Sankey (1840-1908) was the well-known gospel singer and hymn writer who accompanied Dwight L. Moody in the late 1800's as the two of them traveled all over the world holding camp meetings and revivals.
In 1873, Sankey first published a collection of the gospel songs he sang in the revivals. Many gospel songs still in common use today became popular by inclusion in his collections. One of his collections is still in use in England today. And his autobiography is the source work of information about many gospel songs.
"Take Time to Be Holy," Sankey says, was written by William Dunn Longstaff (1822-1894) after hearing a sermon on I Peter 1:16. However, many years later the composer of the tune, George C. Stebbins, said that Longstaff wrote the hymn after hearing a missionary to China being quoted as saying, "Take time and be holy" at a meeting he attended. Whatever the origin (and both elements may be equally true, when you think about it), Stebbins had received the poem from a friend in 1890, who had clipped it from a periodical. Later, while Stebbins was spending a winter in India assisting Dr. George F. Pentecost and Bishop Thoburn in evangelistic and conference work, he recalled that he had the slip of paper with him. He promptly set music to the words and sent it off to Sankey in New York. Part of the reason Sankey probably accepted it was on the basis of his long-time friendship with Longstaff. Sankey published it first in 1890.
In our lesson this evening we will examine 1 Peter 1:16 in light of the hymn which it inspired.
The quotation used by Peter could have been from several different Old Testament texts, God made this statement to His people more than once. However because Peter was dealing with the concept of our Salvation I suspect it likely that he was quoting
Leviticus 11:45 (NASB) ‘For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’” The analogy of our salvation, our freedom from the bondage of sin, mirroring the freedom of Israel from the bondage of Egypt.