samedi 27 avril 2013

Can A Christian be Holy? Can a christian be Sick? (Updated)

Here is a question that has been going around for quite sometimes in Church circles. Christians have always wondered about their status as saints or holy people. Is it true that Christians are saints or holy? This question is not novel or new, and it will always be around for as long as Christians will be living lives that betrays our understanding of holiness and sanctity.

However, what is novel and new - at least for me - is the claim that i recently heard that because Christians are holy or saints,  this means a Christian is incapable to sin or to exhibit any type of unholy behavior. This latter one is an extreme view that i never encountered before. But since things changes, we should expect more and more strange claims and never heard before doctrines. We need to accept that time has changed and that answers are once again needed for the new generation of converts.

The usual understanding of people about Holiness is that to be holy or to be a saints mean to be perfect and sinless. If we define holiness on those terms, then it becomes understandable why Christians keep doubting about their status as Holy people.

The easiest way to answer the question: "ARE CHRISTIAN HOLY?" is to do a thorough exposition on sanctification and Holiness. But this can't be done in this post, for it will make the post extremely long. So what I'll do is to take few verses and try to comment on them. So this is not a post about Understanding Holiness. But rather a post that respond to the question while helping people avoid extreme views.

I. Define and Explain:

Sanctification and Holiness are two words that are basically synonymous. In Greek Sanctification is "Hagiazo" and Holy is "Hagion" (cfr the eSword Hebrew and Greek Dictionary). They indicate the same idea. And the idea is what is Holy is by definition "set aside" or "put apart".
"What is holiness? Many people think we become holy by the eradication of something evil within. No, we become holy by being separated unto God. In Old Testament times, it was when a man was chosen by God to be altogether His that he was publicly anointed with oil and was then said to be ‘sanctified’. Thereafter he was regarded as set apart to God. In the same manner even animals or material things—a lamb, or the gold of the temple—could be sanctified, not by the eradication of anything evil in them, but by being thus reserved exclusively to the Lord. “Holiness’ in the Hebrew sense meant something thus set apart, and all true holiness is holiness “to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36). I give myself over wholly to Christ: that is holiness." - The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. Chapter: Presenting Ourselves To God. page 46
In this same mind, a Christian is holy in the sense that he was 'set apart' for God usage and from things that prevent them to be used by God. Matter of fact, that is why when Christian gather together, the bible refered to that gathering or that community as a 'Church'. The word 'Church' comes from the Greek word 'Eklesia' (cfr Math16:18 Esword Dictionary) which means to "call out". Hence the Christians Church is a community of people who have been call out of something. Here again the notion of separation from the rest of the crowd is once again linked to the Christian community - thus sanctification, holiness, set aside from.

II. Understanding our holiness:

There are two way a person can be Holy.

1. The first one is by birth like it was the case with Jesus:

"Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy Baby which is to be born shall be called the Son of God." Luke 34-35 EMTV

2. The second way to be Holy is by becoming a saint through a process called sanctification. Just like the word 'justification' means to make someone Righteous, sanctification means to make someone Holy.

First, Christians were made Holy (read, set apart) from the immorality of the world by the activity of the Holy Spirit.

"... thieves, greedy people, drunks, slanderers, and robbers will not inherit the kingdom of God. That is what some of you were! But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus the Messiah and by the Spirit of our God." - 1 Corinthians 6:10-11 ISV

Second, Christian were made Holy (read, separated) from the first (old) covenant through the sacrifice of Jesus' body

"[Jesus] takes away the first in order to establish the second. By God's will we have been sanctified once and for all through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus, the Messiah."  Hebrew 10:10 ISV

The separation with the First refers to the Old covenant sacrificial system. It was done once and for all in history. It happened two thousand years ago. It will never be repeated again. (Cfr Hebrews 9-10) 

Third, Christian were made Holy (read, separated) from the rest of the world for one purpose, to obey Jesus.

"the people chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father through the sanctifying action of the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus, the Messiah," - 1 Peter 1:2  ISV

In summary, all Christians were made Holy, were put aside from the darkness of the world and away from the Old covenant sacrificial system of righteousness for one purpose. The purpose is that so they will obey Jesus. There should never been a conflict for a Christian between a demand made by Jesus versus a demand made by the world or by the Old covenant law of righteousness. As an example, if an Old (the first) covenant Law for example command something and then Jesus happens to command something else than that old law, the sanctified Christian should then listen and obey what Jesus is saying rather than someone else (Mathew 5:38-38).

Fourth, Christians who have been made Holy - set aside- are commanded to keep being separated in the way they behave

"Instead, be holy in every aspect of your life, just as the one who called you is holy." - 1 Peter 1:15  

This last one is important to understand, because although Christians are separated from the filth of the world through the activity of the Holy Spirit, the human nature within them has always the desire to express itself. This verse above raises the point of holiness in our behaviors. St. Peter introduced the request not as a suggestion but as a command by the use of the imperative "be Holy". In the same line, St. Paul also warned Christians in all his letters to walk by the Spirit so that they may not have to walk by the carnal behaviors of the world. This is a task that a Christian has to do everyday. A christian is exhorted and commanded to watch out his/her daily behavior and to have a separated, a set aside lifestyle than the one found in the world. As it is written: "Pay close attention to your life
 and your teaching. Persevere in these things, because if you do so, you will save both yourself and those who listen to you." - 1 Timothy 4:16 ISV" (See also Galatians 5 and Ephesians 4)

III. Reflection about divine Healing

I like the biblical case about divine healing because it illustrate well why doctrinal things should be taken with caution and not in a rush.

1. There is prophecy and a divine promise that guarantees us that we are healed by the work of the Cross:

a) From the old testament: "But he was wounded for our transgressions, and he was crushed for our iniquities, and the punishment that made us whole was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed." - Isaiah 53:5 

This prophecy is repeated twice in the New testament:

b) First in the epistle of Peter:
"'He himself bore our sins' in his body on the tree, so that we might die to those sins and live righteously. 'By his wounds you have been healed.'" - 1 Peter 2:24

c) and the second one in the Gospel of Mathew: 
"This was to fulfill what was declared by the prophet Isaiah when he said, 'It was he who took our illnesses away and removed our diseases.'" - Matthews 8:17 

I mean this is a serious guarantee that something has been done about our illness and diseases many centuries ago. It is interesting that in Peter it is written in the past tense as a phenomenon of the past. So here is the question: "can a Christian be sick?". Our experiences proves us that Christians can and do get sick despite the wonderful work of the Cross. Just like our experiences proves us that Christians can and do sin despite the wonderful work of the cross.

And let me remind the reader that I do believe in divine healing and the finished work of Jesus. Jesus has sealed his work by saying that it was finished. Remember:

"After Jesus had taken the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and released his spirit." - John 19:30  

But we still see people getting sick around us, even in our churches. In case, you'd like to object that we should not take in account modern experiences of people, i then suggest that we look at old folks experiences then:

 The case of Epaphodities - a Brother

"Epaphroditus—my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and minister to my need—back to you. For he has been longing for all of you and is troubled because you heard that he was sick." - Philippians 2:25-26  

Din't Epaphroditus or St. Paul the apostle knew that Jesus was bruised so that we may be healed? Of course they knew it.

b.  The Case of Trophimus

"Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus in Miletus because he was sick." - 2 Timothy 4:20  

Why did Paul literally leave Trophimus sick in Miletus? Din't he knew that Jesus healed him at the Cross? Of course they knew it. But you see, unlike some extremist views nowaday, those Christians of the first centuries understood that things do not just happen to Christian automatically just because it is a divine promise or because it was acquired for us at the Cross. 

c. The case of the Corinthian church

"That's why so many of you are weak and sick and a considerable number are dying." - 1 Corinthians 11:30  

It is important to understand this. Just like sins were dealt with at the cross as read in the book of Isaiah, the same also goes with illness and sickness. They were dealt at the cross too. And Jesus said that his work was finished, it was completed. However, if we are not careful in our analysis of the Scriptures, we may go astray into false doctrines and false teachings by assuming that a Christian can not sin or can not be sick, because it was written that he bore our sins and sickness at the cross. Unfortunately, a Christian can sin (1 Peter 1:20) and a Christian can get sick as already shown above.

Even though He bore them at the cross, these things did not disappear. What Jesus did at the Cross, was that he made available the cure for our spiritual and physical maladie. These cure are not automatic - unless commanded by God when He decides.

Usually, It is up to us to take those benefice of the cross, and to appropriate them by God's grace. Because it happened at the Cross does not necessarily mean that it will automatically be experienced by all Christians. No, it will not. We have to be willing to apply the remedy of the cross on our daily lives. We have to daily be obedient to Jesus - for this was after all the reason we were made Holy (sanctified). And this is how we keep ourselves holy - by obeying Jesus. 

So yes, a Christian can and is Holy through the divine activities of the Spirit on his/her behalf. And a Christian even holy is not exempt to keep practicing holiness for s/he has been commanded to "be holy" by St. Peter because of the possibility of reverting into unholy behaviors by abandoning the practice of the holy life: 
"For if, after escaping the world's corruptions through a full knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus, the Messiah, they are again entangled and conquered by those corruptions, then their last condition is worse than their former one. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to know it and turn their backs on the holy commandment that was committed to them." 2 Peter 2:20-21 ISV 
It was not a suggestion, but an imperative statement. It was a command - "Be Holy". 

P.S: Check out my book - Help Me Understand Jesus. Check My Book by clicking here or more here.

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