If we pay a little attention to Scripture, we shall see that holiness, while based essentially upon being born of God, our having put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4), renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created us, being made partakers of the divine nature—holiness, while manifested here, is dependent on, and directly and characteristically associated with, the heavenly objects and hopes, revealed to us by the Holy Ghost, consequent on the glorifying of the Lord Jesus as Man. Obedient and dependent confidence, perhaps I should more justly say confiding dependence, characterise at all times the soul whose eyes have been opened in faith, the divine life in man. But when God was hidden within the veil, and even so known, as to His actual revelation of Himself on earth, the holiness was co-ordinate to the revelation made. Faith, doubtless, may have often looked above it all, and known that God was in heaven, and man upon earth; and prophetic truth might point men farther, and tell men that eye had not seen, nor ear heard, neither had entered into the heart of man, the things which God had prepared for them that love Him; but it could only tell them that man had not, nor had it entered into his heart, and the ordered revelation given of God presented a God revealed on earth, and holiness was referred to His house, and that house was down here; admitted, as it was, that heaven was His dwelling-place, and that the heaven of heavens could not contain Him.
Yet His name and revealed glory were down here in the tabernacle and in the temple, and everything, and all true consecration, was referred to that. There He dwelt with His people, His house was holy—there were holy flesh, holy garments, a worldly sanctuary, an altar most holy, and holy vessels. They were to be holy, because He who dwelt amongst them was holy—would allow no uncleanness in the camp. The vessels were holy, and the unclean could not draw near. Everything was consecrated to Him as dwelling there, and once a year an atonement made, and His tabernacle cleansed, because of the iniquity of the children of Israel, among whom He dwelt. Naturally, though further thought might, and did, break into faith, holiness practically referred to the revelation made of God and His dwelling-place, as revealed; relative holiness— and all true holiness is relative—relates to God as He has made Himself known.
The abstract remained true, that holiness became His house for ever, but the measure and character of it referred as obligatory to the way and measure in which the necessary and divine object of it was revealed. But the Holy Ghost signified, by the veil, that the way into the holiest was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle had its standing. A law was given by a mediator; but the people could not come nigh, even to the revelation given of God upon earth. A holy house, and holy vessels, and sanctified priests, surrounded God outside. A figure of Christ in one, for whom it was death if he did not go in with a due cloud of incense, marked that the way of man to God was not opened; and the revelation of God to man was not till the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, declared Him, and the rent veil shewed the open way, with boldness, into the holiest for sinners cleansed by the blood shed in rending it.
But there is more than this. Christ is entered in as Man, and sits at the right hand of God in the heavenly sanctuary. Further, the Holy Ghost is come down, and takes the things of Christ and shews them to us, and all things that the Father hath are His. Hence we say now, not (save as what had been) “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, to conceive the things which God hath prepared for them that love him,” without adding, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.” Such is the Christian estate, as contrasted with the statement of the prophet, often cited as if it were the Christian state itself. Hence we are called upon to set our affections on things above, not on things on the earth. We cannot set our affections on what we do not know. And note this, that the true character of a man morally is what his heart is upon: a man whose mind is set on money is an avaricious man; on power, an ambitious man; on pleasure, a man of pleasure. He is morally what he loves, and his mind is full of. Our conversation, our living associations, are in heaven. It is the place we belong to, and, in our home affections, are associated with, and as Christians pursue, as the one thing which governs our mind, here indeed in the race, but the prize is our calling of God above (ano) in Christ Jesus. And what is this high calling, this calling above? The word of God lives, and makes faith live more uniformly in these things than we are aware of. We find not only the blessed personal names in the unity of Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but in the dispensed order of the divine economy in grace, God, the Lord, and the Spirit; for God has made Him whom the Jews crucified both Lord and Christ, and thereupon the Spirit is come down here.
So, in 1 Corinthians 12, there are diversities of administrations, but the same Lord; diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; diversities of operations, but it is the same God which works all in all. So, in Ephesians 4, one Spirit, one Lord, one God and Father of all. So, in all the Epistles, grace is wished from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. To us there is one God the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ; and even in the first announcement by Mary Magdalene to the apostles of the new Christian privileges, based on redemption, after the resurrection of the Saviour, it ran, “Go tell my brethren, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, my God and your God.” Thus we are called to walk worthy according to these three titles. In 1 Thessalonians 2:12, it is to walk worthy of God, who has called us to His own kingdom and glory. In Colossians 1:10, That ye may walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing. So Ephesians 4, That ye may walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, and that vocation is the power of the Spirit of God, God’s habitation through the Spirit, one body, and strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, rooted and grounded in love that we may be able to comprehend with all saints the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge that we may be filled up to all the fulness of God. It is according to a power that works in us.
It is according to these things, Christ being our life, that holiness is formed in us. The new life is a holy life in its nature, but it has its objects by which, in thought and affections, it is formed in its character. While the Father’s love is the sustaining and peaceful enjoyment of this state, the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us, Christ personally, as He is now in glory, is the object before our eyes. Other things are associated with Him, but Christ is the central and absorbing object. Christ is all objectively, and in all, as life, the living power in which He is enjoyed as personally in glory. There are two points to observe here in connection with this, as forming this holiness. First, its only measure and standard is Christ in glory, Christ as He is. Secondly, its full attainment and manifestation in us is when He comes and changes our vile body, and we appear with Him; then we are for ever set apart to God, with and like Him, and perfected and perfect.
The effect of looking thus at Him is a walk down here as He walked in those who are in Him, and whose measure of duty this is. He was that Holy Thing come down from heaven, and “the Son of man who is in heaven”; and so, with perfect patience, and unfailingly displayed, with His own heart’s joy above as to its state the effect was a path of perfect holiness, obedience, and love down here, a path which the vulture’s eye hath not seen, but which He has traced in the wilderness, in which there is no way. Divine life in Himself, but with His heart in the heaven, to which He belonged, and was in divinely, speaking what He knew and had seen, and on the joy set before Him, as Man down here, He walked in grace and holiness. Now we are united to Him, and His joy is our portion, and as He had life in Himself, so we in Him; and so far as our hearts are fixed on Him, we walk as He walked down here, the heavenly things wherein He dwells being the sphere in which we live, our conversation being in heaven, whence we look for Him to change our vile body, and fashion it like His glorious body. We are to be holy and without blame before God in love. Now this answers to God’s nature, holy, blameless in His ways, and love: and, so living before Him, we enjoy Him, the infinite object of a nature which, morally speaking, is the same as His.
We joy in God, and this is evidently a holy joy. But when we come less abstractedly to consider our state, and that by which we live, likeness to Christ, which this verse in Ephesians I also expresses, becomes the measure of our moral state. We live by the faith of the Son of God. Being like Him, and with Him for ever, becomes the object we pursue. Thus we are predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, that He may be the first-born among many brethren. As is the-earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the Heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly; and as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the Heavenly. Such is the wondrous purpose of God: He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.
This is the ground of all the blessedness: God’s purpose is that we should be associated with, one with, His own Son, the second Man, the last Adam, as Son of man but Son of God, in His manhood, as we are and indeed more closely than we were with the first; not Christ, as is often stated, united to men before and without redemption, but we to Him when He is glorified, having accomplished the redemption which gives us a place in the glory with Him, and He has done all that is needed to bring us there. Of old, before the foundation of the world, He rejoiced in the habitable parts of Jehovah’s earth, and His delight was in the sons of men. God prepared Him a body, and He came in time, and to do God’s will in our salvation, becoming a true man, made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, now crowned with glory and honour. As man in the glory He had with the Father before the world was, and having become our life, and accomplished the work of redemption on the cross, and gone into glory, gone up on high as man, He has sent down the Holy Ghost Himself our abiding righteousness, that we might know that we are in Him, and He in us; not yet with Him, but in Him, and knowing it by the Holy Ghost (John 14), as it is written, If any one be in Christ, it is a new creation. There is no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus. He has quickened us together with Him, and raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; but, as said, not yet with Him, nor partaking of the glory.
We have the treasure in earthen vessels. We are thus set, having Christ as our life, redeemed and justified, with the glory before us; Christ, as Man, entered into it—entered too as our forerunner; with the Holy Ghost dwelling in us, the earnest of it, giving us to know withal that we are in Him, and He too in us, sons, and so heirs, but all in a poor earthen vessel. Our path as Christians is founded on this. Philippians 3 is the expression of it. This one thing I do, says the apostle; and Be ye followers of me, says the apostle, and so walk as ye have us for an ensample; … for our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body, and fashion it like His glorious body. The portion of true believers in heavenly things is settled. We give thanks to the Father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. As the thief was taken to paradise with Christ straight from the cross, paying indeed the penalty of his sinfulness to man, but the blessed Lord having borne his sins, and put them away out of God’s sight. But in general we are left to pass through the wilderness, and to manifest the life of Christ—be the epistle of Christ down here.
Now, as this new life is a holy life in its nature, so it has its objects—the sphere in which it lives. They that are after the Spirit mind the things of the Spirit; and He takes the things of Christ, and shews them to us. Now we are united to Christ in glory, one spirit as joined to Him, sitting in Him in heavenly places, and predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, that He may be the first-born among many brethren. We look to have our vile body fashioned like His glorious body. He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; as is the Heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the Heavenly. In our bodies we belong to the old, we have our treasure in earthen vessels. But we are entitled to hold ourselves for dead, crucified with Christ. If Christ be in us, the body is dead because of sin; and Christ being in us as our life, nothing can satisfy the desires of this new life but full conformity to Him in glory, who is its source and power.
The turning of the heart, then, towards this full conformity as the one object of holy pursuit and progress, is clearly pointed out in Scripture. First, I will quote Colossians 3. If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. Now this affection is the very essence of sanctification, as is evident, and we must not suppose that we have not these things revealed to us. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. But we have received not the spirit which is of the world, but that which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. So Paul, declaring his own walk, and what became Christians, says, Be ye followers of me… for our conversation is in heaven, from whence we look for the Saviour, who shall change our vile body and fashion it like His glorious body. But more precisely, as connected with sanctification, the Lord says, in praying the Father for them, Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy word is truth. And then, For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth. He sets Himself apart as the Man in glory to whom we are to be conformed, the Son of God, in whom the whole truth, according to God’s mind as to man in His purpose, is accomplished, that it may be brought, in living truth and power, by the Holy Ghost, and wrought in us. Which thing, says the apostle, is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing, and the true light now shineth.
Conformity to Him in glory is the grand result. He is there in it, and the Holy Ghost, taking the things of Christ there, forms us morally into His likeness. Such is God’s way. Let us take other passages which, while they shew this, shew the completing of it in God’s measure at His coming. In 1 John 3 we have, Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God. Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. Beloved, now are we children of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself as He is pure. Now the first thing we have to notice here is the blessed truth, how thoroughly we are associated in the mind and word of God with the blessed Lord all through. The world does not know us, because it did not know Him. We children; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. This is the sure hope before us, according to God’s purpose, and we know it will be accomplished.
What it is has not yet appeared, but we are so identified with Christ, that this we know, that we shall be perfectly like Him, conformed to the image of God’s Son. And now see the present and sanctifying effect. He that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure. The sure certainty of being like Him gives the measure and character of our heart’s desires and affections, and we purify ourselves as He is pure. Sanctification, in its development, is the removal of everything, thought, or motive unsuited to that in which Christ is revealed to us as Man in glory, and the realisation in our minds of that which is revealed. In this there is growth. So we read in 2 Corinthians 3:10. The veil being taken off the glory of the Lord: We with open [unveiled] face beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord. This is the same truth; beholding in spirit the glory of Christ, the exalted Man, we become continually more like Him.
Another remarkable passage is in 1 Thessalonians 3:12, 13, as shewing when and where the great result is brought out and manifested. The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, as we do toward you, to the end He may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. Now this connects, in a most remarkable manner, present holiness in the saints and the appearing of the Lord. The apostle looks to their present state, but draws the veil, and shews it in its full manifested character when Christ appears; so that, if we do not know how to connect these two things, the sentence becomes unintelligible. Present holiness, in its nature and character, is what is manifested in us when Christ appears. So we are told that ministry is that we may grow up to Him who is the Head in all things, and the apostle laboured to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. And our walk is to be worthy of God, who has called us to His own kingdom and glory. How high and holy is this calling! what a character it gives to the saints! what an association in heart and spirit with a glorified Christ on high!
Our conversation, our living associations, are there, and we wait for Him just to change our vile body, and all will be suited and in order. We have, as a rule, to pass through the world; but the holiness introduced into it is that which is above, suited to the expression in motives and thoughts of what that glorified Man is, who is the object of our affections, who has sanctified Himself, that we may be sanctified through the truth. We are the epistle of Christ here. If God chastises us, it is that we may be partakers of His holiness. We are completely associated with the Second and glorified Man, who is not ashamed to call us brethren. Our holiness is wrought out in our lives down here; but it is formed up there in fellowship with Himself, where our affections and minds get into the state to be manifested down here. There is in that a bearing about the dying of the Lord Jesus, that His life may be manifested in our mortal bodies; but the whole positive side of forming and progress is in realising what He is, separated from sinners, up there, the positive blessedness of the perfected Man.
This produces what He was down here, the perfect Man down here, and this is what the perfect man [literally, full-grown] means in the New Testament: heirs morally, one who not only knows the forgiveness we need as regards the sins of the old man, but has learned his place and character in the new, has the positive side in Christ. But how blessed is this full association with Christ, the Man of God’s purpose, who is according to His heart, and which by the Spirit brings us to know and enjoy Him where He is, and become continually more like Him, to whom we are to be perfectly like when with Him in glory!
May the Lord only give us diligence of heart in seeking it. To be in the holiest, where God is, and to know what holiness is there, and to find Christ there in glory, and to know God’s thought and purpose as to man, and to know that we shall be formed in glory like Him, sons in the Father’s house—what infinite joy!—and to know it is our portion, as Scripture teaches, and that He is not ashamed to call us brethren, in what was ordained before the world for our glory. God, even if it be by chastening, makes us partakers of His holiness, and the Son the pattern of our glory, brought into fellowship with Him according to Ephesians 1:4, 5. Such is the joy and hope of God’s children.