“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14 ESV).
The author of Hebrews has already issued several cautionary messages over the course of this letter. Now, as we approach the end of this great Biblical epistle, he issues one final warning: “…without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Unfortunately, the word “holy” is one that people often seem to use without concern for its meaning.
For instance, some use the word “holy” as part of an exclamation or expression of surprise. Nevertheless, those who use this phrase in a careless or disrespectful manner might be more hesitant to do so if they were aware of its true meaning.
You see, the word “holy” expresses the qualities of moral purity and ethical perfection, especially in relation to God. It also describes a person or thing that has been consecrated or set apart in a spiritual sense. When used appropriately, the word “holiness” conveys God’s moral perfection and complete separation from anything that is wrong, corrupt, immoral, or impure.
In light of this, a person who uses the word “holy” in a way that dishonors God’s sacred character is someone who should carefully weigh this admonition. However, this idea also encompasses other aspects of our spiritual lives as well…
“…we should remind ourselves that holiness is used of believers in at least three different ways in the NT. First of all, the believer becomes positionally holy at the time of his conversion he is set apart to God from the world (1Co 1:2 1Co 6:11). By virtue of his union with Christ, he is sanctified forever…
Then there is a practical sanctification (1Th 4:3 1Th 5:23). This is what we should be day by day. We should separate ourselves from every form of evil. This holiness should be progressive, that is, we should be growing more and more like the Lord Jesus all the time.
Finally, there is complete or perfect sanctification. This takes place when a believer goes to heaven. Then he is forever free from sin. His old nature is removed, and his state perfectly corresponds to his standing.
Now which holiness are we to pursue? Obviously it is practical sanctification that is in view. We do not strive after positional sanctification it is ours automatically when we are born again. And we do not strive after the perfect sanctification that will be ours when we see His face. But practical or progressive sanctification is something that involves our obedience and cooperation we must cultivate this holiness continually. The fact that we must follow it is proof that we do not fully attain it in this life.” (1)
(1) William Macdonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary Edited by Arthur Farstad, Thomas Nelson Publishers [pg. 2286]