“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, for without it no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14 NET).
We have already seen a form of the word “holiness” earlier in Hebrews 10:10 where a related word was translated “sanctification.” In fact, there are several Biblical versions of Hebrews 12:14 that use the word “sanctification” in their translations of this passage. This provides us with an opportunity to revisit this important spiritual concept.
You see, the word “sanctification” conveys the idea of separation from sin and dedication to God. This is reflected in the following definition of this word: “the act or process by which people or things are cleansed and dedicated to God…” (1) Thus, the word “sanctification” and the related word “holiness” each serve to emphasize the qualities of devotion and consecration unto God.
These concepts are more important than they may appear at first glance. For instance, Romans 6:19 draws our attention to the real-life implications of these ideas: “…Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness” (NIV). So much like a stone tossed into a lake, these characteristics should produce a ripple effect that influences other areas of our lives.
As we examine our financial transactions, leisure activities, personal interactions, entertainment choices, online activities, and other endeavors of daily life, we might consider how closely those preferences are governed by these teachings from Hebrews 12:14 and Romans 6:19. Ideally, our internal separation and dedication to God in Christ should guide our external choices as we live in the midst of a fallen world.
Jesus also emphasized this internal-external relationship in a teaching from the Gospel of Luke…
“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 NIV).
However, Jesus also reserved some of His strongest criticisms for those whose “holiness” was merely outward…
“Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28 NET).
So Hebrews 12:14 offers an important (and practical) reminder that will benefit us today and in the future, for “…without holiness no one will see the Lord” (NIV).
(1) New Dictionary of Theology, (Leicester/ Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1988) pg. 613