“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
I have often heard this verse quoted in the incorrect context. Many think it shows how important it is for believers to do their best not to sin but live a clean, holy life, so they can one day see God. This is one of those misunderstood verses that put a lot of people under condemnation and fear. It has that effect because when people examine their lives, they don’t feel they are holy enough; therefore, they will be disqualified from spending eternity with God.
Whose Holiness see’s God?
First, we should ask the very important question: whose “holiness” enables us to see God? If it is ours, we are in pretty bad shape and in a hopeless condition. Look at what the prophet Isaiah said about even our best attempts at living holy and righteous lives.
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).
Even our very best efforts at being holy and living righteous are seen as nothing more than filthy rags to God. Sounds hopeless, but the good news is, it isn’t. Jesus said, “All things are possible with God.” You see, our holiness would never earn us the right or privilege to see or be with God, but there is a holiness that will. God knew we could never be holy enough to earn His favor, righteousness, and salvation, but His goal before time began was to save us and make us holy, righteous, and acceptable in His presence.
We were made Holy!
Look at what Christ accomplished for you. Hebrews 10:10 says that you have been made holy through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once for all. Hebrews 10:14 says that by that one sacrifice He made you perfect forever. Jesus cleansed you, made you holy, and then delivered you smack-dab in the center of God’s will, right where you belong.
So why does Hebrews 12:14 tells us to walk in peace with all men and be holy? Because we can! God would never ask you to do something He hadn’t already equipped you to do or live out. One of the realities of the kingdom of God is peace.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17).
Because we are at peace with God, we can live at peace with ourselves and everyone else. That is why when someone sins against you or offends you, you can walk in peace. Your heart is established in God’s love for you. Love isn’t easily offended. Holiness is an attribute of knowing the peace of God in your heart. It isn’t about how you live or conduct your life; it is an outward reflection of your heart’s condition that expresses itself through your behavior.
Trying to become holy assumes one isn’t holy
Being holy is far easier than trying to become holy. When we try to become holy, we end up striving in the flesh to make ourselves into something we aren’t. Trying to become holy assumes one isn’t holy. As you will see, this assumption comes as a result of believing a lie. When we understand that Jesus made us holy as a new creation in Him, we can live according to that truth. We are holy; thus, we can be who we are in Him. We don’t have to try to become holy; we can be holy because we are holy in Him.
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
I don’t believe the writer of Hebrews is telling believers that when they die, they will be rewarded with seeing God because they lived a holy life. In fact, seeing God with our natural eyes isn’t as important as experiencing Him in our hearts by faith.
Importance of “being holy”
I think the importance of “being holy” is for people to see God through our lives today. Should we not say what Jesus said? “When you see me, you see the Father.” Isn’t that what the fruit of the Spirit is all about? When we walk in the reality of who we are in Christ, we show this lost and dying world who God really is. This verse isn’t about earning the right to see God. Rather, it is all about walking in who Jesus made us to be in Him, so this world can see who God really is!
“Without holiness, no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
Who are those who need to see God? The first part of the verse tells us:
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy” (Hebrews 12:14).
What happens when we believe we are Holy?
When we believe we are holy in Christ, our lives reflect this truth to those we come in contact with.
In the New Testament, we have many verses telling us about living holy. Two-thirds of those verses teach us that we have been made holy in Christ. The other third is why we can and should live holy because of who we are in Him. Holiness is our identity in Christ and a freedom that knowing the truth brings as a reality to our hearts and lives. You can “be holy” because Jesus made you holy.