by Mike Ratliff
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (Ephesians 1:3-5 ESV)
For what reason did the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ chose (elect) all in Christ before the foundation of world? It was that they would be holy (ἁγίους) and blameless (ἀμώμους) before him. The Puritans have always been accused of being legalistic and way too concerned about Christians living holy and blameless lives. I heard a Jeopardy clue not long ago that actually defined this aspect of them as being “harsh” and “stern.” Is it an unreasonable thing to command that believers conform their lives unto holy living and be separate from the world and its ways?
Αγίους (hagious), an adjective meaning “holy, set apart, consecrated”, is the Accusative, Plural of ἅγιος (hagios). In Paul’s letters those who name Jesus as their Lord are called ἅγιοι (hagioi), which is translated as “saints.” However, this is not primarily an ethical expression but is parallel to being “called” (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2), “chosen” (Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12), and “faithful” (Col. 1:2). Being one among the ἅγιοι implies association with the Holy Spirit. Christ is the one in whom believers become holy to the true God (1 Cor. 6:11). This power comes from the risen Christ, who operates according to the Spirit of holiness (Rom. 1:4). In these cases holiness refers to a relationship with God that is not mediated through ritual (ceremonial) observation but through the leading of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14). Spiritual worship is the offering of oneself as a living, holy sacrifice, acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1).
To help us define what “holy living” really means, let us take a closer look at ἀμώμους (amōmous), “without defect, unblemished, blameless, faultless.” The Greek adjective ἀμώμους is the Accusative, Plural of ἄμωμος (amōmos), which is derived from the root μῶμος (mōmos), “spot, blemish,” and the prefix ἄ, the “alpha-negative that means “without.” Therefore, ἄμωμος means that nothing is amiss in a sacrifice that would render it unworthy. It was also used in the Septuagint to show that sacrificial animal was to have no spot or blemish (e.g., Lev. 22:21). Therefore, this is how we are to live—pure in attitude and action. Christian lives must be above reproach. People should be able to examine our lives and find nothing unholy or ungodly there.
13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober- minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16 ESV)
Peter quoted Leviticus 11:44-45 in v16 commanding us to be holy just as God is holy. Yes, we are positionally holy and blameless before God because of the finished work of Christ, but in our sanctification, we are called to actually become holy and blameless through the work of the Holy Spirit as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling as living sacrifices.
Soli Deo Gloria!