SET APART TO OBEY
BY: ROMEO CORSINI
“Ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.“ (Leviticus 11:45) “And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.” (Leviticus 20:26) The God of the Israelites took them out of Egypt that they might live unto Him, not so that they might not live like the Egyptians. A holy thing or person is one who has been set aside, apart, to glorify God by exemplifying the nature and character of God. Has God called you to be his, to be set apart, to be identified with him, to be holy?
What God told Moses, he is saying to us. “And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet; for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” As long as Moses was in his own shoes, he was not one with the holy ground. In taking off his shoes, his obedience makes him part of the holy ground where God speaks with revelation, “through the fire.”
But what is holiness? Is it abstinence? Is it not doing evil things? Is it piety, the act of seeming devotion? Is it suffering? Is it perfection?
In the Old Testament, God set up laws for these people whom he set apart for himself. His instructions to them were simple: “…that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: that ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.” (Numbers 15:39-40)
“And Samuel said, hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” (1 Sam 15:22)
It would seem, then, that understanding obedience is paramount to being holy in God. If I obey God, what am I doing? He said, “Thou shalt not…” Because I did not, does that mean I am holy? In the parable of the publican, Jesus tells of the Pharisee proclaiming his pride in not being like “these others” and proceeding to list the things he does not do and the things that he does do. Yet Jesus assigns righteousness to the sinner who could only stand there at the altar and confess his faults, not to the Pharisee. (Luke 18: 10-14) “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
To exalt oneself would be to do things according to one’s opinion. To humble oneself would be to obey the voice of God. In the publican’s case, the voice of God was instructing him to repent.
Again there is a parable of the two sons who were instructed to work “today in the vineyard.” “But what do you think: A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered and said, ‘I will, sir’; and he did not go. And he came to the second and said the same thing. But he answered and said, ‘I will not’; yet he afterward regretted it and went. Which of the two did the will of his father” They said, “The latter.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you.“ (Matthew 21:28-31) Obedience, regardless, is the sweet saviour of holiness. The father’s request was that it be done “today”, suggesting that, no matter what it may seem like now, ultimately it is obedience that accomplishes the father’s will. “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Surely a harlot and a tax-gatherer are less likely to seem worthy of holiness than a “man of God”. It is not what you think of yourself but that you are obedient to the voice of the Lord that points to your holiness, that points to the fact that you are indeed identifiable as God’s, separated and apart for his glory. How else can that be known except by your obedience? Even the wicked can demonstrate piety. “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) Some of those who say Lord, Lord, would be those who play at piousness.
Don’t mistake piety for holiness. There are many in the world who cannot forgive, which is to say they cannot forget, someone’s past wrongs–no matter that the individual has repented. Therefore, the person’s standing is subject to the opinion of the one who judges him. Yet the repentant one can claim the righteousness of God by the mere virtue of having obeyed God to repentance. It is not the opinion of the judge that redeems the penitent into the realm of God, but the obedience of the man.
Evidently, obedience is the key element of holiness in the Old Testament living. Is it so in the New Testament?
Jesus obeyed. “Then, said Jesus unto them, ‘When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” (John 8:28-29)
“For if the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, therefore I am holy. In him is my obedience fulfilled. “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19.) Praise him for his obedience!
The key to holiness in the New Testament is again obedience. The difference between the old and the new is this: in the Old, obedience was to the written law; in the New, obedience must be to the voice of the Lord, because the voice of the Lord encompasses the written law and supercedes it. “Do not think that I came to abolish the law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” (Matt. 5:17) It was not so much that Jesus said things that differed from the law, although many of his sayings did seem that way. His words broadened the law for better understanding as when he said in Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘you shall not commit murder’… But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court.” Obeying the voice of God keeps our feet “clean”. John 13:10 “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean…” I read this as pointing to our holiness, our uniqueness, our “peculiarity”, our being set apart before the foundation of the earth with all being left to do to obey our most holy God and Father. “You are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” (Rom 6:14-15) This is a perfect example of being set apart to obey, where we are separated first, set aside, set apart, holy and then directed to be obedient as the holy people that we are.
So then, it remains that I must focus on hearing the voice of God lest at any time I might miss his instructions and thereby neglect obeying him. We have such a gift given us by God that we might hear and discern his voice. It is the gift of discernment. (1 Cor. 12:8-10). For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit: to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits…;” (1 John 4:1 “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God.”)
Beloved, you are holy because you belong to God. It is the value placed on you by God that determines your worth. It is the value placed on you by God that determines your worth. That value has been established by our Lord Jesus who descended from his glory to redeem us back unto the Father. Leviticus 27:28 tells us: “…every devoted thing is most holy unto the Lord.” That is, everything that should have been destroyed but was spared from destruction at an enormous price is holy unto the Lord. Jesus declared us as devoted things unto God when he prayed to the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth…And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:17 and 19)
It is important that we view ourselves in the proper perspective (as God sees us) in order that we might walk rightly in the midst of where we do not belong. For we know the promise in Psalm 16:10 “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption.” Paul sees this clearly when he writes in Ephesians 1:4-6 about our holiness and how that God himself deemed us devoted things. “…just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the kind intention of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace.” We have been sealed in him with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13). Therefore we can mightily agree with Paul when he declares: “What! Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (Ephesians 6: 19-20)
Clearly it is obedience that is the heart and life of holiness; not the vanity and hypocrisy of piousness. Show me a person who declares himself to be without sin and I’ll see a liar! First John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Our holiness is in Jesus.
I have heard of the vegetarian who has not let meat touch his mouth for over twenty years. Does this make him holy? I have heard of individuals who have had themselves castrated that they might refrain from sexual fulfillments. Does that make them holy? No, in either case!
Beloved, the exact and perfect work of Christ as our redeemer is sufficient to declare us holy. We cannot add or detract from what he has done. Therefore, let us not attempt to sacrifice, to deprive ourselves, to hurt ourselves, to deny ourselves. There is plenty of suffering in the world that will come around to tease us. “Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:9-14) Let us give thanks in all things and rejoice in the Lord for all that comes our way, while we seek, at the same time, to develop our spiritual hearing that we might hear the voice of our God leading us from glory to glory. Let us strive to learn obedience to that voice that his will may be accomplished in the world, the world he purchased with great price and that is therefore his!
Why do we thank the Lord? Because he has made us holy and his. Just as Jesus died once for all, receive your salvation once and for all, and let the work of our Savior be sufficient for the Father. The more you work to earn to keep your salvation, the more you take away from the perfect work of Christ.
“But now, thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee O Israel. Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when though walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flames kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior.” (Isaiah 43:1-3)
SET APART TO OBEY [Romeo Corsini] 1