By: Pastor Brandon
Words and their placement in sentences matter. In fact, Christianity is held together through syntax, or the arrangement of words. Let me give you an example. Romans 5:1 reads, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God.” Paul equates justification—the act of God by which he declares sinner righteous by faith in Christ—with having peace with God. The Scripture does not say, “Since we have been justified by faith, let us have peace with God.” Through faith in Christ, we have peace with God—now and forever.
In reading Leviticus 11 this week, I was struck by the order of words in God’s address to the Israelites. Verse 43: “You shall not make yourselves detestable with any swarming thing that swarms, and you shall not defile yourselves with them, and become unclean through them. For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.” Because the LORD is their God, the Israelites shall be holy. Notice the sequence: holiness in living was to arise out of the Lord being their God. Verse 45 has a parallel structure: “You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”
Leviticus 11:43-45 give us a gospel order: because of who God is and what God has done, we are commanded and enabled to live holy lives. Our ability to understand sanctification is linked to how we view the gospel and the word “therefore.” In Leviticus 11 and elsewhere, “therefore be holy” is grounded in God’s person and work. “I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (v. 43). “For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (v. 45). Why should the Israelites be devoted to God and not to that which is detestable in God’s sight? These verses give a two-fold answer: the supremacy of God (who He is) and the salvation of God (what He has done).
Our greatest efforts ought to be given in pursuing God in holy living because of the gospel and not to create an alternate gospel—a gospel that depends on our living as the justifying means of salvation. In the gospel, we look outwardly to receive a righteousness we do not have, to receive pardon for sins we could not atone for, and to receive a resurrection that we could not create. God has done all of that for us in Christ and His Holy Spirit. The beauty of God and the newness of our hearts compels us to live for him. We long to be holy because it is a means of knowing and enjoying God in a greater capacity. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).
There are many aspects of perseverance and sanctification we should ponder in our pursuit of God in holiness. One aspect, as evidenced in Leviticus 11 and elsewhere (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph 2:11-22; Col 3:1-4; etc.), is the relationship the word “therefore” has with the content of the gospel. Because of who God is and what He has done on our behalf, we are enabled and compelled to be holy as He is holy.