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Be Ye Holy: Sanctification in Leviticus

The second featured article in the Fall 2021 issue of the PR Theological Journal is the text of a speech Rev. Matthew Kortus (2019 PRTS grad; pastor of Hope PRC-Redlands, CA) gave at an officebearers' conference in Crete, IL in September of 2021. In his article Rev. Kortus explains the Reformed doctrine of sanctification from the viewpoint of the Old Testament book of Levitus.

Unusual, perhaps, until you recall that one of the key messages repeated in that book is the Lord's word, "Ye shall be holy, for I am holy" (Lev.11:44. cf. also 19:2 and 20:26, and 1 Peter 1:16). And so Rev. Kortus spoke on "Be Ye Holy: The Doctrine of Sanctification from Leviticus," which is also the full title of his article.

In this post, we take a small portion from his contribution, encouraging you to read it in its entirety using the link above. You will grow in your understanding and appreciation of God's wonderful work of making His redeemed people holy.

"1. The Reason and Necessity for Sanctification: God Is Holy

"In Leviticus 11:44 we read, “For I am the lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy.” The word “for” in this verse indicates the reason for the calling to a life of holiness; namely, that Jehovah God is holy. This establishes the necessity of sanctification: God’s own holiness.

"So what does it mean that God is holy? The basic idea of being holy and of holiness is that of separation. To be holy is to be set apart in some way. This is the most basic meaning of both the Hebrew and Greek words translated as holy or holiness. Both [words] mean literally “separated” or “set apart.” And Scripture everywhere emphasizes that God Himself is holy—set apart. This is true in at least two primary ways.

"On the one hand, God’s holiness is His transcendence above all else. God is holy in that there is none to whom we can liken Him; God has no equal (Isa. 40:25). God is in a class by Himself. In other words, He is set apart in the sense of being exalted above all as the God of heaven and earth.

"On the other hand, God’s holiness refers to His moral purity—the fact that is He separated from all sin and perfectly consecrated to Himself. Negatively, there is no sin or impurity in God. In fact, His eyes are too pure to behold evil or to look upon iniquity (Hab. 1:13). Positively, God is consecrated, devoted unto Himself. This is true not in some narcissistic manner but, as the Triune God, each of the three persons is devoted unto the others in a bond of love and peace. Our God is holy!

"God’s holiness is the starting point for the doctrine of sanctification; it explains the necessity of sanctification.

"This is true in light of the fact that this holy God has established His covenant with us. In that connection, He now dwells in our midst and brings us into fellowship with Himself. For this very reason, we now have the calling to be holy, even as our God is holy. We are to be like Him: separated from all sin and devoted unto our God.

"That God’s holiness is the starting point for the doctrine of sanctification is true also because our sanctification is ultimately a matter of being restored more and more to the image of God. At regeneration, God recreates us in His image, which image includes not only knowledge and righteousness, but also, holiness (Eph. 4:24). In sanctification the Spirit of Christ is at work to conform us more and more to that image, so that we grow in holiness. From a spiritual point of view, we are made to look more and more like our God. Thus, to put it in the simplest terms, sanctification is God’s work to make us holy, even as He Himself is holy. "

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