Attributes of the Church: Holiness
Taken from forthcoming book, Daily Doctrine by Kevin DeYoung, Copyright © 2024. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.
The holiness of the church is both a present positional reality—ours through union with Christ—and an ideal for which we must labor and toil. Holiness, for the Christian as well as for the church, is both gift and calling. We who are perfected in Christ are also being sanctified in Christ (Heb. 10:14). Holiness is what the church already has (Heb. 10:10), what the church will one day become (12:10), and what the church must presently strive after (12:14).
It’s important we keep in mind the positional and progressive aspects of the church’s holiness. The church already is holy. The church is Christ’s body and Christ’s bride. We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, and God’s own treasured possession. Once we were not a people, but we now we are God’s people (1 Peter 2:9-10). Despite the church’s many failings and sins, she is still a holy temple in the Lord, being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Eph. 2:21-22).
At the same time, the church that is holy is called to be holy (1 Peter 1:16). We must abstain from the passions of the flesh, keep our conduct honorable, and live such good lives that the critics of the church will be proven wrong when Christ returns (2:11-12). In an age that prizes “authenticity” more than authority and “messiness” more than godliness, we must never forget that Christ gave himself up for the church—to save us from sin’s penalty and from sin’s power. Christ did not die so that we can revel in our brokenness and be vulnerable regarding our rebellion. The Lord Jesus died to sanctify us, to cleanse us, and to wash us with the word (5:25-26). The church that God called into existence and the church that God blesses is the church that reflects God’s character.
In a similar vein, we can also affirm that the true church is indefectible: God’s holy church will not ultimately fail. This does not mean that the church cannot act in ways repugnant to its own nature or that the visible church cannot be snuffed out (by persecution or by perfidy) at various times and in various places. But the church scattered across the globe cannot fail altogether. The promises of God, the preservation by the Spirit, and the power of Christ all ensure that there will never cease to be a true church on the earth (Matt. 16:18; 28:19-20). Nations will come and go. Great men and women will rise and fall. Powerful institutions will wax and wane. There is no institution, save the church, which Jesus promises to build, and no other organization whose ultimate mission is so indissolubly assured of success. The church will press on. Her perpetuity—like her present and future holiness—is guaranteed by Christ himself.