Holiness is commanded by God. He wills it. Our Lord Jesus Christ requires it and the Word of God calls for it. The goal of our redemption is that we become Holy as God is Holy. Our Lord died on the cross in order that all of His people would be justified. This justification is God’s declaration that we are righteous having Christ’s righteousness imputed to our account. This had to come first in order that we may be sanctified and made Holy.
“To be a saint means to be separated. But it means more than that. The saint also is to be involved in a vital process of sanctification. We are to be purified daily in the growing pursuit of holiness. If we are justified, we must also be sanctified.
Luther used a wonderful Latin phrase to describe the status of the justified sinner: simul justus et peccator. Let’s look at the phrase a word at a time to discern its meaning for us. Simul is the Latin word from which our English word simultaneous is derived; it means “at one and the same time.” Justus is the Latin from which our word just comes, and et is the Latin word for “and.” The word peccator is probably least familiar to us. We derive the English words impeccable and peccadillo from it. It is the Latin word for “sinner.” Putting the words together, we get simul justus et peccator: “at the same time just and sinner.” That is what saints are, people who are at one and the same time just, yet sinful.
That saints are still sinners is obvious. How then can they be just? Saints are just because they have been justified. In and of themselves they are not just. they are made just in God’s sight by the righteousness of Christ. This is what justification by faith is about. When we put our personal trust for our salvation in Christ and in Him alone, then God transfers to our account all of the righteousness of Jesus. His justness becomes ours when we believe in Him. It is a legal transaction. The transfer of righteousness is like an accounting transaction where no real property is exchanged. That is, God puts Jesus’ righteousness in my account while I am still a sinner.” 1
The believer can become quite confused about this condition. On one hand, they are called to be Holy by God, but their flesh and the enemy seems to continually pull and push them into sin. They are driven back and forth between gross sin and tearful repentance. They read in the New Testament that they are called to become Christ-like, to become conformed to Jesus. That means that they must first begin to think as Jesus did. This is what is called, “having the mind of Christ.” Having the mind of Christ means valuing what our Lord values while despising what He despises. It means having the same priorities that He has. How does this happen?
It can only happen as believers develop a mastery of God’s Word. The key to spiritual growth unto Christ-likeness is in-depth Christian education that requires commitment and a serious level of sacrifice.
“Let us therefore look diligently whereunto we are called, that we deceive not ourselves. We are called, not to dispute as the Pope’s disciples do, but to die with Christ that we may live with him, and to suffer with him that we may reign with him. We be called unto a kingdom that must be won with suffering only, as a sick man wins health. God is he that does all things for us and fights for us and we do but suffer only. Christ saith (John 20), As my father sent me, so sent I you. And (John 15), If they persecute me then shall they persecute you. And (Matthew 10), saith Christ, I sent you forth as sheep among wolves. The sheep fight not: but the shepherd fights for them and cares for them. Be harmless as doves therefore, saith Christ, and wise as serpents. The doves imagine no defense nor seek to avenge themselves. The serpent’s wisdom is to keep his head and those parts wherein his life rests. Christ is our head and God’s word is that where our life rests. So cleave therefore fast unto Christ and unto those promises which God hath made us for his sake is our wisdom.”