Guest / Limited Access /

Pick Holiness

Will Willimon is a retired bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church and professor of Christian ministry at Duke Divinity School.

While we always need grace—grace defined by us Methodists as the ...

Read More

Displaying 1–24 of 24 comments

S Wesley Mcgranor

February 12, 2013  4:41pm

They need to stop their Judaizing, and ecumenism with Catholics.

Report Abuse

Sandy Harris

February 03, 2013  8:02pm

How about a good biblical dose of humility. Seems to work for either a person or a nation. We should give it a try.

Report Abuse

b bentle

February 03, 2013  10:54am

And in accordance with this will [of God], we have been made holy (consecrated and sanctified) through the offering made once for all of the body of Jesus Christ (the Anointed One). Hebrews 10:10

Report Abuse


February 02, 2013  4:27am

After 25 years of teaching and preaching I must confess that I still find it hard to grasp the concepts of HOLINESS and GRACE in my heart - where truth and grace already reside: Christ in me, the hope of glory! Isn't this discussion as old as the hills? Think of Wesley/Whitefield debates! I know that I need the be reminded of Gods grace all the time to stay free of condemnation - the root of all my problems! I'm also very grateful for the Holy Spirit Who, when I screw up, reminds me of the fact that I am holy and righteous is Gods eyes. This keeps me on track: His faith in me! I'm 60 and looking forward to many more years of ministry as I relax and lean more and more into His grace! Getting older gets things in perspective as nothing else does! Grace to all my fellow ministers!

Report Abuse

samuel Shropshire

February 02, 2013  2:10am

God calls us to multi-task on these issues, keeping in mind ALWAYS that we communicate our messages in grace, mercy and love. It appears that many of our brethren tend to bristle with hostility and anger. That, too, is sin.

Report Abuse

Jim Ricker

January 31, 2013  6:38pm


Report Abuse

audrey ruth

January 31, 2013  3:40am

"Do American Christians need the message of grace or a call to holiness?" Obviously, the answer is both. However, the message of grace cannot be fully understood or appreciated until any Christian (whether in America or anywhere else) sees the utter sinfulness of his own life and also perceives the incomparable holiness of the Lord, before which no unredeemed man can stand. In years past, some Christian churches in America taught unbalanced messages on holiness, but I believe that is very rare these days. Unbalanced messages on grace have become the norm in many churches, particularly in very large mega-churches who publish books and telecast programs which affect many Christians who do not attend those churches. The Lord makes it plain in His Word that His grace is never a license, or excuse, to sin. But I have personally known pastors/Christians who believe it is because they attended a seminar at such a church and/or read books published by them; their lives have been wrecked.

Report Abuse

Able Baker

January 30, 2013  1:42pm

G. C. Berkouwer, “The essence of theology is grace; the essence of ethics is gratitude.” I think so much of it has to do with the ethics of loving our neighbor and it’s community implications rather than personal salvation and personal holiness.

Report Abuse

Tom Nash

January 30, 2013  12:24am

How did Jesus approach this issue? He came down hard on the self-righteous pharisees and scribes, but offered grace to sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes. Jesus died that we might be reconciled to God through faith and become His adopted children. Any change (sanctification, holiness, fruit of the Spirit) flows from that relationship with the Father. He loves us, He's completely forgiven us, and He accepts us the way we are. Until we die and go to Heaven, we will be saddled with sinful flesh, so perfection is unrealistic in this life. Focus on your reconciled relationship with God, who loves you the way you are and has forgiven you. When we focus on Him, good things will follow. Stop beating your heads against the wall of legalism. It'll just turn you into a pharisee. Three cheers for grace!

Report Abuse

Paul Castiglione

January 29, 2013  11:29pm

It seems a closer look at the word holy might provide a fuller definition and clearer understanding. I'm not an expert, but only a little research reveals the english word holy comes from middle English and middle German and those root words mean whole, integrated, non-transgressible. The ancient greek and hebrew words translated into the English word Holy mean set apart, perhaps as in 'not influenced by'...rather than 'outside of.' So looking at all as a more complete definition, it seems the best synonym in modern english is the word 'authentic.' And that makes sense to me as the ancient Christian mystics understood that the more I know myself the more I know God, and the more I know God the more I know myself. So as I draw closer to God I become more holy/authentic. As I know myself more I love myself (and God) more and am resourced to offer grace to myself and others. Grace and holiness are totally connected. And there is no striving...I merely pursue my desire for love!

Report Abuse

Pamela Mathews

January 29, 2013  7:54pm

Maybe we need to listen and talk with people before deciding what they need. Someone burned out from legalism may need a little grace. Another may be inspired but feel like they need some more structured holiness to grow. Some may be seeking counsel on how to keep the 2 in balance. Jesus knew people's hearts and maybe that's where we should start?

Report Abuse

Paul Bryce

January 29, 2013  5:11pm

I appreciate this article but I am concerned that it does no referencing at all to scripture for the different points being made here? Are we about the word of men or the Word of God? I would love to see this article re-published with refrences to God's Word and not just theologinas for the points being made here. Love in Christ, Paul

Report Abuse

audrey ruth

January 29, 2013  2:53pm

I read this today in an email devotional called "Sudden Destruction" by Paul Chappell (based on Proverbs 29:1), which reminded me of this CT article: "Often we mistake the grace and forbearance of God that protects us from immediate punishment when we first do wrong as His permission to continue. Yet that very mercy is extended as a reminder to do right. As Paul wrote, 'The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance' (Romans 2:4). The only cure for sin is confession and repentance. No cover up will hide sin from the eyes of God, and if we continue stiff necked in doing wrong, eventually judgment will fall. The best way to avoid sudden destruction is to respond to the first warnings of reproof."

Report Abuse

Hugh Wetmore

January 29, 2013  12:10pm

This emphasis on Holiness is spot on, and much needed in our cheap-grace soaked evangelicalism. God accepts us as we are (grace) but does not leave us as we are (holiness). Paul says it best: The GRACE of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people, TRAINING US TO RENOUNCE UNGODLINESS and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age ..." Any "grace" that is tolerant of ungodliness and worldly passions is not the Grace of God!

Report Abuse

Ronald Miller

January 28, 2013  10:32pm

What do you mean do Christians need the message of grace, they're getting nothing but messages of "cheap grace". Holiness are you serious, I work in a Christian bookstore, we probably have one or two books on Holiness, shelf's and shelf's of leadership and church growth books. How to "promote" your church. The word sin is rarely heard in church, and repent, God forbid. "I don't want to be a Holy roller", I just want forgiveness and my ticket to heaven punished. Any mention of the word holiness and out of these mega-churches you get cries of 'legalism".

Report Abuse

robert Boe

January 28, 2013  10:11pm

It is a faithful saying that Christ has accomplished everything, has removed sin and overcome every enemy, so that through him we are lords over all things. But the treasure lies yet in one pile; it is not yet distributed nor invested. Consequently, if we are to possess it, the Holy Spirit must come and teach our hearts to believe and say: I, too, am one of those who are to have this treasure. – Martin Luther (Sermon for Pentecost Sunday, Complete Sermons of Martin Luther [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000], Vol. 2.1, p. 279) Here is the first and chief article: That Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, “was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification” (Rom. 4[:25]); and he alone is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1[:29]); and “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53[:6]); furthermore, “All have sinned,” and “they are now justified without merit by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ his blood” (Rom. 3[:23-25]). Now because this must be believed and may not be obtained or grasped otherwise with any work, law, or merit, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us, as St. Paul says in Romans 3[:28,26]: “For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law”; and also, “that God alone is righteous and justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.” Nothing in this article can be conceded or given up, even if heaven and earth or whatever is transitory passed away. As St. Peter says in Acts 4[:12]: “There is no other name...given among mortals by which we must be saved.” “And by his bruises we are healed” (Isa. 53[:5]). – Smalcald Articles [Martin Luther] (II, I:1-5, Kolb/Wengert p. 301) Although we have God’s Word and believe, although we obey and submit to his will and are nourished by God’s gift and blessing, nevertheless we are not without sin. We still stumble daily and transgress because we live in the world among people who sorely vex us and give us occasion for impatience, anger, vengeance, etc. Besides, the devil is after us, besieging us on every side and, as we have heard, directing his attacks against all the previous petitions, so that it is not possible always to stand firm in this ceaseless conflict. Here again there is great need to call upon God and pray: “Dear Father, forgive us our debts.” Not that he does not forgive sins even apart from and before our praying; for before we prayed for it or even thought about it, he gave us the gospel, in which there is nothing but forgiveness. But the point here is for us to recognize and accept this forgiveness. – Large Catechism [Martin Luther] (III:86-88, Kolb/Wengert p. 452)

Report Abuse

Adam Shields

January 28, 2013  6:37pm

I think when we dismiss the concept of complete grace we lose a sense of thankfulness to God. In my mind one of the problems of the American church is that we feel like we do a lot ourselves. If we don't have a sense of what God has done for us, then lose a sense of how we should be working for God out of appreciation for what God has done.

Report Abuse

John Peil

January 28, 2013  4:41pm

Margaret Feinberg's explanation is RIDICULOUSLY well done! I'm copy/pasting pieces of her explanation on FB immediately....I can't think of even ONE Christian who couldn't use a better understanding of both of these terms and she does it brilliantly. And I think I'll go buy a copy of "Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God" while I'm at it....thank you Christianity Today for finding these amazing men and women of God to provide such richness of diversity and thought on such fundamental concepts.

Report Abuse

myrtle thompson

January 28, 2013  3:57pm

I am 85, Baptist in doctrine, ret. miss'y, often disturbed by American Christians who "accept Christ" and then seem to "die on the vine." Five years ago, a large class of seniors in a Methodist church needed a teacher. I was approached with "we are spiritually starving." It was a first for me, church and couples. Yesterday (Jan. 28) was another first. Our quarterly lesson was Philippians 3, a longtime favorite passage of mine. The writer made reference to John Wesley's 3 kinds of Grace: prevenient, justifying and sanctifying. At the end, I asked the class if they were "sanctified." No one responded. I explained the meaning and said when we become Christians, I believe we are set apart to live holy lives, prayerfully, daily committing our lives to God. I agree with J Thomas, Grace and Holiness go hand in hand. Micah 6:8 is a beginning, traced from Leviticus, but I Peter 1:15, 16 reminds us to be holy because the trinity is holy. American and all Christians need to heed that message.

Report Abuse

Todd Hentrup

January 28, 2013  2:55pm

We ARE Holy because of the Grace givin' to us by God.

Report Abuse

Larry Duncan

January 28, 2013  2:14pm

Grace or holiness: Must we choose? Is this proposition "either or" or is it "both and?" I believe J Thomas is correct in his post: "there cannot be one without the other." Christ, whom we are called to be like, was "full of grace and truth," (John 1:14). It seems to me that Jesus was not a perfect blend of 50% grace and 50% holiness; He was fully both at once.

Report Abuse


January 28, 2013  12:13pm

By the Grace and mercy of God, we learn who He is and more importantly we learn who we are made in His image. God has expectations and "requirements" (see Micah 6:8) for His people. "Be ye holy for I am holy, saith the Lord." "Without holiness no one shall see the Lord..." Our salvation is being saved by His grace. Nothing we do...not any works or bribes can bring Salvation. Once we have salvation, we "are a new creation" and have entered a covenantal relationship with God. In this relationship we are to walk with Him and "take up our cross daily and follow Him." In covenantal relationships there is an "if/then" condition. God speaks to His people in those terms throughout both the Old and New Testament; "If you will....Then I will..." The gift of the Holy Spirit and resulting pursuit of holiness (Sanctification) enables the Christian to grow and mature in the Grace and Knowledge of Jesus Christ and to live in the present world not by our own strength but by His abiding presence.

Report Abuse

James Wartian

January 28, 2013  11:45am

There seems to be a lack of understanding of true grace. Grace is the foundation for holiness. It is both the empowering and the freedom to rest in God rather than being on a performance treadmill where you just try harder. True grace never looks lightly at sin, and true holiness is never about my own effort. This clarity was hinted at but not well developed in the observations above. Go read books by Jerry Bridges or by Larry Crabb (such as "The Pressures Off") to get a clear idea of how these do go hand in hand, but the starting point is always grace.

Report Abuse

J Thomas

January 28, 2013  10:29am

The two messages go hand-in-hand, and there cannot be one without the other. As for American Christians, I believe we need a "wake up call" more than anything, and that takes Christian leadership who are brave enough to stand. The public shaming and collective verbal assaults that politicians and media have found to be such a potent weapon in affecting policy decisions is being aimed at Christians. This is now our reality. They intend to divide us against each other by putting the most extreme kind of social pressure on us. It's not going to get better...the trajectory we are on does not point in that direction. God has blessed us so abundantly in America that we forgot what Jesus told us about the world...that it hated him first and will likely not approve of us either. Pastors, prepare your people for what is to come so that they will not fall away when there comes the huge coordinated push to marginalize Christianity in America. It may happen over the next 3 years.

Report Abuse