Much is being written and said these days about the Church in mission and about what God expects of believers as they confront such problems as poverty and racism. Many Christians, hardened by their own affluence, pressed by busy schedules, and even insulated by church programs, drift into a state of indifference or at least inaction in regard to these pressing problems. This has produced a credibility gap between the Gospel of compassion they profess and its application in life. There is a social dimension to the Gospel that no Christian dare ignore, and God wills that the Church, which is Christ’s body on earth today, show the same compassion and concern for the human predicament that characterized Christ’s own ministry.

But God expects more of the Church than social action. As part of Christ’s body every member has a function, though not all parts have the same function. All must face up to one clear expectation that the Apostle Paul sums up in First Thessalonians 4:3: “This is the will of God, that you should be holy” (NEB). The King James Version uses the word “sanctification.”

“Sanctification” is a term that has fallen into disuse in the contemporary Church. The Hebrew word in the Old Testament is qadosh, which conveys the idea of otherness or separateness and was used to describe the holiness of such things as the Ark of the Covenant, the vessels of the Temple, the sabbath, priestly garments, and sacred feasts. Generally speaking it was applied to externals. A broader meaning could be implied in Psalm 96, however: “Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” The expression “beauty of holiness” may refer to inward character rather than external trappings. If it does, the psalmist here anticipates the New Testament emphasis. ...

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