Man weaving

Love and Holiness

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Bill Fowler, YTI Church Relations and Professor of New Testament and Practical Theology

June 5, 2019


“and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints”

— 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 (ESV)

Can’t Believe I Missed It for So Long

I had read these verses hundreds of times over fifty years and never made the connection that Paul is careful to point out here, namely, that there is a close correlation between “love for one another” and our hearts being established “blameless in holiness.” The NIV obscures the connection entirely by making it two different petitions, but Paul has one petition in mind that brings about the final outcome. Growth in God’s kind of love will result in holiness before Him. We rarely connect the two ideas in this way.

Holiness Is So Much More than Sin Management

Too often our view of holiness is the absence/avoidance of sin. God’s view of holiness is the presence of His own character, woven into our lives by His Spirit, using the very life of Christ in us as the source of the fiber. We may avoid sin carefully and still be barren of the character of God, a key ingredient of which is love! A weed-less garden with no produce is still considered barren. But when God’s love in us increases and abounds, holiness is evident. 

Let’s Look for Love to Grow

If we see what we consider to be holiness in ourselves or others, but there is no evidence of God’s love growing in us and increasing, perhaps what we have identified as holiness is little more than clever sin avoidance or image management. True holiness seems to be a holy love that proceeds from the very nature of God. On the other hand, if we see the love of God proceeding from the life of another person, we can be sure that we are seeing holiness in the making, regardless of the breaches of “religious etiquette” that may linger in a life still in the process of being transformed into the image of Christ. We need to look for love, not petty faults. And we need to pray that the Lord make us to increase and abound in love for one another so that he may establish our hearts blameless in holiness before him!