We live in a day and age where what was once considered expected behavior for a Christian has now become a subject of debate. For the vast majority of the 2,000 years since Calvary there was never a debate over whether a Christian was expected to live a pure and holy life. It was simply a given and assumed to be such a basic truth there was no need to debate it.
Indeed, if one were to go back and look at requirements for all of the major denominations they might be shocked to discover that there were strict consequences for church members that lived a life that brought shame and reproach to the name of Christ.
It was not at all uncommon to hear of instances where members were barred from the membership for a time depending on the nature of the offense. This is not the same thing as forbidding them from attending the services, it simply meant a suspension of certain privileges that membership brings.
Beginning in the 1,960s the rebellion that swept America with the hippie generation also began to infect the churches. A teaching began to develop that holding Christians to certain standards of behavior in issues such as modesty, abstaining from alcohol, cigarettes and other worldly vices amounted to legalism.
The reality is the definition of legalism is requiring works as a condition of salvation. There are plenty of religions out there that teach this. For example, Islam teaches a work-based salvation. Mormonism also believes in faith and works.
When chatting with a person on a website set up by the Mormon church to answer questions a person may have, a friend I knew asked them what they felt about salvation. The person who was trained to answer questions said “we believe that faith and works are necessary for salvation.” That is legalism. What people say or think isn’t what really matter, so let’s see what that Scripture verse has to say regarding holy living.
But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).
Peter himself, in fact, plainly stated that God commands us to “be ye holy, for I am holy.” Are we to assume that Peter was a legalist who simply wanted to impose his views on others? That view makes no sense when we consider that Peter walked with Jesus while he was here on earth. Forgive me for thinking that maybe Peter knew more about what God expected of us than those who think there is no need to live holy.
Holiness is not a suggestion from God, but a commandment. Holiness has nothing to do with salvation. The scriptures plainly declare works and that includes holy living has nothing to do with salvation. However, that doesn’t mean we are not to live holy.
The truth is if you do not live holy then you do not love God, no matter how much you praise him. Jesus said, “if you love me, keep my commandments.” You cannot love God while disobeying His command to live holy. The choice is yours, which path will you take?