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Holiness quotes from throughout Christian history.
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Leningrad Codex of the Hebrew Scriptures
Clement of Rome, A.D. 96
Since we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all those things which pertain to holiness: let us avoid all evil-speaking, all abominable and impure embraces, together with all drunkenness, pursuit of change, all abominable lusts, detestable adultery, and execrable pride. "For God," it says, "resists the proud but gives grace to the humble" [Prov. 3:34; Jam. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5]. Let us hold firmly, then, to those to whom grace has been given by God. Let us clothe ourselves with harmony and humility, always exercising self-control, standing far away from all whispering and slander, being justified by our works and not our words. For it says, "He that speaks much shall also hear much in answer. And does he that is quick to speak deem himself righteous? Blessed is he that is born of woman, who lives but a short time. Do not be given to much speaking [Job. 11:2-3]. Let our praise be in God, not from ourselves, for God hates those that commend themselves. Let testimony to our good deeds be given by others, as it was in the case of our righteous forefathers. Boldness, arrogance, and audacity belong to those that are accursed of God, but moderation, humility and meekness to such as are blessed by him. (1 Clement 30)
Ignatius, A.D. 110
For as long as there is not implanted in you any one lust which is able to torment you, you live in God… . For those who are carnal are not able to do spiritual things … (Letter to the Ephesians 8)
Let us, then, be imitators of the Lord in meekness, and let us compete to see who shall more especially be injured and oppressed and cheated. (ibid. 10)
The beginning is faith, and the end is love. Now these two, being inseperably connected together, are of God, while all other things which are needed for a holy life follow after them. No man making a profession of faith continues sinning, nor does he that possesses love hate anyone. The tree is made manifest by its fruit, and so those that profess themselves to be Christians shall be recognized by their conduct. For the work of profession is not needed now, but that one be found continuing in the power of faith to the end. (ibid. 14)
It is better for a man to be silent and be [a Christian], than to talk and not be one. It is good to teach, if he who speaks also acts. There is one Teacher, who spoke and it was done. Even those things which he did in silence are worthy of the Father. He who possesses the Word of Jesus is truly able to hear even his very silence, so that he may be perfect and may both act as he speaks and be recognized by his silence. There is nothing that is hidden from God. Our very secrets are near to him. Therefore, let us do everything as those who have him dwelling in us. (ibid. 15)
There are two kinds of coins, the one of God, the other of the world, and each of these has its special character stamped upon it. The unbelieving are of this world; but the believing have, in love, the character of God the Father by Jesus Christ, by whom, if we are not in readiness to die into his suffering, his life is not in us. (Letter to the Magnesians 5)
Pseudo-Barnabas, A.D. 120 - 130
Let us utterly flee from all the works of iniquity, lest they should take hold of us. Let us hate the error of our present time, so that we may set our love on the world to come. Let us not give loose reins to our soul, that it should have the freedom to run with sinners and the wicked, lest we become like them. (Letter of Barnabas 4)
The Scripture says, "Woe to those who are wise in their own opinion and prudent in their own sight" [Is. 5:21]. Let us be spiritually-minded. Let us be a perfect temple to God. As much as in us lies, let us meditate on the fear of God, and let us keep his commandments, so that we may rejoice in his ordinances. (Letter of Barnabas 4)
Letter to Diognetus, A.D. 80 - 200
If you love Him, you will be an imitator of his kindness. Do not marvel that a man may become an imitator of God. He can, if he is willing.
It is not by ruling over his neighbors, or by seeking to hold the supremacy over those that are weaker, or by being rich and showing violence towards those that are inferior, that happiness is found. Not by any of these things can one become an imitator of God. These things do not at all constitute His majesty.
On the contrary, the one who is an imitator of God is he who takes upon himself the burden of his neighbor; who, in whatever ways he may be superior, is ready to benefit another who is deficient; who, whatever things he has received from God, he distributes to the needy and thus becomes a god to those who receive from him.
Do this, and you shall see, while still on earth, that God in the heavens rules over [the universe]. Then you shall begin to speak the mysteries of God. Then shall you both love and admire those that suffer punishment because they will not deny God. Then shall you condemn the deceit and error of the world because you shall know what it is to truly live in heaven. You shalt despise that which is esteemed to be death here, when you shall fear what is truly death: that which is reserved for those who shall be condemned to the eternal fire, which shall afflict those even to the end that are committed to it. (ch. 10)
Justin, c. A.D. 150
We … formerly delighted in fornication but now embrace chastity alone. We who formerly used magical arts, dedicate ourselves to the good and unbegotten God. We who valued above all things the acquisition of wealth and possessions now bring what we have into a common stock and share with everyone in need. We who hated and destroyed one another and because of their different customs would not live with men of a different tribe, now since the coming of Christ, live familiarly with them, pray for our enemies, and try to persuade those who hate us unjustly to live conformably to the good precepts of Christ, so that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful hope of a reward from God the ruler of all. (First Apology 14)
But there is no other [way] than this: to become acquainted with this Christ, to be washed in the fountain spoken of by Isaiah for the remission of sins; and for the rest, to live sinless lives. (Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 44).
Hermas, c. A.D. 160
[The angel of repentance] said to me, "You now have these commandments. Walk in them, and exhort your hearers so that their repentance may be pure during the remainder of their life. … "
I said to him, "Sir, these commandments are great and good and glorious and fitted to gladden the heart of the man who can perform them. But I do not know if these commandments can be kept by man because they are exceptionally difficult."
He answered … me, "If you consider it certain that they can be kept, then you will easily keep them, and they will not be difficult. But if you come to imagine that they cannot be kept by man, then you will not keep them. Now I say to you that if you do not keep them, but neglect them, you will not be saved, nor your children, nor your family, since you have already determined for yourself that these commandments cannot be kept by man."
… "O fool, senseless and doubting, don't you see how great the glory of God is? … [God] created the world for the sake of man, subjected all creation to him, and gave him power to rule over everything under heaven. If man is the lord of of the creatures of God and rules over everything, is he not able to be Lord also of these commandments?
"For," said he, "the man who has the Lord in his heart can also be Lord of all and of every one of these commandments, but to those who have the Lord only on their lips … the commandments are hard and difficult. Therefore, you who are empty and fickle in your faith, put the Lord in your heart, and you will know that there is nothing easier, sweeter, or more manageable than these commandments." (Shepherd of Hermas II:12:3-4)
Athenagoras, A.D. 177
Among us you will find uneducated persons, craftsmen, and old women, who, if they are unable in words to prove the benefit of our doctrine, yet by their deeds exhibit the benefit arising from their persuasion of its truth. They do not rehearse speeches, but exhibit good works; when struck, they do not strike again; when robbed, they do not go to law; they give to those that ask of them, and love their neighbors as themselves. (A Plea for the Christians 11)
You know that those whose life is directed towards God as its rule, so that each one may be blameless and irreproachable before him, will not entertain even the thought of the slightest sin. For if we believed that we were going to live only in this present life, then we might be suspected of sinning, through being enslaved to flesh and blood or overcome by gain or carnal desire, but since we know that God is witness to what we think and say both by night and by day—and that he, being light, sees all things in our heart—we are persuaded that when we are removed from this present life we shall live another life better than the present one … or if we fall with everyone else, a worse one and in fire. On these grounds it is not likely that we would wish to do evil or deliver ourselves over to the great Judge to be punished. (A Plea for the Christians 32)
Irenaeus, A.D. 183 - 186
We receive a certain portion of his Spirit, tending towards perfection and preparing us for incorruption, being little by little accustomed to receive and bear God, which the apostle calls "an earnest" [deposit], that is, a part of the honor which has been promised us by God. … This earnest, thus dwelling in us, renders us spiritual even now, and the mortal is swallowed up in immortality. … This does not take place by the a casting away of the flesh, but by the impartation of the Spirit. (Against Heresies V:8:1)
Clement of Alexandria, c. A.D. 190
It is time, then, for us to say that the pious Christian alone is rich and wise, and of noble birth, and thus call and believe him to be Godís image, and also His likeness, having become righteous and holy and wise by Jesus Christ, and so far already like God. Accordingly this grace is indicated by the prophet, when he says, "I said that ye are gods, and all sons of the Highest" [Ps. 82:6]. For us—yes, us—he has adopted and wishes to be called the Father of us alone, not of the unbelieving. (Exhortation to the Heathen 12)
As far, however, as we can, let us try to sin as little as possible. For nothing is so urgent in the first place as deliverance from passions and disorders, and then the checking of our liability to fall into sins that have become habitual. It is best, therefore, not to sin at all in any way, which we assert to be the prerogative of God alone; next to keep clear of voluntary transgressions, which is characteristic of the wise man; thirdly, not to fall into many involuntary offenses, which is peculiar to those who have been excellently trained. Not to continue long in sins, let that be ranked last. But this also is salutary to those who are called back to repentance, to renew the contest. (The Instructor, Bk. II, ch. 1)
Tertullian, c. A.D. 200
It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. "See," they say, "how they love one another," for they themselves are animated by mutual hatred. "How they are ready even to die for one another!" For they themselves will sooner put to death… . No tragedy causes trouble in our brotherhood, [and] the family possessions, which generally destroy brotherhood among you, create fraternal bonds among us. One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us but our wives. (Apology 39)
When Christians are brought before you on the mere ground of their name, is there ever found among them an ill-doer ... ? It is always with your folk the prison is steaming, the mines are sighing, the wild beasts are fed: it is from you the exhibitors of gladiatorial shows always get their herds of criminals to feed up for the occasion. You find no Christian there unless it is simply for being one; or if one is there as something else, a Christian he is no longer. (Apology 44)
The Christian confines himself to the female sex ... The Christian husband has nothing to do with any but his own wife ... A Christian with grace-healed eyes is sightless in this matter [i.e., looking on women for lust]; he is mentally blind against the assaults of passion ... the Christian does not play the proud man even to the pauper ... the Christian, even when he is condemned, gives thanks ... the Christian is noted for his faithfulness even among those who are not of his religion ... the Christian does no harm to his foe. (Apology 46)
Minucius Felix, AD 160-230
Do you boast of the fasces [bundle of rods with ax blade at end used as symbol of magisterial power] and the magisterial robes? Are you elevated by nobility of birth? Do you praise your parents? Yet we [Christians] are all born with one lot; it is only by virtue that we are distinguished.
We therefore, who are estimated by our character and our modesty, reasonably abstain from evil pleasures and from your pomps and exhibitions, the origin of which is in connection with sacred things we know, and we condemn their mischievous enticements. For in the chariot games who does not shudder at the madness of the people brawling among themselves? or at the teaching of murder in the gladiatorial games? In the scenic games also the madness is not less, but the debauchery is more prolonged: for now a mimic either expounds or shows forth adulteries; now a nerveless player, while he feigns lust, suggests it; the same actor disgraces your gods by attributing to them adulteries, sighs, hatreds; the same provokes your tears with pretended sufferings, with vain gestures and expressions. (The Octavius 37)
Hippolytus, d. c. A.D. 235
If there is a day on which there is no instruction, let each one at home take a holy book and read in it sufficiently what seems profitable. (Apostolic Tradition 36:1)
Commodianus, c. A.D. 240
A law is given to the unrighteous man so that he may restrain himself. Therefore, he ought to be free from ill will; you ought to as well! You sin twice against God, if your strife reaches your brother. You will not avoid sin following your former way of life. Thou hast once been washed [i.e., baptized]: shall you be able to be immersed again? (Instructions of Commodianus 47)
Martin Luther, c. 1520
The priest is not made. He must be born a priest; must inherit his office. I refer to the new birth—the birth of water and the Spirit. Thus all Christians must became priests, children of God and co-heirs with Christ the Most High Priest. … The Christian priesthood costs life, property, honor, friends and all worldly things. It cost Christ the same on the holy cross. ("First Sunday after Epiphany" from Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, vol. IV [Grand Rapids, MI:BakerBooks, 2007] p. 9)
The Spirit must mortify your deeds—spiritually it must be done; that is, with real enjoyment, unmoved by fear of hell, voluntarily, without expectation of meriting honor or reward, either temporal or eternal. (ibid., p. 10)
He who will not cheerfully respond to friendly admonition is no Christian. And he who attempts by the restraints of law to compel the unwilling to renunciation, is no Christian preacher or ruler; he is but a worldly jailer. (ibid. p. 11)
For that purpose Christ instituted holy baptism, thereby to clothe you with his righteousness. It is tantamount to his saying, My righteousness shall be your righteousness; my innocence, your innocence. Your sins indeed are great, but by baptism I bestow on you my righteousness; I strip death from you and clothe you with my life. That's Christ's true regimen; his office and mission are summed up in this, that he daily strips away our sin and death and clothes us with his righteousness and life. ("First Sunday in Advent" from Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, vol. V [Grand Rapids, MI:BakerBooks, 2007] p. 29)
JohnOwen, (d. 1683)
We all profess that we are bound for heaven, immortality, and glory: but is it any evidence that we really design it if all our thoughts are consumed about the trifles of this world, which we must leave behind us, and have only occasional thoughts of things above?
Charles Spurgeon, 1885
We cannot be sure when we build
that every stone we place upon the foundation is well and truly laid there, “The Lord knows them that
are His.” But we have this mark to guide us—those who truly name the name of Christ depart from all
iniquity. “By their fruits you shall know them.” We are to use judgement in our building, and this is the
rule of it—we must look for holiness in every real convert, for, “without holiness no man shall see the
Lord.” It is labor in vain to build those into the visible church who are not sanctified in the spirit of their
minds. In doctrine also, it is in vain to preach unless our doctrine is according to godliness. A holy God
will not dwell with an unholy people. If the foundation is holy, so must the building be. ("The Foundation and Its Seal: A Sermon for Our Times." Sermon #1854. Retrieved on May 24, 2017 from www.spurgeongems.org)
Oswald Chambers (d. 1917)
God gets me into a relationship with Himself whereby I understand His call, then I do things out of sheer love for Him on my own account. To serve God is the deliberate love-gift of a nature that has heard the call of God. (unknown)
H. A. Ironside, d. 1951
God is not looking for brilliant men, is not depending upon eloquent men, is not shut up to the use of talented men in sending His Gospel out in the world. God is looking for the broken men who have judged themselves in the light of the Cross of Christ. When He wants anything done, He takes up men who have come to the end of themselves, whose confidence is not in themselves, but in God. (unknown)
A.W. Tozer (d. 1963)
Though the cross of Christ has been beautified by the poet and the artist, the avid seeker after God is likely to find it the same savage implement of destruction it was in the days of old. The way of the cross is still the pain-wracked path to spiritual power and fruitfulness. So do not seek to hide from it. Do not accept an easy way. Do not allow yourself to be patted to sleep in a comfortable church, void of power and barren of fruit. Do not paint the cross nor deck it with flowers. Take it for what it is, as it is, and you will find it the rugged way to death and life. Let it slay you utterly. (unknown, cited by Revival List)
Most Christians don't hear God's voice because we've already decided we aren't going to do what he says. (unknown, cited by Revival List)
T. Austin Sparks, (d. 1971)
It would seem almost impossible to lay too great an emphasis upon the fact that to fully satisfy the mind of God in His eternal conception and purpose, initial conversion is not enough, and at least twenty of the New Testament books were written for "The perfecting of the saints unto the work of ministering" [Eph. 4:12]. ("Things That Differ"; A Witness and a Testimony, 1927)
F. J. Huegel (d. 1971)
You must refuse your fallen life. … Cut yourself off from it by standing in Christ's death! Receive a heavenly life moment by moment. Do this, and you shall be more than a conqueror. Do this, and you will no longer agonize over seeking to imitate Christ. You could not be anything but like Him, sharing as you do in His death and His resurrection. It will be an easy thing, a joyous thing, a lovely thing—like the play of children. It is now natural for you to be a Christian, for you have been made a partaker of the divine nature. (Bone of His Bone p. 33)
Paul S. Rees, d. 1991
You know, people say that today. "I am a saved sinner." That is like saying you are a married bachelor. That is like saying you are an honest thief, or a pure harlot. you can't be a saved sinner. You are either saved or you are a sinner. He came. "Thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall save his people from their sins." (unknown, cited by Revival School)
You know, we live in a day when we are more afraid of holiness than we are of sinfulness. (unknown, cited by Revival School)
Jerry Bridges, 2001
It is hypocritical to pray for victory over our sins yet be careless in our intake of the Word of God. (Pursuit of Holiness, ch. 7)
Without the Holy Spirit's strength there will be no mortification, but without our working in His strength there will also be no mortification. (Pursuit of Holiness, ch. 9)
We must be persuaded that a holy life of God's will for every Christian is important. We must believe that the pursuit of holiness is worth the effort and pain required to mortify the misdeeds of the body. We must be convinced that "without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). ... These convictions are developed through exposure to the Word of God. (Pursuit of Holiness, ch. 9)
Barna Group, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, 2007
For the purposes of our research, we investigate a biblical worldview based on eight elements. A person with a biblical worldview believes that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life, God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and he still rules it today, salvation is a gift from God and connot be earned, Satan is real, a Christian has a responsibility to share his or her faith in Christ with other people, the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches, unchanging moral truth exists, and such moral truth is defined by the Bible.
In our research, we have found that people who embrace these eight components live a substantially different faith from other Americans—indeed, from other believers. What we believe influences our choices. (unchristian, [BakerBooks: Grand Rapids, MI; 2007], p. 75)
Zac Poonen, modern
A lot of things that are being spoken of today as the ministry of the Holy Spirit, it´s just emotional exuberance. Because people don't know what is soul and what is spirit ... Young people are so often taken up with that exuberance and say, "Oh, this is Holy Spirit." It's not, if it were Holy Spirit it would bring holiness. (unknown)
Al Whittinghill, b. 1948
Revival will come only to a desperate church, not a contented one. He is ever the Rewarder of those who "diligently seek Him," not the mere casual inquirer. (unknown, see Whittinghill's sermons)
Kathleen McGowan, 2009
Jordan Grafman recently found that virtue literally is its own reward. Altruistic behavior sends reward-related brain systems into a pleasurable tizzy—even more so than the prospect of self-interested gain. "The big punch line is that all things being equal, your reward system fires off a lot more when you're giving than when you're taking," says Grafman … Call it the dirty little secret about being good; it might be even more fun than being wicked. ("Seven Deadly Sins"; Discover, Sept. 2009, p. 52)