Dr. James White on the Christian’s Pursuit of Holiness

I drove up to see my family in New York Friday night and while I was driving I listening to this excellent sermon by Dr. James White of Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church from Hebrews 12.

The whole thing is well worth listening to, but I wanted to transcribe some of what he said about striving for holiness because Dr. White makes such an important point about the difference between works righteousness and works that flow out of a changed heart. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it explained this well:

Dr. White is talking about the part of Hebrews that says to “Strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” I’ve bolded the part that really struck me.

He said:

“Any teaching that says you can be a Christian without striving for holiness is a heresy from hell. It is a soul-destroying, church-destroying heresy. It is falsehood and it is all over our land. It is all over our land even in allegedly conservative, Bible-believing churches …”

“What is the writer [of Hebrews] trying to say to the Christian community? Is he trying to promote works salvation? Am I promoting works salvation? I am not.  ‘Oh, you’re saying we have to strive for holiness.’ The only way that you can avoid the works salvation systems of man while at the same time doing justice to the constant, repetitive call to holiness and righteousness on the part of Christians is to recognize what we believe: and that is that God is the only Savior, that God saves freely, that He saves perfectly, that Jesus Christ is the only perfect Savior, that he is able to save all those the Father gives to him, that his death on their behalf is perfect in their behalf, we are united so that the holiness we have, the sanctification we have in the sight of God is ours solely and only in Jesus Christ. We cannot add to it. So why are we striving for something we already have? It is the purpose of God to conform us to the image of Christ and when he takes out that heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh that heart of flesh beats to be like Jesus. It beats to be holy and if it doesn’t then it is not a heart of flesh, it is still a heart of stone. The only way to balance, the only way not to fall off into the libertine-ism and the easy-believism or on the other side into works salvation systems of man is to believe all of what Scripture teaches.”


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