Recently I’ve been spending some time with the following thought:
Holiness without grace is legalism. Grace without holiness is pointless.
Encouraging people toward holiness is an important part of being the Church. Jesus tells us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” and to “go and sin no more.” This is what holiness looks like. As disciples, this is the very thing we are not only called to but expected to pursue. We are sinful people but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to “sin no more.” Grace is a crucial element in this journey toward holiness. It is grace that allows us, and others, to get back up when we’ve fallen off the Holiness Horse. When we fail to extend or accept this grace, we create a “holy to-do list” that makes it more about spiritual tasks than spiritual transformation.
The other side of this equation is also an incomplete picture when we disconnect holiness from grace. Holiness is the destination, grace helps us get there. Grace without holiness is a bridge to nowhere. The purpose of grace is not to allow us to do whatever we wish or act as some sort of “sin for free” card we keep in our back pocket. Paul says as much in Romans 6. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that without holiness, we become unable to see God (12:14). Grace enables us to be something more, something better, when it pushes us toward holiness; short of this it becomes something else.