This verse can seem a little stark at first - without holiness, none shall see the Lord. To some extent, it appears to make holiness impossible for most people. However, the verse presents an important spiritual insight that holds true.
The word "holiness" is hageeasmos in Greek (with an alternate of hageeosoonay). Both the Greek and Hebrew languages have a "word family" for the word holiness. In Greek, the word hageeos means a holy person, or a saint. The word haggeeadzo means to purify, make holy, or sanctify. The word hageeasmos means holiness or sanctification. In English, we have a variety of words with different roots for this word family, but in Hebrew and Greek these words are interrelated.
Returning to the verse quoted above, it could as easily have stated "it is the saints who shall see the Lord." This understanding is just as stark, however.
Many Christians are quite modest when they consider their place in the divine Kingdom. A few years ago, a person said in my meeting something to the effect "there aren't any saints here." What she said could have been true - that none of us had experienced holiness.
Part of the problem is that too many Americans accept the idea from the Middle Ages that a "saint" is someone who has led a life that is unattainably holy or special. Some denominations go so far as to have committees who examine the lives of people and vote on whether or not the person was a saint; these faiths object when the word "saint" is used for anyone they have not voted on. They do this even though the word "saint" is not used this way in the Bible.
Consider this verse:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus ... [Ephesians 1:1].
Who dost thou think Paul was addressing the epistle to? All the Christians at Ephesus, or just one or two of them?
Paul also wrote to "all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi" [Philippians 1:1] and to "the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colossae" [Colossians 1:2].
Let's make this as clear as possible with another verse:
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification [1 Thessalonians 4:3].
God wants thee to know sanctification first hand in this life - He wants thee to experience sainthood. He wants thee to partake of His holiness [Hebrews 12:10].
John records an instance when Jesus was speaking to the disciples. "And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy (sanctifying!) Ghost" [John 20:22]. This verse establishes how the Holy Ghost is imparted from God to thee - through the inbreathing of Christ Jesus. It is by Jesus that we "have access by one Spirit unto the Father" [Ephesians 2:18].
The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us [Romans 5:5].
So God the Father imparts information to each of us by the way of His sanctifying Spirit, the Holy Ghost. Paul wrote that the Gentiles were "sanctified by the Holy Ghost" [Romans 15:16].
Note also that God offers thee holiness through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. We know that God abideth in us by the Spirit which He hath given us [1 John 3:24]. Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts [1 Peter 3:15]. Let the peace of God rule in your hearts [Colossians 3:15].
When we allow the Holy Ghost to live in our hearts, we receive guidance on how to live a holy life.
But let's face facts. There are times when the Lord directs thee to do something that seems difficult, perhaps embarrassing. It is often more difficult to do the things that He asks of us than it is to choose not to. We all know that there are parts of the Lord's personality that we cannot access because of our own lack of spiritual depth. Every time we choose not to be faithful, we hold ourselves back from Him or lose an opportunity to play our small role in what He is doing.
This discussion assumes that humans by themselves do not have access to the spiritual realm. The thesis of Robert Barclay's Proposition 4 is that humans in their natural state cannot know spiritual truth, so this has been part of Quaker ministry and beliefs from the beginning. People have some ability to do good things. Economic prosperity, physical health, and mental health are enjoyed by some holy people and by some who are not holy. The rain falls on the just and on the unjust. God wants to work in the life of every person, and it is up to each of us as individuals to respond to Him.
God is working all around us. He comforts the widow with her children who are tying to keep their house now that the husband has been killed in Iraq. He works to lead a young family out of the bondage of overwhelming credit card debt. He works to rescue the disillusioned worker who is addicted to tobacco and alcohol. He works with the elderly and the young, the rich and poor, the healthy and the sick. He works in the lives of people who are not living holy lives and those who try to lead holy lives, too; remember that Caiaphas gave right prophecy, even though he was consenting unto the death of Christ Jesus.
Without holiness, it is not easy for thee to see God working in thy life or the life of another person. The person in a natural state does not know what to look for, does not know the purpose of a holy life, and does not understand why it is worth the time.
If the hand of God has touched thy heart, all the petty ideas about God and the opinions about God have no meaning - they are superceded by undeniable spiritual truth. It is now possible for thee to see God working in thy life, and thee can sometimes receive inspiration from how He works in the life of someone else. Opinions and speculation are swept away. The Creator is alive in thy life, and thee knows it.
Those who have known His inward work recognize it when they see it. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God" [John 3:3]. We have arrived back at the starting point.
Aldam, Thomas - 11
Alexander, Mary - 13
Ames, William - 11
Ashbridge, Elizabeth - 4
Audland, John - 5
Bangs, Benjamin - 4
Banks, John - 2
Barclay, John - 6
Barnardiston, Giles - 4
Bell, Deborah - 5
Bevan, Evan - 13
Bownas, Samuel - 3
Brayton, Patience - 10
Burnyeat, John - 11
Burrough, Edward - 14
Camm, Anne - 1
Camm, John - 5
Camm, Thomas - 1
Capper, Mary - 12
Caton, William - 9
Chalkley, Thomas - 6
Chester, Edward - 3
Churchman, John - 6
Clibborn, John - 2
Collins, Elizabeth - 11
Crisp, Samuel - 13
Crisp, Stephen - 14
Croker, John - 14
Crook, John - 13
Crouch, William - 11
Crowley, Ann - 7
Davies, Richard - 13
Dewsbury, William - 2
Dickinson, James - 12
Dudley, Mary - 14
Edmundson, William - 2
Ellwood, Thomas - 7
Exham, John - 3
Fisher, Samuel - 11
Follows, Ruth - 4
Fothergill, John - 13
Fothergill, Samuel - 9
Fox, George - 1
Garton, William - 3
Gough, James - 9
Gratton, John - 9
Griffith, John - 5
Grubb, Sarah - 12
Hagger, Mary - 7
Hall, David - 13
Hayes, Alice - 2
Hoskens, Jane - 1
Hull, Henry - 4
Jordan, Richard - 13
Latey, Gilbert - 1
Leddra, William - 7
Lloyd, Thomas - 3
Lucas, Margaret - 13
Marshall, Charles - 4
Moore, William - 4
Morris, Sarah - 6
Neale, Mary - 11
Neale, Samuel - 11
Oxley, Joseph - 2
Pearson, Jane - 4
Pemberton, John - 6
Penn, Wm - 5
Penn, Wm: NCNC - 1
Phillips, Catharine - 11
Philly, John - 4
Phips, Joseph on Man - 10
Pike, Joseph - 2
Reckitt, William - 9
Richardson, John - 4
Rigge, Ambrose - 12
Roberts, John - 8
Routh, Martha - 12
Samble, Richard - 12
Sandham, Robert - 3
Sansom, Oliver - 14
Savery, Wm - 1
Scattergood, Thomas - 8
Scott, Samuel - 9
Sharples, Isaac - 13
Shillitoe, Thomas - 3
Spalding, John - 13
Stanton, Daniel - 12
Stephenson, Sarah - 4
Stirredge, Elizabeth - 2
Story, Christopher - 1
Story, Thomas - 10
Thomas, Abel - 13
Thompson, Thomas - 1
Upsher, Thomas - 9
Van Hassen, Gharret - 4
Watson, John - 2
Watson, William - 2
Webb, Elizabeth - 13
Wheeler, Daniel - 7
Whitehead, George - 8
Wilson, Thomas - 2
Woolman, John - 4
The two following non-journals are also included in the Friends library:
History of the Discipline - 1
Letters of Early Friends - 11
One place to begin is with a general consideration of testimonies. Early Friends usually did not discuss "our testimonies" but had much to say about "our testimony." By the end of the 19th century, "our ancient testimony" had been partitioned into testimonies regarding plainness, truth & oaths, peace, temperance, equality, and integrity. Some Friends produced mnemonics to emphasize their favorite testimonies and to marginalize others - an example is SPICE (simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality). Note that in the latter list, simplicity has replaced the historic plainness testimony to grant freedom to ignore the issues of titles and the plain calendar, while some testimonies including temperance have disappeared.
Throughout Friends history, however, the word *testimony* has had a specific definition. When the behavior of a Quaker differs intentionally from other people, it has been a testimony of our inward and unmediated interaction with Christ Jesus. We opposed slavery because He directed us to do so, and actions taken by Friends during those years pointed to our desire to be faithful to what the Lord was calling us to be.
Associated with the testimonies are leadings. Individual Friends have occasionally felt a calling to do (or not do) certain things, but these never rose to general acceptance by all Friends and thus did not become testimonies. Examples include a refusal to be photographed, wearing undyed cloth, and choices regarding transportation. These days, leadings are often confused with what I call whims. A leading is something Christ Jesus has directed thee to do. A whim usually has no spiritual significance and is usually defended with autobiographical statements.
Queries and Advices differentiate between testimonies and leadings. Usually, a Query asks about our faithfulness to the testimonies but not to leadings. The Advices similarly cover testimonies and not leadings. This means that when something rises to the level of a testimony, it should be included in the Advices and Queries so that we have to consider our faithfulness on that item each year through hearing the Advices and answering the Queries.
When considering the elevation of a leading to a testimony, the following questions seem appropriate. Since the discussion is framed in the context of Ohio Yearly Meeting, consistency with the Scriptures and traditional Quaker doctrine and practice are taken for granted. The questions also assume that the proposal has been weightily considered and is well-written, with an appropriately written advice and query accompanying the discipline adjustment.
1) Does the proposal rise to the level of being a testimony? Changes to the Discipline should not be undertaken lightly.
2) Is this something that many Friends have similar leadings about? A plurality does not always recognize a spiritual directive, but paucity of vocal support can easily turn into an unwelcome bulldozer that Friends later rebel against. If a segment of Friends is vocally opposed to the proposal, a compromise should be sought or the issue dropped.
3) Is this something relevant to the lives of many Friends? It does not require a lot of spiritual maturity today to have a testimony against slavery.
4) Does the proposal fall into the category of a temporary hot topic? These are usually not appropriate testimonies, since after the resolution of the topic, the Discipline will need to be changed again to take it out.
If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that speaketh with thee, thou shouldest have asked for spiritual water. From whence hast thou that spiritual water? Whoever drinks of physical water will thirst again, but the water that He gives will be a well of water in thee springing up to everlasting life. Dip thy cup into this water and receive everlasting, spiritual life to cleanse thy inward soul and mind. We all have a thirst for God, but still we must go to the well ourselves to receive. The Spirit of Christ that springs up to overflowing is always crystal clear and flows from our Creator God. - Nancy Hawkins
Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Without faith, there can be no true, lasting joy in life. Faith comes by hearing; it takes a lot of focus, desire, and choices on thy part. Our Redeemer, who gave Himself for thee, longs to give thee the living faith needed for this life. It is His gift to thee. Reach out with both hands for the faith that Christ Jesus longs to give thee. Take fresh hold on the gift in the confidence of the knowledge of our Lord - and learn to live like thee believes. Don't settle for a head acknowledgment of Christ. Find a life-changing relationship with Him. - Ed Kirk
We have this treasure in earthen vessels; we all stumble and fall short of His glory. Despite our nature, God's inward treasure remains. Our inward parts are made holy by the living Christ, the Word of God, our living water and Bread of life, who is borne within. This treasure is not diminished when we share it. It is a great irony: sharing the treasure and use of the treasure brings an increase rather than diminishing it. - Jack Smith
Abraham was directed by God to sacrifice his son. Are we willing to give up our most valuable thing? Some times in life, there is no "escape clause." To rely completely and totally on the Lord is a awesome, frightening thing. Wait to be led and nourished by the Lord. The One on whom we rely loves us as none other can love us. - Bob Wilber
Have we truly believed and received? Have we truly repented and been baptized with fire? Can we be led by the Spirit if we have not received it? Do we think we are going to receive it without being changed? Do we think we are going to enter the Kingdom of Heaven without being born again? - David Eley
[Supplication] Help us to do Thy will in all that we say and think. Help us to be encouragers and not discouragers. Come, Holy Spirit, into this room and fill each soul to the brim! - Anna Peacock
Be faithful to the witness of our Lord within thee. Let us bear fruits worthy of repentance, that testify to His presence. Seek His power within thee. Our Lord suffered greatly; He came unto His own, and they received Him not. Know what it is to bear the cross. - Terry Wallace
Christ Jesus has told us to be Friends of God. We do this when we hear the Lord and obey Him. In obedience, we receive His love to share with others. Our Creator calls each of us to treat others as part of His kingdom so they will know the invitation to join a gathered people in God's Light. Know, yes, know that Jesus is thy enduring Friend. - Arthur Berk
God looks down upon our lives, and He sees where we are about to step off the true path. Let our hearts be encouraged; constantly seek that guidance from on High so thee can stay on that true, firm path. - Winnie Stratton
A composite of ministry on Seventh Day morning:
Early on, the world was dark. God said, Let there be light, and there was light. And God saw that it was good. Jesus calls us to share His Light rather than hiding it under a bushel. This Light overcomes the darkness and transforms us into His disciples. We were encouraged to wait on the Lord, hear His Word, and seek His inward presence, then be faithful in scattering the spiritual seed where we live as our small roles in the Kingdom of Heaven.
But God, who commanded the Light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The Light of God is within, and the Word of God is within. He lives through us as we turn our lives over to Him. We don't need to be the most talented, smartest, or best looking to be called for service. He sometimes chooses the humblest or most difficult for His work. He knows what we are able to do, regardless of age or condition. He demonstrated the humble, inward kingdom that still exists in our times.
The following is the substance of some ministry at Stillwater Quarterly Meeting in Eighth Month 2008.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing… Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. John 15, verses 4, 5, 7, 8
Jesus lived in an agricultural community, and many of His parables relate to the Creation. If His time had been 2008, Jesus might have compared us to an html document with missing closing tags, something that would probably be easier to understand for most Americans than husbandry.
There are many references to fruit. We are known by our fruit (Matthew 7:20). A good tree (heart) bringeth forth good fruit (Matthew 7:17). The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Bearing fruit brings glory to God.
There are important parallels to spiritual fruit and physical fruit. Sometimes in conversation, someone will say something with the spiritual meaning of “Hey, come and taste this persimmon. Thee has not had a persimmon like this one!” Thee can hold it and know it by its skin and shape. When biting into it, its flesh provides thee spiritual nourishment. Inside are the seed. Natural seed hold the DNA of the tree, but spiritual seed have the DNA of Christ Jesus. Spiritual seed point the recipient to Christ, not to the bearer of the fruit.
After eating a spiritual fruit, thy soul will hunger for more of this refreshment. If faithful, thou canst experience what is described in the scriptures as being engrafted onto the spiritual tree. Receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
When it pleases the Lord to graft thee onto the spiritual tree (see John 15 quoted above), He will help thee to produce spiritual fruit for others. It is the xylem and phloem of Christ that works through thee to produce fruit. We often produce such fruit without even knowing it.
However, when we try to take the credit, the fruit fails us – and we fall off the spiritual tree like an old dead limb. But don’t despair – learn from thy mistake and lay hold again on the eternal life He has for thee. Sometimes falling from a tree will make it possible for thee to return to the True vine with renewed vigor. The Lord is not done with thee yet, so don’t lose heart - go ask for another of those special persimmons! His exciting work still awaits thee – don’t miss it!