Calvary Road Baptist Church


Hebrews 12.14


Hebrews 12.14 declares, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”

I commend for your consideration three sermons, which have this verse for their texts, “Holiness” by J. C. Ryle, along with “Holiness Demanded” and “The Winnowing Fan” by Charles H. Spurgeon. All three sermons have had an impact on me, and I have borrowed heavily from those two 19th century British divines.

I remember the precise moment this verse of Scripture came alive to me. I heard Dr. Arthur Houk pray at some gathering. Moreover, as he arranged his petitions before God he had occasion to mention the subject of holiness, and then he said, “Without which no man shall see the Lord.” I had been converted for some twenty years at the time. I had read the Bible some twenty times at the time. I had studied God’s Word for years. However, Dr. Houk’s prayer struck a chord in my heart that has resonated ever since. My friends, without holiness no man shall see the Lord.

Before I bring the sermon from God’s Word, let me try to open up to you this subject of holiness in three ways. Of course, our rule of faith and practice, our infallible source of objective truth about things spiritual, is God’s inspired Word.




“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”


I would like you to look very carefully at our text. There is a single verb in the sentence, which serves two direct objects. For understanding, let me paraphrase in this way: First, you have the statement “Follow peace with all men.” Then you would have the statement “Follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” What I want you to see very clearly is that the verb, “follow,” applies to both direct objects, “peace” and “holiness.” Therefore, the writer of Hebrews is telling his readers to “Follow . . . holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”

With the connection of the verb “follow” to the direct object “holiness” established, let us take a close look at this word “follow.” As I said before, it is a verb. However, what kind of verb? It is an imperative verb, meaning that it is a commanding verb. The writer of Hebrews has issued a directive, a command, an order. You are to move rapidly and decisively toward an objective. You are to follow in haste in order to find something. However, what is it you are to pursue? Holiness. Therefore, whatever this thing called holiness is, it is not something that just happens. Whatever holiness is, it is something that is somehow a goal to be strived for, an objective to be pursued. In addition, since it is commanded that you pursue holiness, its importance, whatever it is, is not to be denied.




What a vast topic for our consideration is this thing called holiness. Moreover, what a disservice is done to the subject of holiness by passing over it lightly. However, because of the constraints of time I am severely limited to at this point consider holiness in three ways:

Let me begin with the position of holiness. There can be no doubt that holiness is partly related to the position of something, to the ownership of something, the proper use of something, since brass and silver and gold vessels that were used in the Tabernacle and in the Temple were designated holy vessels. Though not superior either in quality of materials or artistry in craftsmanship, nevertheless the vessels used in the sacrifices and ordinances of the Mosaic system were holy. That is, they were exclusive, separate, and distinct. They were God’s vessels and not man’s, to be used for God’s purposes and for God’s Own ends, and not man’s. In that sense the believer is holy. The believer is God’s, to be used for God’s purposes and to achieve God’s Own ends. That is what is meant, and that only is meant when a believer is referred to in the Bible as a saint. It simply means, “This one belongs exclusively to God.”

However, beyond the position of holiness there is the progression of holiness. If every Christian is holy by reason of position, a position granted at the moment of conversion, a position that is recognized by the Biblical designation “saint,” let it be recognized that God’s will is never so clearly stated on a variety of subjects as is His will clearly stated that He wants His people to be holy, which is to say become holy. How can someone become holy who is already holy? When God says, “be ye holy, for I am holy,” He is not commanding that we become holy by our position. That occurs at conversion. That’s a given. That is a fact. That is a gracious gift. When God commands that we be holy, He is directing us to move from being holy by our position to being holy by our experience. Friends, it is one thing to be owned by God, to be separated by God to better uses than the world has for the lost, but it is an entirely different matter for a person to begin to move from where he is when he is converted to where God wants him to be when all is said and done. Remember, God has predestined the Christian to be conformed to the image of Christ, to be like Jesus. God’s command, God’s demand, God’s expectation, is that some portion of that change of personality and disposition and character take place during the course of your lifetime. So, what is it to follow holiness? Paul had it in mind from the human perspective when he wrote, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 3.14. From God’s side of the equation we read, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,” Philippians 1.6. So, what is it to follow holiness? It is striving to become, by God’s grace, what He has already declared you to be.

However, this does not culminate in the perfection of holiness. Perfection in holiness is not attainable in this lifetime. You see, we do always, and we will always, struggle with this flesh and battle against indwelling sin. In addition, the only person who does not struggle against the flesh and indwelling sin is the person who has completely given in to it. However, this is not the Christian. To achieve the perfection of holiness would be to achieve a state of sinlessness in this lifetime. That is something only unconverted people claim to have achieved, First John 1.8: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” On the contrary, Paul, perhaps the greatest example of the grace of God in the life of a sinner ever to walk on this earth, wrote in Philippians 3.12, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Reach out to grasp holiness.




There used to be a time when those who claimed to be Christians recognized that the pursuit of holiness was as much a part of being a Christian as claiming to be born again. There used to be a time when Christians of every stripe and variety recognized that the Christian faith is something considerably more than a one time religious conversion experience, but that conversion is only the beginning of a life of pressing toward the mark, a life of following holiness.

However, such scriptural notions of conversion and consecration, justification followed by sanctification, being saved followed by a lifetime of pressing toward the mark, were cast aside by such men as C. I. Scofield and the increasing numbers of decisionists like him. They accommodated their views about the Christian life to conform to the multitudes of unconverted professing Christians who wanted to be relieved of their feelings of guilt, and who wanted to think themselves delivered from the torments of hell, but who had no interest in communion with God or likeness with Christ.

So, a system of theology was devised that sought to explain these supposed “Christians.” Ignore the biblical command to “follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Set aside Christ’s declaration, “blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God,” Matthew 5.8. Such verses as these are virtually ignored these days by so-called Christian leaders.

The concept of holiness has been so completely corrupted in our time that the phrase “carnal Christian” is used as a blanket indulgence from God’s requirement that His people be holy, and as a cover-all justification for explaining why a so-called Christian exhibits no growth in the grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.


Therefore, holiness is an important part of every Christian’s life. However, people’s understanding about holiness has been so corrupted that many folks who think themselves Christians are so completely deceived that they think holiness is an optional feature in Christianity. However, is holiness optional? Holiness is optional if seeing Jesus face to face someday is optional. If you can do without seeing Jesus then you can do without holiness.

If you would see Jesus, then holiness is not optional, since without holiness no man shall see the Lord.




Without seeking to convince you, let me just state that Hebrews was probably written to a mixed audience of Jews who had left organized Judaism, but were having doubts about the wisdom of what they had done. Some of the Jews were genuinely converted Christians. Some of the Jews were thoroughly convinced about the gospel but had not come to faith in Christ, though perhaps they thought they had been converted. In addition, some in the audience had been exposed to the gospel but had serious reservations.

The type of audience Hebrews was written to makes it equally suitable for those of you who are here today, since there are Christians here today, there are lost people who are convinced the gospel is true here today, and there are lost people who are curious but who remain unconvinced here today.

To each of you our text is equally valid, but for different reasons. I will get to those reasons if you will first let me quickly deal with a troublesome error in contemporary Christianity. It is the error of thinking of the issues of sin and salvation in terms of places instead of people.

It is not really about where you go when you die, either to Hell or to heaven. Far too much emphasis is put on places than is put on people. People are what the issues of sin and salvation are really all about. You see, Jesus saves people. However, He does not save people from a place called Hell to a place called heaven. Salvation is more than just moving eternal souls from one place to another place. Jesus saves people from the sins, which have estranged them from God, Matthew 1.21.

Therefore, as long as a sinner thinks of salvation in terms of escaping Hell and gaining heaven when he dies, the command to “follow . . . holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” has less impact than it ought to have. Why is this so? Because sinners are erroneously thinking of salvation in terms of two different places, heaven and Hell, while this verse properly deals with people, the sinner and the Savior.

When Hebrews was written folks did not think so much in terms of going to Hell or going to heaven. Instead, they rightly saw the issue before them as one of either being at enmity with or being reconciled to God, as being in danger of God’s wrath or being the recipient of God’s blessings. Heaven and Hell were seen to be real places, but they were consequences rather than front burner issues with people.

Folks, though heaven and Hell are real places that people will go to someday, depending on whether or not they are saved, those two places are in reality only consequences. They are the results of far more important issues. What ought to be of real importance is seeing Jesus.

These things stated, let me now remind you that salvation is not a single event. Rather, salvation is rightly seen as the taking of a sinful person from the spiritual reality of full estrangement and separation from God to the spiritual reality of full and complete reconciliation and communion with God. From being a person who will never look upon the face of Jesus except in judgment, to a person who lives for the day when he sees his glorious Savior face to face.

Salvation begins with the event called justification, when a sinner comes to faith in Christ. However, justification should rightly be seen as the beginning event of a distant relationship with God through Jesus Christ over time. As the distant relationship continues over time, it is called sanctification. Sanctification is rightly seen as a process. At the far end of sanctification comes glorification, which is the culminating event, just as justification was the initiating event, moving the relationship from being one that is at a distance, to one that is face to face with my Beloved for ever more.

Therefore, this big enchilada called salvation begins with justification, continues over time as sanctification, and concludes in glorification, which is when the believer finally arrives face to face with his wonderful Savior, this One Who, not having seen, he loves.

Salvation deals not so much with places as with people, and having a beginning to the distant relationship, a continuing of the distant relationship over time, and a culminating ending to distant phase of the relationship, and the beginning of the eternity long close relationship.

Are you anxious to know whether you have this thing called holiness or not? Now, if our text said that, without perfection of holiness, no man could have any communion with Christ, it would shut every one of us out, since no one, who knows his own heart, ever pretends to be perfectly conformed to God’s will. The writer of Hebrews did not say, “Perfection of holiness,” but “holiness.” Therefore, this holiness is a thing of growth. Holiness, in a saved person can be likened to an immature infant, perfect it is in all its parts, but not perfect in its development.

Therefore, when imperfections and failings are found, we are not to conclude that we are unconverted. Such would be contrary to the meaning of the text. My purpose is not so much to show what holiness is as what it is not, so that I can undeceive those who do not have this holiness, and at the same time comfort those who are converted.

Let us note four sorts of people who try to get by without holiness:




The Pharisee goes to work with outward ceremonies. He pays tithes. He may give alms to the poor. Anything and everything that is commanded he strives to do. However, all the while, he is living in the practice of secret sin, and he thinks that by outward deeds he shall be able to please God, and be accepted.

If you are such a pharisaic sinner, hear the death-knell of all your hopes in this verse: “Without holiness,” — and that is something you know nothing of, — “no man shall see the Lord.”

Your outward performances are vain and frivolous; even if God ordained them, seeing you put your trust in them, they shall utterly deceive and fail you, because they do not constitute even a part of holiness.

You cannot see Christ until your heart is changed, until your nature is renewed, until your actions become what God would have them to be. Mere ceremonialists, who merely want to do things for God, think they can get by without holiness. It is a delusion!

Do you have a Catholic background or influence? You are now in a place where, not the works of the Law, but the righteousness of Christ is preached. Let me remind you again, my friend, that those fine hopes of yours, built upon the maneuvers of the priests, and upon your own performances, will utterly fail you on that day when most you shall need them. Your soul shall then stand in shivering nakedness when most you need to be well equipped before the eyes of God. Such men as these do not know true holiness.




He has never done anything wrong in his life. He does not perform Christian duties, it is true. Perhaps he even despises them. However, he treats his neighbor with integrity. He believes that, as far as he knows, if his ledger is examined, it bears no evidence of a single dishonest deed. As touching the Law, he considers himself blameless. No one ever doubted the purity of his manner. From his youth up his temperament is what everyone could desire, and the whole tenor of his life is such that we could hold him up as an example of moral propriety.

However, this is not holiness before God. Holiness excludes immorality, but morality does not amount to holiness. For morality may be but the cleaning of the outside of the cup and the saucer, while the heart may be full of wickedness. Holiness deals with the thoughts and intents, the purposes, the aims, the objects, the motives of men.

Morality only skims the surface, while holiness goes into the very caverns of the heart and soul. Holiness requires that the heart be set on God, and that it beats with love for Him. The moral man may be complete in his morality without any of that.

Let me draw a parallel. Morality is a nice corpse, well washed and robed, and even embalmed with spices. However, holiness is the living man, just as fair and lovely, but having life. Morality lies there, earthy, soon to be worm food, while holiness has heavenly aspirations, and is prepared to mount and dwell in immortality beyond the stars. These two are opposite in their natures. The one belongs to this world, while the other belongs to Jesus, Who is beyond the skies.

It is not said in heaven, “Moral, moral, moral art thou, O God!” but “Holy, holy, holy art thou, O Lord!” You realize the difference between the two words. Remember that your best morality will not save you. You must have more than this, for without holiness, — and that not of yourself, it must be given you of the Spirit of God, — without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.




Some professed followers of Christ have a religious life that is inward. To tell you the truth, there is no life at all. However, their own profession is that it is inward. They are nonstop talkers, discoursing with much self-satisfaction, but bitter critics of anyone who differs from them in the slightest degree.

If a preacher should say “duty” in his sermon, they think he must be a dead legalist. Alternatively, if they are exhorted to holiness, why, they tell you they are perfect in Christ Jesus, and therefore there is no reason why they should have any thought of perfection in the work of the Spirit within.

Groaning, grunting, quarrelling, denouncing, — not following peace with all men, but stirring up strife against all, — this is the practice of their religion. This is the mountaintop to which they climb, and from which they look down with undisguised contempt upon all those worms beneath who are starving to serve God, and to do good in their generation, while these men do nothing to serve God.

Please remember that there are many passages of Scripture that deal with such men. Therefore, you may say what you will about what religious experiences you think you have felt. You may write what you please about what you fancy you have experienced. However, if your own outward life is unjust, unholy, ungenerous, and unloving, you shall find no one here who thinks you are in Christ: “Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.”

The moment you know a man who is drunk on a Saturday night, and then enjoys So-and-so’s preaching on a Sunday, the moment you know a man who can tell you what a child of God should be, and then appears himself exactly what he should not be, just walk away from him. Let him go to his own place, and where that is, Judas can tell you.

How great shall be the fall of such men, when He that searches all men’s hearts opens the book, and says to them, “I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink . . . inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it not to me.”




They have learned something. They think they have hold of the truth. They think they understand theology very accurately. They are wiser than their teachers are. There is no question about their being masters in divinity. If degrees went according to merit, they would have been dubbed “D. D.” years ago, because they know everything, and are proud that they do.

Yet these men live a life that is a stench in the nostrils of men who make no profession of religion. We have some of this kind here. If we could do you good, we might be glad to see you. However, you do so much hurt to the rest, and bring so much discredit upon the cause of Christ, that your room would be better than your company would.

He listens to the sermons, and sometimes even speaks well of the preacher, who wishes he would not. He congratulates himself that he knows the truth, and understands the doctrines of the Gospel, and therefore he will surely be saved in the end! You are wrong, sir. Cast off your hopes. “Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.”


Heart-work, carried out afterwards into life work, — this is what the Lord wants. You may perish as well with true doctrines as with false, if you pervert the true doctrine into licentiousness.

You may go to Hell by the cross as surely as by the vilest of sin. You may perish with the name of Jesus on your lips, for “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

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