Positional Holiness

Is a Christian as holy as Jesus himself?

How do you think the Bible answers that question? Okay, it’s a trick question. Because the answer is both yes and no. But not in the same way. The Bible actually talks about the Christian’s holiness in two ways. One way, it’s already a reality. In another way, it’s not yet a complete reality. In one way, we are indeed as holy as Jesus himself is holy. That is what we call “positional holiness.” But in another way, we are a long, long way away (to put it mildly) from being as holy as Jesus himself is holy. This is from the perspective of what we call “progressive holiness.” Let’s think a little bit about this truth for the Christian called “positional holiness.”

What is “positional holiness”? This is what the Bible calls justification. But what is it? Justification means our declared righteousness before God, made possible by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for us. But just because Jesus came doesn’t mean that anyone is automatically forgiven. Scripture couldn’t be clearer that repentance of our sins and faith and trust in Jesus’ work of salvation is necessary first.

These are the first words from Jesus in Mark 1:15. Paul also says this in Acts 20:21. Understanding God’s holiness, we must repent of our sins; and understanding his mercy, we must put our faith and trust in Christ. And when we repent and believe, Scripture says we are justified before God; our position before God is of one who has been declared holy and righteous in his sight. We find this idea in many places (read Romans 3:23-24; Romans 4:3-8; Galatians 2:16).

And that gets us to an important point. What did Jesus do so that when we repent of our sins and put our faith and trust in Jesus we can be assured of forgiveness and stand in a position of holiness before God? The immediate answer most give us that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. That’s not wrong. It’s very biblical, of course—1 Corinthians 15:3. It’s just not all that he did. The truth is that EVERYTHING Jesus did was for our salvation. Living his whole life the way he did, dying the death he died, and being raised again to life on the third day.

Jesus lived his whole life for us. He obeyed God perfectly and lived the life we are all supposed to live, but haven’t. Because we haven’t, Jesus also died for us, taking the consequences on himself for our sins. Then Jesus rose again from the dead to show that the payment for our sins is complete and his perfect life and sacrifice has been accepted.

That’s why when Paul talks about how we can be right with God in Philippians 2:8-9, he talks about “the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” It’s not a righteousness we earn for ourselves by our good works. It’s a “righteousness from God” that we receive by faith. So the Bible teaches that when we repent of our sins and put our faith and trust in Jesus’ work for us (living, dying, and rising again) we are united to him in the eyes of God, then his acceptance is our acceptance. His holiness is our holiness. His security is our security. When God the Father looks at you, he sees Jesus. Jesus took the consequences of your life so that you, by faith, could have the consequences of his.

Through repentance and faith, we are inseparably united forever to Christ. Where he goes, we go. So positional holiness means that in a very real sense, we are as holy as Jesus himself!


  1. What does this truth teach you about God?
  2. What does it teach you about yourself?
  3. What does it lead you to do in response?

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