Heb 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (KJV)
Heb 12:14 Try earnestly to live at peace with every one, and to attain to that purity without which no one will see the Lord. (TCNT)
The Twentieth Century New Testament gives “purity” as the translation of the underlying Greek word that the King James Version translates as “holiness.”
Matthew 5:8, one of the “beatitudes,” records that Jesus said “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” The writer of Hebrews may have had this text in mind when he spoke of “holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”
Jesus stated this truth positively, whereas the writer of Hebrews stated it negatively. This illuminates an interesting principle of Bible study: when reading a text that presents a positive truth, consider re-framing the truth as a negative statement. So, when Jesus says “blessed are the pure in heart,” think: what if a person is not pure in heart? Then follow with “for they shall see God,” and clearly those who are not pure in heart shall not see God, which is just what Hebrews 12:14 states.
Note also that what Jesus said is stated as a cause/effect relationship: “Blessed are the pure in heart” is the cause; “for they shall see God” is the effect or result. Watch for this kind of statement; it is found all through the Bible. I have listed all the cause/effect verses that I have found in an extensive note about Bible study at Psalm 9:10, a verse which is a very striking and instructive example, in The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, in Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible, and most completely in The Ultimate Cross Reference Treasury.
I have been illustrating how to apply in a practical way the truth about holiness expressed in Hebrews 12:14 by explaining and applying the words of the great Gospel hymn, “Take Time to Be Holy.”
The third and final stanza of this hymn reads:
Take time to be holy.
Let Him be thy guide;
And run not before Him,
In joy or in sorrow,
Still follow thy Lord
And, looking to Jesus,
Still trust in His Word.
How may we “Let Him be [our] Guide”? The words of the hymn that follow explain just how to do that:
(1) “run not before Him” –don’t go off on your own tangent without seeking and following His guidance. Sarah made that serious mistake when she, impatient and not waiting on the Lord to fulfill His promise of a child to Abraham by her, directed Abraham to have a child by her handmaid Hagar, and we are still suffering from the consequences of that bad decision very much even today. So, no matter what befalls you, “whatever betide,” don’t repeat the mistake Sarah made! Study the subject of Divine Guidance in the Bible by looking up the cross references given for such a verse as Psalm 32:8. Consult my extensive notes about Divine Guidance as they are given at 1 Kings 12:7 and 1 Kings 12:10; 1 Kings 13:9 and 1 Kings 13:18 in The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, or Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible, or The Ultimate Cross Reference Treasury. These notes are also posted here in the October, 2017 archives. I wrote a full article titled “Divine Guidance” on October 27, 2017. This is a most important study. Be sure to look there to study this subject more fully! Link: http://www.realbiblestudy.com/?p=2453
(2) “In joy or in sorrow, Still follow thy Lord” –No matter what you face in life, remain faithful and follow the Lord. In Bible doctrine this is known as the “perseverance of the saints.” That means we stay faithful to Christ, no matter what comes our way. Those who truly continue to believe on Christ and in Christ continue to persevere. See Philippians 2:12, 13, and many other related passages, including Hebrews 10:38, 39.
(3) “And, looking to Jesus, Still trust in His Word” –“Looking to Jesus” includes continuing to hear His voice (John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”). And where do we hear His voice? Only in the Bible. We must continue to not only read but actually study His Word to be grounded securely in our faith (Colossians 1:23; Colossians 2:7).
This completes my informal exposition of Hebrews 12:14 by means of explaining the words of the hymn, “Take Time to Be Holy.” I trust you have gained new insight into what is involved in pursuing holiness, “without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
It has taken some time for me to write this entire series in eight parts. I know my wife will be glad to have her favorite hymnbook back so she can play the hymns she likes on her piano once again!