[B.T. Roberts updated]
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
“Strive” carries the image of hunting [Robertson’s Word Pictures]
“See the Lord” is a Hebraism (idiom) that means to “enjoy God.” [Clarke]
***** If this is so... then this verse is NOT a warning about not making heaven. *****
[Barnes:] Instead of yielding to contending passions and to a spirit of war; instead of seeking revenge on your persecutors and foes, make it rather your aim to be holy. Let that be the object of your pursuit; the great purpose of your life... Heaven and earth will pass away, but God will not admit one unrepenting and unpardoned sinner to heaven.”
[John Wesley:] “The NOT following after all holiness, is the direct way to fall into sin of every kind.”
[Vincent:] Sanctification... is used in the New Testament both of a process - the inauguration and maintenance of the life of fellowship with God, and of the resultant state of sanctification.... it appears that sanctification contemplates a further result (everlasting life), it is perhaps better to understand it as the process. Yield your members to righteousness in order to carry on the progressive work of sanctification, perfecting holiness.”
A. What are we to learn?
1. Holiness is important: We are commanded to pursue it (Hebrews 12:14)
2. We need a correct idea of the nature of holiness.
a. “If we would hit the mark we must know where to aim.” [B.T. Roberts]
b. FACT: there is a wide diversity of opinions... (confusion)
1.) The imperfection of language.
2.) The mind set (theology) of the individual.
3.) Holiness is NOT something that can be seen, measured, or weighed. So it is missed. (e.g. Job was “perfect and upright” yet his friends tried to convince him he was wicked in some way.)
3. Jesus was holy but this was mistaken for something else.
a. Love for all (interpreted as disrespect for the religious elite and the financially privileged)
b. Friend of sinners (interpreted as a glutton and drunkard)
“Holiness in the disciples of Christ has been recognized by but few, even of those who call themselves Christians.” [B.T. Roberts]
“Christ was put to death as an impostor.” [B.T. Roberts]
a. Essentials to holiness are purposely omitted in instructions about holiness.
1.) Popular sins are silently tolerated. (Those that do not are accused of breaking the unity and harmony of the church.)
(Ill. The toleration of slavery, etc...)
2.) RESULT: “holiness is not recognized when seen” [B.T. Roberts]
(Stubborn, disloyal, heresy, are common charges.)
b. Make holiness entirely beyond the reach of a human being in our present condition.
1.) Imaginary standards... “sinless perfection” meaning “flawlessness” (e.g. “a holy person cannot make a mistake in judgment, either through ignorance or [a mistaken belief]. B.T. Roberts)
2.) Measuring others by our understanding (perspective).
3.) Measuring others by our weakness (infallibility). [“projection”]
4.) Making no allowance for lack of judgment or imperfect training.
5.) Thinking that a holy person is beyond the reach of unfriendly criticism.
6.) “Perfect” means flawless... NEVER sinning again. (Falling or failing means the person was deceived or hypocritical.)
7.) Using the moral perfections of God as our standard. (Either claiming them or failing them.)
The failure of one who claimed “holiness” is seen as “proof” of the non-existence of holiness for anyone.
Imaginary standard... nobody achieves is a convenient “straw man” for those who fight against holiness.
B. So what is holiness?
[From A.B. Simpson]
Using the imagery of the temple:
1. Dedicated to God. (consecration, purification)
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,  for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” [1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20]
***** “Consecration” can be lost by being thoughtless. Then we wonder why we struggle when we are not paying attention. *****
2. Separate from the world. (Holy vs Common)
“What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you.” [2 Corinthians 6:16 – 17]
3. Used by God.
“In whom [Jesus Christ] the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” [Ephesians 2:21]
“The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God.” [Revelation 3:12]
Maybe another way to understand the idea of holiness is expressed in a song that says:
“When it’s time to say goodbye, there’s nothing to prove, nothing to lose, nothing to hide.”