Called to Be Holy, a Biblical Perspective – A Book Critique


Dr. John N. Oswalt, a Research Professor of Old Testament is Wesley Biblical Seminary in Mississippi, retreat leader, conference speaker, member of the N.I.V. translation team and editorial team of the New Living Translation presents a well rounded portrait of the Bible”s teaching on godly living, the result of about forty years of study, teaching, preaching and reflecting.




Holiness as a unified theme of the entire Bible is systematically traced. Reading the Old Testament in isolation may lead to the erroneous belief that one is saved through works of obedience and reading the New Testament without its counterpart could lead one to believe that the only significance of Christ”s death is forgiveness. The text shows the character of God, the nature of human predicament and God”s intentions for His people. Although the Israelites had been immersed in wrong understanding, God used the convent because it would be intelligible to them. Ultimate reality could only be understood by analogy with the world around us. Four central truths are echoed in both testaments. Firstly, we come into relationship with God by an act of sheer grace. Secondly, God brings us into relationship with Himself so that we can have fellowship with Him on the basis of shared character. This is evident in the journey of the Israelites. Thirdly, it is discovered over again that there is something that prevents us from this fellowship with God. In Genesis, these impediments are referred to as ”evil imagination”. This rabbinical phrase is what prevents God”s children to do what they should do in relationship. Ultimately, it is only through the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit that man is able to overcome the impediments. This is the summary of the Bible. It is the same in both testaments.


Oswalt should be commended for the vivid presentation of the flaw in the human spirit that reveals itself in prostitution of our best gifts and abilities, echoing that it must be renewed. The Holy Spirit, he rightly observes, should actualize this renewal. The manner in which he completed the first section is also commendable. His summary of the seven chapters could be regarded as a very useful synthesis that maintains a smooth transition to the study of holiness in the New Testament.


One expected Oswalt to have made a very clear distinction between the different types of sanctification.


Dr. Oswalt”s timeless text is a treasure for every Christian especially in this age in which torrents of controversial ink is still flowing on the definition and manner in which holiness could be achieved or attained.

Source by Oliver Harding