What comes to mind when you consider the holiness of God? A.H. Strong in his treatise on Systematic Theology argues that holiness is the fundamental attribute of God (Systematic Theology, p. 296). A.W. Tozer skillfully writes about the uniqueness of God’s holiness,
Until we have seen ourselves as God sees us, we are not likely to be much disturbed over conditions around us as long as they do not get so far out of band as to threaten our comfortable way of life. We have learned to live with unholiness and have come to look upon it as the natural and expected thing. We are not disappointed that we do not find all truth in our teachers or faithfulness in our politicians or complete honesty in our merchants or full trustworthiness in our friends. That we may continue to exist we make such laws as are necessary to protect us from our fellow men and let it go at that. (The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 138).
The holiness of God is a prominent theme throughout the Bible. When Moses encountered the presence of God in the wilderness, God warned him,
Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)
When the prophet Isaiah witnessed the holiness of God he was undone,
Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5)
The Apostle John in the New Testament had a similar encounter when confronted with God’s holiness.
When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,” (Revelation 1:17)
The Hebrew word for holy, קָדוֹשׁ (qadowsh ), means “marked off” or “withdrawn from common, ordinary use.” The Greek word for holy, ἅγιος (hagios), fundamentally signifies that which is “separated” and in the Scriptures it emphasizes separation from sin and therefore consecration to God.
Since God is absolutely holy, he cannot tolerate wickedness or evil. An implication of His holiness is God’s abhorrence of sin. When we see the phrase “the wrath of God” in the Bible it may make some people uncomfortable – isn’t God a God of love? That is true but He is also a holy God and He does not tolerate sin.
We cannot cannot atone for our sin – that’s why the Gospel is called the “good news.” Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins by His atoning work on the cross,
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; (1 Peter 3:18)
If Christ has come into your life, then Jesus has made you holy by changing you on the inside. Our responsibility is to work out what God has worked in. We are to reflect the holiness of God to the world around us. Oswald Chambers reveals God’s perspective,
We must continually remind ourselves of the purpose of life. We are not destined to happiness, nor to health, but to holiness. Today we have far too many desires and interests, and our lives are being consumed and wasted by them. Many of them may be right, noble, and good, and may later be fulfilled, but in the meantime God must cause their importance to us to decrease. The only thing that truly matters is whether a person will accept the God who will make him holy. At all costs, a person must have the right relationship with God . . . God has only one intended destiny for mankind— holiness. His only goal is to produce saints. God is not some eternal blessing-machine for people to use, and He did not come to save us out of pity— He came to save us because He created us to be holy.
The Apostle Peter cites the book of Leviticus as he enjoins His fellow disciples,
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)
May you walk in holiness for His glory.
Associate Pastor – Discipleship. The Church at LifePark
Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University
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