What Is Holiness?
Holiness is often listed among the attributes of God, but it might be more accurate to say, as one scholar, V. M. Sinton, has put it, “Holiness is the shining brilliance of all God’s attributes blended together into a whole.” We human beings cannot possibly comprehend the full scope of God’s holiness. In fact, on those rare occasions when the curtain has been peeled back, so to speak, allowing human beings a glimpse, the experience shook them to the core. Perhaps the most well known encounter with God’s holiness was Isaiah’s vision of God in the temple (Is. 6). Even the angelic beings that attended God covered their faces (v. 2) as they cried out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty,” emphasizing by their double
repetition the magnitude of his holiness (v. 3); and Isaiah himself cried out, “Woe is me! I am ruined!” (v. 5).
While we cannot fully comprehend it, there are several things we can say about it that may help us better understand both God’s holiness and ours: First, as the creator of everything, God is completely “other” than everything. He is different. He is not of the same stuff that we are (Hos. 11:9). Secondly, God is pure in goodness and righteousness. He has not attained purity, he is purity. His own purity defines what goodness and righteousness are. Because God is pure he cannot tolerate anything which is impure or evil (Hab. 1:13) and, since fallen human beings are not pure, he must separate himself from them. This separation is depicted in the OT Temple where a thick curtain separated the Most Holy Place and God’s presence from human intrusion. Finally, God is perfect and complete. He is whole. There is nothing lacking in him. So, God’s holiness sets him completely apart from us. “He lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him or ever will” (1 Ti. 6:16 NLT).
These same aspects of God’s holiness that set him so far apart from us also make his generous love for us all the more astounding. Scripture tells us that though he alone is holy in himself, God has determined to share his holiness with us. Though he is not like us, he purposed to make us like him. Though we made it necessary for him to separate himself from us because of our sin, “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10), and all who have been made holy by faith in Christ are no longer cut off from him but invited to come boldly into his presence (Heb. 10:19-22). Now that we belong to God, he calls us to separate ourselves from evil and live as saints, or “holy ones,” set apart to our holy God. And his promise is that we will ultimately be made perfect and complete, just as he is, because he is making us whole. So, with the Apostle Paul we say, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…for he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight!” (Eph. 1:3-4).
Pastor Jon EnrightJuly 1, 2013