Statement of Faith Current Teaching Teaching Index
God is Holy - The Holiness of God
December 2011

            Any discussion attempting to describe God’s character has to start and then extend from an understanding of His holiness, for God is Holy (Leviticus 11:44, 19:2; Psalm 60:6, 99:9, 108:7;  Isaiah 6:1-3; Amos 4:2; Luke 1:49; John 17:11; Hebrews 12:10; 1 Peter 1:15; Revelation 4:8, 6:10; etc.)!  Knowing this and knowing that this same holiness is required of us, for the Lord said in Leviticus 11:44 “be ye holy, for I am holy” it becomes vital that we fully understand what the holiness of God is and what His holiness means in regard to our salvation.      

            When Isaiah saw the infinite holiness of God, he cried out in desperation and despair, Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts (Isaiah 6:5). When man’s finite holiness comes face to face with the infinite holiness of God man can do nothing more than collapse under the weight of his own wretchedness.  

            Holiness is an attribute of love which symbolizes that quality that leads it to seek and promote sinlessness by conforming to God’s moral law, or His divine definition of what is right, which is founded upon His infinite wisdom and reason.  All the attributes of God in their fullness and unity express God’s holiness. Holiness is the only attribute that stirs up overwhelming delight in heaven.  Isaiah saw the Seraphim standing around the throne of God celebrating holiness by crying one to another “Holy! Holy! Holy! Is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory! (Isaiah 6:3)” The apostle John saw the same vision, and when he expressed his awe at what he saw he added a time reference, “They rest not day or night, saying “Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty” (Revelation 4:8).

            The Bible tells us in Luke 1:74-75; “to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, (75) in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.”  It is interesting to note that the particular Greek word for holiness, which is, “hosiotēs” pronounced “hos-ee-ot’-ace” only appears twice in the New Testament.  One time in the passage referred to above and the other in Ephesians 4:22-24. In Ephesians Paul tells his readers; “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, (23) and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, (24) and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

            In this passage, Paul instructs us to put off the old man whom he equates with corruption and deceit and be renewed or reformed or to renovate not the flesh, but the mind.  The Greek word for renewal mentioned in Ephesians 4:23 is “ananeoo” pronounced “an-an-neh-o’-o” is not a reformation of the mind itself in its natural power of recollection, judgment and perception but the spirit of the mind which when under the influence of the Holy Spirit changes our natures and properly steers our actions God-ward. 

            Biblical scholars almost unanimously agree that holiness directly takes its meaning from what God is.  God alone is holy, and He is holy in Himself!  Man can only draw holiness from God through an intimate, personal relationship.  To help us further clarify this point perhaps we should use the term “God-likeness.”  Holiness is God-likeness!  The extent that a person is God-like determines their holiness. 

            In the two passages quoted above, you will notice that joined together are the words “holiness” and “righteousness.”  These two words are two aspects of one condition, which is putting on the new man.  Holiness and righteousness are a direct result of salvation.  The old man passes away and a new man is created (ref. 2nd Corinthians 5:17).  Because of this, “Holiness” becomes an inherent or inborn character, where righteousness, which also means “God-likeness,” is ones actual demeanor and behavior inspired by grace, and governed by truth.  Our lives are to reflect the life of Christ in all our ways for we are a new creation made in the likeness and character of God (Holiness), while at the same time our actions must demonstrate continually His righteousness. 

            Herein lies a problem.  Without understanding the holiness of God, sin has no meaning, making any need for grace void.  Understanding and accepting God’s holiness as ultimate truth defines sin, for holiness is the standard in which we must live.  The holy character of God is a result of the revelation God has made of Himself to man. His character never changes He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Without the holiness of God, sin is merely a human failure with no consequences, and God’s moral law has no substance and therefore worthless.  God’s holiness must be the standard of a holy and righteous life. 

            Without that standard, how can we know we have fallen short and sinned?  Without the guilt, or without retribution, or without any moral standard to judge our actions what stops us from acting in total depravity?  Also, consider that without the holiness of God, grace is worthless for there would be no need of judgment and therefore, no need for the Son of God to have come and make atonement for our sin.  Also without holiness, faith is but a confidence only in oneself.  Simply put, once we remove the meaning of God’s holiness, sin, grace, faith, and even the atonement, they are emptied of any meaning or potency, and therefore of no necessity.  If this is accomplished in man’s own mind, he is free to live without God and believe he will suffer no lose!

            Man’s need of holiness is the reason why Jesus came.  That is whole of the Christian faith.  Our Christian faith, which holds oh so securely and confidently the grace of God is not an agreement with God by which man can sin and escape all penalties due because of it, no brethren; “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not!  How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it” (Romans 6:1-2, 14-15)?

Holiness when described in the New Testament has two applications.  One is to be separate from worldly ideals and influences, and two we are to consecrate ourselves to God.  Our Christian faith is a great and glorious deliverance from our sinful human nature so that we can live in holiness and righteousness as we serve God.  To be satisfied with anything less than that intent and purpose is to short change God’s character and His importance.  When we see the horrible sufferings of Christ on the Cross-our hearts should see just how large the gulf was between God and man, and the cost and distance God had to go in order to draw us near to Him again.

        It is important to express another important fact at this point. The atonement (Christ’s death on the cross) did more than just forgive our sins; it reconciled the differences between God’s holy character and our sinful natures, bringing into conformity those two conflicting characters.  Brethren, God’s objective in the atonement was not to forgive sin but to deal with it. To have fellowship with God; is to love what He loves; to hate what he hates; to desire what He desires; to rejoice in His will and in all things pertaining to Him.

            For the most part Christians have lost the understanding of this most important truth. We believe that due to fear most Christians do not, or will not grasp this basic of all truths, God’s holiness!  God’s holiness will not allow sin in its presence.  God’s Word says, “Without holiness no man will see God” (Hebrews 12:14).  This in effect clearly demonstrates the reason why understanding the holiness of God is so important.  Do you wish to see God? If the answer is yes, it is only possible through holiness.  Weigh it in the balance my brethren.  Live holy or not, know God or No God!

            The New Testament insists that a sinner repents and turns away from sin, and believers press forward toward perfection, that is to be pure and holy before the Lord. “To sinners God says, “Ye must be born again,” and to the born again believers He commands us to, “be ye holy, for I am holy.” Notice 2nd Corinthians 7:1; “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” When a believer studies the New Testament epistles for the importance of growth and maturity in Christ, or becoming more Christ-like, the believer will find that virtually every chapter contains references to the importance of this spiritual necessity.  The development of believers into the likeness of Christ is the central idea of Christianity. Where justification is step one, holiness is the rest of the trip. It is God changing the believer from his old nature of sin into His very character of holiness.  Why would God spend the majority of the New Testament teaching this truth if it was not essential for eternal life.

            Jesse T. Peck D.D. observed the following about the central idea of Christianity.  

1.      The choice of God for the moral condition of the human race was perfect purity; hence, he created man in his own image. 

2.      As this was once the choice of God, it must be eternally so, and His divine preference or will can never be met except by perfect moral purity.

3.       Sin interfered with this choice, to the full extent of its existence and reign, and hence called out the severest divine displeasure.

4.      There has therefore, never been and never can be the slightest toleration of sin in any divine communications.  It is condemned with unsparing severity in its most secret and plausible forms.

5.      As man, by becoming a sinner, has incurred God’s divine displeasure, he can only be saved from calamity and made perfectly happy by the entire deliverance from sin.

6.      Remedial measures, originating from God, must aim directly at the destruction of sin. Excepting it in any of its forms, making provision for its continuance, its justification, or excuse in the soul of the saved to any extent, would be trifling and impossible in Him.

7.      The sacrificial offering of Christ, and the means, and appliances of the Gospel, reveal the plan of salvation by the destruction of sin and the restoration of man to the image of God, and cannot be reconciled with the idea of salvation while remaining in sin.[1]  

            In conclusion, we would like to spend some time defining what holiness is and what holiness is not.  For we believe that in doing so we will come to a better understanding of its meaning.

1.         Holiness does not free us from sin.  It does however, free us from sin’s power to control us.

             First, let us define what sin is.  The Hebrew and Greek words most often translated sin simply means, “Missing the mark.”  What mark you ask: the perfect, flawless, actions that result from a heart and mind that is God’s love.  Sin therefore is imperfection when complying with the standards that God’s character sets, which Christ testified and demonstrated.  In other words, when we view the life of Christ and compare it to the way we live there can be no doubt that, All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

            Brethren, whether we can help it or not does not matter, it does not even enter into the thought process when defining sin. Sin is simply, “missing the mark.”  Why, is also of no importance, for if we do not grasp the definition, how can we acknowledge that we are in need of salvation.  Too often, we think that sin is just a violation of God’s moral law.  In one sense that is true.  Paul on the other hand adds another perspective to that description. Refer to Romans 3:20.  It says, “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.  God wants us to recognize what our sins are.  Even those who have not murdered or committed adultery will find themselves convicted of covetousness, lying, or for worshipping false idols like wealth or power. “You shall have no other Gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).  Do not think for a second that you are without sin. For, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us (1st John 1:8-10).  For sin brings separation from God, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. (2) But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2).  Repentance is the only way to restore fellowship with God.  For, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (7) But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1st John 1:6-7).

The fellowship received because of the atonement brings freedom from the power of sin.  “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? (4) Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, (6) knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (7) for he who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:3-7 Cr. John 8:34-36; Romans 6: 12, 22, 8:3-4; 1st Peter 4:1).

Romans 6:3-7, 12, 22

2.         Holiness does not free us from battling sin, but does free us from being defeated by sin.

          Any one who has ever read the New Testament can plainly see how Jesus Himself while on earth battled sin constantly.  He faced attacks verbally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  These attacks got so severe that His enemies bore false witness against Him in order to convict Him of Heresy and then publicly scourged Him, and crucified Him.  Then to make sure He was dead thrust a spear into his side.  Will anyone though say that He was defeated? NO!  He rose from the dead three days later in victory, bringing eternal life to all who believe in Him. Battles with sin will come against us in the same way they came against Him; notice these verses, “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes” (Matthew 18:7).  “Then He (Jesus) said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come” (Luke 17:1)!  “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. (11) Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (12) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (13) Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (14) Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, (15)  and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; (16) above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. (17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; (18)  praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:10-18). “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). And finally 1st Corinthians 15:54-58 “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (55) “O death, where is your sting?  O Hades, where is your Victory?” (56) The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. (57)  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (58) Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

3.         Holiness does not mean we will not be tempted by sin, but it does mean victory through obedience is assured.

            Man once saved becomes a threat and an enemy to Satan.  He has now something to worry about and will now start his attacks upon the new believer.  Whereas before, a non-believer was no threat, a new believer, on the other hand, because of his salvation and subsequent new life is.  He (the believer), in Satan’s mind and in reality is a member of the opposing army and should therefore be captured once again, or killed.  Jesus said in Matthew 12:30; “He who is not with me is against me” (Ref. Mark 9:40; Luke 11:23, 16:13) showing us that there is no in between, you are either a member of God’s family or the family of Satan.

Have no fear because the enemy is against you and wants to destroy you, for “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord” (Isaiah 54:17).  For “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1st Corinthians 10:13).  “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

4.         Holiness does not mean we will not pay for our mistakes, but it does mean we do not have to make mistakes.

Even though we are a new creature in Christ, God does not take away our free will.  We still have the privilege of choosing our own path.  God is not looking for mindless robots that have no other option other than obeying that which is programmed into us.  God is looking for a people who will choose to love Him and obey Him.  Can anyone truly love a robot?  Oft times choosing our own path leads to actions, which result in hurtful consequences.  Holiness however, gives us the proper choice and direction so that we can choose properly.

 “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24).

            In concluding this study let the prophetic words of Zacharias the father of John the Baptist be remembered.  He, filled with the Holy Ghost, at the naming of his son John said, “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, (69)  And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David. (70) As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began, (71) That we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. (72) To perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, (73) The oath which He swore to our father Abraham: (74) To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, (75) In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life” (Luke 1:68-75).

            Brethren let us have faith in God, His Word, and His moral law so that He is able to deal with our sin.  The Amplified Bible defines the word “faith” thusly:  adhering, trusting, and reliance.  May we all adhere to, trust in, and rely on Christ to give us direction, strength and mercy while we endeavor to live holy before Him in this world, while we keep our eyes steadfast on the city whose builder and maker is God.


[1] The Central Idea of Christianity, page 9-10, Jesse T. Peck, D.D., Foster and Palmer Jr., 14 Bible House, New York. 1866

 

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