Holiness is a theme that runs like a thread through both testaments of the Bible. God is holy, and He demands of his people to be holy. And holiness is not something that should be taken lightly, as the Bible clearly indicates:
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord… Hebrews 12:14
Sad to say, religion has, as in so many cases, perverted this important aspect of our lives, deceiving many well-meaning Christians and complicating a simple matter. It would not be wrong to say that it probably turned more people away from God than brought them closer.
What is holiness?
God is holy
“Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? Exodus 15:11
God is holy because there is no one like Him; He is in a class of His own, above all gods and all things created. God, as the Creator of all things is not part of creation, He is above the work of His hands.
The reason why we worship Him is because He is exalted above all things. There is no point in worshipping an entity that is equal to us, or something created by man. We reverentially adore the One who created us, in an outpouring of honour and respect.
Holiness is the overarching character trait of God. He is love, He is merciful and gracious, just, powerful, wise, etc., but the aspect of His being that elicits worship by the seraphim around His throne, is His holiness.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” Isaiah 6:1-3
We see the same picture in Revelation 4:8 with heavenly creatures crying, “Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come,” and they do this night and day without end. It seems then that God’s holiness is being exclaimed throughout eternity. He is so far above everything that is known to man that the only way one can respond to His presence is to bow low before His holiness.
It is said that these heavenly creatures continuously see a different aspect of God throughout eternity, causing them to loudly proclaim the uniqueness of His Being without end. That might very well be the case. Their worship was so powerful that Isaiah saw it shaking the doorposts!
For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” and so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”) Hebrews 12:18-21
Although Moses walked with God, knew His voice and often saw His appearance, he still trembled at His appearance. God is holy and His appearance is glorious, and simply too much to bear for people in the flesh. He is so far exalted above everything that we know that the only way we can acknowledge His presence, is to fall on our face in reverential fear.
Holiness is separation, and our holiness is expressed by our general conduct. Jesus said that we are in the world but not of it. (See John 17:14-16) We were called out of the world and therefore do not see ourselves as part of it any longer. We live by a different standard because we have Christ, the hope of glory living in us. (See Colossians 1:27) This hope affects everything we do or say, and influences the way we respond to life’s challenges, and this is what sets us apart from the world.
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
While we are conscious of the truth that we are new creation beings that were called out of the world into the family of God, we do not walk in the world with pride, but humility, fully understanding His grace towards us.
The original meaning of the word church is ecclesia, meaning “called out ones.” We were called out of the world and its ways to a new and living way in Christ Jesus. We are different from the world, which is why it hates us. Our very conduct and hopeful attitude convict them, but also give them a reason to leave their ways and follow the One they see in us. Where there is no visible distinction between us and them, there will also be no reason to hate us – or follow us.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17
It goes without saying that the old person that we were, with our fallen nature, is not the same as the new creation that we became in Him. In Christ everything became new – and therefore different. If there is no difference possible, then Christ died in vain.
…but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16
It is our conduct that draws the attention of the world to Christ and prompts them to ask some questions that might lead them to Him.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 1 Peter 3:15-17
We have become one with Him Who is holy as we walk through life, and cannot blend with the world that we travel through as sojourners.
How visible is your holiness?