I really hesitated on doing a post on God’s holiness because I, in and of myself, am anything but holy. Oh I try to be but I fall short, and as long as I am in this body, I’m pretty sure I will continue to do so. But the concept of God’s holiness plays such an important aspect of my faith and trust in Jesus that I just have to give it a try.
One of the most difficult concepts for humanity to grasp is the holiness of God. Holiness is not a word, it’s a state of being, when holiness is associated with God. Once you start looking for the contrast of God’s holiness and that which is not holy in the Bible, you’re going to see it illustrated literally everywhere.
Holy Place, Most Holy (Holy of Holies) (Exodus 26:33)
Be holy for I am holy (Leviticus 11:44)
You shall therefore be holy for I am holy (Leviticus 11:45)
Holy Holy Holy is the Lord of Hosts (Isaiah 6:3)
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48)
Why call me good, there is none good but one, that is God (Matthew 19:17)
Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty (Revelation 4:8)
All sin or transgressions that we commit are ultimately against God because all sins or transgressions violate God’s nature of being holy, of His completeness, of His totality. Sin or transgressions go against who He is and the very essence of His being.
There is a distinct difference between that which is holy and that which is not, i.e. common. One is the opposite of the other. This truth is pointed out time and time again throughout the whole Bible.
Holy unto God versus common
Good versus evil
Sinless versus sinful
Light versus darkness
Perfect versus imperfect
Unblemished versus blemished
Clean versus unclean
Just versus unjust
Honest versus dishonest
Righteous versus unrighteous
Unchanging versus changing
Mercy versus unmerciful
Faithful versus unfaithful
To name but a few …
The thing is, most times we just can’t comprehend the holiness of God. We think that we’re basically good but the truth is, we’re just not. It’s not that we can’t be good some of the time, we just can’t be good all of the time. And it’s not that we are bad all of the time, it’s just that we can’t stop being bad some of the time. Our standard of being good is not the same as God’s standard of good. Varying degrees of being good or bad doesn’t really matter when it comes to comparing ourselves with God because God is 100 percent HOLY and anything less that 100 percent, falls short.
It’s like a mother or father saying that aside from that one time when my son murdered his wife, or my daughter murdered her husband, he/she is basically a loving person. You say that’s a little extreme, maybe, but how about never lying, never cheating, never stealing or never being selfish? There’s more but you get where I’m going. That’s why we all fall short when comparing ourselves to God’s holiness because His attributes are always constant, without variance, no exceptions, ever.
But what does it mean that God is holy? Passages like 1 Samuel 2:2 and Isaiah 6:3 are just two of many examples of passages about God’s holiness. Another way to say it is absolute perfection. God is unlike any other (see Hosea 11:9), and His holiness is the essence of that “otherness.” His very being is completely absent of even a trace of evil or deceitfulness (James 1:13; Hebrews 6:18). He is high above any other, and no one can compare to Him (Psalm 40:5). God’s holiness pervades His entire being and shapes all His attributes. His love is a holy love, His mercy is holy mercy, and even His anger and wrath are holy anger and holy wrath. These concepts are difficult for humans to grasp because our standards or familiarity with “goodness” as an example, are based on what we see as “good” and not on the essence of the complete totality of the “goodness” of God.
In 1 Peter 1:13-16, Peter writes to believers, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 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 behaviour; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” Peter is quoting from Leviticus 11:44 and Leviticus 19:2.
But what does it mean for believers to be holy? When God told Israel to be holy in Leviticus 11 and 19, He was instructing them to be distinct from the other nations by giving them specific Laws to govern their lives. Israel was and is God’s chosen people and God set them apart from all others. They are His special chosen people, and consequently they were given special standards that God wanted them to live by so the world would know they belonged to Him. Did they fail to keep that “standard” as a nation? Yes they did, time and time again, which explains why they and us (non-Jewish Gentiles) both need a redeemer Saviour Messiah.
God isn’t calling us to be perfect in ourselves, because as most of us have learned by now, that doesn’t really work. That’s why God sent us His Son, because we in ourselves, cannot be holy. Jesus did for us what we in ourselves could never do. The important thing to be aware of is that, as believers, we are in the process of being cleansed and changed. Yet, at the same time, because the righteousness of Jesus is imputed unto us, we are, in our Father’s eyes, already righteous because Jesus is our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
1 John 1:9 NIV “ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Hebrews 10:14 NIV “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
1 Corinthians 1:30 NIV “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”
How then, do we become holy? Holiness only results from a right relationship with God by believing in Jesus Christ as Saviour (accepting His gift of eternal life). If we have not placed our faith in God’s Son alone to save us from our sins, then our pursuit of holiness is in vain. So, we must first make sure we are born-again believers (see John 3). If we truly are believers, then we recognize that our position in Christ automatically sets us apart from the world (1 Peter 2:9). We literally have a relationship with the living God! That’s minute by minute, hour by hour and day by day.
I know this post on God’s holiness is inadequate, we’re not even talking close because there is no way in which to adequately express, in words, what the holiness of God is like. When you are in His Holy presence, you fall to your knees, and His holiness is beautiful. What is also of equal importance is the depth, beauty and totality of His love, which is not able to be conveyed to another in words. Many years ago, for a couple of minutes, I tasted. Know this. One day we shall see Him face to face and there are no words.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!