THE HOLINESS OF GOD
Dr. Don Jasmin, Editor
"Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the Lord our God is holy."
There are four expressions of the word holiness in the Word of God; the first expression relates to God himself, while the second, third and fourth usage concentrate upon the redeemed saints. This study centers around the first expression, but with relevant application to the believer's life.
A. PERFECT HOLINESS could be titled EXALTED HOLINESS, since this is the holiness that belongs to God alone, It is the attribute of God, the absolute transcendent glory of divine being, that sets God apart from all His created beings. Perfect holiness is absolute holiness. God was holy! God is holy! God will always be holy!-Isaiah 6:3.
B. POSITIONAL HOLINESS could be described as ENTITLING HOLINESS. It is the holiness that believers possess by virtue of their eternal standing in Christ. It is closely related to the forensic righteousness that believers possess via their justification in/by Christ Jesus-Ephesians 4:24.
C. PRACTICAL HOLINESS is probably best expressed as ETHICAL HOLINESS, the internal character of the believer's renewed heart that manifests itself in Christ-like outward conduct and behavior-I Peter 1:15-16.
D. PERFECTED HOLINESS might well be termed ENTIRE HOLINESS. This is the holiness that all believers will someday enjoy when the complete spiritual formation of the risen Christ has become a reality in the lives of all redeemed saints-Rom 8: 29, Phil. 3:20.
In considering this vital theme, there are three introductory statements that are essential to this study: (a) Holiness is a major expression of God's attributes; (b) Holiness is a major emphasis in God's affidavit; (c) Holiness is a major exhortation in God's admonitions.
l. HOLINESS IS A MAJOR EXPRESSION OF GOD'S ATTRIBUTES: When using the term attributes in regard to God, we are talking about the essential character, nature, being, essence and perfections of God. While there are dozens of God's attributes mentioned in Scripture, there is one divine perfection that stands out above all others. This attribute which is central and fundamental to all God's perfections is the Holiness of God.
One conservative theologian stated that holiness is the "all embracing attribute in which all other attributes inhere," while another declared: "Love must have a standard; and this norm or standard can only be found in holiness."
2. HOLINESS IS A MAJOR EMPHASIS IN GOD'S AFFIDAVIT: An affidavit is a sworn statement in which a person affirms his veracity about that which he does/does not know. The Bible is God's written affidavit; it is God's self affirming/confirming oath with Himself in which He has voluntarily made Himself know to humanity. God's Word is His written affidavit to humanity.
(a) In this written affidavit-the Sacred Scriptures, Holiness is a Major Emphasis in God's Divine Titles. In Isaiah 6:3, the angelic creatures known as the seraphim's cried "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." In Rev. 4:8 the four heavenly creatures rang out the acclaim: "Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come."
It is significant that the word holy is the only word in Scripture that is used three times consecutively for an attribute of God. The Scripture never repeats the triple refrain truth, truth, truth or love, love, love for those divine perfections, but it does repeat the word Holy, holy, holy!
(b) Holiness is also a Major Emphasis in the Divine Trinity. In Lev. 11:44, God the Father is called holy: "I am Holy." In Acts 2:27, God the Son calls himself holy: "Thou wilt not suffer thine holy one to see corruption," and in Eph. 4:30, the third person of the divine Godhead is called holy: "And grieve not the Holy Spirit…"
(c) Holiness is a Major Exhortation in God's Testimonies, both in the O. T. and N. T. In Lev. 20:27, God says: "And ye shall be holy unto me, for I the Lord am holy…," while in I Peter 1:15 God admonishes believers via the Apostle Peter: "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation." The reader is invited to consider the following truths concerning God's Holiness disclosed within the sacred pages of Scripture:
HOLINESS IN GOD'S RADIANCE
In I John 1:5, the apostle John declares that "the message we have heard of him and declared unto you" is that "God is light" and that "no darkness" dwells in Him. The apostle Paul reiterates this truth when he says in I Tim. 6:16 that God dwells "in the light which no man can approach unto, which no man hath seen nor can see." In summation, these verses teach that God is total perfection, that He is total spiritual light, without any taint of spiritual darkness or sin.
In the celestial heavens where God dwells there is a radiant light that sets God apart from both the angelic beings he created, as well as the divine resources He conceived. The holy radiance of God sparkles like a jewel; it glows like a star; it gleams like a diamond and it beams like a lighthouse over the universe He created.
God's holiness is so glorious and so radiant that heaven's angels sing in reverent worship and magnificent adoration of His holy name. Isaiah stood in awe as he heard the angels cry "Holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory," while the apostle John stood in wonder as he heard the heavenly beings sing "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty" in Rev. 4:8.
God is totally pure, with complete separateness from all evil and sin. God's holiness is so radiant that no evidence of evil can come near his presence and survive. Writing about God's innate holiness and purity, Habakkuk the prophet declared: "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil: and canst not look on iniquity" (Hab. 1:13).
HOLINESS IN GOD'S REVELATION
In Ps. 60:6, the psalmist states that "God hath spoken in holiness," spoken "in holiness" via His inspired written Word which is called "The Holy Scriptures" in Rom. 1:12 and II Tim. 3:15. This second outline fact deals with the great truth of divine revelation. As a theological doctrine, revelation can be defined as the "act whereby God voluntarily discloses his being and will to humanity," an action that He had no divine obligation to disclose.
There are two kinds of divine revelation: (a) GENERAL REVELATION is God's voluntary self disclosure whereby He makes known His existence and power via such factors as creation and conscience. (b) SPECIAL REVELATION is God's self disclosure of His perfections, plans and purposes via Holy Scripture. The Holy Scripture, God's written Word, is God's only authoritative divine disclosure to humanity
God has not left man ignorant about His will and plan for humanity. In the divine Scriptures, God has given human beings an inspired, infallible and inerrant revelation that is efficacious both in saving sinners-I Peter 1:23 and sanctifying saints-John 17:17. These Scriptures are not just the "record" of that revelation, they are that revelation! It is not surprising this divine volume is called the "Holy Bible," since both its source and subject is a holy God.
Since they alter and delete God's written revelation, the modern versions cannot be termed "the Holy Scriptures." Julia Young of Hodder and Stoughton was correct when she declared at a promotional for the paperback version of the NIV: "It's just called 'The Bible' now—we dropped the word 'holy' to give it a more mass market appeal."
In his book Christian Purity, p. 37, R. S. Foster says that the holiness of God "shines in the prophecy, thunders in the law, murmurs in the narrative, whispers in the promises, supplicates in the prayer, resounds in the songs, sparkles in the poetry, shines in the types, glows in the imagery and burn in the spirit of the whole scheme." Foster continues: "From its Alpha to Omega—its beginning to its end—it [God's holiness] is the truth glowing all over and voicing through revelation: singing and shouting in all its history and biography and poetry and prophecy, and precept and promise, and prayer: the central truth of the system."
HOLINESS IN GOD'S RESIDENCE
There are three distinct Heavens revealed in the Scriptures: (a) the ATMOSPHERIC HEAVENS, those heavens that we can see with the visible eye-Ps. 19:1; (b) the STRATOSPHERIC HEAVENS, those unexplored and unknown galaxies in the far reaches of time and space-Ps. 8:3, and (c) the CELESTIAL HEAVENS, the eternal residence of God, his angelic hosts, and the departed saints from this earth.
In Isaiah 57:15 God uttered these words that the famed Messianic prophet recorded: "Thus saith the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with Him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the heart of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
All the residents of heaven are holy. God, its primary resident is holy. God the Father is holy-Joshua 24:19; God the Son is Holy-Is. 41:16 [26 times in Isaiah, the Son of God is designated as "the holy one" or the "holy one of Israel"]; and God the Spirit, who resides within believer's bodies, is Holy-Eph. 4:30. Even the "angels of heaven" (Matt. 24:36) are designated as "holy angels" in Rev. 14:10.
The saved of all ages who reside there will be holy. Enoch was a resident there before the law; Elijah was an occupant there during the dispensation of the law, and the apostle Paul became one of its residents after the law-II Cor. 5:1, 5:8. John Owen, the noted English Puritan theologian said that "Christ leadeth no one to heaven, but those whom he sanctifieth on earth." Thomas Brooks reiterated that truth when he stated that "heaven is only for the holy man and the holy man is only for heaven."
In heaven there will not be one goat among the sheep, not one weed among the flowers, not one thorn among the roses, not one Cain among the Abels, not one Ishmael among the Jacobs, not one Judas among the apostles, not one rebel among the redeemed, not one sinner among the saints, and not one pervert among the pure. Heaven is the exclusive residence of the holy!
HOLINESS IN GOD'S REQUIREMENTS
Holiness is one of God's requirements for entrance into Heaven. In Heb. 12:14, the Scripture states "Follow peace with all men, and holiness without which no man shall see God." God's moral law is a mirror reflecting the perfect, righteous character of a holy God and this moral law is set forth in the Holy Scriptures. God's moral law, expressed in the Ten Commandments, is a perfect written expression of His holy nature.
The Sermon on the Mount, the principles that will be God's operating theocratic philosophy during the kingdom age, and is his spiritual standard now, is a restatement of this O. T. moral law. It is interesting to note that all the Ten Commandments, except one [the Sabbath] are reiterated in the N.T., but with a deeper comprehension and new motive for this dispensation. Suffice it to say, that no one will obtain entrance into heaven, apart from possession of divine holiness. However, no human being, [other than Christ in his human nature] naturally possesses this holiness, a fact that brings us logically to the next divine truth.
HOLINESS IN GOD'S REDEMPTION
This imperative redemption has been provided totally via Jesus Christ who was the perfect expression of the holiness of God in human form (John 1:1: & 1:14). Redemption required a holy Savior, totally separate from innate sin (Heb. 7:26), whereby God could both punish sin and purge sin in the same single action on Calvary (Isaiah 53:5-6, II Cor. 5:21, I Peter 2:24).
At Calvary, mercy and truth met in perfect accord, and righteousness and peace kissed one another in perfect acclaim (Ps. 85:10). At the cross (Col. 1:20), God's justice was perfectly and fully exercised as the debt of sin was paid in full by Christ (I Peter 3:18), while God's love was manifested as Christ provided forgiveness (Eph. 1:7) and reconciliation with God (I John 4:9).
In Rom. 3:25-26 the apostle Paul perfectly expresses this holy redemption when he states that we have been "justified freely by his grace through redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [satisfaction] through faith in his blood…to declare…his righteousness: that he might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." Chester Tulga in his book, The Doctrine of Holiness, wrote on p. 16 that "God's holiness in all his relationships reaches its climax in the atonement of Calvary."
HOLINESS IN GOD'S RELATIONSHIPS
In both the O. T. and N. T., God required holiness in spiritual relationships with both Israel and the N. T. saints. In Lev. 11:44 God declared, "…I am the Lord your God, ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy, for I am holy." This admonition is repeated in the N. T. in I Peter 1:15 where God says, "But as he which hath called you is holy: so be ye holy in all manner of conversation: because it is written: be ye holy, for I am holy."
A holy God demands a holy people, and he has made provisions for holy living by his people. In the O. T., there were holy priests (Ex. 29:22), holy prophets (II Peter 1:21) and holy promises (Ps. 105:42). There was also the holy Sabbath (Ex. 20:8), the holy crown (Ex. 29:6), the holy ointment (Ex. 30:25), the holy linens (Lev. 16;4), the holy tabernacle (II Chron. 5:5), the holy vessels (I Chron. 22:19) and the holy sacrifices (I Chron 35:13).
In the N.T. revelation, the apostle Paul describes delineates the character of the holy scriptures inspired by God (I Tim. 3:15), and also describes the conduct of the holy shepherds instituted by God (Titus 1:8). The apostle Paul depicts saints as (a) a holy building-I Cor. 3:17, (b) a holy bride-Eph. 5:25-27, and (c) a holy body-Col. 1:22.
Believing saints are (a) created in holiness-Eph. 4:24, (b) called to holiness-I Thess. 4:7, (c) commanded to holiness-I Pet. 1:16, (d) converted to holiness-Rom 6:22, (e) exhorted to continue in holiness-I Tim. 2:15, (f) to have their conversation in holiness-I Pet. 1:15. Someday believers will have their consummation in holiness-Heb. 12:14. In the Scripture, holiness is inextricably interwoven into both the internal character and the external conduct of believers!
HOLINESS IN GOD'S REIGN
In Ps. 47:8, the Psalmist David declared that "God reigneth over the heaven, God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness." Psalms 47 is a millennial psalm that celebrates God's kingship reign over all the earth (Ps. 47:7). This psalm prophetically looks forward to the time when all the earth shall be subdued under the righteous reign of Christ.
Zech. 14:16 describes that future day when righteous nations-purged of their idolatry and infidelity-shall gather from all around the globe in Jerusalem to worship the Lord. The religious festivities will feature bells that will feature insignias with the words "HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD," with bells that joyously ring out that majestic phrase.
When the last chapter of human history is written and time is consummated and becomes an extinct entity in God's eternal economy, God will reign forever in holiness on His everlasting throne! Hallelujah!
POSTSCRIPT: A SOLEMN WARNING!
HOLINESS IN GOD'S RETRIBUTION
In Matt. 25:46 as the Great White Throne judgment concludes, the writer notes the solemn contrast in eternal destinies between those who spurned God's offer of salvation via his beloved Son and those who accepted His gracious offer. The scripture states: "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." This is a solemn warning to those presently outside the divine ark of eternal safety. Rev. 20:11-15 vividly describes the horrible retribution that awaits all those who reject the holy Son of God.
An Earnest Plea
Any readers of this treatise who have never received God's beloved Son (John 1:12) as their personal Savior are urged to accept to accept Him now (II Corinthians 6:2) via simple repentance (Luke 13:3) and faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31) before death knocks and the opportunity is forever lost (Heb. 9:27-28). At the Great White Throne Judgment, a holy God will have no other choice but to cast Christ rejecting sinners into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).
Also in this issue: