The Eternal God is Holy

And He calls His people to be holy, too.

Foundations for a Christian Worldview: God (4)

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.’” Leviticus 19.1, 2

To be like God
The idea of “holiness” essentially involves being separated from what is “common”, or what is everywhere to be found, in order to be devoted to what is not common, what is eternal, what is good. Holiness implies moral purity and perfection, uncompromising veracity and faithfulness, and a host of other spiritual virtues.

There is nothing common about God. God is One, Three- in-One, and eternal. He is sui generis, and in His utter uniqueness, God is holy.

God is not part of His creation. He is not contained in time or space. He is eternal in His being, attributes, purposes, and power. The heavens and the earth cannot contain Him, nor can they exist apart from Him. He does not dwell in temples or shrines made with human hands. He is altogether complete and sufficient unto Himself, wholly unique in His eternal being and attributes. He is completely separate from everything else that exists, and untainted and unaffected by the many imperfections and corruptions of the world.

He is holy. What does it mean to be holy? It means to be like God.

God’s holiness and its effects
The Scriptures describe the holiness of God in various ways. God is of purer eyes than to behold evil (Hab. 1.13). It’s not that He does not see evil; it is rather that He does not countenance it. He acts to overcome evil with good, either by purifying that which is evil, or by destroying it.

God is described as thrice holy: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 4.8). The three-fold repetition of this modifier is meant to insist on its perfection and unchangeableness. God is always holy and always will be holy.

Looking more specifically into the Law of God, we see that the holiness of God affects whatever He inhabits or wherever He appears, whether the heaven where He dwells in glory (Deut. 26.15), the earth around the burning bush (Ex. 12.16), the day He has set apart for resting in Him (Ex. 16.23), the offerings He receives (Lev. 2.3; Deut. 26.13), the place where He chooses to meet with His people (Ex. 26.34), the services of worship He requires there (Lev. 21.6; 23.2; 23.4), or the people He has redeemed to be His own possession (Ex. 19.6; Deut. 7.6; 14.2). 

God is holy, and He is able to make things holy which are not holy by nature. As He sets them apart unto Himself, for His own unique purposes and to be used in His own chosen ways, things and people become holy. They partake of the holiness of God, and thus refract a measure of His holiness into the space and time they occupy. 

A holy people
The people of God are redeemed unto holiness. Yet, because they are creatures of space, time, and substance, and the offspring of Adam and Eve, they are by nature not holy, and must devote themselves to the pursuit of holiness as the evidence of their having been redeemed by the holy God (2 Cor. 7.1). God’s people must work out the requirements and manifestations of holiness within their own reality. This requires that they separate themselves from what is common and not holy, so that in all things they might live unto God. By looking to the promises of God and all His Word, the people God has called to be holy separate themselves from all unholiness and, partaking of the divine essence, increase in the holiness of the Lord (2 Pet. 1.4). Thus the holiness of the Lord becomes manifest in the people He has chosen, redeemed, and called to Himself. It is His holiness they show in the world, and not a holiness of their own, of which they have none. 

God is holy unto and within Himself. His people are to be holy unto God and in space and time, thus reflecting through their lives the existence, and manifesting the purposes of, the eternally holy God.

We should expect that the worldview promulgated by a holy God would be unto holiness, especially since God has declared that He intends His people to be holy. We should also expect that, since God is the focus and objective of our worldview, increasing in holiness – God-likeness, or Christ-likeness – would be the goal of every aspect and endeavor within the framework of our Christian worldview. Our personal lives should be holy. All our relationships should be for holiness. Our work should be holy, and all our culture. Everything we are and do should be regarded as an offering unto the Lord, and thus should partake of His holiness and manifest His glory. If this is not the case, if our goal is anything less than such holiness, then our worldview is deficient and we cannot expect the blessing of God to abide on it.

In His holiness, God is full of glory, as the people of Israel saw when He descended on the mountain, filled the Tabernacle, and appeared in their midst as a pillar of cloud and fire. The holy God is glorious in His holiness, bringing a presence of great spiritual power and substance into the experience of human beings, a power which issues from the larger eternal reality of the holy God.

The holiness and glory God intends for His people are sketched in His holy and righteous and good Law (Rom. 7.12). However, that holiness is only fulfilled by God’s incarnate Word (Matt. 5.17-19); it is credited to His people by divine grace, and is brought to fruition in their lives through His Holy Word and Spirit (Jn. 6.63). 

Only the holy God can make people holy, and holiness is what He requires of those who bear His covenant name, because He Himself is holy.

For reflection
1. How would you explain the idea of holiness to a new believer? What is involved in becoming holy as God is holy?

2. Should we really expect all aspects of our lives to increase in the holiness of the Lord? Explain.

3. The writer of Hebrews insists that without holiness, no one may expect to see the Lord (Heb. 12.14). Why is this so? 

Next steps – Preparation: How conscious are you of working each day to bring holiness to completion in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7.1)? What can you do to keep the pursuit of holiness more constantly before your eyes?

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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