God's Holiness and Ours
Holiness, in both scriptural languages, carries the definite idea of separation. Both testaments consistently emphasize the idea of being set apart, yet there is often a distinction in their emphasis. The Old Testament often identifies holiness in a physical sense, denoting cleanliness of an outward sort (Lev. 11:44-47). The New Testament stresses holiness in the spiritual sense, indicating purity of heart and hands (Rom. 12:1; 1 Peter 2:5).
Throughout the whole of Scripture, there occurs a clear command to the believer: “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (Lev. 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16). As children resemble their father, so believers must look like their God (Eph. 4:24; 5:1; Phil. 2:15; 1 John 5:18).
There is no adjective prefixed to God’s name more than holy. The book of Isaiah, laden with proclamations of holiness, serves as an example of how Scripture expounds the riches of God’s holiness: God is the “Holy One” (occurring twenty-six times) and angels cry thrice “Holy!” (Isa. 6:3; cf. Rev. 4:8). God’s holiness is said to be the very essence of His being (Isa. 57:15). How majestic – how glorious – is His holiness (Ex. 15:11)!
First, God is holy in His separation from all creation. He is wholly other – that is, entirely distinct and detached from all else: “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One” (Isa. 40:25). “There is none holy as the LORD” (1 Sam. 2:2; also Rev. 15:4).
Second, God is holy specifically in His separation from sin. This is expressed both negatively and positively: He is separated from sin and unto righteousness. Negatively, God is absolutely unpolluted by evil. Indeed, He cannot behold iniquity (Hab. 1:13); His loathing of wickedness is infinite (Amos 5:21); and His hatred is toward those who are workers of iniquity (Ps. 5:5). Woe unto him who approaches this Holy One without the holy robes of Christ!
Positively, God is separated unto righteousness (Ps. 145:17), which He loves (Ps. 11:7; Heb. 1:9). Thus, God gives honor unto His law, for such is the substance of His holiness (Isa. 42:21). This holiness causes all else to dim in its brilliant light (Job 4:18). His holiness is His matchless beauty (2 Chron. 20:21; Ps. 29:2). Further, the holiness of God is so great that, rather than accept a sinner, He has slain His very Son.
Though containing no light of its own, a mirror overpowers the eyes when it reflects the sun. As believers, we are called to shine with God’s holiness more than we will be able to during this life (1 John 1:10). We must be filled up with holiness inwardly, within our hearts and minds; and we must overflow with holiness outwardly, touching all of life. Holiness is thus a comprehensive, whole-life commitment to live “Godward” (2 Cor. 3:4). Leviticus 20:26 makes plain that God’s holiness calls us to be holy: “And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy.” We are called to strive for holy lives (Heb. 12:14), as holiness must, and will, follow regeneration (Eph. 1:4; Phil. 3:12). Holiness is our joyous duty unto God as obedient children (Neh. 8:10; 1 Peter 1:14).
Describing the holiness of believers, Stephen Charnock identifies the Father as the fountain, the Son as the pattern, and the Spirit as the imprinter of holiness. The Father is the spring of holiness that sanctifies us (John 17:11, 17). To cleanse our filth, the Father sends Christ to remove the guilt of sin and His Spirit to remove the stain of sin (Eph. 1:4; Col. 1:22; 2 Tim. 1:9). The Son is the model for our holiness, for it is to His image that we are conformed (Phil. 2:5-8). Even as Christ is pure, so are those who hope in Him (1 John 3:3). The Spirit is the one who stamps us with the holiness of God. He makes sinners holy, bringing us into submission to His mind (1 Cor. 2) and sanctifying us to pursue the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5).
God calls each of us to walk in His holiness: “My son, give me thine heart” (Prov. 23:26). May we strive after Him with all holiness of life (1 Peter 1:13-23).