Author’s note: This is the first post in a short series of posts dealing with The Holiness of God.
We are called to be holy by a holy God, but what does that mean? When Jesus says in Matthew 5:48 to be perfect as our Father who is in heaven is perfect, what does He mean by telling His disciples to be perfect? There is only one who is perfect, and are we not just sinners anyway? There is no way to overcome our sin nature and God will forgive us, correct?
Yes, we are all sinners and will never reach a state of perfection this side of heaven. However, we are called to strive for holiness and we are given the power to continue to carry on that calling. In this post and those that follow it we will make an attempt at understanding God’s holiness, that His holiness is our moral standard, and that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a life of moral character that glorifies God.
God is Holy. In the Bible, this is understood to mean that He is transcendent and that He is separate from all things. God’s nature is holy, His name is holy, His dwelling place is holy, His holiness is revealed in His righteous activity, and His holiness affects the way that we worship Him. God’s holiness makes sin objectionable to Him, and His holiness necessitates dependence upon Him for forgiveness. What will be discussed in these posts is the evidence for the holiness of God from Scripture and what that means for us as God’s adopted children through Christ.
We are purified by the blood of Jesus Christ and made holy. As His adopted children, His holiness is to be seen in us. Becoming holy involves striving after God, but this striving and our holiness originate from God.
It may seem that these things may be advocating a salvation by works theology. Therefore, at the outset in this introduction, it is necessary to explain that this is not the case. The Bible is clear when it says in Ephesians 2:8-9 that salvation comes by faith, and by faith alone. It is a gift from God so that no one can boast about their own abilities. So it would be heretical on our part if this very important passage in the Word of God is not considered when the assertion is made that “we can live a life of moral character that glorifies God.”
It is the purpose of this study to return to the proper understanding of what it means to be a Christian by looking at the holiness of God. Christianity is not just having faith in Jesus Christ—that He died on a cross for our sins and we are now redeemed. It is much more than that; it is the crucifixion and more. It is a change in the way that we see the world; it is a changing of the way that we relate to the world. If the world cannot tell the difference between the world and a child of God, there is something wrong.
The word Christian was first used in the Bible in Acts 11:26 to denote those who were followers of Jesus Christ. Hence, the title Christian means Christ follower. There are some who would say that it doesn’t matter if we follow the commands of God because our salvation rests on a personal relationship with Jesus. They might say that a study like this can lead to legalism which is exactly what Jesus opposed when dealing with the Pharisees. It is important to understand that Jesus did not have a problem with the Pharisees upholding the law; He had a problem with them telling the people what to do according to the law and then not doing it themselves, and also with their tendency to add their own traditions to the law. In other words, He had a problem with their hypocrisy.
I ask, what is a healthy understanding of who God is in relation to His holiness? Where do we find the answer to this question? The answer lies in the Bible to which we shall turn in the posts that follow.
In this short series of posts, we will look at the evidence of God’s transcendence before turning to His moral separateness. We will then briefly point out the implications of what this understanding of the holiness of God means to the Christian, followed by a conclusion. In tomorrow’s post, we will look at the original Hebrew and Greek words used to describe God as holy. Stay tuned!
 Wilkins, Michael J. “Christian”. In The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1992.