The Holiness of God part 4

Author’s note: This is the fourth, and last, post in a short series of posts dealing with The Holiness of God. You can read the first post herethe second post here, and the third post here.

Holiness of GodNow that we have looked at the holiness of God as it is represented in Scripture, we turn our attention to what this means for a Christian—a follower of Jesus Christ. A Christian has, by definition, asked God for the forgiveness of their sins, and they have made a decision to follow Jesus Christ and His commandments as they are found in the Bible. Martin Loyd-Jones writes:

You will never have a knowledge of sin unless you have a true conception of the holiness of God. And that is perhaps why the modern conception of sin is so inadequate. We do not spend sufficient time with the doctrine of God, and with the holiness of God. That is the way to see sin—not primarily by self-examination but by going into the presence of God.[1]

Jones goes on to write that the way to appreciate your own sinfulness is not to look at your actions, nor your life, but to come into the presence of God.[2] In Isaiah 6:5, Isaiah acknowledges his sin as he comes into the presence of a holy God. Therefore, a Christian comes to the realization that they are sinful and in need of forgiveness. What does this have to do with the holiness of God?

We have established that God is holy and that we come face to face with our sinful behavior when we come into His presence. When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we become adopted children of God (Rom 8:15). What follows is ignored by many. God calls His children to holiness (Lev 11:44), and Jesus, in Matthew 5:48, tells His disciples to be perfect “as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  In Hebrews 12:14, Christians are told to pursue holiness “without which no one will see the Lord.” God’s perfection is our standard for our moral character, and, as a result of His flawlessness, the same is expected of those things or persons set apart for Him.[3]

God’s holiness is to be seen in His people, because He is holy. Becoming holy involves striving after God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 says, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

In the Old Testament, God calls His people to Holiness when He delivers them out of Egypt.  God says, “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Ex 19:4-6). In the new covenant redeemed believers are called to holiness (Mat 5:48; 1 Pet 1:15), and are told that without holiness we will not see the kingdom of God (He 12:14).  We can rest in the knowledge that God shares His holiness with His redeemed (He 12:10).

The desire to strive for holiness originates with God. This means that with the power of the Holy Spirit, a Christian can strive for holiness. Frederic Howe writes that the energizing power for holiness is from God, and this power is the source for both the motivation (“to will”) and the action (“to do”) for leading a godly life.[4]

According to John Webster, “The ‘You shall be holy,’ which corresponds to ‘I am holy,’ is not simply the indication of a state; it is a life-giving imperative that bids the creature to inhabit and act out the role to which the creature has been appointed by the Father’s purpose.”[5]

We find this theme of living a holy life as a believer in 1 Peter. The Apostle Peter exhorts believers, “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance” (1 Pet 1:14). Rowe writes, “The words “obedient children” translate τέκνα υπακοής, literally “children of obedience.”[6] For us, this means that the God who called believers is Himself holy; so they are to live as His obedient children.

We have come to the conclusion of this study where all of this information needs to be tied together. It is simple, yet many find it hard to do. God is holy as per Scripture. To be holy means to be set apart. We claim to be followers of Jesus Christ (who is God). God calls us to be holy (set apart from the world). He calls us not to be completely removed from the world but instead to live as different from the world in such a way that all can see the difference in our walk, dress, and speech. God gives us the Holy Spirit to help us live a holy life.

When you look at mainstream Christianity you see couples cohabitating, “Christians” who drink and party, “Christians” who divorce their spouses, “Christians” who watch porn, “Christians” who have profane and corrupt speech. It should be out of character for a “Christian” to behave in these ways, yet they do and they are told that it is ok because they are still sinners and God will forgive them.

When a Christian has been saved they are still a sinner, and this is not refuted by this study in any way. However, after a person claims to be a Christian and they still live like they are of the world and there is very little change in the way that they live, then there definitely is a problem in that person’s heart that is between them and God.

Pastors look at you straight in the face and say that as long as you have said the sinner’s prayer you are saved, regardless of your lifestyle. Now, let us be clear about something, your works will not save you. The Bible is clear on that, but your works do define you and expose what is in your heart. Are we leading our congregations to hell because there is no longer a desire to lead them into holiness?

God has called us to be holy, but if we do not strive to be holy, it will never happen. It is not automatic, but God does give us the power to strive for it. When we are saved, we are regenerated. Regeneration is when we are given the Holy Spirit and can tap into His power to strive for holiness. That is called sanctification, and as we walk in this world as Christians, we grow in holiness and we are continuously sanctified until one day when we will be in heaven and we have reached our perfect state.

Your works do not save you, but you can strive for holiness and lead a life that is glorifying to God with the Holy Spirit’s help. This underlying theme is throughout the whole Bible and supports the thesis of this study. God presents Himself as our standard for holiness, and we can live a life of moral character that glorifies His name, because He not only calls but He empowers.

[1] David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God the Father, God the Son (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1996), 71.

[2] Ibid., 72.

[3] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2007), 311.

[4] Frederic R. Howe, “The Christian Life In Peter’s Theology,” Bibliotheca Sacra 157 (July-September 200), 308.

[5] John Webster, “The Holiness And Love Of God,” Scottish Journal Of Theology LTD 57 (2004), 262.

[6] Frederic R. Howe, “The Christian Life In Peter’s Theology,” Bibliotheca Sacra 157 (July-September 200), 306.


About Peter van Brussel

Peter is the Director of For His Glory Prison Ministry. Peter holds a BA in Pastoral Studies from Southwestern College, a MA in Theological Studies, and a M.Div. from Liberty University. Peter is married to Niki, and has two children. He has been saved by grace and seeks to share the Gospel with those who have been forgotten.
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