HOLINESS is nowhere definitely defined in
the Scriptures, yet many of their details teach it. As a whole
they demonstrate it as the fact which ensures the ultimate
attainment of God's purpose, and thus His holiness sustains His
love and justice and grace, for it dispels any idea that He
could fail to reach the intentions formulated in His heart.
Sin's existence cannot thwart or disintegrate the triumph of
God's love, for He is devoted entirely to the achievement of the
goal He has purposed, and His ways, leading the universe to its
destiny, manifest His holiness.
The general understanding
which expresses God's holiness as His purity, or His
love, or His justice, or His completeness of moral
excellence, is far from correct. Such definitions cannot be
accurate, since they are themselves actualities and merely
change the terms used without adding anything to our
discernment. At the same time there is a complete disregard of
the fact that these words must express something which is
distinct from holiness; they cannot belong to the same category,
whatever association there may be amongst them. Nor, in viewing
holiness in the saints, is the position different, for the cause
of holiness is rarely discovered, and the effects and
accompaniments are mistakenly given as its explanation.
CURRENT USAGE NOT HELPFUL
Theological expositions form
the basis of our dictionaries, and so we cannot receive
assistance from them as to the significance of holiness. We will
get the best help from consulting the dictionary, if we note the
etymology of the word, and we hope to show that this is much
more agreeable to Scripture than are theological dissertations.
Etymology teaches us that the word holy comes from the old
English halig; hal being equivalent to whole,
and -ig to -y; wholly is doubtless the
basic idea which we must amplify by our investigations in the
Scriptures. The Authorized Version translates the Hebrew qdsh
by wholly in one instance (Judges 17:3).
NEGATIVE CONCERNING HOLY
It will assist our
apprehension if we first discover how holiness should not
be explained. In the Scriptures the common designation for a
believer is saint, the same word in Greek as holy; that
is, a saint is a holy one. Believers are so named
eight times in Romans, six times in 1 Corinthians, five times in
2 Corinthians, nine times in Ephesians, three times in
Philippians, four times in Colossians. This term is used
regardless of any worthiness or purity in the person so called.
A saint is holy because of being in touch with God, either by
means of the ritual of the Hebrew Scriptures, or because of the
facts of the evangel as given in Romans.
Because holiness results
in the separation from sin, this result or effect has been taken
as the cause, and so holiness in common usage has come to be
regarded as having a moral significance. But many features and
details fully preclude our accepting this definition.
THE LORD JESUS WAS MADE HOLY
The verb hallow ought
to convince us that holiness is a non-moral matter, for do we
not read in John 10:36, "are you saying to Him Whom the Father
hallows and dispatches into the world that 'You are
blaspheming'?" This should satisfy us, for God surely did not
purify the Lord Jesus, or separate Him from sin. His moral
excellence was not increased by His being hallowed by God. The
hallowing defined the special relationship which the Lord Jesus
had to His God and Father; it made Him objectively holy. This He
displayed subjectively when saying, John 17: 19: For their sakes
I am hallowing Myself. In this He was not purifying Himself from
sin. His spiritual purity and freedom from sin is thoroughly
unquestionable. Holiness in the Lord Jesus was the relationship
to God, given Him by the hallowing of His God. Such scriptures
as "Christ is God's" and "the Head of Christ is God" (1 Cor.
3:23, 11:3) express this relationship, which is holiness. His
devotion to the will and work of God demonstrates His holy
relationship to God. Israel disowned the holy One of God,
despite the fact that He was hallowed by God for His mission to
INANIMATE OBJECTS ARE HOLY
In keeping with the fact that
a person is holy, who is set apart to God for His use, so
also things are holy, which God requires for any part of
the ritual which He gave to teach Israel. In fact, the verb
hallow signifies to set apart or devote a person or thing to
God. This dedicating gives the relationship which is termed
holiness. There is nothing of change as to moral quality, for
the Scriptures predicate holiness of things which can have no
moral quality. A most notable feature is the command to hallow (A.V.
prepare) the nations against Babylon (Jer. 51: 28). The
destroyers of Babylon are said to be hallowed ones (Isa. 13:3),
since they are given a relation to God as instruments of His
indignation against that city.
ISRAEL TAUGHT HOLINESS
Hundreds of passages speak of
holiness, and Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers have as one of
their functions to teach Israel the significance of holiness. We
cannot but note that both persons and objects are stated to be
holy, and in this we have an intimation of the real significance
of the term holy, and consequently of holiness.
Jehovah claimed all the
firstborn, both of man and beast; they were to be hallowed to
Jehovah and passed over to His possession; they were His,
without any regard to their personal purity. This is further
confirmed when we consider that the tabernacle and all its
furniture are described as being holy. It is quite obvious that
objects have no moral qualities. Even the censers of sinning men
became holy to Jehovah. The ground on which Moses stood was
holy. The mount from which the law was delivered became holy. We
read of holy garments, a holy crown, holy anointing oil, holy
ointment, holy bread, holy vessels, a holy linen coat. All these
are articles which, though without any vestige of moral quality,
can be put into a relationship with God, and called holy.
[The Authorized Version
renders qdsh, HOLY, by sodomite
(Deut. 23: 17, etc.) and unclean (Job 26: 14). For the
feminine form qdshe it has harlot (Gen. 38: 21,
etc.) and whore (Deut. 23: 17). In order to convey this to the
English reader, the proposed CONCORDANT VERSION
will have hallowed harlot, or sodomite. This
should show that the most immoral may be "holy" in devotion to
It is a notable detail that in
the book of Genesis, covering a period of two and a half
millennia, the subject of holiness is hardly mentioned. The only
reference in the book is to the seventh day (Gen. 2:3).
HOLY DISTINGUISHED FROM ITS
The Scriptures discriminate
other qualities which mark holy persons. Jesus Christ is "the
holy and just One" (Acts 3:14); "the holy and true" (Unv. 6:10).
Saints are to be "holy and flawless" (Eph. 1:4), "pure and holy"
(Eph. 5:27) describes the incense (Ex. 30: 35). The law is holy,
and its precepts are holy and just and good (Rom. 7:12).
Consideration of these scriptures shows that the holy person may
also be just and true, flawless and pure. Such characteristics,
therefore, are not included in the word holy. They are not
holiness, though they may be accompaniments of it.
JEHOVAH IS THE HOLY ONE OF
When Israel received
sufficient instructions in regard to holy persons and objects,
then Jehovah declares He is their God and that He is holy. The
assertion "I am holy" by Jehovah became the imperative "be ye
holy" for Israel. If we carefully examine the record in
Leviticus 11: 44, 45 we observe that "I am Jehovah your God" is
the basis for the next clause which, in the Hebrew, is
introduced by "also." Upon the fact that Jehovah is Israel's God
rest the words "hallow yourselves also." To this is joined "be
ye holy," the reason for which is "seeing that I am holy." Our
understanding can only be that each party, Jehovah and Israel,
are holy in the same sense. The details show that Jehovah's
holiness consisted in His being their God, wholly devoted to
them, and so Israel's holiness would be in their acknowledging
Jehovah's claim to be the Possessor of Israel. God insistently
requires His people to be holy, and this corresponds to the
holiness which His people unfailingly find in their God.
Holiness in God or in man cannot be radically different.
HOLINESS EXPRESSES A
The relative basis of holiness
should be readily discernible, when God says, "I am profaned
among them." This is the very opposite of holy, and yet it
should be thoroughly obvious that God was neither essentially
nor intrinsically affected by the position which called forth
the words "I am profaned." What the statement did signify is,
that God's relationship to Israel had been denied and rejected
by their actions. As with God, so in regard to a holy place, it
can be polluted and yet it remains holy.
Holiness was God's
relationship to Israel. It was not a moral or spiritual quality.
And this relationship, first taught to Israel, is something that
concerns all of God's creatures, and will ultimately become
evident to them, when they also will respond to God's holy
relation to them. The universe will come to realize its relation
to God, and gone will be the estrangement entailed by sin. With
the passing of the eons, the necessity for teaching holiness
will cease, for then God will be All in all, and His creatures
will be established in the great fact that His holiness has been
demonstrated, for they have been brought to its recognition.
God's holiness will then be understood through the great truth
that He is our Father; and holiness itself will be a past fact,
viewed in the universal relationship of God as the Father of
THE ULTIMATE SIGNIFICANCE OF
During the eons, God's
holiness has given stability to His purpose, showing that what
was conceived in His love, could not be disintegrated by the
entrance of sin, for behind all the seeming opposition and
division in creation, the fact of God's holiness remained. When
the Deity revealed Himself to Israel by the name Jehovah, then
it was that His holiness reached down into their affair's to
make them understand His relationship to them. To Israel God was
making a particular application of His holiness, and by this
sought to arouse their responding holiness. The world is
confounded by Israel's permanence. Some marvel at it in a
patronizing way, yet it is a demonstration of the holiness of
The revelation to Israel was
due to the way which God took in prosecuting His purpose, but in
this economy, God is not the holy One of Israel, that is
Jehovah. God is related to believers in the body of Christ in
the same way in which He is related to the Christ Himself, viz.,
as God and Father, which names express all the devotion and
close relation set forth to Israel by holiness. The holy One of
Israel and Jehovah have been titles exclusive to Israel, and so
have been connected with a stage on the way to the ultimate,
when God will be truly known and realized as Father (Phil. 2:11,
1 Cor. 15:24).
PRESENT MEANING FOR THE
Meanwhile holiness for the
believers in this economy is divorced entirely from any
connection with ritual. Christ is our holiness; in Him we have
become enslaved to righteousness, which gives fruit into
holiness (Rom. 6:18,22). Holiness should now be a definite
subjective fact for us. It is displayed when, in the words of
Romans 6:13, the saints present themselves to God as if alive
from among the dead. This calls for our obedience and immediate
devotion to God, and as the epistle unfolds the evangel, we come
to see that our hallowing to God in Christ Jesus signifies that
we have the spirit of sonship which cries "Abba, Father" (Rom.
8:15). Our holy relation to God exists in Christ and obligates
us to live in accord with the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
This is holiness attained, giving - the vital relationship which
accords with the term saints or holy ones, for we are in touch
with God our Father, called and claimed by Him in Christ, our
Justice is love, protecting
itself; mercy is love, treating leniently the guilty, but
holiness is God, claiming His own, proving He is the Lord
possessing heaven and earth in its entirety. For the saint,
holiness is the response to God's claims in Christ Jesus.
to Martin Lee (GoodNewsGospel.info)
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