Sunday, May 13, 2012

Holiness 101

1 Peter 1:14-16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”

Yesterday we looked at defining and understand what is meant by "The Holy".  Today I want to give you some categories by which to think through this crucial concept in your understanding of God and the Christian life.  1 Peter 1:14-16 is based off of what we see written in Leviticus 11:44.  When I see themes repeated in both Old and New Testament, that is what we call an "absolute" or "principle".  The way the Bible proceeds to unfold the concept of holiness is in three ways: Practically, Doctrinally and Supernaturally. 

Practical definition of holiness = clean versus unclean
In Leviticus 11-12, where we were yesterday, God reveals to Moses the laws concerning "clean and unclean".  Nearly 50 times we find that phrase stated in those chapters.  Moses was addressing the practical matters of diet, sanitation and child birth to point the way to the doctrinal and ultimately to the supernatural. 

Once we have grasped the significance of the "clean/unclean" categories, we will then be ready for the next level of discussion. The Bible says of the priests in Ezekiel 44:23 "And they shall teach my people the difference between the Holy and the profane and cause them to discern between the unclean and clean." 

Any child from the earliest age discerns between "clean and unclean".  Little Johnny is taught to wash his hands, not play in the toilet water and drink only out of "clean cups".  Little Johnny further distinguishes between "tub water" and "drinking water".  In our raising of children, we are dealing constantly with "the holy" at the most practical level.

Doctrinal level of holiness = holy versus profane
When we come to understand God and the things of God, as well as the people of God, holiness is not just a static idea, but an idea that is inseperable from relationship.  Holiness all at once does "separate" but also "brings into proximity with itself" some things but not all things. 

As we saw yesterday, God's touching of a bush or the gold of the temple or indwelling people makes that object or person "holy".  People who have been converted and indwelt by the Spirit of God by grace through faith are called a "holy ones" or "saints".  Passages such as 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 exhorts the saints to "come out and be separate among them".  This is the law of the "clean and unclean" functioning in the doctrinal level of the Christian life.  Holiness is central to who we are as Christians. (1 Peter 1:14-16)  Before we can live holy lives, we have to first be converted by grace through faith by the Holy Spirit who brings us into contact with God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The doctrinal distinctions of "holy and profane" find their root in who God is Himself.  How I live and why I live is never divorced from consideration of the holy versus the profane. 

Supernatural level - God and everything else
Its been said that God has at least 1200 attributes found throughout the scripture.  Out of all those attributes and names, only One is assigned the unique status of being mentioned in a three-fold way.  Isaiah 6:3 has the angels crying out: "Holy, Holy, Holy".  Revelation 4 and 5 repeat this refrain concerning the Triune God on His throne. 

God's holiness is at the heart of who He is.  It is not that God is more holy and loving, nor that He is more loving than holy.  All of God's attributes are perfect and infinite in degree.  There is never a time that God is not Holy that He is not also loving.  Yet Holiness functions as a "thermostat" that regulates all of the other infinite attributes. 

God's holiness means God cannot love sin for example.  Furthermore, God is not holy because of a standard outside of Himself.  Rather good and evil are distinctions that derive simply because God Himself is the standard by which all norms are measured. 

Even when he created all things and deemed them good, in comparison to God, all creation, visible and invisible,  was "less holy", meaning that its perfection and goodness was "borrowed" and "credited to by God", who alone is unendingly and uniquely Holy. Job 25:5 notes - “If even the moon has no brightness and the stars are not pure in His sight..."  Without holiness, the God of the Bible would cease to be.  He is the only God who is Holy, meaning then He is the only God period. 

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