Be holy, as I am holy!
In our study on the holiness of God so far (and it’s been a while since our last entry!), what we’ve seen is that God’s holiness is His total state of being, wherein He is revealed as being transcendentally separate from all else in existence (if that sounds strange, please reach out to me and I’ll send you the previous meditation on this to fill you in!). It doesn’t take much careful searching in the scriptures to soon realise that one of God’s designs is to manifest, reveal, and realise His holiness in and through His creation. In the Lord’s Prayer, which is well-known to all believers, we see it in the very first petition: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Mt 6:9b). The third petition confirms this divine intention in the most concrete terms imaginable: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s will is that His name should be hallowed, and that hallowing is likewise to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
But what does it mean for God’s holiness to be manifested, revealed, and realised on the earth? If God’s holiness is talking about the fact that He’s separate from and above His creation, doesn’t that mean that His holiness – by definition – can’t be a part of His creation in any way? How in the world, then, can God manifest, reveal, and realise His holiness in and through creation when the very nature of His holiness is defined by His separation from that creation?
To begin with, this word “hallowed” is a verbal variant of the noun “holy”. Whereas holiness refers to God’s transcendent separation from all other things, to hallow a thing is a similar but not identical concept. It refers similarly to the setting apart of a thing – and particularly to the sacred dedicating of that thing to God and/or His purposes. It entails the treating of a thing as holy, which is to say, it entails the treating of a thing as being dedicated to God. God’s holiness is His separation and exaltation over and above all that is created. When a thing is hallowed, it is therefore set apart in dedication to the Holy God. There is, then, a distinction to be made between the holiness of God, which is infinite and exalted, and the holiness of a created thing, which is a kind of creaturely reflection of divine holiness. God is holy by nature, created things are holy by virtue of their dedication to God.
In 2 Cor 6 we have a very clear presentation of the kind of creaturely holiness that we’ve been talking about. The passage is worth quoting in full before we open it up:
“What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.”
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Cor 6:16-7:1).
Drawing on the Temple imagery of the Old Testament, the Apostle Paul shows us that we now, as believers, are the dwelling place of God. As God’s dwelling place, we are called to be separate from that which is unclean and defiled, and such separation entails that we belong to God – that we are His people. Having been owned by God as His children and people, and having been called to separate ourselves from the defilement of sin, the final phrase says that we will be “bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” In other words, as we have been set apart unto God, to be possessed by Him, we are separated from sin. As this separation is increasingly realised in our lives, so too holiness is brought to completion. In other words, while God’s holiness entails His separation from all that has been created, our holiness entails our separation unto God from all that is defiled. This is how God’s holiness is manifested on the earth – by the holy separation of His people unto Himself. In the fullness of time, God’s design is to realise and manifest His holiness in all the earth. In Isaiah 11:9 we read:
“They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples – of Him shall the nations inquire, and His resting place shall be glorious.” When the earth is full of the knowledge of the LORD, His name shall at last be fully hallowed on earth. When all the nations gather to inquire of Christ, there shall be no pain or destruction in all God’s holy mountain. At this point in time, as we live in a fallen creation, holiness on a creaturely level is thus primarily an act of separation and cleansing from that which is profane, unclean, and unholy. In the New Heavens and the New Earth, this will not be necessary. When God made the world in six days, he looked and saw that all was “very good” (Gen 1:31). Through the redeeming work of Christ, this cosmic holiness shall again be realised in the earth.
The question for each of us is: where do I find myself in this picture? Have I come to inquire of the “root of Jesse”? Have I come to Christ for myself? And, having come to Christ, have I resolved in my life that I will “touch no unclean thing”?
Brothers and sisters, that is our calling in Christ! Is there anything in your life, any defiling influence, that your heart continues to cling to? God calls us to a life of total dedication to Him, and that means that we must put off and put away all that is defiled. Our sinful hearts may mourn at this prospect, but the more we come into the true ownership of it, the more we will find that we have life, and life abundant at that! The mud puddles of sin simply cannot compare to the cleansing fountain of Christ. I know what it’s like to find reluctance in our own hearts, reluctance to let go of the sins that we so treasure. But make no mistake, it is for our good that we must “keep ourselves from idols” (1 Jn 5:21). Brothers and sisters,
in prayerful reliance on God, let’s be done with the corrupting influence of sin in our lives. Be holy, as I am holy, says the Lord!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Q. How does God manifest His holiness on the earth?
A. Although God created all things as holy unto Himself, all was defiled by the fall of man. Through salvation in Christ, God is now manifesting His holiness by setting apart a holy people unto himself to live and rule in the New Heavens and the New Earth.