A Holistic View of Holiness

Holiness…this word is very seldom mentioned from the modern pulpit and is all but forsaken in the modern Christian vocabulary it seems.  However, a few days ago, Holy Spirit put Isaiah 6:1-3 within my spirit and it keeps coming to my mind over and over again.[1]  In this passage, Isaiah “saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple”, and he heard the seraphim crying to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!”  Through this vision of the throne room of the Lord, we see the seraphim, or burning ones, declaring the holiness of God for all of eternity, and we must take note of its significance.

Furthermore, passages throughout Scripture that mention holiness demands our attention, especially ones such as,

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14-17)

With this in mind, I set out to define holiness and draw out every passage of Scripture that even mentions the word in an attempt to gain a more holistic view of holiness.

As a basic definition, holiness simply means to “set apart” or “separation”.  It is the “foremost attribute of all because holiness pervades all other attributes of God and is consistent with all He is and does.”[2]  As we begin to delve into the deeper meaning of the word, we begin to see that “holiness points to God’s majestic purity or ethical majesty” much like Isaiah saw in his vision of God’s throne room.[3]

Building upon these two basic definitions of holiness, we will look at the many passages of Scripture, from the Old Testament to the New, that tell us how holiness permeates everything that pertains to God and our relationship with Him:

1. God’s holiness is glorious.

“Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods?  Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)

2. Holiness requires certain restraints in people.

“And you shall be holy men to Me: you shall not eat meat torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.” (Exodus 22:31)

3. “Holiness to the Lord” was placed on Aaron’s forehead so that Israel would be accepted before the Lord.

“You shall also make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet:  HOLINESS TO THE LORD.  And you shall put it on a blue cord, that it may be on the turban; it shall be on the front of the turban.  So it shall be on Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.”  (Exodus 28:36)

4. God commands Israel to be holy, just as He is holy.

“For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44a)

5. Holiness is beautiful and should be praised…it renders our worship more beautiful before God.

“Give to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come before Him.  Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!” (1 Chronicles 16:29)

6. Faithfulness to God moves us to be sanctified in holiness; holiness is a result of our actions toward sanctification.

“…and to all who were written in the genealogy—their little ones and their wives, their sons and daughters, the whole company of them—for in their faithfulness they sanctified themselves in holiness.” (2 Chronicles 31:18)

7. Again, we should worship in the beauty of holiness.

“Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm 29:2)

8. God speaks in His holiness.

“God has spoken in His holiness:  ‘I will rejoice; I will divide Shechem and measure out the Valley of Succoth.’”(Psalm 60:6)

9. God swears by His holiness.

“Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David.” (Psalm 89:35)

10. Holiness adorns God’s house forever.

“Your testimonies are very sure; holiness adorns Your house, O Lord, forever.” (Psalm 93:5)

11. The wicked can come and go from the place of holiness; we can also stray from the place of holiness.

“Then I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of holiness, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done.” (Ecclesiastes 8:10)

12. Holiness is a path that keeps the one who remains on it from going astray, while the unclean cannot travel on it at all.

“A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.  The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others.  Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray.”  (Isaiah 35:8)

13. Israel was holiness to the Lord.

“Israel was holiness to the Lord, the firstfruits of His increase.  All that devour him will offend; disaster will come upon them, says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 2: 3)

14. Judah was the home of justice and the mountain of holiness.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘They shall again use this speech in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I bring back their captivity: The Lord bless you, O home of justice, and mountain of holiness!’” (Jeremiah 31:23)

15. There will be holiness on Mt. Zion.

“But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness;” (Obadiah 1:17a)

16. Holiness can also mean perfection, especially moral perfection, and Jesus commands us to emulate the perfection of our Father in heaven.

“Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

17. We must serve God without fear in holiness and righteousness.

“To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.” (Luke 1:74-75)

18. “One important aspect of deity is that God is holy, entirely set apart and separated from sin and sinners.”[4] Many of us forget that this aspect of holiness extends to Holy Spirit.

“…Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness…” (Romans 1:3-4)

19. We must present our members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

“I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.” (Romans 6:19)

20. Being set free from sin and dedicated servants of God leads to the fruit of holiness and, ultimately, eternal life.

“But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.”  (Romans 6:22)

21. We perfect holiness by cleansing ourselves from all defilement of body and spirit, being grounded in the fear of God.

“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)

22. A new person in Christ is characterized by true righteousness and holiness.

“…and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24)

23. Holiness renders our hearts blameless before God.

“…so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:13)

24. God did not call us to impurity, but in holiness.  The rejection of this is a rejection of God.

“For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.  Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8)

25. Self-control should accompany faith, love, and holiness.

“Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” (1 Timothy 2:15)

26. God chastens, or disciplines, us so that we can share in His holiness.

“For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.” (Hebrews 12:10)

27. Without peace and holiness, no one will see the Lord.

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)

In conclusion, my prayer is that these Scriptural references to holiness present a more holistic view of holiness, as well as re-emphasize how vital it is to our relationship with God.  I will leave you with this quote that mandates a return to holiness in order to revive the body of Christ:

“It’s a sad reflection on the church today that we are more afraid of holiness than we are of sinfulness.” – Leonard Ravenhill


[1] All Scripture references are from the New King James Version translation, unless otherwise noted.

[2] Paul Enns, Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008), 197.

[3] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Woodstock: Devoted Publishing, 1949), 73.

[4] Enns, 262.

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