I believe one of the most remarkable words in Scripture is holy. The Bible speaks of God as being holy. We are challenged to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16). We discover in the prophet Isaiah’s vision that two seraphim fly around the throne of God calling to one another “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa 6:3)!
Of all the attributes of God, His holiness is the most difficult to explain. Although we are created in God’s image, and we can share in many of His attributes, to a much lesser extent, such as love, mercy, and faithfulness, there are some of God’s attributes, such as His omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence; we will never share with Him. Holiness is another attribute of God that we will never share with Him as an inherent part of our nature. We only become holy in union with Christ. It is imputed holiness. Only in Christ do we “become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). It is God’s holiness that separates Him from all of His creation. God’s holiness speaks of His perfection and purity but is also the essence of His other-ness, His transcendence. When the Scriptures speak of God’s holiness, they refer to His being awe-inspiring as we look upon and consider His brilliance and majesty.
How are believers than to be holy as God is holy? Make no mistake; grace saves us through faith. The Bible clearly teaches that we are saved by grace apart from our own works (see: Eph 2:8-9), while at the same time proclaiming that a saving faith will bear the fruit of good works (James 2:17). The simple truth is that real saving faith allows the Spirit of God to produce fruits of righteousness in our life. These fruits are not the result of our own power or goodness, but the result of the Spirit’s workings in and through a surrendered believer as a new creation. Salvation in Christ makes one a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17).
I believe we discover in Scripture that the Lord calls and empowers us to be holy as He is holy in two specific ways. We are to reflect Christ’s character and commit ourselves to Christ’s purpose. As we continue to grow in Christ, the very fruit of the Spirit is evidenced in our lives. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). Christ’s character is also manifested as believers are given the power to overcome willful sin (1 Cor 10:13). There is another way we are to be holy. As we continue to grow in Christ, we will desire to be used in partnership with Him to fulfill His mission of reaching people with His love and message. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21).
To be holy is to be set apart. God is set apart from His creation as holy. Believers are set apart by God to reflect Christ’s character and share in Christ’s mission. Therefore, every believer is called to know God and make Him known. As we grow in the Lord, we become more like Him. As we continue to walk in step with Him, we participate in fulfilling His mission.
The word holy and the concept of holiness is remarkable. To ponder God’s holiness is awe-inspiring. To realize that believers have been called to be holy is humbling and drives us to ever-greater dependence on Him. No wonder the seraphim proclaim, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”
I am so honored to serve alongside each of you. I pray that as we stand in awe of God’s holiness that we will each experience, in Christ, the fruit of the Spirit in our life, as well as, the joy of partnering with Him in fulfilling His mission. In this sense, may we be holy as our Lord God is holy.