Several years ago, a Contemporary Christian Radio station I listened to frequently played a haunting song entitled “What Do I Know Of Holy?” I no longer listen to much of Contemporary Christian music, preferring hymns (including modern hymns by the Gettys, Bob Kauflin and Stuart Townsend) that promote solid doctrine. But at the time, I was just beginning to practice discernment, and still allowed myself little compromises here and there. So I’d listen to that song, with it’s breathless female vocalist, agreeing that God’s holiness is more than even the most mature Christian can understand.
In one sense, I agree that we will not see the holiness of the Lord until we stand before Him in glory (1 Corinthians 13:12). Our earthly bodies simply aren’t equipped to see Him in all of His majesty, From that perspective, we certainly should have humility enough to say that we can’t understand His holiness. We can only anticipate that wonderful day when He takes us Home to be with Him.
At this point in my walk with the Lord, however, I have to rethink my assumption that we can’t comprehend holiness at all. Although the song once appeared to be a beautiful expression of humility, it now betrays an emphasis on personal experience. As I listened to the song again yesterday, I cringed at the absence of Scriptural understanding. So I’d like to demonstrate why I believe Christians can and must develop a robust understanding of holiness.
Over the past few years, I’ve been opening my personal prayers by acknowledging God’s holiness. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father, Who is in heaven, hallowed be Your Name.” (Matthew 6:9). Jesus made this emphasis on treating God’s Name with reverence so that we would remember His holiness before we rattle off our prayer requests as if He is nothing more than a cosmic Bellboy. We very much need to come to Him in complete awareness that He is perfect in holiness. He is totally separate from all sin and impurity. He alone can never be corrupted. Quite clearly, Jesus wanted His disciples — and by extension, us — to approach the Father with some understanding of holiness leading to an understanding of His holiness. The question isn’t whether or not we can understand His holiness. Rather, it’s how He reveals His holiness to us.
For a long time, I concentrated on the visions that Isaiah, Ezekiel and the apostle John had of the glorified Lord (see Isaiah 6:1-7, Ezekiel 1:22-28 and Revelation 1:9-20). Each of these visions is difficult to wrap your head around, admittedly, tempting us to conclude that we can’t begin to grasp holiness. We shrug helplessly, consoling ourselves that we’ll see the Lord in His holiness once we get to heaven. Until then, we lament, we have no way to know anything about holiness. Like that breathless singer on Contemporary Christian Radio, we proclaim sorrowfully, “What do we know of holy?”
Have we forgotten that God has given us the command to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:16). If He demands that we follow Him in holiness, it stands to reason that He would teach us all we need to know about holiness and equip us with the tools to live out that holiness. In fact, the apostle Peter tells us that God indeed has made that very provision through His Word!
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. ~~2 Peter 1:2-4 (NASB95)
The knowledge of God, of course, comes through His Word. Therefore, we know holiness as we read the Bible and apply it. We begin, of course, with the visions that Isaiah, Ezekiel and the apostle John that I referenced earlier. Those visions demonstrate the marvelous connection between His glory and His holiness.
Additionally. passages about the deity and resulting authority of Christ help us see His holiness. Please look at Colossians 1:15-20 as a prime example. Passages like this fill us with wonder, yes, but they also give us more concrete terms. Thus, the idea of holiness moves a little more from the abstract to something we can apprehend.
God, being gracious and merciful, doesn’t stop there. He carefully explains His holiness through His commandments. For instance, when He tells us not to commit adultery, He shows us how much He values faithfulness. Since marriage prefigures Christ’s relationship with the Church, this command to moral purity teaches us that holiness demands separation from anything that rivals Him. James uses the metaphor of adultery, as a matter of fact, to call us to personal holiness by separating ourselves from the world (James 4:4). If we had time, I could show you numerous other commandments and how He reveals His holiness through them. But I think you get the gist.
The Contemporary Christian music singer sadly asks, “What do I know of holy?” I wish I could put my arm around her, open a Bible between our laps and gently help her see how generously God reveals His holiness to believers. Maybe she and I could even sing the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” together.Follow my blog with Bloglovin