God’s Holiness, Essential Yet Disregarded

Every Lord’s Day, pastors have the tremendous and heavy task of preaching and teaching Bible truths to God’s sheep to ensure they hear their Shepherd’s voice, Jesus Christ, according to John 10. However, most churches fail at this as they are mainly preoccupied with preaching self-seeking and aggrandising things such as health, wealth, and prosperity or any other misleading philosophies that do not align with God’s word (Colossians 2:8).

In other, more subtle cases, even if they teach the Gospel, the teaching will somehow end in some weird form of self-aggrandisement. By no small means, this misses the point entirely.

The ‘Why’ of Christ’s Death

Jesus tells us in Matthew 20:28 (repeated in Mark 10:45) that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” We see that Jesus came to the world to be our ransom. We then have to battle with the following questions. First, for what does he pay this ransom? As outlined in many Bible verses (1 Peter 2:24; 3:18, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Colossians 2:14), the answer to that is for sin. Secondly, to whom did he pay this ransom? This ransom was paid to his Father from whom we had been separated ever since the fall (Romans 5:9-10, 1 Thessalonians 1:10).

We see that the Son of Man was the ransom for God’s wrath against us, which raises a new question. Why did he have to die? Most preachers/teachers end things at “Christ died for our sins”, thus missing out on a very crucial truth. Due to this, many so-called Christians and even true Christians, in some cases, have a very shallow understanding of Christ’s work on the cross. Many do not really know that Christ died to satisfy God’s wrath stored for us (Deuteronomy 28:15-68, Isaiah 34).

However, the ‘why’ question still lingers as one may ask: on what basis or standard is God angry at sinners? Answering this question largely helps to make sense of Christ’s work on the cross. 

By What Standard?

As Romans 3:23 says, we have all fallen short of God’s glory. Just a few verses earlier in the same chapter, verses 10-18, we read, “…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together, they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 

What we see from these nine verses is how nothing about us meets the standard that God has set for us, and thus, as a result, we fall short of his glory at all levels. The defining standard of God that makes us fall short is his holiness. God’s word says that none is righteous because we haven’t fulfilled his commands as stipulated in Leviticus 19:2, Matthew 5:48 and 1 Peter 1:15-16; that is to be holy as he is. 

The Disregarded Doctrine

Many might quickly say they know about God’s holiness and that there’s nothing new to learn here. To that, I say that you are right. I am not saying anything new. However, the version of God’s Holiness that most people are presented with is so superficial that some might render it insignificant. In a recent conversation with some friends, I mentioned that the main cause of the church’s deterioration is the lack of immediacy and urgency in preaching God’s holiness. After the conversation, my friends told me that they had never heard the holiness of God emphasised in the way I did. Yet, I only recited verses to them with some commentary on top. 

What this shows is that there’s a glaring gap as it is utterly antithetical to the way the Bible treats the holiness of God. The word ‘holiness’ appears more than 600 times in the Good Book. It is the only attribute of God that is emphasised to the 3rd degree as the Jews used to back in the day in the same way we say ‘great, greater, greatest’ (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8). It was God’s holiness that made Moses cower in fear at the sight of the burning bush (Exodus 3:3-6). Because of this same holiness, God told Moses he couldn’t see his face and live but could only see his back, and he still had to be veiled (Exodus 33:20-23). Even with the veil, his face shone so brightly that the Israelites were afraid of him (Exodus 34:30). 

The same holiness made Isaiah curse himself when he only saw a glimpse of it (Isaiah 6:1-5). Consider this for a second. Isaiah was a prophet of the Lord. He was among the most, if not the most, righteous men of his day and yet when he saw and felt God’s glory, which is the image of God’s holiness, he couldn’t help but curse himself for as he says he was a man of unclean lips (Isaiah 6:5). The same was true of Moses during his call in Exodus 3, Habakkuk in Habakkuk 3:16, and throughout the chapter before then. Habakkuk was brought to a place where he asked questions about his wrath, anger, and justice. Thus, when God revealed himself to him, it was enough to make his inward parts churn and tremble and for decay to enter his bone. 

If men like Moses, Isaiah, and Habakkuk all trembled at the glimpse of God’s holiness, who are you to think you can disregard it when everything we do as Christians must aim for it? 

The Beauty of the Cross Intensified

Although I have not touched on the New Testament regarding men like Peter, Paul, and John, to name a few, I will conclude this article. God-willing, this will open up discussions regarding  God’s holiness and why understanding it isn’t optional if you wish to have a fruitful life in God through Christ. 

Nevertheless, I hope that even this brief introduction has made you, by God’s grace, appreciate the work of his Son on the cross even more, making the cross much more beautiful and meaningful. God, in the person of his Son, chose to fulfil God’s law, being holy as he is, by living the life we couldn’t and dying on the cross (Philippians 2:5-11). Thus, we are considered holy because Christ is (1 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 10:14). Hence, unlike Moses, Isaiah, Habakkuk and many more, we can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence as it isn’t through our merit but Christ’s (Hebrews 4:14-16). May that fill you with absolute joy as we pilgrimage together. Be blessed and Shalom.

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