Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 23, 1970


Vaughn D. Shofner

As is evident when we casually consider God's immutable laws of nature, his self-existence also demands that the essential principles of his spiritual order are irrefutable, immovable and everlasting. His commands by which this order is controlled have changed from time to time to meet the needs of humanity, but the principles are from eternity to eternity.

An eternal principle, the rules of which the Lord has not changed in making application, is his law of holiness for his people. It is a general law which must be observed at all times and in all places. Through Moses, God revealed it this way: "Speak unto all the congregations of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy." (Lev. 19:2) This principle also commands the spiritual Israel of the New Testament: "As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." (I Pet. 1:15, 16)

We are told that "holiness" in the original term is one of the most vague words in the Hebrew language. Generally, it signifies to prepare, to set apart, to devote, and can therefore be used in designation of carnal, and prosaic behavior. Consequently, the nature of the subject to which it is applied, and not the force of the term, must direct us in determining the emphasis of its meaning in the passages where it occurs. We must inquire into the object to which he devotes himself, and who in the Scriptures is called holy. Since the words "ye shall be holy, for I am holy," and equal to, "ye shall be set apart," or "ye shall be devoted, for I am set apart, devoted," it is plain that the meaning cannot be well explained unless the object of the designation be determined. This object is the matter of this writing and on the investigation of this depends our knowledge of "holiness," and our favorable response to the God-given order.

The holiness of God is that perfect harmony, fitness that exists between his actions and his relations to other beings. The holiness of humanity consists in the same. But as the circumstances and relations of God differ from those of humanity, the description and the degree of the holiness of God and the holiness of humanity differ. Therefore, it is imposed upon humanity to learn in what sense, and in what respects, holiness is ascribed to God, and in what respects holiness is prescribed to mankind.

The nature of God forcefully convinces us that He possesses perfect holiness. Our knowledge of creatures produces the notion of a Creator. The idea of a Creator is complex, and includes in it the thoughts of a grand, infinite, almighty Being. But the idea of a Being who is grand, infinite and almighty cannot escape the conclusion that this Being is holy. His procreative order renders it impossible to perceive in this Being any of the weaknesses that tempt humanity to violate the laws of order. Since no perceptible flaw is found in all the created display, the Creator is of necessity without defect. Human beings transgress the laws of order through ignorance, but the Originator of them thoroughly understands the harmony that ought to subsist between the laws of order and the most complicated action. Men often violate the laws of order because the solicitations of their senses prevail over the rational deliberations of their minds, but the Source of pure intelligence transcends subjection to a revolution of fleshly desires or irrational decisions. Let us judge the conduct of God by the idea that we are obliged to form of his nature, and we shall be convinced of his perfect holiness.

The works of God present a Being that is supremely holy. Behold the works of nature, they proclaim perfection in orderliness. The providential works of society publishes the holiness of God. God has so formed society that it is happy or miserable in the same proportion as it practices or neglects virtue. A case in point is the demonstrated misery of today's immoral society.

Having briefly considered in what respects holiness belongs to God, by pursuing the same principles we may discover in what respects it belongs to mankind. Consider the circumstances in which men are placed, and what relation they belong to other beings; consider what harmony, what order, there ought to be between the conduct of human beings and their relations, and we will form a just notion of the holiness that men are commanded to practice. There is the relation of a child to his parents, and there is a harmony between the conduct and the relation of the child when he loves, respects and obeys his parents. Love, respect and obedience to the parents constitute the holiness of the child.

God has caused us to exist, and there are of necessity between us the relations of Creator and creature. Harmony seems to require that God, having brought creatures into existence, should make provisions for their needs, and having given them certain faculties should require an account of the use that is made of them.

God has given us a revelation. He has proposed some principles to us, and between God and us there are the relations of teacher and pupil. It is right that a revelation from God should be conformable to his own ideas. His revelation makes a covenant with us, and to certain conditions in that covenant he has attached certain promises. There is harmony, order, in his fulfilling the promises only if we fulfill the conditions, and to ignore the conditions constitutes unholiness.

The holiness of God is both a rule and a reason for the holiness of man, and the words of the text will bear this out. Therefore, we should make the holiness of God the pattern and the motive of our holiness. He has all virtues, and we must let this holiness be our pattern.

The holiness of God is infinite. Let this be our model. The holiness of God is pure in its motives. He knows, he loves, he pursues holiness; and this is the whole system of his morality. The holiness of God is uniform in its action. No appearance deceives him; no temptation shakes him. Let this be our example. Let us not be tossed about by every wind of doctrine, daily changing our religion and morality. Let not our ideas depend on the lusts of the flesh, or the influence of our environment. The holiness of God must be our model: "Be ye holy as I am holy." The disorder and chaos of our time is the result of living without God as a pattern, and improvement cannot be expected until a semblance of holiness returns to society.

Gentle reader, the beauty and the blessedness of mankind at creation and procreation consist in the bearing his Creator's image. Sin defaces the blessedness, and our future happiness depends on the restoration of that image: "renewed after the image of him who created us" (Col. 3:10). It is holiness that must conciliate a communion which our sins have interrupted. May we arrange the operations of our minds, the works of our hands, and the words of our mouths agreeable with the perfections of the holy God and thus help transform a sin-cursed, unholy world to a safer, saner place in time; and in eternity be the recipients of a more perfect period of holiness, and "see him as he is, and be like him." (I Jn. 3:2)

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