We Can be Partakers of His Holiness
“Woe is me! for I am undone;
because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips:
for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”—Isaiah 6:5
Holy is the way God is. To be holy He does not conform to a standard. He is that standard. He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fullness of purity that is incapable of being other than it is. Because He is holy, His attributes are holy; that is, whatever we think of as belonging to God must be thought of as holy.
God is holy, and He has made holiness the moral condition necessary to the health of His universe. Sin’s temporary presence in the world only accents this. Whatever is holy is healthy; evil is a moral sickness that must end ultimately in death. The formation of the language itself suggests this, the English word holy deriving from the Anglo-Saxon halig, hal, meaning, “well, whole.”
Since God’s first concern for His universe is its moral health, that is, its holiness, whatever is contrary to this is necessarily under His eternal displeasure. To preserve His creation, God must destroy whatever would destroy it. When He arises to put down iniquity and save the world from irreparable moral collapse, He is said to be angry.
Every wrathful judgment in the history of the world has been a holy act of preservation. The holiness of God, the wrath of God, and the health of the creation are inseparably united. God’s wrath is His utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys. He hates iniquity as a mother hates the polio that takes the life of her child.
God is holy with an absolute holiness that knows no degrees, and this He cannot impart to His creatures. But there is a relative and contingent holiness which He shares with angels and seraphim in heaven and with redeemed men on earth as their preparation for heaven. This holiness God can and does impart to His children.
He shares it with them by imputation and by impartation, and because He has made it available to them through the blood of the Lamb, He requires it of them. To Israel first and later to His Church God spoke, saying, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” He did not say, “Be ye as holy as I am holy,” for that would be to demand of us absolute holiness, something that belongs to God alone.
Before the uncreated fire of God’s holiness, angels veil their faces. Yea, the heavens are not clean, and the stars are not pure in His sight. No honest man can say, “I am holy,” but neither is any honest man willing to ignore the solemn words of the inspired writer,
“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”
Caught in this dilemma, what are we Christians to do? We must, like Moses, cover ourselves with faith and humility while we steal a quick look at the God whom no man can see and live. The broken and contrite heart He will not despise. We must hide our unholiness in the wounds of Christ as Moses hid himself in the cleft of the rock while the glory of God passed by. We must take refuge from God in God. Above all we must believe that God sees us perfect in His Son while He disciplines and chastens and purges us that we may be partakers of His holiness.
Aiden Wilson Tozer (1897-1963) was an American Christian pastor, preacher, author, magazine editor, and spiritual mentor. This is a selection from The Knowledge of the Holy (Chapter 12: “The Holiness of God.”)
Aiden Wilson Tozer (1897-1963) was an American Christian pastor, preacher, author, magazine editor, and spiritual mentor.