Seek after Holiness, Without Which No One Will See the Lord - page 1


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From the Fall 2016 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Seek after Holiness, Without Which No One Will See the Lord

by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min.
Vice President for Ministry & Director,
Washington Area Fellows Program, C.S. Lewis Institute

hat do the words holy, holiness, or holy life bring to mind? I suspect many envision someone old-fashioned, dreary, unpleasant, rigid, legalistic, and judgmental. A far different picture is presented in the Bible, where a holy life is grace filled, joyful, attractive, deeply satisfying—and God’s chief goal for His children. Holiness is definitely out of fashion. How has something so central to authentic Christian life become so neglected? John Stott suggests that holiness “has been replaced by an emphasis on experience. Now experience is good, but holiness is better. For holiness is Christlikeness, and Christlikeness is God’s eternal purpose for his children.”1 What is holiness? Why is it important? How do we attain it? These are some of the questions we will explore here.

God’s Holiness

  To better understand what personal holiness is, we must begin with God’s holiness. The word holiness when referring to God means “to separate”; it stresses His separateness and transcendence over His creation, His sovereign power within it, and His moral perfection in relating to it. Nothing in the universe is remotely like God; He is unique and wholly Other. Nothing can resist His will, and all creation is dependent on Him for its moment-by-moment existence. There is no evil or moral flaw in God’s character; such qualities are completely antithetical to His nature. Holiness is the most fundamental and dominant characteristic of God.

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? (Exod. 15:11)2

  God’s holiness evokes awe, fear, and conviction of sin in human beings. The prophet Isaiah describes his encounter with God:

I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim… And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isa. 6:1–5)

  The apostle John’s encounter with the ascended Christ in His blazing holiness had a similar effect:

In the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters… When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. (Rev. 1:13–15, 17)


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