Summary: "Without holiness, no one will see God". Hebrews 12:14. This study looks at what holiness is and how we become holy.
Pursuit of Personal Holiness
Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:
Consider for a moment the implication of this passage. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord. The weight of this passage is clear, we can’t be with God without first being holy. If the Bible puts so much emphasis on personal holiness, why is this seldom taught in today’s churches? If you ask the average Christian what it means to be holy, most could not answer. True holiness is a hard concept to fully grasp, but it is an essential part of the Christian life. Can someone claim to belong to Christ and never pursue holiness? Both the Old and New Testaments put a high priority on holiness; therefore we should take a closer look at holiness and seek to understand this crucial part of the Christian life.
What is holiness?
I stated earlier that most Christians would not be able to define holiness. In a sense, this is rightly so. The holiness of God is so far beyond our comprehension that we struggle to grasp it. If we could grasp a complete image of an infinite God with our finite mind, then we could fully grasp His holiness. Even a small glimpse of God drives men to their knees. Isaiah saw a vision of God and cried, “Woe to me for I am undone!” Job claimed that if he could see God he would ask God why all this trouble has come upon him. When God spoke to Job, he never asked God why, but instead cried out, “I am unworthy and I lay my hand over my mouth”. When the prophet Ezekiel saw the same vision Isaiah saw, he fell on his face to the ground until God lifted him up.
Throughout the Bible you see the same response when men encounter God. No man has or can see God in all His glory. Moses begged God to reveal His glory. God said that no man shall see His face and live. Why? Because what does not measure up to the holiness of God cannot survive in His presence. Sin does not affect God, but the holiness of God will always consume sin. We are sinful by nature. There will be a day when we will be made pure and can see God face to face, but until then we pursue holiness and draw closer to God.
In simple terms (if not simplistic), holiness is to be set apart. God is set apart from everything. He is unique and above His creation. Nothing measures up to God and nothing can even be compared to God. The finite human mind can’t grasp God because there is nothing in creation that can be compared to Him. Symbolism is used to paint a picture in the minds eye. The Bible often points to something that can be seen as a symbol for us to get a small glimpse of the things that can’t be accurately explained. For example, in an earlier study, Jesus pointed to Gehenna as a symbol of what hell is like. Hell can’t be fully grasped, but a valley where dead animals and every kind of vile waste was thrown and burned offered a vivid picture that people could relate to. The symbolism is meant to fall short of the real thing because it servers only to give a glimpse into the mystery that is being explained. However, with God, there is never a symbol given because there is nothing to compare even on the smallest scale. God made it very clear that He did not want to diminish His holiness by any comparison. That is why the second great command says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above…”. Once we get a symbolic idea of God, we loose the awesomeness of God. We close our mind to the majesty of God and focus on what we have symbolized.
The holiness of God is the highest honor expressed in the scripture. In scripture, what is repeated is done so to stress importance. Jesus frequently used repetition to alert His followers to a point He did not want them to miss. Jesus frequently said, “Truly, truly (or verily, verily in the KJV) I say to you…” to precede critical truths. Even the apostles would repeat themselves to stress importance. However, when it comes to the holiness of God, the Bible makes it the highest of importance by saying, holy, holy, holy is the Lord… Isaiah saw the angels around the throne saying that God is ‘holy, holy, holy’ and in Revelation we see it again. Revelation 4:
8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!