Indeed the defining characteristic of God in all of Scripture is His holiness. Isaiah 6:3 teaches us that angelic beings fly around the divine throne room declaring to the One seated upon the throne of heaven that He is Holy, Holy, Holy. There is never a moment when they are not proclaiming this great reality in the heavenly places. The Hebrews would speak of something as perfect and complete in a unique way through this threefold repetition. In fact, this is the only aspect or perfection of God that is spoken of in this manner. Nowhere is God spoken of as love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath. Only holiness. It is central to who God is and His revelation of Himself to humanity. God’s holiness is understood essentially as his set apartness as one who is “wholly other” than all else and His blazing and perfect purity and righteousness (which distinguishes Him from every other thing).
Holiness entails a number of things. Certainly a lack of sin. Certainly righteousness and goodness. But purity is an absolutely critical element to holiness. God is pure in an unfathomable and inconceivable way. This purity dispels sin and darkness from its presence. Indeed holiness means to be clean and pure.
Consequently, God’s people, as those who are His ambassadors, His representatives, those indwelled by His very Spirit, are to be a people that are holy. Quoting Leviticus 11:44 (which interestingly enough, is found in the context of God’s instructions related to cleanliness and uncleanliness), Peter states in 1 Peter 1:15: “Be holy, because I am holy.” And for myself, particularly as a minister of the gospel, this truth has come into focus for me recently in some convicting ways. As a minister, a steward of the Word of God, a teacher of divine truth, dedicated to the proclamation of His message as a vocational commitment, I often find myself seeking to hone my skill as a minister, preacher, and shepherd. Training, equipping, and hard work all cultivate these skills necessary to be a better, more effective minister. These are not bad things in and of themselves by any means. However, I have found my heart and mind challenged recently not so much by the need to develop skill. My heart has become heavy, gripped, by the necessity of holiness.
I must confess, skill is easier to nurture and cultivate. Far less intrusive and personal. Far less messy and convicting. But in the end, of less value than holiness. It is the pure man, the righteous man, the penitent and broken man, the man that maintains a clean heart and clean hands, and not the man of matchless skill, that earns the favor of God and the anointing of God in his labor. In 1 Timothy 3:1-7 Paul lists the qualifications for elders in the church. Of fourteen listed criteria, only one could be considered a skill. The rest are all character and holiness based. These are the men God wants to teach and lead in His church.
Skill is no useless thing. It is of value and should be developed. But we find false security in it if we come to believe it is the mark of anointing in and of itself. Holiness and purity is to be treasured above these.
In speaking to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul says to this struggling minister of the gospel, the young prodigy of the great apostle Paul himself who appears to have come to a point of great despair and ineffectiveness in his ministry in Ephesus, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart.”
I find myself spending far more time concerned about skill than holiness.
I’ve gotten it wrong.