I think we have a good definition of holiness in Psalms 15:1-2. Here David asks, “Lord, who may dwell in Your sanctuary? Who may live on Your holy hill? Then he answers himself: “He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous” (NIV). Hence holiness is two things: being blameless, or not doing what is wrong; and it is also doing what is right.
We have this same definition in Job 1:1. Here we read, “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; “he feared God and shunned evil” (NIV). Thus, those who are holy fear God—have a reverent respect for God and seek to obey Him in everything. They also endeavor to conform to His holy character, which would include shunning or hating sin
In the simplest terms, holiness is living “without sin.” That is what Jerry Bridges has suggested in his book The Practice of Godliness. He states, “The best practical definition [of holiness] that I have heard is simply ‘without sin’. That is the statement that was made of the Lord Jesus’ life on earth (Heb. 4:15), and that should be the goal of every person who desires to be godly.”
A Look at God’s Holiness
If you want to be holy and to know exactly what it looks like, there is only one person who will give you a perfect picture of it—God Himself. As we have discussed, to be holy is to be without sin. And that is how we should view God—with absolutely no sin. He is free of evil. He is pure as light. 1 John 1:5 says, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (Read also John 1:4-9). Hence, if darkness represents sin, and light represents no sin, this is the perfect illustration. For even though light shines in the darkness, the light at no time will become dimmed by the darkness; yet light always penetrates darkness and makes it less dark. So it is with God. He is forever without sin, yet He goes into the dark sinful world, shinning His holy light (Jn. 1:5). His light always penetrates darkness yet darkness never dims His light.
God’s holiness has also been described in the Bible as an adornment of beauty and splendor, of majesty and glory. In 1 Chronicles 16:29 (in the NKJV) it says, “Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” In the NIV it says “…in the splendor of holiness,” and in the NAS it is translated “…in holy array.” Putting it all together, I conclude that His holiness is as a beautiful adornment, shinning with splendor.
But His holiness does not stand alone, isolated from the rest of His attributes. His holiness adorns all of His character qualities and makes them all shine. Arthur W. Pink suggests that His holiness is a transcendental attribute, that it runs through all the rest of His attributes and casts a holy luster on them. Stephen Charmock writes: “[His holiness] is the glory of every perfection in the Godhead; as His power is the strength of them, so His holiness is the beauty of them; as all would be weak without almightiness to back them, so all would be uncomely without holiness to adorn them.”
Now there is one more thing about God’s holiness that we have to talk about. It is the fact that holiness is not only opposite of sin, it hates sin; it is the enemy of sin, and it must punish sin. If we don’t have this attitude about sin our holiness isn’t really very holy. Thus if you want to be more holy you must hate sin and be its enemy. Yes, hate it more and more and you will be more and more holy.
Stephen Charmock has written well on how God has demonstrated His holy hatred of sin at the cross. He says,
Not all the vials of judgment that have or shall be poured out upon the wicked world, nor the irreversible sentence pronounced against the rebellious demons, nor the groans of the damned creatures, give such a demonstration of God’s hatred of sin, as the wrath of God let loose upon His Son. Never did divine holiness appear more beautiful and lonely than at the time our Savior’s countenance was most marred in the midst of His dying groans.
Yes, holiness is most beautiful when sin is hated and punished. And how must God hate sin to offer His own son—that He would in fact pay for sin’s penalty with His own blood. Let us have that same attitude of God, to hate sin and to be its enemy, thus to do everything we can in Christ to destroy it. Then and only then will holiness reign in beauty.