The Holiness of God
In 1 Peter 1:13-16, the apostle Peter wrote:
Here Peter revealed the basis of the appeal made to holy living on the part of those who name Christ as their savior. We are to be holy because God is Holy. It is not an arbitrary requirement, nor is it capricious. Further, holiness is to be defined by the nature of God rather than the customs of men. Finally, holiness should be present in every aspect of the Christians conduct.
Because the call to holiness is so important, Gods children should have a clear idea of what is required of them. In our time the call is muted and distorted by the static of worldliness. Too often Christians either ignore or are unaware of the standard God has set for his people. They compromise the mark God has set, and are guilty of embracing a morality that has its genesis in the mind of man rather than the mind of the Creator. Lets examine the basis of Gods call to his children to be Holy.
The Holiness of God
The reference in 1 Peter is to a passage in Leviticus, (the phrase is used in 11:44-45, 19:2; 20:7). In Leviticus 19:1-2, it is recorded:
The phrase bookends a section of scripture detailing various laws prescribed by God to maintain the purity of the people. Sins such as fornication, adultery, incest and idolatry are condemned. The term holy is the Hebrew qadowsh, and is defined as pure, clean, free from defilement of crimes, idolatry, and other unclean and profane things. (Gesenius, pg. 722). While application will later be made regarding the call for holiness on our part, note that characteristically, God is holy. He is pure, clean, and free from any defilement. As James wrote, Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone (James 1:13). He is perfect in His holiness.
Numerous Old Testament passages can be cited to establish how Jehovah God was known to Israel. Note the following:
Isaiah again and again referred to God as the Holy One of Israel (cf. 1:4; 5:19, 24; 10:17, 20; 12:6; 17:7; 29:19, 23; 30:11, 12, 15; 41:14, 16, 20; 43:3, 14; 45:11; 47:4; 48:17).
What becomes obvious, both in the view Israel held toward God, and Gods own actions against sin and ungodliness, is His utter abhorrence of anything unclean.
An interesting example of this is the law given to Israel respecting the purging of human filth from the camp in Deuteronomy 23. Verse 14 says, For the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you. The term holy here is the same qadowsh, and here indicates cleanliness.
The message of the Old Testament trumpets the Holiness of God. When God first introduced himself to Moses as he tended the flocks of Jethro, He said, Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground (Exodus 3:5)
Israel at Mount Sinai was not able to go up the mountain, as it was consecrated in the presence of God. God said, You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live. When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain (Exodus 19:12-13). And, it was necessary for the priests to consecrate (purify, sanctify) themselves before approaching God lest the Lord break out against them (vs. 22).
When the tabernacle was built, and later the temple, the inner sanctum of Jehovah was designated at the Most Holy Place. Then the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the temple, to the Most Holy Place, under the wings of the cherubim (2 Chronicles 5:7).
When Nadab and Abihu offered profane fire in a sacrifice to God, fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. God gave the reason for such a punishment, saying, By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified (Leviticus 10:3).
The text of Leviticus 10 establishes the same principle stated by our initial text in 1 Peter 1. Because God is holy, we must also be holy. To conduct ourselves in a manner less than that prescribed by the nature of God is to treat Him with contempt. His nature and treatment of man demands a commensurate respect and obeisance on our part. The Old Testament shows this in Israels fear and respect for Jehovah, and in Gods response when they rebelled. He expects no less from His children today.