The Divine antidote for the Satanic poison of sin is holiness. We have seen what sin is. Now let us try to understand what holiness is. We will study the subject, first in the Old Testament, and then in the New Testament Holiness is an attribute of God and a requirement of the people of God.
"And the Lord spake unto Moses saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy." (Leviticus xix. 1, 2.)
"Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus xx. 7.)
"Thou shalt sanctify him therefore; for he offereth the bread of thy God; he shall be holy unto thee; for I the Lord, which sanctify you, am holy." (Leviticus xxi. 8.)
"But as He which calleth you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." (I. Peter i. 16.)
As a Divine attribute holiness is purity, and purity is essential to the Being of God. God is a Being Who in nature, position, and attributes is separate from all other beings, and is pure from every thought, feeling, and deed of evil. The people of God, therefore, are to separate themselves from the world and from the things of the world and, like God, be pure from every thought, feeling, and deed of evil. Thus, as a requirement of believers holiness or sanctification-the two words have the same meaning and are interchangeable in use-is purity; and when he takes Christ to be "made unto him sanctification," the child of God becomes partaker of the purity of God in Christ through the personal indwelling of the Holy Ghost.
I. The Signification of the word for Holiness.
The Hebrew word commonly translated holy or holiness in the Authorized Version is Kadesh. In its various forms it signifies the being set apart for the work of God. The nearest English equivalent of the Hebrew word is sacred. Says Canon Girdlestone; "The terms 'sanctification' and 'holiness' are now used so frequently to represent moral and spiritual qualities, that they hardly convey to the reader the idea of the position or relationship as existing between God and some person or thing consecrated to Him; yet this appears to be the real meaning of the word." Separation for service-this is the fundamental idea of the Hebrew word 'Kadesh.'"
II. The Application of the word for Holiness.
The Hebrew word has a varied application.
First, to Places and Objects; for example:
Second, to Times; for example:
Third, to Persons; for example:
Now, when we come to examine closely into the meaning of the sanctification of places, objects, and persons, we find that in every one of the instances mentioned the underlying thought is contact with God. Thus, Heaven is holy, because there is the throne of God. Mount Sinai is holy, because there God gave Israel His law. The land of Canaan is holy, because God has chosen it as the permanent possession of His people. Jerusalem is holy, because God has chosen it for the manifestation of His name. The temple was holy, because therein the symbol of God's presence was visible. The Sabbath was holy, because God had chosen it as His day of rest. Israel was holy, because from among all nations God had chosen this nation to be His "peculiar people." The priests were holy, because they ministered in the service of the Lord. The prophets were holy, because they spoke in the name of the Lord. And the kings were holy, because they ruled in the stead of the Lord. Indeed, in every example of holiness in the Old Testament this fundamental idea of contact with God is prominent.
Besides the application of the word holy or holiness to places, objects, and persons, the expressions are used, as we have already seen, of the Divine Being, thus: God is holy, Joshua xxiv. 19; Jehovah, or the Lord God, is holy, I. Samuel vi. 20; the Divine Spirit is holy, Psalm li. II; Isaiah lxiii. 10, II. We may also refer to such expressions as the following: "Holy and reverend is His name," Psalm cxi. 9; "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts," Isaiah vi. 3; "They shall sanctify My name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob," Isaiah xxix. 23; "Thy testimonies are very sure; holiness becometh thine house," Psalm xciii. 5; "Give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness," Psalm xcvii. 12; "The Holy One of Israel," II. Kings xix. 22; Psalm lxxi. 22; Isaiah x. 17; xlix. 7; "Beauty of holiness," I. Chronicles xvi. 29; Psalm xxix. 2; xcvi. 9; "Holiness unto the Lord," Exodus xxviii. 36; xxxix. 30.
III. The Use of the word Holiness.
The use of the word holiness or sanctification in the Old Testament is two-fold, namely: Ceremonial and Moral. Ceremonial holiness is official holiness-the holiness of position or relationship. Moral holiness is personal holiness-the holiness of renewed character and righteous conduct. Ceremonial holiness belongs to both persons and things; while moral holiness belongs only to persons.
First, Ceremonial Holiness.
Ceremonial holiness, then, is the holiness of an office-the external holiness of position or relationship. In its essence it is sacredness. It is the only kind of holiness that can belong to things. Thus, the City of Jerusalem, the Sabbath day, and the temple and all its furniture, even down to the implements of the altar, were holy or sacred, because they had all been set apart for the worship and service of Jehovah. On the other hand, the whole nation of Israel, and all the prophets, priests, and kings, were holy, because in a special and peculiar way they had been brought into direct contact with Jehovah. Thus, the kings were the vice-regents of God, and as the chosen rulers in His stead, were holy. Again, the priests were the ministers of sacrifice and worship, and as the chosen mediators between Jehovah and Israel, were holy. Again, the prophets were primarily preachers of righteousness, and as the chosen vehicles of Divine truth were holy. And finally, the Israelites had been redeemed out of the house of bondage, and as the chosen people of God, were holy.
Now, as a nation Israel was ceremonially holy, but not morally holy. Separated from all other nations, dedicated to God by a solemn covenant, and appointed to become the channel of blessing to the whole earth, the Hebrew race had been brought into special and direct contact with Jehovah. The law of Moses exacted absolute conformity to its lofty requirements; and these requirements covered the inward motive as well as the outward action. Perfect holiness was enjoined upon the people in all their relations to Jehovah and in all their dealings with one another. But the obedience which Israel rendered was to the letter and not to the spirit of the law. There was outward conformation of conduct but not inward transformation of character. In other words, the holiness of the people, as a people, was ceremonial and not moral. Take, for example, the teaching of the book of Leviticus. Its keynote is: "A holy God will have a holy people." In chapters nineteen and twenty there is a summary of sundry laws concerning the relation of the people to Jehovah and their relation to one another. These laws are searching, affecting character as well as conduct. Can we for one moment think that God would have been satisfied with anything less than perfect obedience to these and all other laws enjoining righteousness and godliness? And yet, not alone in moral holiness, but in ceremonial holiness as well, the people as a nation signally failed. What other meaning, indeed, have the sacrificial offerings and ritual cleansings of the Levitical system? Moreover, it was expected by God that Israel would fail at every point; and for the failure provision was made in the Mosaic sacrifices and ritual purifications.
Thus, it is far from the truth to hold that as a nation the people of Israel were morally holy; that is, that every member of the Hebrew race had experienced a spiritual renewal of character. Indeed, it was their lack of moral holiness-the possession of an evil heart of unbelief and rebellion-that was the cause of the failure of the people even in ceremonial holiness.
"For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them." (Acts xxviii. 27.)
"But with whom was He grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom swear He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not. So we see that they could not enter in because of their unbelief." (Hebrews iii. 17-19.)
Second, Moral Holiness.
Moral holiness is purity. It has elsewhere been defined as personal holiness-the holiness of renewed character and of righteous conduct. These two elements belong together, the one being the seed and the other the fruit of a transformed life. Moral holiness belongs only to persons.
While Israel as a nation was only ceremonially holy, individual Israelites were morally holy. The Hebrew people, as we have seen, fell short even of the full requirements of the ceremonial law; but innumerable members of the race satisfied God by becoming partakers of His holiness through a spiritual transformation of their hearts and lives.
The testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures is clear alike to the fact that Jehovah required His people to be holy and to the fact that individual Israelites earnestly yearned for conformity to the Divine will in heart and life. For proof of this statement we do not need to go outside the fifty-first Psalm: "Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part Thou shalt make me to know wisdom." (verse 6.)
"For Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it; Thou delightest not in burnt offering.
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, 0 God, Thou wilt not despise." (verses 16, 17.)
"Have mercy upon me, 0 God, according to Thy loving kindness; according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.
"Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
"For I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me." (verses 1-3.)
" Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." (verse 7.)
"Create in me a clean heart, 0 God; and renew a right spirit within me." (verse 10.)
The following passages of like tenor may also be examined: Psalm xxiv. 3-5; Isaiah lvii. 15; Jeremiah xxxiii. 8; Ezekiel xxxvi. 25, 33; Malachi i. II; iii. 3.
Now, the Lord always meets and satisfies the yearning desire for holiness which He Himself creates. Can we doubt, for example, that King David who uttered this earnest prayer did not have the desire of his heart fulfilled?
"As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, 0 God.
"My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?" (Psalm xlii. I, 2; see also Psalm lxiii. I, 2.)
The Lord has always reserved for Himself a godly seed, a righteous people, a holy remnant.
"But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for Himself; the Lord will hear when I call unto Him." (Psalm iv. 3.)
Let us take a rapid survey of Old Testament history, beginning with the infancy of the race. Righteous Abel was the first of the line of the godly seed. To take his place God raised up Seth, from whom descended holy Enoch, who "walked with God; and he was not; for God took him." (Genesis v. 24.) God-fearing Noah "prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." (Hebrews xi. 7.) Abraham, the friend of God, "by faith sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise." (Hebrews xi. 9.) But the time would fail us to tell of Sarah, of Joseph, of Moses, of the triumphant hosts of the Israelites at the Red Sea and before the walls of Jericho, of Rahab, of Gideon, of Barak, of Samson, of Jephthah, of David and of Samuel and the prophets, "who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fires, escaped the edge of the sword, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens." (Hebrews xi. 33 34.) And lest we should think that his roll of heroes was exhaustive instead of representative of a "great cloud of witnesses," the writer adds: "Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection. And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonments; They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with swords; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy); they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and in caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise; God having provided some better things for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." (verses 35-40.)
This glorious chapter of the eleventh of Hebrews covers the long period of over four thousand years from Abel to Malachi. How "great a cloud of witnesses" there was to the spiritual worship of Jehovah no one can tell. In his day Elijah believed that he was the only faithful follower of the Lord; yet God assured him that He had reserved for Himself seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed the knee unto Baal, nor kissed his image in idolatrous worship. (I. Kings xix. 18.) Just before the Old Testament closes and the long night of prophetic silence is ushered in, we have this exquisite picture of the "little flock" that shall yet inherit the Kingdom of God.
"Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day, when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." (Malachi iii. 16, 17.)
IV. The Mode of Holiness.
The mode of holiness was the means or process whereby a person or thing became holy. In a word, holiness was brought about by contact with God. In the case of ceremonial holiness the contact was external and official, and the holiness consisted in a scene of sacredness which invested the person or thing. In the case of moral holiness the contact was spiritual and personal, and the holiness consisted in purity of heart and life-the very nature of God being imparted to the devout worshipper.
First, Ceremonial Holiness
In the ritual of ceremonial holiness four elements were employed, viz., water, fire, blood and oil. These emblems were typical: the blood of the redemptive work of Christ; and the water, fire, and oil, of the separating, purifying, and consecrating work of the Holy Spirit.
Objects were regarded as clean, when passed through either water or fire.
"And Eleazer, the priest, said unto the men of war which went to the battle, This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord commanded Moses:
"Only the gold, and silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead.
"Everything that may abide the fire ye shall make it go through the fire and it shall be clean: nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of separation: and all that abideth not the fire ye shall make go through the water." (Numbers xxxi. 21-23.)
Water, blood and oil were applied to persons. The process of ritual sanctification in the Old Testament is clearly seen in the cleansing of the leper, the consecration of the priests, and the water of separation.
1. The Cleansing of the Leper. Leviticus, chapter fourteen.
In the cleansing of the leper there were three steps, namely: First, the healing of the disease; second, the announcement of cleanness by the priest; and third, the rites of cleansing. Here we are concerned only with the rites of cleansing. There was a five-fold process:
Two birds were taken: one was slain; and the other, dipped in its blood with the cedar wood and the scarlet and the hyssop, was released in the open field. The typical significance of this rite is set forth in Romans iv. 25: "Who was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification."
(2) Cleansing by water.
All the hair of the leper was shaved, and his body and clothes were then washed in water to symbolize his complete separation from his former life and habits.
(3). Sprinkling with blood seven times.
Seven times the leper was sprinkled with blood by the priest to represent his entire cleansing. Then some blood was put upon the tip of his right ear, the thumb of his right hand, and the great toe of his right foot, as a type of the redemption of all his faculties and powers.
(4). Sprinkling with oil seven times.
The same process was repeated with the anointing oil in token that all the members of the cleansed leper's body, the faculties of his mind, the powers of his soul, and his daily walk and habits of life were solemnly set apart in dedication to God.
(5). The rest of the oil.
Lastly, a rite of deep spiritual significance was performed. We read: "And the rest of the oil that is in the priest's hand he shall put upon the head of him that is to be cleansed, to make atonement for him before the Lord." (verse 29). This was "the residue of the oil." And its being poured over the head of the cleansed leper may be taken as a symbol of the fullness of the Holy Ghost, just as the application of the oil may be taken as an emblem of the reception of the Holy Ghost. The "seven times" of the sprinkled blood and the sprinkled oil represents completeness.
2. The Consecration of the Priests. Exodus xxviii. 41--xxix. 24; Leviticus viii. 1--ix. 24.
The ritual sanctification of the priests, or their dedication to office, was substantially the same as the process for the cleansing of the leper : sacrifice, washing, the sprinkling of the blood, and the sprinkling of the oil. One feature of the solemn service, however, was unique, and that was the filling of the hand. The act of consecration included a part of the sacrifice being put in the priest's hand, waved, and then taken to the altar. The Hebrew word translated "consecrate," as used in this rite, means to fill the hand. See Exodus xxviii. 41; Leviticus viii. 27, 28. Spiritually, the meaning is that after we have been separated from sin and dedicated to God, and have received the Holy Spirit, we are appointed to fruitful service. We are not to be idlers in the vineyard of the Lord, nor spend our time in holy contemplation. But God fills our hands with loving ministries to Himself and to the sinful and needy. Jesus said: "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you." (John xv. 16.)
3. The Water of Separation. Numbers, chapter nineteen.
The ordinance of the red heifer differed materially from the law of the leper's cleansing and the ritual of the priest's consecration. The law of leprosy provided for the cleansing from a loathsome disease. The ritual of consecration marked the solemn setting apart of a priest to his holy office. The water of separation, on the other hand, was applied to the ordinary Israelite, who during the course of his daily walk might become ceremonially defiled. There were four parts to the ordinance, namely: the killing of the red heifer, the seven-fold sprinkling of its blood, the preparation and preservation of the ashes as a memorial before the Lord, and the act of cleansing from defilement by sprinkling the unclean object or person with a kind of lye formed by mixing some of the ashes with water. Spiritually, this impressive ordinance teaches us God's way of cleansing His children from the defilement of daily contact with evil. The slaying of the red heifer and the sevenfold sprinkling of the blood are a type of the atonement of Christ. The ashes kept in a clean place typify the finished work of our Lord as the perpetual ground of our daily cleansing. The water is a symbol of the Holy Ghost. The deep significance of all this in Christian experience is beautifully set forth, both pictorially and doctrinally, in the thirteenth chapter of John. While in the upper room at the Passover feast. Jesus girded Himself with a towel, and pouring water in a basin began to wash the disciples' feet. In Oriental countries, where sandals are worn, the feet become dusty, and frequent washing of the feet is necessary. Feet washing was an act of hospitality, which was customarily performed by servants. The fact that Jesus undertook this menial office was a proof of His own humility and a lesson in humility to the disciples. To Peter, who objected to his feet being washed, the Master said: "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit; and ye are clean but not all." (verse 10.) Here two Greek verbs are used. The first, translated "washed," is louo and means the bathing of the entire body. The second, rendered "wash," is nipto and means the washing of a part of the body. Literally, we may read: "He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit." That is, a man bathed himself in the morning, but throughout the day he washed his feet whenever they required it. So Jesus taught that after regeneration, which cannot be repeated, a daily cleansing of the believer's walk and conversation takes place. This the Holy Ghost accomplishes by means of the blood of Christ, and through the agency of the Word of God.
".....Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word." (Ephesians v. 25, 26.)
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost." (Titus iii. 5.)
"But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." (I. John i. 7.) The Greek verb translated "cleanseth" is in the present tense; literally, it means keeps cleansing.
Second, Moral Holiness.
As we have seen, the means whereby a person or thing becomes holy is contact with God. If the contact with God be external and official, the holiness is ceremonial in nature, and consists in a sense of sacredness with which the person or thing is invested. On the other hand, if the contact with God be vital and spiritual, the result is moral holiness, which consists of purity of heart and life-the very purity of God Himself imparted to the devout believer. We are now to inquire more carefully into the process whereby moral holiness is secured.
How were the Old Testament worthies in the long line from Abel to Malachi sanctified in character and conduct? We have said by a vital and spiritual contact with God. But this statement calls for some consideration. Of course, in its inner nature the mode of moral holiness is not clear. Mystery surrounds all the works of God, especially the operations of Divine grace upon the human heart. The Apostle Paul declared: "Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh . . . " (I. Timothy iii. 16.) And this statement is just as true of Christ's being manifested in us as it is of God's being manifested in Christ.
"To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery, among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians i. 27.)
The new birth is a profound mystery. Jesus said:
"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit." (John iii. 8.)
Sanctification is also a profound mystery. We cannot trace the inner process whereby a soul becomes partaker of the Divine holiness. Particularly is this true in the Old Testament, where so little comparatively is revealed concerning the hidden working upon hearts and lives of the Spirit of God. We know, however, that God has but one way of salvation. Consequently, we may say that the mode of moral holiness in the Old Testament was three-fold, namely: the cross of Christ, the work of the Spirit, and the faith of the Israelite.
1. The Cross of Christ.
The Levitical system of sacrificial offerings and ritual cleansings was typical of Christ and His redemptive work. The individual Israelite was saved through a Saviour Who was to come, just as the sinner today is saved through a Saviour Who has come. In one case the redemption was prophetic; in the other case it is historic. So, too, the Old Testament saints were sanctified by the cross; the finished work of Christ, typified in the offerings, was the ground of their moral cleansing.
2. The Work of the Spirit.
Of course, dispensationally speaking, the Holy Spirit bore a relation to Old Testament times quite different from what He bears to the present age. The Divine Spirit did not indwell the Congregation of Israel as He indwells the Church of God. Indeed, an outpouring of the Spirit, such as was witnessed at Pentecost, was distinctly foretold. (Isaiah xxxii. 14-17; Ezekiel xxxvi. 25-27; Joel ii. 28-32; Zechariah xii. 10.) Yet the Holy Ghost as a Person was with and among the people of Israel. (Genesis vi. 3; Psalm Ii. 11; Isaiah lxiii. 10; Ezekiel xi. 5; Haggai ii. 5.)
In particular there was a four-fold work of the Spirit of God, viz:
(a). He came upon men; that is, He clothed Himself with them. Of this Gideon is an example. (Judges vi. 34.)
(b). He came upon men mightily; that is, He forced them into something, so to speak. Of this Samson is an example. (Judges xv. 14.)
(c). He equipped men and filled them for specific service; as Bezaleel, (Exodus xxxi. 2, 3,); Cyrus, (Isaiah xlv. 1); and Zerubbabel, (Zechariah iv. 6.).
(d). He indwelt men. Of only Joseph and Joshua, however, is this fact recorded. (Genesis xli. 38; Numbers xxvii. 18; see also Daniel v. 11.)
Now, it is with this last operation of the Holy Ghost-indwelling men-that the work of sanctification is to be specifically connected. While it is true that God's Spirit is said, in so many words, to have indwelt only Joseph and Joshua, may we not take these men as representatives of a large class, perhaps an innumerable multitude of saints, such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and the patriarchs, and the long line of godly priests, prophets, and kings? It is not safe to say that it was the privilege and experience of individual Israelites then, as it is the privilege and experience of believers now, to have the gracious working of the Divine Spirit not only upon them but within them as well? Yet in the former dispensation the Holy Spirit seems to have visited men occasionally-at least in some cases He came and went; but in the present age, when we definitely receive Him, He comes to abide forever. Surely, then, we may believe that the Old Testament saints were made partakers of the purity of God-that is, were sanctified in heart and life-by the gracious inworking of the Divine Spirit.
3. The Faith of the Israelite.
It is the clear teaching of the eleventh chapter of Hebrews that the long line of Old Testament worthies from Abel onward were saved and sanctified by faith. It was by faith-faith in the Word of Jehovah, in the redemptive value of the sacrifices, and in the gracious inworking of the Spirit-that their lives were spiritually transformed and they themselves wrought mighty achievements for God. For it was true then, as it is true now:
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." (Hebrews xi. 6.)