Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Practical Implications of God's Holiness

"The fact of the presence of the Holy One among us is the basis of three practical principles.

"First, 'Be holy, for I am holy'. At one level, our holiness is the condition of His presence. Our unholiness repels Him. But the reasoning is probably deeper than that. To be unholy is to run the risk of causing His wrath to burn - not now from the comparative remoteness of Mt. Sinai, but from within ourselves. His anger will burn in His temple - 'which temple you are' (1 Cor. 3:16ff). But why will His anger burn so fiercely against His own people - more fiercely against them than against 'the rest'? Because their unholiness compromises Him. He is their God. They bear His name. They must therefor hallow it; and when they do not, He is jealous for the sake of His name.

"Secondly, the vision of God's holiness is the basis of Christian service. We usually find the basis of our evangelism in the perception of human need and this is not to be dismissed as altogether irrelevant. But it is not the main emphasis of Scripture. Time and again the Bible indicates that the true constraint to prophetic testimony is an overwhelming and abiding vision of the holiness of God. It was so in the case of Isaiah - he 'goes' because he has seen the Lord high and lifted up (Isaiah 6:1). Similarly, compliance with 'the great commission' springs from the vision of the Lord as the One who has all the authority in heaven and earth (Matt 28:18). In the same way, Paul preached Christ among the Gentiles because it had 'pleased God to reveal His Son in me' (Gal. 1:16) - a revelation of such overwhelming force that it had laid him prostrate and helpless on the Damascus Road.

"Finally, the holiness of God must regulate and inform our worship. We are approaching the august and majestic One. our approach cannot, therefore, be flipant or trivial. It must be tremulous and respectful, even in its moments of greatest boldness. We must come with pure hearts and sprinkled consciences (Heb. 10:22). Above all, we must realize that we approach only by invitation and that the important thing is not to come in a way that we find enjoyable or enterntaining, but to come int he spirit, attitude and posture that He commands. Our Father, indeed: but our heavenly Father."

from Behold Your God by Donald Macleod


Noel said...

I have a question. Is worshiping God the wrong way idolatry? And if so, what would the wrong way be?
It's a bit random, but it does kind of relate to the holiness of God.

Todd Pruitt said...


Great question. We know from the second commandment that it matters how we worship God not just that we worship Him. This is made clear throughout the Old Testament. God went to great lengths to ensure that the worship of His people in no way resembled the worship of the pagan nations. In fact it was in the way God's people worshiped that distinguished them as much as the Object of their worship.

That said, it gets a bit tricky under the New Covenant in Christ. The New Testament says very little about the form of our worship. However, there is a level of continuity between the Old and New. We know that the temple system including sacrifice and feast days were merely shadows pointing to Christ. So those elements are no longer called for. However there are other elements of corporate worship that do carry forward because they do not serve to simply provide a foreshadow of the coming Redeemer.

The elements of corporate worship that are carried forward into the New Covenant are:
1. Singing
2. Prayers
3. Proclamation of the Word
4. The sacraments (Lord's Supper & Baptism)
Each of these elements are commended in the New Testament. The question is, are we free to add elements? Are things like drama, incense, candles, art, videos, etc acceptable elements for the worship of God? I am not comfortable making a dogmatic statement on that. Some say we should only bring to God what He specifically calls for. Others say that so long as it is not specifically forbidden in the Scriptures then it is acceptable. My own position is to stick to those elements that the Word of God specifically calls for and procede very cautiously from there.