Volume. XXXiii, No. 38
Sunday, 17 March 2019


From the Pastor’s heart: God’s Holiness and Our Worship


Since the time of the Reformation, holiness fundamentally defines God.  Holiness is His character.  In recent decades, we have heard of His love more than His holiness as a defining factor of His character.  However, the holiness of God is His utter purity and also His incomparable goodness, of which love is a part.  The love of God must be pure, clean, and noble.  His love is also virtuous and right.  Therefore, it is inevitable that His love is a manifestation of His holiness.  It is dangerous to separate the love of God from His holiness, and vice versa.  In fact, the holiness of God inspires His people to worship.  It evokes their worship.  His holiness inspires His people to pursue their holiness after His and to be eager to know and taste the truth of God.  If we ignore and neglect the holiness of God, then our worship will lose its awe and the truth of God will become only words of wisdom, rather than something that we must listen to and obey. 

 

Walter Eichrodt said that Christian faith “which has ceased to be aware of this ultimate fact of the opposition between God and His creatures, would have lost that note of absolute urgency without which the Gospel entrusted to it can never be other than unthinking and superficial” (Theology of the Old Testament, 2 Vols., trans. J. A. Baker, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961, 1:277).  We have seen that the Gospel has been preached in our days without urgency, but with unthinking superficiality.  It is because God in His holiness is not “deeply and irrevocably set in opposition to the world because of its sin” (David Wells, God in the Wasted Land, Kindle loc. 1691 of 3756).  Carl Henry aptly made a comment that the Bible “does not begin like liberal theology with an emphasis on divine love for the sinner to which divine wrath is and must be subordinated.”  Instead, we all know that it begins with God’s divine wrath and His judgment at the fall of man into sin.  In fact, His wrath and His judgment are expressions of His holiness. 

 

God’s self-revelation begins with the manifestation of His holiness.  Think about Exodus 3:5-6, “And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. 6 Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.”  A. B. Davidson says that holiness was “what He was in His being” (The Theology of the Old Testament, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1911, 151).  According to Louis Berkhof, holiness is “co-extensive with, and applicable to, everything that can be predicated of God” (Systematic Theology, London: Banner of Truth, 1959, 73).  J. Rodman Williams says that holiness “is the fundamental fact about God” (Renewal Theology: God, the World and Redemption, Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1988, 59).  Anthony Hoekema says that the holiness of God “is not so much a separate attribute as a qualification of all that God is and does” ("The Attributes of God: The Communicable Attributes," in Basic Christian Doctrines, ed. Carl F. H. Henry, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1971, 31). 

 

There are a few implications of the holiness of God in relation to our worship.  First, the holiness of God demands and requires His worshippers to be loyal to Him exclusively.  One of many challenges to evangelize people who have been soaked with paganism is that they already have so many gods and do not feel it wrong to add one more God of Christianity.  History of religions proves that a conquering civilization did not demand the conquered to remove all existing religions in most cases.  For example, Romans did not demand the Jews not to believe in the God of their religion.  Instead, Herod the Great rebuilt a temple in Jerusalem for the Jews.  However, the holy God requires exclusive and passionate love for Him from His worshippers.  There is no rival to Him.  Thus, He has declared that there is no other God before Him.  And also the love of the world and the love of God are mutually exclusive in an absolute sense.

 

Second, the holiness of God emphasizes His uniqueness and significance.  We understand that there are many things considered “holy.”  Certain places are holy, or certain objects, articles, or people are ascribed to holiness.  However, biblical holiness is of God and related to God Himself.  If anything is holy, it is because it is separated to His use.  Thus, every part of the tabernacle or temple was considered holy.  Offerings were holy, not because they had any intrinsic holy attributes, but because they were given to God.  The believers of Christ are called “saints,” that is, “holy ones.”  How could people be holy ones?  Where did they earn such an honor?  They are separated to God.  Thus, they are called saints.  Holiness is an abstract concept.  We cannot touch it, taste it, or see it.  However, we shall know what is holy and unholy.  Whatever is God’s is holy. 

In this regard, we must think twice when we come to church for corporate worship with the family of God.  It is because worship is offered to God.  The whole worship is of God and for His honor.  From singing hymns to listening to God’s word, everything is sacred and holy.  Therefore, the worship service *must be very carefully handled.  In this technology era, people use smart phones and tablets for Bible reading.  If they are not careful, they will find themselves reading emails or surfing the internet during worship services.  When we come to worship, we ought to prepare ourselves well and seriously, because worship is for God.  We should not do anything casually in relation to our worship, including how to present ourselves in worship and what attitude and manners we should have to worship Him. 

 

Third, holiness is often not properly understood by people, including the worshippers themselves.  It is because they are inclined to think that holiness is about the justice and righteousness of God, which condemns and judges people.  As a result, they do not consider that the holiness of God includes His benevolence.  Isaiah 57:15 says, “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”  Isaiah says that the One whose name is holy is tender and gentle enough to dwell with the ones who are of a contrite and humble spirit.  The word, “contrite,” literally means worn or bruised.  Thus, it means “broken-hearted for sin” or “deeply affected with grief and sorrow for having offended God.”  The holy God dwells with such people.  Some people do not like to talk much about the holiness of God.  Instead, they love to talk about the love of God.  It is all because holiness gives them an impression of a cold-hearted God who punishes and sends sinners to hell.  However, as we can see, God who is pure is also tender and compassionate.  We also may find an irony here.  The holiness of God finds and discloses sin to be sin.  Holiness does not end its work there.  P. T. Forsyth says that the holiness of God, “necessitates the work of Christ, that calls for it, and that provides it” (The Work of Christ, London: Independent Press, 1938, 79).  Because of His holiness, our sinfulness is revealed, and we come under the conviction of our unworthiness.  This same holiness reveals the necessity of righteousness for our wounded souls and makes recompense for our sins necessary. 

 

Probably, the holiness of God is quite frequently forgotten by His people.  God evoked  the fact of His holiness quite often.  He emphasized this teaching to His people, even saying that He was a consuming fire.  When I see some people’s casual attitude toward worship, while praising God for His majesty, I wonder if they correctly understand both God’s holiness and majesty.  God is separate from all, because of His holiness, and at the same time He is a majestic God.  The God whom we worship is a holy God in majesty.  How is your worship?

 

Lovingly,

Your Pastor


More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

  • Child Protection Seminar, Sat, 6 Apr. Everyone in ministries involving children is required to attend. Please see Dn John Wong for more details.
  • Easter Family Bible Camp registration forms are available at the Sanctuary foyer. Early Bird registration ends next Lord’s Day. Final registrations by 7 Please submit forms to Sisters Natalie Ki or Purdee Yeo.
  • Helpers are required for Sunday School children during the Camp. Please see Sis Natalie Ki for more details.
  • Integrated Fellowship is organising a Games Day for the church. Please register your participation at the entrance of the Fellowship Hall.
  • No Korean BBK Class from Next Lord’s Day until 14 Apr.
  • Lunch Duty: This week: YAF. Next week: VFG.

 

Praise & Thanksgiving

  • Last Lord’s Day – Baptism & Membership Transfer.
  • God’s daily guidance & provision in our lives.
  • Church activities in the past week.
  • Journey mercies: Those who have travelled.

 

Prayer

  • Healing -  For those in affliction.
  • Special prayer for healing: for those seriously afflicted.  
  • God’s comfort in grief:  family of the late Dr S H Tow (S’pore).
  • Missions to Cambodia: Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki; Rev Mathews Abraham.
  • Missions: IBPFM – Rev Keith Coleman & missionaries.
  • Journey mercies: Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki; Rev Mathews Abraham (PhnomPenh); Elder David & Sis Giok Yeo (Adl); & others who are travelling.

 

 

 

 

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PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063