Amidst the glorious glow of heaven, reflections of lightning and fire glisten against a glassy sea as deep roars of thunder echo behind the perpetual anthem, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev 4:8). This small glimpse of the magnitude of God’s holiness inspires reverence, showing the God who created all things is set apart from humanity. Yet John, the same man who in the Holy Spirit penned the description of God’s dwelling place, also says, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). In a world where love has such a broad definition it has become meaningless and a culture where holiness is not valued, what hope is there for the believer to pursue growth in godliness?
First, we must acknowledge humanity’s nature lacks love and holiness due to sin. In Genesis 3, God curses Adam and Eve when they disobey His command and eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. At that moment, “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom 5:12). Romans 3:23 further clarifies: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Being unlike God and totally depraved in nature, humans are naturally inclined to love the sin that enslaves them rather than the holiness of God.
What hope does fallen humanity have to taste true love and holiness? To restore the relationship with love and holiness Himself?
The only hope of all human beings is the undeserved love of God, who alone can rescue and restore them to Himself. God, being rich in mercy and instigating love, chooses to bring His children into right relationship with Himself through the eternally begotten Son’s absorption of the wrath of God in his crucifixion and death (Rom 8:3, 24-26).” In redemption through Christ, God grants holiness. In Christ, God grants Himself.
The words of Christ in John 17:22-23 communicate the lavish heart of God for people to partake in the holy love existent in the Trinity before the foundation of the world:
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
It is by grace, not by need, God invites humanity to partake of His love. God graciously provides His own Son that believers might cherish “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13:14). The Lord provides His children not only with a forgiven past and secure eternal future, but with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit to enable growth in love and holiness in the present.
God’s demonstration of love and holiness extends into His design of sanctification, the process of growth for the Christian. Love poured into the hearts of believers through the Holy Spirit allows sanctification to flourish as they rejoice in suffering, continue in endurance, and experience the blossoming of character and hope (Rom 5:3-5).
The outflow of God’s holy love may be traced through every facet of how He has designed the universe, crafted time, and worked in His Creation. Ultimately, God ordains humankind to delight in His love and holiness in Christ’s accomplishment of redemption, the sanctification of His children, and eternal glorification of Himself.
Take heart, believer. You did not earn God’s love and you cannot lose it. When the world whispers a promise of fulfillment apart from Christ, the call of Christ bids you find freedom in obedience to your holy Lord. This God holds you in His love, invites you to behold His holiness, and promises, by His power alone, you will be transformed by both.
*This was originally submitted as a portion of a paper for a theology class at MBTS