The Beauty of Holiness
Connie W. Adams
There is something beautiful about the life of a faithful Christian. In our preaching we often find it necessary to point out the sins, not only of the world, but also of those who belong to Christ. It is my persuasion that we do not reflect e n o u g h upon the beauty and grandeur of the faithful life. It is desirable, attractive, compelling.
"Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" (1 Chron. 16:29). The army of Israel was told to "praise the beauty of holiness" (2 Chron. 20:21). In this passage holiness is presented as an attribute of God since it is an object of worship. "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him all the earth" (Psa. 96:9). "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth" (Psa. 110:3). This passage is a prophecy of Christ and his rule. It describes the "day of his power"the time when he rules at God's right hand. The beauty of the rule is seen in that his subjects serve him willingly. None are conscripted. Service rendered willingly is beautiful.
What Is Holiness?
In both the old and new testaments the word "holiness" denoted separation. The vessels or utensils of ministry in the tabernacle and later the temple, were said to be holy. They were set apart to be used for sacred purposes and were thus distinguished from the common or ordinary. The priests were holy unto the Lord as they ministered before him. Animals to be used in sacrifice were holy in that they were set apart for a divine purpose. The nation of Israel was set apart from other nations and declared to be holy unto the Lord. "I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people. Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine" (Lev. 20:24-26).
In the New Testament the same idea attaches to the word. The Christian is severed from the world and dedicated to the cause of Christ. He is not to contaminate himself with that which would defile him and render his service void. No passage better sets this forth than 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1. "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." From this passage clearly setting forth the idea of separation from sin and dedication to the Lord's service, other passages are better understood. "Ye have your fruit unto holiness" (Rom. 6: 22). "For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness" (1 Thes. 4: 7). "The aged women likewise that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness" (Tit. 2:3). God cannot be worshipped "in the beauty" of this state when the people of God forget the distinction, which should exist between them and the world of sin. God accepts worship only as he accepts the worshipper.
The Ugliness of Sin
Perhaps the beauty of holiness can best be appreciated when contrasted to the ugliness of sin. Sin is often attractive and appealing outwardly. Thus the Bible speaks of "the deceitfulness of sin." Moses rejected the "pleasures of sin" which are but for a season. In the Garden of Eden Eve was tempted into thinking God was withholding something desirable and needful from her in his prohibition against eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The fruit was pleasant to the eye. She craved the wisdom she thought eating it would bring. She did not see beyond the pleasure of the moment to the fearful consequence her action brought not only herself, but also all humanity.
David could not see beyond a moment's passion to the level gaze and accusing finger of Nathan, to say nothing of domestic havoc he would reap. Judas could not see beyond the clink of the coins, when he made his wicked bargain to betray Christ, to the deep remorse, which led him to commit suicide. Witness now the lives of those in this world that have money enough to purchase any pleasure, and to go anywhere, but who never have a moment's true happiness. How often do you read of the glamorous movie stars who take too many sleeping pills in attempts to end it all. Here is the ugliness of lives of dissipation. The glitter of the dance floor, the thrill of impassioned young love in a parked car later, do not on the surface indicate the horror of having to face parents and friends with the reality of the news of a child to be born without a father's name. Talk to an alcoholic and watch the hopelessness reflected in his eyes. Observe the cowed, despondent spirit of his wife who has tried to stick with him through thick and thin. Notice his self-imposed poverty and the uncertain condition of his health. Then, against such a background, consider the beauty and dignity of an upright life. The choice should not then be hard to make.
The True Beauty of Holiness
The character of a Christian is represented as a beautiful garment, attractive, unspoiled and desirable. It is God's desire through Christ and the church to present his own before him, "holy and without blemish." The Lord said the faithful "even in Sardis" who had not defiled their garments would "walk with" him "in white." Paul said servants, even of harsh masters, were to "adorn the doctrine of Christ" (Tit. 2:10). The way a man reacts under mistreatment can reflect beauty of soul and character' or ugliness of spirit. As a Christian returns good for evil, he heaps coals of fire upon the heads of those who misuse him.
The beauty of holiness is seen in the higher purpose, which impels a saint. He has direction and meaning in his life. He knows what he wants, how to be content with what he has, and the means which he must employ to achieve his purpose. The confidence shown by the Christian in times of unrest, crisis and even in the face of impending death, show the true beauty of a life of holiness.
There is power even in beauty. This is shown in what Peter said about the woman who is a child of God but who has a husband who is not one. She may fail in her attempt to teach him the word of God with her tongue, but there is no mistaking the demonstration of what that word accomplishes in her own daily life. Those of us who preach have often baptized men who were prompted to seriously study the Bible because of the consistent and faithful life of a wife who would not compromise her convictions of truth.
It is important to observe that God is to be worshipped "in" the beauty of this state. One cannot reflect the beauty of a state into which he has not come. In baptism there is a cutting off of the sins of the heart. They are washed away, according to another figure. They are remitted to be remembered no more. But faithfulness must be manifested all through life else the beauty will be defaced and the power will be nullified. "For if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted?"
TRUTH MAGAZINE XI: 3, pp. 20-21