What is it?
Holiness has been described as "a nature that delights in purity, and which repels evil". Holiness is not innocence. Adam and Eve were innocent, but they did not repel evil - they gave way to it. Thus they lost their innocence. As believers we learn holiness by attachment to Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, by love for God, and thus coming to refuse and not give way to evil.
Holiness is in contrast to the sinfulness of man. We see this clearly in Isaiah 6, where the seraphim call "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." and Isaiah's response Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King." (Isaiah 6:3-5). Then too, Psalm 22 foretells Jesus' words on the cross "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?", but continues... "But thou art holy...". God's holy and righteous judgment of sin was exhausted at Calvary by the Holy One when He was made "to be sin for us." (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Where is it seen?
God's standard of holiness for man is seen in Christ, who has made God known to us "The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" (John 1:18). The Lord Jesus is the Holy One, and this was recognised by Peter when he spoke to the Lord "we have believed and known that thou art the holy one of God." (John 6:69 [Darby]), and again when Peter addressed the people "but ye denied the Holy One and the Just." (Acts 3:14).
Peter then tells us what God looks for in the believer "but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [manner of life]; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15-16).
How can we become holy?
One great service for the Holy Spirit is to attract the believer into likeness with the Holy One, which He does by occupying hearts with the Lord and with the love of God. Holiness can only be brought about by love. Just suppressing evil is not holiness, for "in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing" (Romans 7:18). Thank God, I have Jesus to "deliver me from the body of this death" (Romans 7:24-25) and the Holy Spirit to help me to please Him now.
What are the marks of holiness?
The practical result is that I come to realise what is not suited to the Lord Jesus, and I have a longing for what is. When He was here, His spirit recoiled from many things He had to meet, for He was the Holy One. By the same principle, the Christian who appreciates God's love and is pursuing holiness recoils from evil too. "But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things." (1 John 2:20), that is, we are to have a sense of things in ourselves and in the world that are not in accord with the Holy One, and we also recognise and pursue what is pleasing to Him.
[Reproduced with permission]