What Do You Believe About The Holiness Of God?
As the Lord began His earthly ministry, He went immediately to the temple, and confronted those who were abusing the temple. In doing so, the Lord demonstrated His anger when the Holy things of God were being defiled. The word holy basically means, "to make a difference."
The demands that true holiness requires makes holiness either an unpopular or unknown subject in Christianity today. Yet the Lord addressed the subject with great passion at the beginning of His ministry. With the emphasis that He placed upon holiness, may we properly define the word as we examine its usage.
The word holy means a moral and ethical wholeness or perfection; freedom from moral evil. God, who is Holy, requires Holiness of His people. Holiness may also be rendered "sanctification" or "godliness." God instructed Moses to "consecrate Aaron and his sons" (Exodus 29:9) to the priesthood. The nation of Israel was admonished to "remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8). Both the tabernacle in the wilderness, and the Temple at Jerusalem (Exodus 26:33; Hebrews 9:1-9) had the most sacred "Holy of Holies." Elisha, in the Old Testament, was called a "holy man of God" (II Kings 4:9), as John the Baptist, in the New Testament, was known as a "just and holy man" (Mark 6:20).
Holiness may be used ceremonially to describe the priest when he met the 146 external requirements of the priesthood. The main use of holiness is to describe Godís righteous nature or the ethical righteousness demanded of His followers (Isaiah 1:10-11; Matthew 12:7). Holiness is a unique quality of God that cannot be separated from His nature. The Scriptures declare this concept when it says "who is like unto thee, O Lord ...?" (Exodus 15:11). "There is none holy as the Lord ..." (I Samuel 2:2). God expected this quality of holiness from His people: "And ye shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Exodus 19:6); "Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy, for I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 20:7).
Jesus, as He began His earthly ministry, personifies the Holiness of God. Thus He went straight to the temple, to what should have been a holy place, denouncing and scattering those who were defiling the Temple of Jerusalem.
I. THE CONDEMNATION BY THE HOLY ONE vv. 12-17
Jesusí trek to Jerusalem coincided with the "Jewís Passover" v. 13. The Passover or the "feast of the Passover" is one of Israelís great yearly festivals (the other two being Pentecost and Tabernacle). This celebration was held on the fourteenth of Nisan (March-April) and commemorated the deliverance from Egypt on the night when God "passed over" the homes of the Israelites during the slaughter of the firstborn.
The Passover was a night that demonstrated and described what holiness was all about. Borrowing from the definition of holiness, meaning to "make a difference," those who applied the blood to the "two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses" made a difference from the houses occupied by the Egyptians, and were spared of God. Passover night was a very somber and holy night. This spirit of commemorating Godís holiness has been lost and this was apparent at the temple.
Josephus, the historian, describes the temples as consisting of three parts. (1) The first enclosure, which surrounded the whole building, and was open for all, contained the porches and piazzas in which the people assembling the animals for sacrifice were bought and sold, and the money-changersí tables placed. This was the outer count, or court of the Gentiles. (2) The second enclosure, which was ten steps higher, was divided into the court of the women and the court of the priests; was the place where the sacrifices were prepared and offered, and could only be entered by such as were clean. (3) The inner edifice, the temple proper, into which alone the priests could enter, consisted of the Sanctuary or Holy place, and the Holy of Holies.
The temple cleansing was required because the forecourt, which was to be reserved for the sacrificial offerings and other religious exercises, had been converted into a common cattle market and pigeon fair, under the guise of religion.
HIS ACTION IN DEALING WITH THE UNHOLY vv. 12-15
The Lord dealt firmly with the defilers. Some use this text to support the theory that Christ lost His temper. Not so! The Scriptures when properly interpreted, destroy this theory or accusation. The Word of God as someone has said, "contains no excess baggage, nor is anything left out." The evidence of Scriptures shows that the Lord had His anger under complete control as in the spirit of Ephesians which says, "Be ye angry, and sin not" (4:26).
Verse number fifteen, from our text, tells us that the Lord took the time to make a "scourge of small cords." Had His anger been without control He would never have taken the time to make the whip. Anger has its proper moments. The Lord illustrated this truth in cleansing the temple.
HIS ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE UNHOLY vv. 16-17
The spoken word of God was effectively and simply used to clarify the Lordís reason for His actions.
"Take these things hence; make not my Fatherís house an house of merchandise."
In this statement of truth, the Lord established His authority and announced His Deity. God in flesh had spoken. Godís attitude of holy hatred towards sin has not changed nor diminished. Christ was jealous for the holiness of His Fatherís house.
In a different sense, the Holy House of God, the church has been also defiled. We have brought into our churches a carnival like atmosphere with a calculated desire to make the church "user friendly," keep everyone in the comfort zone, discard sermons against sin, and keep everyone happy. The music has prostituted the church with the world. The offspring of such a union is a powerless worship service that embraces the sensational instead of the supernatural. May God help us, for His attitude of holiness has not changed!
II. THE DEMONSTRATION BY THE HOLY ONE vv. 18-23
One of the marks of the Jew is that religiously they look for or require a sign. This sign could either be a miraculous token or some word that was uncommon in its occurrence. In either case, it made a supernatural impression that coached them or helped them nurture their faith. Though they had the Old Testament with its history and prophecy, they did not have the New Testament, complete, as we have it today.
With this partially being the case, the Jew desired signs to authenticate truth. The tongues or language phenomenon recorded in Acts at Pentecost and the "cloven tongues like as of fire" were signs for the benefit of the unbelieving Jew (Acts 2).
HE DECLARED PROPHECY THAT THEY KNEW NOT OF
Characteristically of the Jew, they wanted a sign to prove the authenticity of Christ being the Messiah. Instead of Christ giving them an instant answer, He gave prophecy of Himself that required an element of faith for that which was yet future. Jesus told the Jews, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Immediately they reminded Jesus that the same temple that he had purged took forty-six years to build. He who did the creation work in six days and was standing before them, could have spoken the temple back into existence in one word, was now speaking of His resurrected body. This prophecy concerning Himself, was later fulfilled at His resurrection, causing the disciples to believe His word.
As Christ Jesus speaks He is demonstrating holiness as a prophet. His words are truth. Truth and holiness are inseparable. They must cling together; they always complement and never contradict each other. There are religious charlatans today, however, who profess to be holy, but are very vile and deceitful in their ways.
HE DEMONSTRATED A POWER THAT THEY KNEW NOT OF
Not only did Christ declare prophecy that they knew not of, He demonstrated a power that they knew not of. The book of John contains miracles that prove not only His power, but also declare His Holiness. His miracles were not designed to sensationalize His earthly ministry but to make a spiritual impact upon the world. Many religious, charismatic figures are making a mockery of the Holy things of God as they showcase their religious trinkets and tricks to glorify themselves rather than Almighty God. Help us in these perilous days to be more discerning.
III. THE EXAMINATIONS BY THE HOLY ONE vv. 24-25
Not only did the Lord know this particular group from the past, He knows ALL men, even those yet future. We often pretend that we have done something sinful that no one will ever know of. We have the "perfect crime" mentality. Yet God knows all things. Our words are known by Him; our thoughts are known by Him. He even knows our motives.
HE KNOWS THE MOTIVES OF MEN
The many who believed were believing wrongly. James reminds us that there are different kinds of belief. There is a belief that is satanic (James 2:19). Many today are devout and sincere in there beliefs, but sincerely wrong. I recall years ago going to Argentina and touring a Roman Catholic Cathedral. I saw this elderly lady on her knees crawling until her knees would either be callused or bloody while counting her rosary and doing penance. She undoubtedly was sincere in what she believed, but according to Scripture she was sincerely wrong. Christ also knew the motives of those who gathered around Him that day back then.
HE KNEW THE MIND OF MEN
What are you thinking? What do you think? God knows: He who is the Holy One can appraise our thinking according to His standard of Holiness. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is heÖ ."
In the United States we have the American Bureau of Standards that contains a representative standard of weights, measurements, quantities and qualities, etc. to keep us honest. If there was ever a deviation from a certain quantity or quality it could be "tried" by the American Bureau of Standards for its accuracy. Likewise, Christ who is Holy is the Standard for all Spiritual comparisons. For this reason the Scriptures declare that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."
Because we lack, as sinners, the Holiness of God, there must be a new birth. In our next study we will be asking, "What do you believe about the new birth?" In doing so, the Scriptures will show us how to have His holiness. May God bless each of us to be more like Him!
Material From Dr. Max Alderman, Ph.D