I am sharing some thoughts from God in the Wasteland (Eerdmans, 1994) by David Wells. According to Wells, this book deals with how “cultural factors influenced the evangelical church and what steps need “to be taken to reverse the situation” (ix).
The gospel of Our Time frequently is unthinking and superficial, frequently is believed and preached without urgency, and the reason is that it has yet to dawn on many in the church that God in his holiness is deeply and irrevocably set in opposition to the world because of its sin. It is time to recover the biblical emphasis on the fact that God is in his very essence holy (137).
God’s holiness carries with it the demand of exclusive loyalty to him (138).
God in holiness loves with the deep, exclusive passion of a lover who will tolerate no rivals. This is why worldliness in the New Testament—the infatuation with what is fallen and fading in culture—is characterized as unfaithfulness (139).
Throughout the ancient Near East, holiness was more commonly ascribed to people, articles, and places than to gods and goddesses. The Old Testament presentation of God’s holiness constituted a radical departure on this point, specifically reversing this arrangement. God alone is holy; whatever holiness is associated with persons, places, and articles derives not from what they are in themselves but only from the fact that they have been separated for use in the service of Yahweh (139).
This loftiness in Yahweh, this burning purity, goes hand in hand with tenderness—another marked contrast between him and the pagan gods and goddesses (139).
These two themes—the unblemished purity of God for which he is so exalted and the consequence of this, his tenderness and compassion, increasingly appear together and are joined in the covenant (140).
It is God’s holiness that reveals sin to be sin, says P. T. Forsyth, it is also God’s holiness “that necessitates the work of Christ, that calls for it, and that provides it (14).
God’s holiness and majesty belong together and interpret one another. There is also a profound moral aspect to this majesty. The reason that God is separate, high, and lifted up is his consuming, burning purity (140-141).
The New Testament encourages a bold confidence in our access to God through Christ’s holiness and by his work, but in our confidence we must never be careless of the purity of God or the requirements he has established for his people. The holiness of God begets and requires in those who approach him the echo of his holiness (141-142).
God in his holiness is deeply intrusive, cutting to the very heart of our inner life. His truth is “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” He lays claim to the entirety of our inner life; all is open and “laid bare before the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:12, 13). Specifically, he demands that the external expressions of our inner life be fully in accord with the fact that we belong to him through Christ, consistent with his truth, and obedient to his moral law (143).
What do you think? This is the final installment of this series.