Exploring the Essence of Holiness in Christianity

Feb 14


Bruce McLaughlin

Bruce McLaughlin

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The quest for holiness is a central theme in Christianity, reflecting God's own purity and perfection. Holiness is not merely a concept but a transformative journey that shapes the believer's will, intellect, heart, and actions to align with God's character. This journey is marked by the pursuit of righteousness, love, integrity, and moral excellence, all of which find their meaning in the divine holiness of God. As Christians strive to embody these virtues, they navigate the challenges of human fallibility and the influence of sin, relying on the Holy Spirit's guidance and grace to progress on the path of sanctification.

The Divine Standard of Holiness

Holiness is the defining characteristic of God,Exploring the Essence of Holiness in Christianity Articles encompassing all His other attributes. It signifies the absolute purity and perfection of His being, wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and truth. The concepts of love, integrity, righteousness, sanctification, morality, ethics, and character are intrinsically linked to God's holiness, as they derive their meaning from His perfect nature.

Humanity's Pursuit of Holiness

Created in God's image, humans possess a soul with the capacity for will, intellect, and heart, enabling them to perform actions. Holiness in humans, like in God, is both a state and an act. A person's state is holy when their will, intellect, and heart mirror those of God. Their actions are holy when they stem from a holy state and reflect what God would do in their stead.

The Dichotomy of Sin and Holiness

Sin represents everything that is not holy. The state of a person's will, intellect, and heart, as well as their actions, can be either holy or sinful. Holiness and sin are mutually exclusive, with no overlap between them. This dichotomy underscores the Christian understanding that sin is the antithesis of God's nature and the barrier to achieving holiness.

The Role of Free Will and the Holy Spirit

While reality often follows a causal chain, God does not predetermine human free will decisions. Humans are not always inclined to choose holiness, and their finite intellect and deceitful hearts can justify sin. The key to overcoming these limitations is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who purifies the believer's will, intellect, and heart. The Holy Spirit's prevenient grace works to awaken, convict, and empower individuals toward salvation and sanctification. However, the Holy Spirit respects human agency and will not impose His presence where He is not welcomed.

The Journey of Sanctification

The journey to holiness begins with the recognition of one's sinful nature and the need for God's mercy. Upon salvation, the Holy Spirit begins the work of regeneration, revealing God's will and discerning truth. The believer is then freed from the bondage of sin and can pursue righteousness. This new life involves daily dying to sin and living in obedience, faith, and repentance, allowing the Holy Spirit to transform the heart and mind progressively.

The Possibility of Achieving Holiness

Scripture suggests that achieving holiness, at least temporarily, is possible. God's commands for holiness (e.g., Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 1:15-16) and promises of grace (e.g., Deuteronomy 30:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) indicate that a mature response to grace and a life of loving holiness are attainable. The prayers of the apostles for complete holiness (e.g., John 17:20-23, Ephesians 3:14-21) and the examples of sanctified individuals in the Bible (e.g., Genesis 5:18-24, Acts 11:24) support this possibility.

The Evidence of Sanctification

Identifying those who have achieved entire sanctification or special empowerment by the Holy Spirit can be challenging. Rather than relying on denominational certifications or personal claims, examining the fruits of one's life (Matthew 7:16-20, Galatians 5:22-23) may provide a more accurate reflection of their spiritual state.

Misconceptions About Holiness

Several misconceptions about holiness persist within Christian circles. These include the belief that holiness is imputed at salvation, that confession and repentance are unnecessary after accepting Christ, and that speaking in tongues is a definitive sign of empowerment by the Holy Spirit. These views are not supported by a comprehensive understanding of Scripture and the nature of the Christian life.


Holiness in Christianity is a dynamic process that involves the transformation of the believer's entire being to reflect God's purity. It is not an instantaneous change but a gradual impartation that unfolds through a life of confession, repentance, and obedience. While perfection is unattainable in this life, the pursuit of holiness remains a noble and essential endeavor for every Christian.

For further reading on the topic of holiness and its implications for Christian living, consider exploring resources from The Gospel Coalition or Desiring God.