Doctrine and Holiness -- By: Douglas Wilson

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 04:2 (Spring 1995)
Article: Doctrine and Holiness
Author: Douglas Wilson

Doctrine and Holiness

Douglas Wilson

An old Puritan tells us that a “blurred finger is unfit to wipe away a blot.” This is something we need to hear; we live in a generation that has blurred virtually everything. When this blurring happens, everything about true religion suffers, but nothing suffers more than the concept of the holy. That which is holy is distinct, clear, separate, and other—it is in no way blurred.

Christians must recover the doctrine of holiness. Theology is, of course, the study of God. But unless men are grossly impertinent, they do not study God in the way a geologist studies the earth, or an astronomer studies the stars. Between man and God is a gulf across which thoughtful men adore; He is the God we worship, not the subject we analyze. But the sin of man makes it perilously easy to drift away from this understanding. One of the central duties of the church’s teaching and preaching ministry is, therefore, to keep the blinding holiness of God constantly in front of those who have “heard it all” before. We must teach and emphasize the doctrine of God’s holiness.

It is quite true that we may mouth the correct words concerning God’s holiness, and yet have our hearts far away from the ramifications of such words. John Newton once commented, “Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.” Glorious hymns on the holiness of God can be sung as if they were dirges commissioned for the funeral of a very nice person indeed. The common reaction to this hypocrisy too easily proclaims that the solution to a lifeless and dry orthodoxy is to mouth incorrect words about the holiness of God. But the solution to dead orthodoxy is not to be found in dead heresy. The grace of God must enable us to speak of God’s holiness in a way that is anointed and applied by Him. The holy God is the living God.

When the early disciples were threatened with harm if they did not cease their preaching, they turned to the Lord in prayer. But instead of rushing to present their problems to God, as we might do in such a circumstance, they began reminding themselves of the identity of their Auditor. “So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: ‘O Lord, it is Thou who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them’“ (Acts 4:24). We are taught by Christ that a mundane request for daily bread, or money for the electric bill, should regularly be prefaced with a reminder that we are speaking...

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