A Magnificent Mystery: Holiness and Grace
What comes to mind when you think of God’s holiness? Is He off somewhere on a far mountain? Is He unapproachable in a sanctuary dimly lit with candles? Or is He right where you are, in midst of your activities?
A magnificent mystery lies between God’s holy nature and His grace that reaches us in our every day lives.
The holiness of God and grace are discussed in the following excerpt from Day One of The Grace Impact:
When encounter light in the midst of darkness, we shield our eyes. Likewise, when we begin to understand God’s holiness, we shield our eyes spiritually from the brightness. Such holiness is so pure it is blinding in the darkness around us. God is described as the one “who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.”(1 Tim. 6:16a)
The word “holy” comes from a root word meaning “to separate.” God is separated from — or exalted above — all things. 1 His qualities of purity and holiness set Him apart from everything He has created. His holiness is almost incomprehensible to our limited, inadequate minds. God is perfect and pure — deserving our reverence and adoration. When we learn more about God’s nature as revealed in His Word, we can begin to recognize His holiness.
The prophet Isaiah saw a revelation of God’s holiness in the midst of despair. He lived during the time of King Uzziah who reigned fifty-two years as a godly and powerful king. His death was a national tragedy in the ancient world, causing fear and uncertainty for the future of the nation. It was at this point of discouragement that Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord described in Isaiah 6:1-5.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.
When faced with the astounding holiness of God, Isaiah saw his own ungodliness and unworthiness. He was “undone” and “ruined” as he realized his despair and sin. But God didn’t leave him in his hopeless condition. Isaiah 6:6-7 continues:
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
God initiated an act of grace by reaching out to Isaiah with forgiveness so he could stand in God’s holy presence. The impact of God’s grace on Isaiah changed his life. He went from fearful and discouraged to bold and courageous as he responded with a willingness to serve the holy God of the universe.
Likewise, we decide how we will respond to God’s holiness. We have sinned and are unworthy of being in God’s presence. In spite of our unworthiness, God beckons us to consider His holiness as Isaiah did and be moved — by a crisis if need be — to see how much we need Him.
God does not remain unapproachable, but desires personal reconnection with each one of us. He initiates the relationship by extending grace. At the crossroad where God’s grace and our lives intersect we have a choice to turn away from God or to embrace Him. That is where the grace impact begins for us. By accepting His grace, we receive total forgiveness, complete acceptance, and unconditional love from God. At this point, the Holy Spirit initiates transformation in the yielded heart.
Grace allows us, as imperfect sinners, to have a connection with God. Only by God’s initiative of extending grace to us, can we enter such a relationship.
This invitation of grace is further explained in Isaiah 57:15.
“For this is what the high and exalted One says — he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
Here is a magnificent mystery— the holy, exalted God of the universe chooses to restore our relationship with Him. He does not cast us away from His presence because of anything we have done or not done, but desires to connect with us in spite of our undeserving condition.
I’ve wrestled with this mystery and attempted to explain it. In the end, all I could do was accept and receive it as Isaiah did, with worship. I’m grateful that the holy God of the universe extends grace to us, allowing us to have a relationship with Him.
God is holy; His grace is amazing and reaches us.
How do you respond to this mystery?
To learn more about the magnificent mystery of holiness and grace, listen to this episode of the Living Life Unedited internet radio show.
¹from Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary.