The concept of “a holy life” is built upon community. THE Community. The first Community that existed before the dawn of time. The wholly, self-giving, reciprocal, inter-relationality of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that dwelt together in perfect, unbroken relationship and in holy, perfect, loving, uninterrupted communion.
This goes contrary to my prior understanding of a highly-individualized “holy life” (i.e. I have “my” holy life, and you have “your” holy life over there, and they each have “their” holy [separate] lives over there…). No.
In the previous post, we saw that God was holy before man ever existed, because He dwelt in a Triune Community of perfectly reciprocal self-giving love. God’s holiness was not just in what He did, but in who He was. Today’s post will focus on the depth and meaning and richness of what His call for humanity into that awesome holiness, and what it actually means for us! Jesus’ sacrifice bought us SO MUCH MORE than just our salvation.
The Community that is the Triune God is the holy life to which God calls us. When God says He wants that holy life for us, He is not talking about making us each into a perfect, saintly, do-no-wrong, island of an individual person – NO! It is so much more! So much better! So much more beautiful! It is for something that is actually worth the blood of His Son!
The invitation is for us to join Him – God – His Triune Community of true, real, deep, perfectly loving, holy life – to partake in unbroken communion – holy fellowship & relationship – with Him! That is the thing for which Jesus was willing to leave heaven, bleed and die to secure for us!
Holiness is the clear expectation of God toward man all throughout the Bible:
- “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy…. I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44-45)
- “Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ ” (1 Peter 1:15-16).
- In the giving of the Law in Exodus and Leviticus, God repeatedly commanded His people to be holy.
- The Prophets called the holy people of God to return to holy relationship with Him and with each other.
- The call of Jesus upon His followers was into a life of holy relationship with God.
- The writers of the Epistles called their readers to a life of holiness through the Spirit before and with God.
- And in John’s glimpse of heaven in Revelation, he got to see the holy people of God, gathered around the throne in joyful unhindered adoration of the One who is Holy, Holy, Holy!
Holiness is God’s ultimate call upon humanity. But this call is not merely to right action and good behavior. Holiness is not just what He wants from us, it is what He wants for us! It is the real, abundant, vibrant life of communion together with Him that He invites us into!
God calls us to holiness “that we may participate in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4, John 17:19). Athanasius explained that this was the beauty of the Gospel: that “Jesus was first God and then man, in order that He might allow us to share in His deity”.
God did not extend salvation to mankind simply to empower man to “be better” or do good things. God saved man to restore humanity’s broken relationship with God. The call to holiness is the call to return to the divine inter-relationality that is whole, loving, unwaveringly present, and perfectly intimate.
True holiness is perfect, unbroken fellowship among fellow beings, just as it was between Father, Son, and Spirit even before creation. God saves us for, and calls us into, His holiness – His own perfect, unbroken divine fellowship! Gregory of Nyssa wrote that Jesus’ work makes us holy by “bring[ing] us into union with Himself”.
Cyril of Alexandria summarized the work of the Holy Spirit in making us holy, not just for right action, but to be made whole and united with Christ in our inmost being. He said, “The Holy Spirit works in us, truly sanctifying us and joining us to Himself; and by this coalescence and union of ourselves with Him, He makes us sharers in the divine nature, beautifying human nature with the splendor of the divinity”.
This is the true definition of holiness, rooted in the nature and essence of He Who alone is Holy. As we cooperate with the Spirit’s work within us by faith, He makes us holy, inviting us into His own divine intimacy of perfect, unbroken, relational fellowship.
Cyprian reminds us that Jesus’ prayer from John 17 was that believers would be “a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”. We will be like Him! (1 John 3:2). The miracle and beauty of the Spirit’s inner working of holiness within us is that it makes us become one with Him.
 C.R.B. Shapland, trans., Letters of St. Athanasius Concerning the Holy Spirit, to Serapion (Philosophical Library, 1951), 1.24.
 St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit (St. Vladimirs Seminary Press, 1980), 23.
 Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius.
 Cyril of Alexandria, Thesaurus 34.
 Cyprian, Treatises 9.23.