Kingdom Holiness

Kingdom Holiness November 3, 2010

The word “holy” or “holiness” don’t often appear these days in some of the most influential books on the Christian life. In fact, holiness seems to be a word that speaks language of a former era. There are reasons for the alienating impact of the word “holiness.”

Too many used this word for restraining from alcohol or from smoking or from marijuana or from sex before marriage — so that the word gathered for itself only negative ideas. The positive idea of holiness disappeared. You can blame the old-fashioned fundamentalist if you want, but the word is important and it is vital to a biblical sense of what it means to have a heart for God.

One could say the ethic of the Temple was permeated with holiness; in fact, Israel’s Torah was a Torah designed to make Israel holy. And there’s more than a few examples of the summons to holiness in the New Testament.

But one area where the term rarely appears is when it comes to the ethic of Jesus. We get most often, and properly so, the word “love.” Jesus reduced Torah to the twin commandments of loving God and loving others. But love does not obliterate holiness; genuine holiness is love on fire. It is love absorbed with the right person and the right thing. The Jesus kind of love is a holy love. Kingdom living manifests that holy love.

In my book , I try to cast a vision of what can be called “kingdom holiness.” What does holiness look like if it is shaped by the kingdom vision of Jesus?

Join the One.Life summons. Jesus calls us to kingdom holiness. You’ve got one life. Give it to Jesus.

Book here: One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow.

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  • T

    I’m glad you’ve picked up this theme, Scot. I’d like to see the concept of holiness redeemed from some kind of religious perfectionism to a person who is only available for good, for love. God is holy because he is never interested or pulled toward evil, but always pulled toward good.

    I’m getting excited about this book.

  • DRT

    Yes, Scot. Thanks for this. I don’t know where you go in your book, but in my journey I am believing that sanctification as a process is something that can be grown in us and, more forcefully, has to be grown. I just looked up sanctification and the second definition is like your comment about withholding from sin, but that misses only captures one effect, not the thing itself.

    I look forward to your book and thank you for your blog.


  • Terry

    Scot, thanks for this, and to Zondervan for those first few pages. This has long been my favorite theme, topic, “dream” related to my life in Jesus and I’ve often preached on it (once spending months just preaching through all of Jesus’ “follow me” statements and requests. I’m excited for the book. The Table of Contents fires my imagination; in reading the excerpt I was teased enough to be frustrated at not being able to turn the page. Thanks for that too, I think.

  • “Holy” works beside another misunderstood and often avoided word: “glory.”

    “Genuine holiness is love on fire.” *Win*

    Cheers, Jeff

  • Jay Werner

    I am very interested in this theme of holiness. Lately I have been thinking what really does holiness look like. Especially in reference to who God is as Father, Son, and Spirit. How do we define holiness in reference to the relationship that God has within himself. I am trying to think how or what holiness looks like relationally i guess. Any thoughts or ideas?

  • Scot maybe you could say a few things on what you thing the definition of holiness is.

  • Ana Mullan

    Very helpful insight Scot. It reminded me of what Dallas Willard refers as: the gospel of sin management, we understand the good news as good news for the after life and while we are here, we manage or avoid certain sins an for that reason we think we have understood Jesus idea of holiness. Holiness, as you said, is understood by many as a killer joy,no fun in life, while the biblical idea of holiness actually leads us to live fuller lives, lives as God intended them to be.

  • smcknight

    Jay, driving holiness back to God, prior to creation, reveals that holiness can’t be defined adequately as separation.

    Holiness is pure love moving in the right direction. God’s holiness within the perichoretic dance of the Trinity is seen in pure devotion of Father, Son and Spirit to Father, Son and Spirit.

  • jordan


    Do you have any thoughts on R.C. Sproul’s “The Holiness of God”? It’s supposed to be a classic (coming from the neoReformed folks I read) and I’m just starting it. I would be interested to hear your assessment based on what you’re doing in One.Life.

  • smcknight

    Jordan, I don’t dwell on the term holiness in OneLife, but instead more on kingdom but the whole book is a sketch of what kingdom holiness looks like.

    I looked at Sproul’s book long ago; I like Packer’s stuff on this in Knowing God and I also like AW Tozer and the balancer of these two: Rudolf Otto. But there’s another small book on holiness by a German and I can’t recall his name… on the shelf at home.