“God is love” (1 John 4:8) is a very well-known, indisputable truth. Another truth that is just as important is this one: “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts.” Isaiah 6:3. Biblical scholar R. C. Sproul made the following observation about how the truth of God’s holiness is not being emphasized enough:
“The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy, the whole earth is full of His glory.” [R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1985), p. 40].
One of the main reasons why the church is in a spiritual crisis is because many of our members are standing in two different camps. On one side is love and on the other side is holiness. The reason why the church is divided today is because we have divided God’s love from His holiness.
Love without holiness degenerates into sentimentalism and antinomianism (lawlessness) where sin is no longer sinful and morality doesn’t mean anything. The result is an “anything goes” theology in which nothing is sacred anymore. And holiness without love leads to Phariseeism – a bitter, harsh religion that is based on external forms and man-made rules. Phariseeism is not genuine because it is self-righteous, self-serving and full of “holy” hypocrisy. The result is that no one is ever worthy enough.
It is of vital importance to the life and spirituality of our faith that we affirm both love and holiness – simultaneously. Many Christians have convinced themselves that they can somehow celebrate and exalt God’s love while ignoring or downplaying His holiness. God’s attributes and character cannot be divided. He is love and He is holy or He is not God – at least not the God of the Bible. To seek to remove the holiness of God from the love of God is to distort the God of heaven. We mar the character of God and He then becomes a god of our own making and not the true God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.
Should the church succeed in shutting out the holiness of God from the people and instead focus only on His love – what would be the result? We would create a church that is compassionate, kind and attractive; but it would also be a church that is unable to deal with the great moral crisis of our time. We would not be able to resist the onslaught of transgressions that the devil would bring upon us. We might have an outward attraction and we would certainly have love for everyone, but we would not have the moral capacity to resist wrong, call sin by its name or seek to remove it from our midst.
This is exactly where we are at today. This is the reason why the church is divided and why both the secular world and the Christian world are morally turned upside down. We have separated God’s love from His holiness. Sadly, we knew this crisis was coming, for it was predicted over 100 years ago:
“The Bible is interpreted in a manner that is pleasing to the unrenewed heart, while its solemn and vital truths are made of no effect. Love is dwelt upon as the chief attribute of God, but it is degraded to a weak sentimentalism making little distinction between good and evil. God’s justice, his denunciations of sin, the requirements of his holy law, are all kept out of sight” (Great Controversy, 558).