“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7
One aspect of God’s character that is particularly important to understand is His holiness. He is perfectly pure, good, and righteous. There is no evil in Him at all. The book of Psalms says, “For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome.”(Psalm 5:4) And the apostle John described God as being light, with no darkness. Free from all evil, God is the essence of purity and light.
(Additional study: Job 34:10-12 and Exodus 15:11)
God’s holiness goes together with some of His other qualities, like justice and love. Psalm 33:4-5 says “For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.” And Psalm 89:14 says that God’s very throne is build on things like righteousness and justice. God is a God of kindness and love. He always wants what’s best for us. And He’s perfectly fair and just. He sees us the way we really are, with no favoritism or prejudice to cloud His judgment.
God wants holy, spiritual beings to be with Him in glory in heaven. In Romans 8:17 the apostle Paul tells some other Christians that they are meant to be glorified with God. God intends for us to be perfectly good and holy, just like He is. In fact He writes in Leviticus 20:26 “You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.” Only when we are holy like Him can we truly live lives that will make Him proud. And only then can we be with Him in peace and joy forever.
The Problem of Sin
God’s plan for humankind is truly wonderful. He wants every one of us to be with Him in perfect holiness forever. But there’s a problem: we aren’t holy. Holy people never break God’s laws or do anything wrong. They always know the right thing to do and they always do it. But none of us are like that. Have you ever done something un-holy? Maybe said something you shouldn’t have said? Taken something that didn’t belong to you? Broken a promise? Then this problem affects you, too. In fact, if you think it DOESN’T affect you, then you aren’t being honest, which is another unholy thing to do!
The Bible calls this lack of holiness “sin”, and Romans 3:10-18 describes it eloquently:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.
The poison of vipers is on their lips.
Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) No one has ever succeeded in being perfectly holy. And although God loves us, He’s not just going to ignore our sins. Remember that God is totally just and fair. And remember that He is so holy He can’t stand to be around any kind of sin or wickedness. People who have sinned and broken His laws are repulsive to Him. In Isaiah 59:2 the prophet Isaiah tells some sinful people “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” When people break His laws, God pulls away from them and allows them to experience the consequences of their actions.
Consequences of Sin
And just what are the consequences of sin? What happens to someone who disobeys the laws of the Holy and Powerful God of the universe? It is the worst thing imaginable: death.
Did you know physical death is a direct result of sin? You can read the story in Genesis chapters 2 and 3. When God created the first humans, Adam and Eve, He gave them a home in a beautiful garden, and in the middle of the garden grew two trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The tree of life gave them wonderful life, but God said this about the other tree: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16-17) But Adam and Eve DID eat from the forbidden tree. And God gave terrible punishments to the man and the woman, including this promise of death: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19).
(Additional study: Genesis chapters 2 and 3)
But physical death is not the only consequence of sin. Sin also causes spiritual death, which is much more terrible. Think about it this way: in physical death your spirit is separated from your BODY. In spiritual death, your spirit is separated from GOD. We’ve already discussed why this happens: God is so holy He cannot stand to be around wickedness, and we are wicked because of our sins. The only possible result of sin is separation from God at the spirit level. This separation is so horrible it is also described as a “death” in the Bible. Speaking about their life before salvation, Paul told the Ephesians: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1).
Death: A Just Penalty
Death is a natural consequence of sin. God’s nature demands it. It can be no other way. But not only is death the natural consequence of sin, it’s also God’s penalty for sin. Our nation’s laws have penalties for breaking them (fines, imprisonment, capital punishment). The penalty for breaking God’s law is always death. “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23). Whenever a sin has taken place, someone has to die.
This leaves us in a rather hopeless position. Because of sin we will all experience physical death one day. We have already experienced spiritual death because of our personal sins. And unless we do something about this, our spirits will remain separated from God forever! There’s no way out of our punishment without someone paying the price of death. Even if God wanted to excuse us and let us go free, how could He do such a thing and still be the just and fair Ruler that we know He is? There’s no getting out of this one. We all have a judgment on our heads.