In the Old Testament "holiness", holy people, places and things, is the major emphasis of sanctification. Jehovah God is above all else a holy God who by his very nature sanctifies all persons and things to which he relates. To Moses, God said out of the burning bush: "Draw not nigh hither- put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground" Exodus 3: 5.
When God appointed Israel's worship of him in the tabernacle and when God formally appointed Aaron and his family to the priesthood, God said to Moses: "And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory and I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest's office" Exodus 29: 43-44.
God's holiness is one of the dominant themes of the Old Testament. Isaiah says Jehovah is "the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy" Isa. 57: 15. His holiness is so overpowering that nothing is comparable to him. "To whom then will you liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One" Isa. 40: 25.
So magnificent is God's holiness that when Isaiah saw him in a vision, he immediately confessed his human imperfections, his complete lack of sanctification or holiness. Upon seeing the glory and holiness of the Lord, Isaiah cried: "Woe is me! for I am undone: because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" Isa. 6: 5.
The New Testament also gives great emphasis to sanctification. The Apostle Paul's prayer for Christians at Thessalonica was: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" I Thess. 5: 23.
One of the greatest announcements is the "good news that every person who responds to Jesus Christ can personally become a part of God's very nature. The Apostle Peter explains this opportunity as follows: "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us 'Lo glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" II Peter 1: 3-4.
The New Testament becomes even more specific as to how we can participate in.God's nature, how we can know his holiness in our lives. When praying for his apostles, Jesus said: "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth" John 17: 17. This marvelous change of our human natures, God's word declares, is made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" Hebrew 10: 10. "For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" Hebrew 10: 14.
God himself is at the heart of this gift of his holiness to man. Our sanctification was part of his divine plan designed in eternity before the creation of time and matter. "But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" II Thess 2: 13.
The question remains, however, "How do we receive God's holiness in our lives? What responsibility, if any, do we have?" The New Testament answers our question in this manner, as we read the apostle Paul's admonition to Christians in the city of Philippi "Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but how much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" Phil. 2: 12-13.
This is the same balance between the human and the divine that Paul reveals when he talks in terms of Christ's sanctification of the church. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" Eph. 5: 25-27.
We can know a totally new inner strength! We can have the presence of Jesus Christ in our daily lives and the fullness of God's nature in our being when we accept God's gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. Christ calls for our complete trust or faith in him (John 7: 37-39), for our repentance from all past sin (Luke 13: 3), for our open acknowledgment of this belief (Matthew 10: 32-33), for our obedience in baptism to receive God's forgiveness (Acts 2: 38), and Christ sanctifying presence (Gal. 2: 20) and purpose (Phil. 1: 21).