The Perfect Portrait of Holiness: The Life of Christ

In this article we will look at the perfect portrait of holiness, seen in the life of Christ when He was here on earth. There are many beautiful aspects of our Lord’s life that fill our hearts with awe every time we ponder them, such as His humility, compassion, faithfulness and obedience; but all were underscored by His holiness. We will consider some of the witnesses to and the features of His holiness.

Witnesses to His Holiness

His holiness was acclaimed by seraphim. As the prophet Isaiah saw the Lord on the throne, the seraphim cried out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (6:3).[1] Who is the Lord of Hosts they refer to? The Apostle John leaves us in no doubt: “These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him” (Joh 12:41). Thus, in His preincarnate existence, before He ever left the splendour of glory, He was acclaimed as the thrice holy one.

His holiness was announced by angels. Before the Lord left heaven to come into the world, the angel said to Mary, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luk 1:35). The Lord in His life was blameless, perfect and without defilement, but more than all that, He was absolutely holy.

His holiness was acknowledged by demons. Both Mark and Luke record the occasion when a demon in a man, recognising the Lord in the synagogue in Capernaum, cried out, “I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God” (Luk 4:34). The Lord silenced the witness of the demon, then cast him out.

His holiness was attested by apostles. After Pentecost, Peter challenged the leaders of Israel, “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses” (Act 3:14-15). Quoting Psalm 16, referring to the Lord’s death, Peter said, “Neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (2:27); Paul also quoted the same Psalm (see 13:35). In Acts 4, after the apostles were commanded by the Sanhedrin not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, they were released. Their response was to gather with their own company to pray, acknowledging that the healing, signs and wonders were done “through the name of thy holy servant Jesus” (v30 JND).

These glimpses confirm God’s vindication of Christ’s holiness, so it is little wonder that the writer to the Hebrews said that He is “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (7:26).

Features of His Holiness

We can view the features of His holiness in two ways: first, by what was absent from His person and, second, by what was present. The absences within His life which displayed His holiness are presented by the apostles Peter, Paul and John.

Peter speaks of the Lord as one “who did no sin” (1Pe 2:22). It is a wonder to our souls that He lived in a defiling and corrupt world for well over 30 years and never sinned. No taint of sin ever was seen in anything He said or did. He “went about doing good” (Act 10:38) in a world where “there is none that doeth good” (Rom 3:12). He could challenge the Pharisees and Jews, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (Joh 8:46). Pilate could find no fault in Him at all, and the thief on the adjacent cross said, “This man hath done nothing amiss” (Luk 23:41). He did no sin because He was holy.

Paul records Christ’s holiness of mind – He “knew no sin” (2Co 5:21). The thought in the word “knew” is not that of knowing something academically but by experience. In our Lord’s person there was no acquaintance with or consciousness of sin. It was completely alien and repugnant to Him, and He was untouched in His mind with sin.

John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, said about Him, “In him is no sin” (1Jn 3:5). When we come to John, it is the intrinsic holiness of soul or inner being that is brought before us. John portrays Christ as the sinless, perfect and holy Lamb of God. The passover lamb of Exodus had to be without blemish, that is, outwardly flawless, without defect to the eye; but the Lord “was without blemish and without spot” (1Pe 1:19).

Considering the scriptural record above, any suggestion that He was able to sin is anathema and impinges upon His deity and holy humanity. He was neither tempted by sin nor tempted to sin. Some, erroneously, would say that He was able not to sin, but that would reflect wrongly on His holiness. No, rather it is correct to say that He was not able to sin, as He is verily God.

Finally, what were the positive features of His holiness? John records for us, “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Joh 1:14). Prophetically, the Psalmist said, “His delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (1:2). This was uniquely true of Christ, to whom the writer to the Hebrews attributes the words in Psalm 40:7-8, “Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” He was God manifest in the flesh, holy and pure in every aspect of His being. He ever displayed this by His personal righteousness, justice, love, compassion, grace and truth.

Without a trace of Adam’s sin,
As Man unique in origin,
All fair without, all pure within,
Our Blessed Lord!

–(I.Y. Ewan)

What is the import of this perfect portrait for us? Peter, in his statement on Christ’s holiness, says that He has left us an example that we should follow His footsteps. Paul emphasizes that the one who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Finally, John writes “that ye sin not” (1Jn 2:1), and one of the reasons is that the one who was manifested to take away our sins is one in whom there is no sin. May we ever be in awe at the portrait of holiness as manifested by Christ and seek to be more like Him.

[1] Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.