Temples of the Holy Spirit: Paul’s Call to Holiness
The new issue of Credo Magazine released this week: Holiness. The following is an excerpt from Andrew Malone’s article, Temples of the Holy Spirit: Paul’s Call to Holiness. Andrew Malone is Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia, where he is also Dean of Ridley Online. He is the author of Knowing Jesus in the Old Testament? A Fresh Look at Christophanies (IVP, 2015) and God’s Mediators: A Biblical Theology of Priesthood (Apollos/IVP, 2017).
Among many Christian assumptions about “holiness,” the best definitions relate to access and security clearance. To draw closer to God, one must be increasingly holy. The proverb “cleanliness is next to godliness” might be recast better as “holiness is next to godliness.” God himself is the ultimate standard of holiness. Indeed, to say that God is holy is almost redundant.
Layers of security guarded access to God in the temple. Scholars talk helpfully about “graded holiness,” akin to successive checkpoints in the White House or rings on an archery target. A person had to be increasingly “holy” to move closer to God, especially to enter the two rooms at the heart of the temple: the “Holy Place” and the “Most Holy Place” with the ark. Several sacrifices in Leviticus increased one’s holiness rating. And some levels of holiness couldn’t be bought. The closest access to God was reserved for the holiest Israelite: the eldest male born into the right tribe (Levi’s) and the right family (Aaron’s). This high priest could enter closest to God’s presence but once each year, wearing his turban and its gold emblem engraved with the title “Holy to the LORD” (Exod. 28:36).
“Holiness” is thus a measure of privileged access. It is then secondary and derivative to think about how being suited to God’s presence makes one appear “set apart” or “distinct” from the wider godless world or more “pious” in behavior.
The Holy Spirit
Perhaps not directly linked, and perhaps equally surprising, the Holy/ Godly Spirit was similarly inaccessible in Old Testament times. Certainly the Spirit was at work within Israel, but his primary work was to empower individual leaders. We read of specific judges being empowered by the Spirit to rescue God’s people (e.g., Judg. 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25). Moses’ administrative spirit was shared with other judicial leaders (esp. Num. 11:16–30). King Saul lost God’s authorization—and the Holy Spirit—once David was anointed as the next monarch (1 Sam. 16:13, 14). (We should think twice about using parts of David’s confession prayer in Psalm 51:10–12. David there feared a loss of the king-making Holy Spirit in a way that Christians never face.) Specific prophets recognized the Spirit’s special work in their ministries (e.g., Mic. 3:8; Ezek. 2:2). Old Testament figures thus looked forward to a time when everyone among God’s people would be granted the special presence of God through his empowering Spirit. Click To Tweet
Old Testament figures thus looked forward to a time when everyone among God’s people would be granted the special presence of God through his empowering Spirit. When Moses’ workload was shared with seventy Israelite elders, Moses longed for a time when “all the LORD’s people” would be blessed this way (Num. 11:29). As the Israelites progressively disappointed God in his eyes and the eyes of the surrounding pagan nations, the prophets looked forward to a day when God would instill in all Israel a new Spirit (or a new experience of the Spirit). It accompanied the language of a new heart (Ezek. 36:22–32, esp. 36:26–27). Although lacking overt Spirit language, God foresaw a new covenant — a New Testament — that this age of the Spirit would bring (Jer. 31:31–34). Perhaps best known to us is Joel’s expectation of the universal breadth of this outpouring of the Spirit: on sons and daughters, on old men and young, on male and female slaves, “on all flesh” (Joel 2:28–32). We know these words because this is the phenomenon Peter identifies on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). …
Read Andrew Malone’s entire article in the new issue of Credo Magazine.