Few subjects bring us closer to the living center of reformation and revival - and clarify their ultimate goal-than does the matter of human holiness. This is because human holiness lies close to the heart of God Himself. The Bible tells us that when God nurtures His children, the purpose behind His discipline of His children is "that we may share His holiness [hagiotetos]" (Heb. 12:10). Moreover, God calls His children to "pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification [hagiasmon] without which no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). Human holiness, or godliness, is the heart of Christian obedience to God.
To understand the dimensions of biblical holiness, I want to explore with you the biblical-theological significance and relationship between human holiness and the doctrine of creation. What does the doctrine of creation, especially of man's creation as the image of God, imply for true practical holiness? Naturally, restricting our focus to this question prevents us from discussing the wide range of biblical teaching regarding the crucial doctrine of Sanctification.
Why consider this connection between human holiness and creation?
One of my primary objectives is to show that for Christian spirituality to be biblically healthy, it must be shaped by the Bible's doctrine of creation, especially of man as God's image.
Elsewhere I have described Christian spirituality to consist in those practices of piety designed to cultivate holiness through awareness of and commitment to God, His Word, and His people.  By "practices of piety" I refer especially to use of the means of grace, which may be distinguished as official (the public reading and preaching of God's Word, and use of the holy sacraments) and personal (Bible reading, prayer, meditation, and fasting). But what is the goal or objective of all these activities? That we may live and walk before God in His creation unto His glory, out of true faith, and according to His precepts. This is the beautiful description of "good works" given us in the Heidelberg Catechism (Q. A. 91).
Practices of piety include worship, Bible reading, prayer, and the like. The proper goal of our piety is this life of good works - and that is what we mean by holiness. Christian holiness is not expressed simply by praying before we eat, or reading and discussing a Bible passage after we eat. Christian holiness involves also growing or buying our food, preparing it for eating, savoring its taste, and using its nutrition. Worship and work, meditation and vocation, exercising body and soul, all belong to Christian holiness. Another word for all these human activities is culture.
This life of good works lived in God's creation necessarily involves us in history and culture as well. As human beings we are heirs, beneficiaries of those who have explored many places, invented many tools, investigated many ideas long before we came on the scene. By virtue of creation, we are inescapably historical-cultural beings, participants in creation's time and development.
Christian spirituality needs, therefore, to cultivate the kind of holiness that discerns the times. There is a time to pray, and a time to work. A time to fold our hands and close our eyes, and a time to unclasp our hands and open our eyes. A time to fast, and a time to feast. A time to be still in quiet meditation, and a time to sweat in battling creation's curse. All of these times are holy. Knowing what "time" it is belongs to Christian spirituality.
Before We Begin ...
Before embarking upon our expedition, let us agree that both Old and New Testaments together are necessary for a proper understanding of human holiness. Although at first glance this claim may appear rather trite and its truthfulness rather obvious, be assured that its implications are far reaching. The language in the New Testament about personal and corporate holiness grows out of the entire Old Testament revelation. Associations, metaphors, and images deriving from Israel's sacrifices, feasts, laws, priestly functions, and the like, receive their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, God's Holy One, and in Him they obtain realization in the life of the Christian church and Christian believers. In the Old Testament, the principles and dynamics of Christian holiness reside in God's covenantal relationship with Israel, and belong to His covenantal revelation to Israel. In the New Testament these principles and dynamics find their concentration point in Jesus Christ, and by His Holy Spirit are imparted to the church, the body of Christ.
To ignore the Old Testament in our quest to understand human holiness, therefore, is to risk serious error and to expose ourselves to the real dangers inherent in dispensational morality. "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The apostle Peter did not invent the exhortation, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." He quoted it from the Old Testament when he wrote, "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy'" (1 Peter 1:14-16).
Why Holiness and Creation?
Let me press a bit further with another, perhaps more controversial, claim. It is this: A biblical understanding of human holiness requires a description of the character of human holiness before the Fall, at creation. To set forth a doctrine of Christian holiness without consideration of the doctrine of creation is to risk serious error and to expose Human Holiness and Creation ourselves to the real dangers inherent in mysticism and pietism.
Christian holiness must be understood initially - but not exclusively - in terms of man's pre-Fall, creational situation. Why?
One important reason for defending this assertion is the penchant to define holiness simply as separation from sin. If this is all that human holiness is, then such holiness is essentially negative, characterized by the absence, rather than the presence, of something. This definition of holiness leads to a practice of holiness that is similarly negative; it is what people don't do, what they avoid and condemn, that constitutes practical holiness. This defective view of holiness obligates us only to negative conformity, not to filial obedience. Negative conformity requires no love of God, however, which is the inherent and irreparable defect of defining holiness merely as separation from evil. By contrast, the Lord God wants both our hearts and our hands, both our love of the good and our hatred of evil. Surely this is implied by the apostle Peter's words: "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts ... but ... be holy yourselves also in all your behavior ...." The believer's negative conformity must be joined to the positive conformity denoted by the biblical view of holiness.
If we go back to the beginning, to Paradise, we realize that before sin entered human experience, Adam and Eve's holiness consisted positively in their obedience to God, their respect for His commandments, their heart-fellowship with Him and each other as they tilled the Garden. Their gardening was their enjoyment and expression of the creational integrity, harmony, and order that were later shattered by their fall into sin. In other words, our parents in Paradise spent each day doing far more than staying away from a particular forbidden tree.
Therefore, if we expand the definition of holiness to include both separation from sin and consecration to God, then we have something positive, a God-ward direction within human holiness which calls for the love of our heart and the devotion of our whole being to God. Here, too, we recognize something of man's original splendor and glory. Adam and Eve were created, and for a time lived, in holiness before God, completely separated from evil and perfectly dedicated to Him and His will. So this expansion is helpful and necessary, because it brings us back to the beginning, to creation, to mankind's pre-Fall situation.
Another reason to relate human holiness with creation is this. Church history shows, and the practice of piety confirms, that when we disconnect our view of holiness from God's purposes with man established at Creation, unbiblical dualisms constantly threaten to disconnect our Salvation and Sanctification from our life in God's created world. Whether the dualistic competitors are body and soul, nature and grace, the secular and the sacred, or freedom and nature, such dualisms inevitably yield a reduction of God's grace and a restriction of His presence, both of which limit true spirituality and genuine human responsibility. If reformation and revival are to be genuine, durable, penetrating, and comprehensive, they must aim at cultivating a spirituality that honors God our Creator by appropriating and applying the work of God our Redeemer to life in creation.
Man As the Image of God
In order to understand human holiness, then, we need to go back to the beginning. We need to understand the meaning of man's creation in the image of God, an event recorded in Genesis 1-2.
Among all the creatures God made, man received a unique place within creation. He was created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26). The biblical doctrine of man as imago Dei is crucial to ethics, because human responsibility, which is that aspect of human personality lying at the center of ethics, belongs to the essence of man's imaging capacity. To be God's image is to have the capacity to respond with voluntary and heartfelt love to God.
Mankind was created to respond within three relationships.
First is man's relationship to God. Unlike any other creature, only man can know God and love Him, enjoy concourse and fellowship with God, obey and worship God. Originally all these responses to God were not instinctual impulses prompted by natural stimuli, but they involved man's heart, mind and will in his integrated and total service of God. His relationship to God was marked by conscious dependence upon God. At creation, man was God's child. Although he was like God, man was the recipient of God's action, not the actor but the one acted upon in creation. Later, the essence of his sin would lay in seeking independence from God, a child rebelling against his Father.
Second, mankind was created in God's image to be responsible to God for the creation itself. Recall the words of Genesis 1:26: "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. '" This mandate of dominion belongs to man's imaging and is part of his being "like God." The child of God is also His royal representative. To be God's image meant that Man was God's vicegerent or administrative deputy, called to represent God Himself by ruling within and over the creation "like God." The psalmist confesses, "Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet" (Ps. 8:6).
All of creation was given to man for his enjoyment and cultivation. The "No Trespassing" sign was nowhere to be found in Paradise. Naturally, man's responsible stewardship of creation entails his dependence upon God's blessing (Ps. 127:1). The apostle Paul, in warning Pastor Timothy about some who would fall away from the faith, identified their doctrinal and moral aberration in terms of their mistaken view of creation. They forbade marriage and required abstinence from certain foods, all of which God created to be received with thanksgiving by believers who know the truth. "For everything created by God is good," the apostle argued, "and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer" (1 Tim. 4:4-5).
Third, to be created in the image of God means to be related to others. We read in Genesis 1:26, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule. ..." God designed this rule to involve partnership and fellowship among people, especially in the marriage relationship, expressed clearly in Genesis 1:27: "And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Sexual differentiation characterizes mankind as the image of God, which means that procreation and development of the human race belong to this task of dominion. The Bible itself shows how all of human society grew and expanded from the family to form a complex network of relationships, interacting spheres of partnership in economics and industry, politics and education, science and art. Here again, love is the expression of God's image, love for our neighbor with whom we share dominion over the creation. Love respects authority in social relationships, protects the life of others, practices sexual fidelity and purity, respects the property of others, is truthful with others and contented with divine providence.
We could compare these three relationships in which the image of God comes to expression to three concentric circles, emanating from a common center in this order: God-neighbor-creation. Notice the order: the Bible teaches that we must love God first, then our neighbor as ourselves. People are more important than the creation, and therefore our relationship to our neighbor stands closer to the center of our human person-hood. This order has implications for ethics as well. 
Another way of making the point is to emphasize that, as elsewhere in Christian theology, we are dealing with prepositional truths. Man was created to be under God, with others, and over creation.
Let us be clear: Man as the image of God means that he reflects God. This vertical dimension; though not the only dimension, is the primary one. It must be reflected in all of man's relationships with others and over the creation.
To man, as the crown of God's creation, was given the privilege of conducting and performing the greatest imaginable symphony of praise to the Creator. Man's creation as image of God was so significant and necessary for the glory of God, wrote John Owen, that the creation lay
as an harmonious, well-tuned instrument, which gives no sound unless there be a skillful hand to move and act it .... How glorious and beautiful soever any of the works of creation appear to be, from impressions of divine power, wisdom, and goodness on them; yet, without this image of God in man, there was nothing here below to understand God in them - to glorify God by them. In many confessions and theology textbooks you will discover the classic Reformed definition of the image of God to be that man is created in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. This triadic formulation has stood the test of time, and forms the basis of Calvin's own analysis of man's creation, sin, and redemption. Its foundational significance appears, for example, in Calvin's expansion upon the apostle Paul's teaching in Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:10:
Now we are to see what Paul chiefly comprehends under this renewal [of man as God's image]. In the first place he posits knowledge, then pure righteousness and holiness. From this we infer that, to begin with, God's image was visible in the light of the mind, in the uprightness of the heart, and in the soundness of all the parts (Institutes 1.15.4).Man's knowledge shines forth in the light of his mind; his righteousness is seen in his uprightness of heart; and - for our purposes, very importantly - man's holiness is exhibited in the soundness of all the parts. Words that come to mind here are integrity, harmony, cooperation, and wholeness. Listen once more to John Owen:
And the harmony of all things among themselves, with all their mutual relations and aspects, in a regular tendency unto their proper and utmost end - whereby though every individual subsistence or being hath a peculiar end of its own, yet all their actings and all their ends tend directly unto one utmost common end of them all - is the principal effect of wisdom. Sin As Disorder
If we may extend Owen's metaphor of man as conductor and performer, to be God's image meant that man shared in, and supervised, creation's integrity, harmony, and order. Divine wisdom (think of Prov. 8 and 1 Cor. 1:24, 30!) secured the harmony of all things at creation. Man was commissioned to keep all the instruments in tune and play them in symphonic praise to God their Creator.
This dimension of Owen's thought agrees with his entire picture of Sanctification. Sanctification is
the restoring of the imago dei in the whole of Man, wherever it has been marred. This involves the reintegration of all the dimensions of Man's existence, so that faith, reason, and emotion are not only cleansed and healed, but reunited in an original harmony. Before Owen penned these words, John Calvin explained the same truth as no other Reformational thinker had. The pattern that man was designed to fulfill, insisted Calvin, was one of order, exhibited in the harmonious cooperation, first, within man himself, of his mind, will, and emotions, whereby all his senses were to be governed in a right order. Says Calvin:
Accordingly, the integrity with which Adam was endowed is expressed by this word ["image" or "likeness"], when he had full possession of right understanding, when he had his affections kept within the bounds of reason, all his senses tempered in right order, and he truly referred his excellence to exceptional gifts bestowed upon him by his Maker (Institutes 1.15.3).This creational pattern included man's social relationships as well, exhibited especially in marriage.
If man's creation as God's image denoted the enjoyment and exercise of harmony and order, then man's fall into sin brought disharmony and disorder into God's creation. "For since Adam by his fall brought into confusion the perfect order of nature, the bondage to which the creatures have been subjected because of man's sin is heavy and grievous to them" (Institutes 3.25.2). Disorder has set in, like a virus infecting man's relationships to God, to others, and to the creation. The prepositional phrases have been altered! Man-in-sin is no longer under God, with others, over creation. His surrender to idolatry places him under creation, alongside God, over others. In his subjection to "perpetual disorder Human Holiness and Creation and excess" (Institutes 3.3.12), man's affections churn in confusion and violate their creational bounds.
Jesus Christ: The Image of God, the Second Adam
Gospel preachers have received the ministry of mercy; theirs is a message of glory, "the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Cor. 4:4). Paul identifies Christ as the image of God, full of divine glory, grace and truth. Jesus Christ is the purest reflection and representation of God ever to appear upon earth, the truest revelation of God in creation's history. When He spoke, they heard God Himself. When He acted, the glory of God radiated from Him.
Christ came to earth as the Second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45- 49). What Adam lost through disobedience, Christ revealed and recovered by His obedience.
This recovery, or restoration, of the image of God is the purpose of divine Election! "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29). Christ is the eikoon, the image of God. By becoming conformed to Him, believers again display the image of God. This present reality (2 Cor. 3:18) obtains eschatological completeness, described in 1 John 3:2 this way: "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is."
In all these passages, Christ's Significance is described in terms derived from Man's creation as image of God.
On the basis of these and other texts (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 4:13), we may say that the purpose of Redemption is to restore and perfect man-as-God's-image. This restoration occurs in Christ alone, who is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15). As the Last Adam, Jesus Christ restores believing mankind to the condition, calling, and competence enjoyed by the first Adam in Paradise.
Consequently, the beginning of our recovery of salvation is in that restoration which we obtain through Christ, who also is called the Second Adam for the reason that he restores us to true and complete integrity .... [T]he end [goal] of regeneration is that Christ should reform us to God's image (John Calvin, Institutes 1.15.4)." Commenting on Ephesians 4:24, Calvin observed: "The regeneration of the godly is indeed, as is said in II Cor. 3.18, nothing else than the reformation of the image of God in them." 
Renewed As the Image of God
One of the clearest biblical formulations of this truth appears in Ephesians 4:24 and its context.
In contrast to their former Gentile-like walk in darkness and sensuality, members of the Ephesian congregation had been taught by the Gospel to "lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit," to "be renewed in the spirit of [their] mind, and [to] put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth" (Eph. 4:22-24). Notice the close connection between the "new self" and "the likeness of God." As a child resembles his father in character and conduct, so the "new self" resembles God. How? In "righteousness and holiness of the truth." This spiritual transformation necessarily issues in new conduct, so that the Christian acts like God. Instead of falsehood, the new self speaks and acts truthfully. Honest work and generosity replace stealing. Edifying speech imparts grace, all forms of malice and bitterness are gone, and tender-hearted forgiveness seasons every relationship.
The new self is created in the likeness of God in righteousness and holiness of the truth. The apostle Paul expressed this same reality in Colossians 3:10: "and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him." Again, the pattern and style of the new self is "the image of the One" who recreates His children in Christ Jesus.
What does this new self look like? "What God is in heaven, such He bids us to be in this world," wrote Calvin. Early in his Institutes, Calvin distinguished true religion from superstition on the basis of this commitment to orderliness. "But godliness, to stand on a firm footing, keeps itself within its proper limits. Likewise, it seems to me that superstition is so called because, not content with the prescribed manner and order, it heaps up a needless mass of inanities" (Institutes 1.12.1). The new self is the composed and harmonious self, able to moderate desire and appetite by means of self-restraint and self-denial, integrating mind, will, and emotions-all after the pattern of Jesus Christ's own life of holiness.  To be conformed to the image of God in Christ is to live an ordered life. Jesus Christ exhibited in His humanity the banishment of excess (ataxia), along with perfect order, true moderation, integrity, and harmony.
When reading works of theology. and doctrinal exposition, I rarely appreciate an author's inclusion of lengthy quotations from others. But fortunately, "rarely" does not mean "never." I beg the reader's indulgence, and ask you to allow - and to appreciate - this single quotation from A. W. Pink that gathers together everything we have investigated thus far:
"Be ye holy, for I am holy." Why? Because herein consists our conformity to God. We were originally created in the image and likeness of God, and that, for the substance of it, was holiness - therein consisted the privilege, blessedness, preeminence of Man over all the lower creatures. Wherefore, without this conformity unto God, with the impress of His image and likeness upon the soul, we cannot stand in that relation unto God which was designed us in our creation. This we lost by the entrance of sin, and if there be not a way for us to acquire it again, we shall forever come short of the glory of God and the end of our creation. Now this is done by our becoming holy, for therein consists the renovation of God's image in us (Eph. 4:22-24 and cf. Col. 3:10). It is utterly vain for any man to expect an interest in God, while he does not earnestly endeavor after conformity to Him. Within the limits of this essay, then, we are prepared to define Christian holiness in relation to Man's creation, in order to draw out some of its implications for Christian piety.
Human holiness could be described as that divinely created integrity, harmony, and order which originally characterized man in his responsibility toward God with others over the creation, which was lost at man's fall into sin, which is graciously restored in Christ, the Image of the invisible God, to His body, the church, in the world, and which will be perfected with the appearance of the new heavens and the new earth.Human holiness is the image of God, expressing the purity of God and conformity with God in human relationships and enterprises within creation. Through the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit, holiness is the fruit of Sanctification, a heart disposition flowing forth in holy deeds that proceed from faith, conform to God's law, and aim at His glory. 
The purpose of Christian piety, then, is to cultivate this holiness renewed in Christ. Corporate and personal exercises of piety need to equip Christians to reflect the God who is in heaven, here upon earth. This means, most importantly, that Christian holiness is both the pathway and the destination of Christian living. It is human living at its fullest and finest, now and forever. Christian holiness is not first of all the tape at the finish line of life's race; it is the race itself!
Christian holiness consists in doing, again, what Adam and Eve were created and called to do in Paradise. Nothing more. And nothing less. This is what Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, did. So this is what all who live in Christ by faith through grace are recreated to do. 
Finally, this biblical connection between Christian holiness and man's creation in God's image protects us against the errors of mysticism and pietism.
The error of mysticism is that it tends to view the creation essentially as an obstacle to the exercise of spirituality. Mystics seek to escape the "ordinary" responsibilities of life, the mundane (from Latin, mundus, earth, world) realities of human existence, in order to be joined to the divine. For mystical spirituality, natural appetites ought to be suppressed rather than satisfied. It is virtually a "docetic" spirituality.
With a similar result but different basis, pietism tends to view the exercises of piety as the totality of holiness, and tends to overlook their penultimate purpose of equipping the pious for human holiness in God's creation. The practices of piety are certainly part of Christian holiness, but not the whole of it. Moreover, their usefulness lies precisely in their influence upon our mundane existence. If the sermons we preach and hear do not infuse a stable grace into our very ordinary, often fragile relationships; if our table prayers do not imbue our routines and ruts with the fragrance of the eternal; if our public and private Bible reading and meditation do not illumine our earthly path, then our Christian piety is stillborn - full of promise and the appearance of life, only to yield bitter disappointment and fruitlessness upon contact with the world.
Dr. Nelson D. Kloosterman is professor of systematic theology at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, Dyer, Indiana (suburban Chicago).
- See "Studying Spirituality in a Reformed Seminary: A Calvinist Model," Mid-America Journal of Theology, 6/2:125-37.
- For these insights concerning man as the image of God I am indebted to W. H. Velema, Ethiek in bijbels Licht [Ethics in the Light of the Bible] (Kampen, the Netherlands: J. H. Kok, n.d.), 3842. A fuller discussion can be found in his chapter, "De mens het beeld van God" ["Man the image of God"], in J. Van Genderen and W. H. Velema, Beknopte Gereformeerde Dogmatiek [A Concise Reformed Dogmatics], 2nd ed. (Kampen, the Netherlands: J. H. Kok, 1992), 292-353.
- John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. by William H. Goold, Vol. 1 (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965), 183.
- Ibid., 1:185.
- Sinclair B. Ferguson, John Owen on the Christian Life (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987), 85.
- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. by Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics, Vol. 20 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Westminster Press, 1960).
- John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, trans. by T. H. L. Parker (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965).
- One of the most worthwhile books in this connection is Calvin s Doctrine of the Christian Life, by Ronald S. Wallace (Tyler, Texas: Geneva Divinity School Press, n.d.). Because it gathers together material from Calvin's commentaries as well as the Institutes, his survey of the Christian life is biblically rich and satisfying. I have made grateful use of Wallace's work in the foregoing.
- Arthur W. Pink, The Doctrine of Sanctification (Swengel, Pennsylvania: Reiner Publications, 1975), 34. Much of Pink's formulation condenses the thought of John Owen, from Vol. 3 of his collected works.
- For a similar description of holiness as the image of God, but without reference to the components of integrity and order in man's relationships in creation, see The Christian's Reasonable Service, by Wilhelmus a Brakel, trans. by Bartel Elshout, Vol. 3 (pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1994), 3-34, esp. 16-23.
- Unfortunately, space prevents us from discussing the style and components of Sanctification. It consists in far more than putting away sin (Mortification). Calvin speaks of a two-fold Mortification, one internal, the other external. Inward Mortification refers to putting to death the old self, called by Calvin self-denial. Outward Mortification occurs by voluntarily bearing the cross of Christ. From Calvin we learn that both involve self-denial, Repentance, faith, and meditation on the future life. Christian holiness is truly practiced, however, only when we also put on the new Man, Jesus Christ, the Image of God (vivification). This new Man renders new obedience in accord with all God's commandments. Furthermore, near the heart of biblical Sanctification lies the emphasis, recovered by the Reformation, on vocatio or calling. Holiness ranges across the entire spectrum of human activity. Christians are called to new obedience in business pursuits, recreation, entertainment, human sexuality, family relationships, social obligations, church involvement, the arts and sciences, and more.