May 31, 2024

Consecrated to God

Sinclair Ferguson
Consecrated to God

We see the holiness of Christ not only in His separation from sin but also in His loving devotion to His Father and His people. Today, Sinclair Ferguson marvels that we are consecrated to enjoy the perfect love of the triune God.


Well, the past couple of days, we’ve been trying to reflect together on the holiness of God. Yesterday, I was quoting a favorite hymn from my youth, Thomas Binney’s hymn, “Eternal Light.” If you were listening yesterday, you’ll maybe remember that while I’ve always loved singing the words of the second verse, at the same time I feel there’s something missing:

The spirits that surround Thy throne
May bear the burning bliss;
But that is surely theirs alone,
Since they have never, never known
A fallen world like this.

The vision of Isaiah in Isaiah 6 seems to me to suggest that even unfallen perfectly holy spirits surrounding the throne actually feel they cannot bear the burning bliss of God’s holiness. Isaiah felt it was unbearable because he was a sinner, but there must be a different reason the seraphs respond the way they do, don’t you think? It’s not their sin that makes them shield their faces. They’ve never sinned, never known a fallen world like this. And this vision helps us, I think, to understand that there’s another dimension to God’s holiness. It’s not only separation from something, it’s also consecration to something that gives God’s holiness its deep intensity.

I think we get a helpful hint of this in Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in John 17. He prays, “Sanctify them, make them holy,” then He goes on to say, “For their sakes, I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified” (John 17:19, NKJV). It’s actually the same verb used three times. The translators of the ESV render the words of Jesus, “For their sake, I consecrate myself,” perhaps because they wanted to avoid using the word sanctify in case someone misunderstood it as though the Lord Jesus was sinful and needed to be sanctified. That’s perfectly understandable. But when we realize it’s the same word used three times, that brings out a nuance in the idea of holiness that we might otherwise miss.

Jesus is not only separating Himself from something, in this case, sin—He never did sin—He’s separating Himself for something, or actually for Someone. It’s not only a negative idea, but a profoundly positive one. Jesus is talking not only about His holiness but also about the intensity, the intense zeal of His loving commitment to His heavenly Father. He’s thinking too about His loving commitment for us.

In a word, the holiness of the Lord Jesus is seen in the totality of His love for and devotion to His Father—and also to us. You remember how He calls His Father “holy Father” earlier on in John 17:11 because He knows His Father similarly loves Him and is devoted to Him.

Let’s not forget the title given to the Spirit of God. He is the Holy Spirit. Like the Father and the Son, He’s devoted to the other two persons in the eternal Trinity. I wonder if that’s also the reason the seraphs felt they had to veil their faces from the holiness of God. They felt they couldn’t gaze upon or pry into that holy devotion.

There’s a point in most wedding services today when the minister says to the groom, “You may now kiss your bride.” Who gets the best view of that kiss? Actually, it’s the minister. He’s three feet away from it. I confess I’ve always looked down at that point. I’ve always felt that’s not a moment for me to be watching. That’s about the devoted self-giving of this man to this woman. I at least metaphorically cover my eyes. Magnify that moment of deep human love, mutual commitment, self-giving devotion—magnify it to infinity and that magnification will give you only a glimpse of the wonder of the holiness of God: the consecration of the Father to His Son and the Son to His Father, the consecration of both to the Holy Spirit and His consecration to them. I suspect it was something of that order that both the seraphim and Isaiah felt.

We sometimes mistakenly think that it’s the severity of God’s holiness that we’re not able to behold, but it’s more than that, isn’t it? It’s the sheer intensity of the Father and the Son and the Spirit’s mutual love for one another that makes us feel we lack love, we lack integrity, we are disintegrating, we are undone. It’s that pure love that makes us feel the ugliness of our own self-love, the self-love that pollutes even our very best gifts, which you remember in Isaiah’s case, since he was a preacher, were gifts that were expressed through his lips. He needed a burning coal from the altar of sacrifice to touch his lips and to bring him cleansing and pardon.

My friends, how much more can we thank God that we have come to a greater altar, Calvary, and to a greater Sacrifice, our Lord Jesus Christ, and experience the work of a greater Seraph, the Holy Spirit, as He has applied pardon and salvation to us? Yes, let’s thank God that Thomas Binney was right—there is a way for man to rise to that sublime board: an Offering and a Sacrifice, a Holy Spirit’s energies, an Advocate with God. These prepare us for the sight of holiness above:

The sons of ignorance and night
May dwell in the eternal Light
Through the eternal Love.

May that be true for us too.