God’s Holiness in the Classroom

What might happen in our classrooms if we took these words by David Wells to heart:

Until we recognize afresh the centrality of God’s holiness, until it once again enters into the innermost fibers of evangelical faith, our virtue will lack seriousness, our belief will lack poignancy, our practice will lack moral pungency, our worship will lack joyful seriousness, our preaching [and teaching] will lack the mordancy of grace, and the church will be just one more special interest pleading for hearing in a world of competing enterprises.

(God In the Wasteland, © 1994, page 145)

The centrality of God’s holiness…Does it enter into the innermost fibers of our classrooms? If so, how? First of all, we need to define God’s holiness. Here is a helpful summary:

…the word signifies everything about God that sets Him apart from us and makes Him an object of awe, adoration, and dread to us. It covers all aspects of His transcendent greatness and moral perfection, and is characteristic of all His attributes, pointing to the “God-ness” of God at every point. The core of this truth, however, is God’s purity that cannot tolerate any form of sin (Hab. 1:13), and calls sinners to constant self-abasement in His presence (Is. 6:5).

(from The Reformation Study Bible, Ligonier Ministries, © 2005, page 168)

In the Classroom

There are many ways to help children understand God’s holiness, and then give His holiness prominence in our classrooms. For example, do we…

  • prioritize the time spent actually teaching God’s holy Word?
  • choose songs and hymns that encourage “joyful seriousness”?
  • help children to see the greatness of God by introducing His many attributes and expanding the depth of their understanding of these as the children grow and mature?
  • challenge them to understand the plight of their sin in light of God’s holiness?
  • stress the need for personal holiness in the life of every believer?

An Example for Teachers

This illustration can be used with younger elementary-aged children to help them understand God’s holiness and see how it applies to our lives:

Place a large glass gem (from a craft store) or beautiful cut glass object on a tray containing many dirty, ugly rocks. Display the plate and have the children quietly observe the items on the plate for a moment.

Q: Is there any item that doesn’t seem to belong with the other items? [the gem] Why doesn’t it belong with the other items? [It’s clean and sparkles, is beautiful, etc.]

(Remove the glass gem or object and hold it up.)

  • God’s holiness is something like the gem. God is perfect in every way. He is “pure.”

(Hold up the glass object and look through it, noting that it is perfectly clear, without any dirt.)

  • Because God is holy, He is completely separate from any sin (the dirty items).
  • Isaiah realized that his sin separated him from a holy God.

God is holy. He is like nothing else. He is perfect and is separate from sin.

Because God is holy, we are to respond to Him in the right way.

Q: For example, pretend that this gem was a real diamond and was worth lots and lots and lots of money. Would you toss it in a pile of rocks out in your backyard? Why not?

Q: Because God is holy, and is much, much, much more special than any diamond, how should we act toward Him? [Allow the children to respond, and/or lead them in thinking about the following questions.]

Q: Should you treat the Bible—God’s Holy Word—as if it is just another book, or toss it around and play with it?

Q: Should you act silly or goofy in church during the worship service?

Q: Should you act as if your sin is no big deal?

  • Because God is holy, we should treat Him and His Word with great respect and honor.
  • He deserves our worship. We should be in “awe” of Him more than anything else.
  • Because God is holy, we should tremble before Him and have a healthy kind of fear of Him: He is great, and we are small and weak.
  • Because God is holy, He will not tolerate our sin. We must have our sin forgiven through trusting in Jesus in order to be accepted by a holy God.