Holiness: The Trauma of Holiness.

“Man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God’s majesty.”  John Calvin

Have you ever been traumatized? What in fact does it mean to be traumatized? What exactly is trauma and how does it relate to the subject of holiness?

Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. Many people, including my family, have experienced the personal trauma of the death of a child, or children.

For those serving in the military, the experience of combat, and injury from combat, is a deeply distressing and disturbing experience. Not only for the veteran but also for his/her family.

Recently at work, one of my co-workers came into the warehouse office complaining of chest pains. Our supervisor immediately called 911, an ambulance was dispatched and my friend was taken to the hospital. Seeing him waiting for the ambulance, I saw the face of a 57 year old man who was experiencing physical and emotional trauma.

I believe it is safe to say that all of us have experienced some kind of personal trauma at some point in our lives. Perhaps as a child, adolescent, teenager, young adult or even as a mature adult. Trauma knows no boundaries and sets no age limits. Anyone who has watched infomercials about Shriner’s Hospital for Children or St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital can see how these two particular institutions help families cope with the trauma of childhood diseases and birth defects.

People do not just experience physical trauma. There is also psychological trauma, which is damage to the mind that occurs as a result of a distressing event. Trauma is often the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds one’s ability to cope, or integrate the emotions involved with that experience.

There are three types of trauma: acute, chronic, or complex. Acute trauma results from a single incident.  Chronic trauma is repeated and prolonged such as domestic violence or abuse. Complex trauma is exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature.

You may be wondering what trauma has to do with the subject of holiness. Plenty! Those individuals, or people groups, who the Bible states personally encountered the holiness of God experienced psychological, emotional and even physical trauma.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “Nearly five hundred years ago, the task of systematizing the biblical doctrines recovered during the Protestant Reformation fell to John Calvin. His Institutes of the Christian Religion remains one of the most important and influential theological works ever produced. Calvin devoted his life to Bible study, refining and expanding the Institutes before his death. Near the beginning of this work, Calvin succinctly encapsulated what the encounters between God and man in Scripture tell us about human nature. He writes, “man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God’s majesty” (1.1.3).

A common expression in the Old Testament was “We shall die, for we have seen God” (Judges 13:22). Dr. John MacArthur writes that, This reaction of the fear of death is familiar with those who come into God’s presence. Many did die when facing God, as the OT records. It is the terror in the heart of the sinner when in the presence of a holy God. Cf. Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:28), Isaiah (Isa. 6:5), the 12 (Mark 4:35–41), Peter (Luke 5:8), and John (Rev. 1:17–18).

For the next several days we will briefly examine the situations which brought people in the Scriptures to an awareness of the holiness of God and their inevitable reaction to not only who God was, but also who they were. It would wise for believers today to also gain this perspective.

Soli deo Gloria!



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