Holiness and humility go hand in hand. The Christian cannot have one without the other. All true Christians desire to be holy, which can only be given through the grace of Jesus Christ, but it seems some have a greater holiness playing out in their lives than others. Humility is always the underlying determining factor for who is walking in holiness and who simply desires to but is left struggling to do so. For as 1 Peter 1:14-16 explains:
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
If we want to be holy, it starts with being like a child. Here are three biblical reasons why holiness without humility is impossible.
1. You Need Humility for Repentance
After we are justified through the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are saved from our sin, forgiven of our sin, and given the power to overcome our sin. However, sin still remains in this earthly body. Until our earthly life ends, we will always sin to some degree. We should be sinning less and less as we are sanctified in Christ, but on this side of eternity we will never be sinless. Therefore there will always be a need for repentance. (James 3:2, 1 John 1:9-10, 1 John 2:2).
In Psalm 36:1-2 it states, “. . . there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.” Without humility, we always flatter ourselves in our own eyes. Pride blinds our eyes to our own pride. It is the most dangerous sin because it masks itself from itself. The proud man is always the last to see his own pride.
In opposition to this, Psalm 38:2 states, “For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.” Psalm 32:5 adds, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” When we are humble, we will be able to receive God’s loving discipline. We will feel the guilt of our sin, and then we will repent.
Without humility, we will never be holy because we will struggle to repent of our many sins.
2. You Need Humility to Pray
Prayer is a crucial means to receiving the power to live holy. If we do not abide in Christ through active prayer, we will never have the strength to live holy. Pride not only keeps us from repentance, it drastically hinders our prayer life.
Psalm 66:18 explains, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” A lack of repentance, rooted in pride, always affects the usefulness and power of our prayers. James 5:16 makes clear, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Our prayers are powerful when we are righteous, we will only be righteous if we are quick to repent, and you need humility to repent.
Not only will pride keep us in our sin which will affect the power of prayers, pride will also keep us from praying all together. The proud person who feels they can handle everything on their own has a natural allergy against prayer. Prayer is actively acknowledging you need God’s help and strength. This is humility at its core – depending upon God and not yourself.
3. You Need Humility to Give God All the Glory
Holiness is walking away from sin and into Christ. Holiness is purity, cleanness, and righteousness. One of the human heart’s greatest sins is taking God’s glory for self. You will never be holy if you are not humble because you will always be seeking to place yourself above God.
Whenever God’s chosen prophets got a glimpse of God’s glory (or even a glimpse of his heavenly angels who reflected his glory), they were literally knocked down and laid on their faces. When Moses spent time in the presence of God and God’s glory was literally soaked into the face of Moses, rather than exalt himself by showing everyone his face, Moses put a veil over his face so people would not exalt him (2 Corinthians 3:13).
No one who stands in their own pride can come into the presence of a holy God. If you want the holiness of God, you must be a person who is ready to give God all the glory. Humility and holiness go hand in hand because a proud man always tries to steal God’s glory. We will never be holy when we are exalting ourselves.
In Isaiah 10:15 God is reprimanding the Assyrians because they began to take credit for how God was using them, “Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!” Because they were not humble, they were not holy, and God eventually always destroys the unholy.
If you want to be a mighty weapon in the hand of a holy God, you must be humble.