Back in the middle 1980's, I had the good fortune of learning priorities from a great man named Claude Bowen. He was formerly with the Dale Carnegie Foundation. He was then giving his time to train youth ministers like myself. He got my passions going and this led me to spend a lot of time learning all I could on how to determine priorities. Added to this later was language training that taught me how to determine what comes first in things that are written, especially when the author does not directly tell us what their primary theme is. Dr. Daniel Shaw , who taught me so much about languages, called this prominence.
I've since used those skills and added them to traditional biblical reading skills to arrive at the conclusion that wholeness is the first priority in the Bible when it comes to God's or our character traits. What you need to know is that when I use the word wholeness, I am using it as a substitute for holiness, for the simple reason of clarity. If you want to read why I am comfortable using one word for the other read: http://holinessiswholeness.blogspot.com/.
The biblical support for wholeness or holiness being the first priority among character traits is the repetition of "holy, holy holy" in two very important passages in Scripture. One is found in Isaiah and the other is found in Revelation. In the Revelation text, the majority text view actually supports it being repeated nine times! I learned when I was a seminary student and real estate agent (to pay for the education) that "location, location, location" was a popular way of expressing what was the first priority in real estate. Likewise, though I cannot claim that my expensive education taught me this, John Calvin, a theologian of some prominence, once said that all the Bible could be summarized in three words: "humility, humility humility." I think it is fair to say that some theologians have interpreted this since to refer to John Calvin's first priority in theology.
There is more support though than theological tradition or a good business illustration from daily life. There is the history of writers using repetition to express their most important themes. So this argument is rooted in reading and writing itself. Keep in mind, that all the other good candidates for the first priority for character never are repeated three times or even two times successively. You might think righteousness, truth (a close cousin of humility), love or goodness would be priority one. Remember how the Beatles used to say: "love, love love" to express their number one priority? But wholeness or holiness in the Bible stands alone in this way.
So I take wholeness to be the first priority in Scripture when it comes to reading that writing for what it says. If we follow the sound rules the first priority gets to be first: wholeness. I think it is good to know God's first priority regardless of time in history. Yet, next time, I will be talking about how is also the first thing needed in this particular time in history.
Pastor Jon Westlund