Six Truths About God’s Holiness

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Six Truths About God’s Holiness

Scott Slaughter

If it can be said that there is one attribute of God that is more important than any other. When we read the Bible the holiness of God seems to rise above all other attributes. Contrary to the last century of popular theology, theologian William G.T. Shedd, in his classic work Dogmatic Theology, demonstrates that God’s holiness, not His love, is His overarching attribute, “Holiness occupies a place second to none among the communicable attributes.” When we come to the holiness of God much can be said. It is a deep, fascinating, and beneficial meditation on the person of God. But so that we may have a start on this vast truth about God, let’s consider six truths that help us see the importance God’s holiness and how it impacts our lives. 

#1. The Bible teaches that God is holy. 

If one reads through the Bible he/she will be consistently confronted with the reality that we are dealing with the holy God. It is the overarching theme of the Pentateuch (Exodus 3:5; Leviticus 19:2), perhaps the entire Old Testament. It is demonstrated in the Historical Books (1 Samuel 2:2). It was because of God’s holiness that Uzzah was killed by God for touching the ark of the covenant (2 Samuel 6:6-7). It celebrated in the Poetical Writings (Job 15:15; Psalms 22:3, 47:8, 99:5, 111:9). After God spoke to him from a tornado, Job was stricken with the awesome reality of God’s amazing holiness (Job 38:1). Finding Himself before the Holy God, Job was overcome with a sense of his personal lack of righteousness causing him to exclaim, “…I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 40:6). God’s holiness is the foundation for the warnings in the Prophetic Literature (Isaiah 6:3, 57:15). In the book of Isaiah Jehovah is called “The Holy One” thirty times. God’s holiness is assumed and built upon in the New Testament (1 Peter 1:15-16; 1 John 1:5; Revelation 4:8, 6:10, 15:4).  

#2. God, as God, must be holy. 

God is holy. It is His nature. God doesn’t have to try or work at being holy. He cannot act unrighteously or do anything that is wrong. He cannot and will not go against his nature and it is His nature to be holy. God’s holiness is not the same as that of an angel or a man. Neither mankind nor angels is intrinsically holy. Angels or men can only be holy as they relate to God by being in proper relation to God and His commandments. God is intrinsically holy. It is God’s nature to be holy. He is holy of Himself. He neither conforms nor performs to be holy because He IS holy. God can only be holy. He cannot, nor will He be or act unholily. God alone is perfect. God is the standard of holiness. He determines what is holy. He sets the standard. 

1 Samuel 2:2 “There is none holy like the LORD: for there is none besides you; is no rock like our God. (ESV)

#3. All of God’s attributes are holy. 

Since God is holy, everything about His person is holy. Everything God does and is consistent with His absolute positive holiness. It is impossible God not to be holy. Furthermore, it is impossible for Him to break or act inconsistent with or against His own holy person. There have been those who have tried understanding God through a lens other than His holiness but this has proven detrimental to the proper representation of the God of Scripture and Christian faith. Some try to elevate one of the attributes of God’s personhood above His holiness. For instance, the love of God has, in recent years, been promoted as God’s primary characteristic, almost to the point of separating it from His holiness completely. Verses have been misused such as 1 John 4:8 have been wrenched from their context and forced to service an attempted emendation to the perceived unpopular and judgmental God of the unadulterated Bible. Through using love as the primary lens for understanding God, some have concluded that God is not holy but instead, some sort of push over or an old softy who just loves us too much to every hold us accountable for our sins. Whereas Scripture is clear that as much as God loves sinners, He is too holy to approve of sin. God’s holiness governs his love. God’s love is holy, not promiscuous or permissive. Arguably, this is the point that the whole of the Bible is addressing. Scripture is the story of how God made it possible for sinful people to be reconciled to this holy God (Revelation 20:15). God’s holiness should be first and foremost in approach to Him and our understanding of His person.     

#4. Everything about God is holy. 

When we begin to understand that we worshipping this thrice holy God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we will notice that not only is God holy but everything that relates to Him is holy as well. His Word is holy (Romans 1:2). His promises are holy (Psalm 105:42). His sabbath is holy (Isaiah 58:13). His people are “saints”, i.e., holy (Isaiah 62:12). His residence is holy (Isaiah 57:15). His angels are holy (Revelation 14:10). The Father is holy. The Son is holy. And the Holy Spirit is holy (Revelation 4:8). 

#5. God calls His people to be holy. 

God calls His chosen people to be holy as He is (1 Peter 1:15-16). Christians are commanded by the Apostle of Christ, Peter, to live holy lives that are befitting the gospel of Jesus. A key aspect of God’s holiness is separateness of being. The very word ‘holiness’ means separateness. A thing or a person is said to be holy when it is set aside for special relation to God (2 Corinthians 6). 

#6. God’s holiness calls people to a decision. 

God’s holiness condemns us as fallen sinners. The more of God’s holiness we understand and experience, the more of our own sinfulness we perceive. The light of God’s holy presence exposes our own sinfulness. This realization hit the prophet Isaiah powerfully when He witnessed God upon His throne (Isaiah 6) in a vision. After this experience, Isaiah exclaimed, “Woe is me! For I am undone: because I am a man of unclean lips…”(verse 5).

When confronted by the presence and truth of this all holy God, we are forced to a point of decision. God’s purity and transcendent presence causes us to do one of two things. When exposed to God’s holiness one will either be driven away because of our selfish pride (James 4:6). Or, His holiness will draw us near to Him. If we are confronted by God’s light and we humble ourselves seeking mercy from Him through Jesus Christ His Son, we have His holy promise of forgiveness and eternal life (1 Peter 5:5). 

What is our take-away from our six quick thoughts on the holiness of God? When we complete our reading of Scripture making clear use of the New Testament, the message is impressed upon us that we must come to this holy God through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. Our reconciliation to God is effected by His grace and through faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord.  

1990, revised 2019

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