A Holy God - Part 1
R. C. Sproul on God's Holiness
God's Central Attribute
We hear so much today about God's love for us, and that is not a bad thing. But when we talk about His love and forget about His holiness, we are not talking about the God of the Bible. Someone has called holiness "the most glorious and most all-embracing attribute of God." When a Hebrew word is repeated in a sentence like it is in Isaiah 6:3, it is to emphasize that word or that attribute. Isaiah sees a vision of the Lord sitting on His throne, and the Seraphim are calling out "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory." In Revelation 4:8 John heard the four living creatures say the same thing: "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty." No other attribute of God is emphasized in this way.
I. Definition of Holiness
So just what is holiness? The Hebrew word here is qadash and we can glean from it, and all of the words derived from it, the idea of being "set apart", sanctified, consecrated, hallowed. The Greek word is hagios and implies an absence of fault or impurity. In order to get a better picture of this most important attribute of God, let me quote A.W. Pink. He states:
'Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou art holy.' (Rev. 15:4). He only is independently, infinitely, immutably holy. In Scripture He is frequently styled "The Holy One." He is so because the sum of all moral excellency is found in Him. He is absolute purity, unsullied even by the shadow of sin. "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (I John 1:5). Holiness is the very excellency of the Divine nature: the great God is glorious in holiness. Therefore, we read, "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity" (Habakkuk 1:13). As God's power is the opposite of the native weakness of the creature, as His wisdom is in complete contrast from the least defect of understanding or folly, so His holiness is the very antithesis of all moral blemish and defilement.
If we were to list the attributes of God, holiness would come first because in many ways it encompasses all the others. For instance, righteousness, justice, goodness and truth are like different phases or aspects of the holiness of God. He is absolutely righteous, just, good and He is absolute truth. Even God's love expresses a deep and constant caring by a perfect, sinless Being for totally unworthy creatures. It is a love "set apart" like none other this world has ever known.
II. God's Holiness and His Works
Scripture declares in Psalm 145:17 that: "The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works." Everything that proceeds from the hand of God is excellent. God finished His labor at creation and pronounced everything "very good'. This was something that couldn't have been done if there were any imperfection or blemish in it. This included man before the fall as well. And it included the fallen angels before they fell (Jude 6). Even Satan was created perfect, until he rebelled against his creator (Ezekiel 28:15).
III. God's Holiness and His Law
The law forbids sin in all aspects. Sin, or disobedience to God, is totally abhorrent to Him and is something that must be punished, or God ceases to be Holy. The Bible teaches us in Romans 7:12 that "The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, just and good." Here is where there is a problem. Because man in his present, sinful state cannot please a holy God and must ultimately be separated from Him for eternity. Thus our need for the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23).
Obviously we need to continue this discussion of God's holiness. But let me leave you with this thought. The reason we take sin so lightly is because we don't understand the utter abhorrence that God has for it. Our God is a holy God. We cannot come before His presence unless we become holy as well (Hebrews 12:14). That makes the cross of Christ all the more precious!