Our Holy God 

 

Described

The holiness of God refers to His absolute purity and sinlessness. God’s holiness means He is totally separated from all evil and wickedness and absolutely dedicated to His own purposes, kingdom and glory.

 

God’s holiness explained

 

The holiness of God:

 

         means He is totally pure and separated from all wickedness. The holiness of God refers to the presence of perfect cleanness and the absence of any evil in His nature. 1 John 1:5 is partly related to God’s infinite purity: “…God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. Note light symbolises purity.

         expresses itself in an absolute hatred of sin and wickedness in any form. Habakkuk 1:13 states: “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness…”

         also means He is devoted to His own glory and honour in a perfectly loving and unselfish manner. Satan’s refusal to glorify God and his proud devotion to his own honour, however, is based partially on his own selfishness.

         also refers to Him being distinct from all created beings. Exodus 15:11 refers to this: “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness…?” This verse demonstrates why Christianity is different from pagan Hinduism and other religions which teach nature is God and human spirits are God. They do not become God. By His Spirit, God comes into union with believers (see 1 Corinthians 6:17). But He is still distinct from them. They do not become God. Exodus 15:11 shows no angel or human can be holy to the infinitely perfect degree God is. Isaiah 40:25 reveals the same: “To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?’ says the Holy One”. As 1 Samuel 2:2 shows, no created being is as holy as God: “There is none holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You…”

         is an intrinsic attribute of God’s nature. Revelation 15:4 says of God, “…for You alone are holy…” Only God is intrinsically holy. An intrinsic attribute is a characteristic not imparted to someone by someone else, but is a normal essential feature of the person. He has not obtained His holy nature from anyone else. Angels and humans are not intrinsically holy, but are only holy to the degree God fills and rules their being.

 

Some Bible teachers argue holiness also refers to wholeness and completeness. [1] They say Leviticus 21:17-23 shows imperfections made men unsuitable for being God’s holy priests. This view of holiness as being also wholeness is possible but needs more Biblical support than just deductions from Leviticus 21:17-23.

 

God’s holiness is just as important as His love 

 

Holiness is such an important part of God’s nature, the seraphim around His throne in heaven never stop speaking day and night about it. Revelation 4:8 states: “And the four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”

Holiness is only one of God’s features. But we see in the above verse, it is one of His most important or some even say the very foundation of His being. God’s holiness is just as important as His love. 1 John 4:8 and 16 reveal God is love, but note the seraphim in heaven do not say every day and night, “Loving, loving, loving is the Lord God Almighty who was, and is, and is to come.” But what they do say is: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty….”

Can you imagine the awesome impact in heaven of these words about God’s holy nature being repeated over and over again every day and every night? Those there must have an awesome revelation of God’s holiness. Sadly today, many Christians have little understanding of the holiness of God.

The first thing God revealed of His nature to Moses was not His love, grace or mercy, but His holiness. Exodus 3:4-5 states: “So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground’.” It was only after this encounter that God revealed a glimpse of His loving concern for His people (see Exodus 3:7)

 

The importance of having a revelation of God’s holiness

 

The prophet Isaiah also was given a wonderful revelation of God’s nature and of what an enormous emphasis there is in heaven on God’s holiness. Isaiah 6:1-7 records: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. Then I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.”

Above we see another thing which happens when people receive a true revelation of God’s holy nature. They will clearly see how unholy and unclean they are without Him. But note as verse 7 shows, God always provides a means to cleanse us from the sin and guilt such an awesome revelation exposes.

                               The awesome power of a God-given revelation of His holy nature can be seen in the following: One of the things He used to prepare the Welsh churches and ministers for the great revival of 1904-1905, in which about 10% of the whole nation were converted, was a revelation of Isaiah 6:1-7. This is seen in the words of Rev. R.B. Jones who was one of the main preachers in the Welsh Revival. He wrote about the young ministers who were shortly to be God’s instruments in the Revival: “During the last quarter of 1903, the work in the hearts of these young ministers quietly developed. At the dawn of 1904 they found themselves burning with the same message which, heretofore had been heard from the lips of the brother already mentioned (ie. Rev F.B. Meyer). The one flame had distributed itself into several. That message, as already stated, was one to the Lord’s people; a call to holiness. Strikingly enough, without the least collusion, and indicative of the leading and unity of the Spirit, several of these young ministers found themselves preaching from the same Scripture: Isaiah’s version of the Holy, Holy, Holy God, and His call to solemn service. The light, as they preached, was intense and the conviction deep. Everywhere was heard the echo of Isaiah’s cry, ‘Woe is me, for I am undone.’” [2]

 

Because God is holy, He punishes evil

 

Joshua 24:19-20 and Isaiah 5:24-25 show that because God is perfectly holy, He must punish any who turn from Him to evil. Joshua 24:19-20 says: “But Joshua said to the people ‘You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good’.” Joshua did not mean here that God will not forgive the sins of sincerely repentant believers in Him. But Joshua did mean God would not forgive the sins of those who actually turned from Him by trying to mix the worship of Him with the serving of pagan gods and the evils associated with these.

 

Unrepentant people dislike God’s holiness

 

Unrepentant humans hate hearing about God’s holiness. Isaiah 30:11 shows an example of this when unrepentant Jews said: “…cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.”

 

The lessons God taught through His Tabernacle and Temple

 

God’s desire for humans to understand His perfect holiness and associated purity and separation from all evil and uncleanness, can be seen in His commands about the building of the Tabernacle and Temple in the Old Testament. The Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle and Temple was where God’s Presence resided most evidently (see 1 Samuel 4:4 and 2 Samuel 6:2). God would not allow any human, except the High Priest to enter this Most Holy Place. Before entering, the High Priest had to have his sins and guilt atoned for through the sacrificial death of innocent animal substitutes which symbolised Jesus’ later death (see Leviticus 16:2-34 and Hebrews 10:1-10). These things were meant to show God is totally separated from all evil and no human can enter His Holy Presence with sin in their lives which has not been forgiven through the death of Jesus Christ.

 

God’s answer to His demands for holiness in others

 

God’s absolute holiness demands eternal punishment for even one sin. No unholy being can enter God’s Presence. Therefore, God had to find a way of punishing human sin and imparting His holiness to sinful humans if He wished to save them from such a terrible future. His answer to this was the so-called “foolishness” of the Cross of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 1:18, 1:22 and Hebrews 10:10), regeneration, sanctification and transformation by His Holy Spirit.

 

Errors about God’s holy nature

 

1. A common modern error is to concentrate so much on God’s attribute of love that His holy nature is ignored or underemphasised. It is wrong to emphasise verses about Jesus eating with notorious sinners and not condemning the woman caught in adultery (see Mark 2:15-17, Luke 7:36-50 and John 8:1-8) so much that we give the subtle impression God is not deeply offended by sin and evil.

2. It is wrong to believe God can be merciful and gracious to humans without His holiness being upheld by the severe punishment of sin. God has to punish every sin, otherwise His holy nature and associated hatred of sin would be disregarded and humans and angels would tend to treat sin as a light matter. Hebrews 9:22 shows God cannot be merciful or gracious to forgive sin without the shedding of blood: “And according to the law almost all things are purged with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.”

3. An overemphasis on our sanctification in Christ hinders many modern Christians from having the type of revelation of God’s holiness which Isaiah and the seraphim in heaven have. These believers wrongly think it is “negative” to think or talk about how unholy or sinful we are in ourselves without Jesus Christ.

Paul had the perfect balance. He believed Jesus Christ was his sanctification (see 1 Corinthians 1:30). But he also admitted how exceedingly sinful his actions were when he was relying upon himself instead of on Christ (see Romans 7:14-24).

 

Relevant Hebrew word

 

The Hebrew word for “holy” is “qados”. Vine says “qados” “signifies ‘pure’ and ‘devoted’” and that “The traditional understanding of ‘separated’ is only a derived meaning, and not the primary”. [3]

 

Relevant Greek words

 

The main Greek word for “holy” is “hagios” and when used in relation to God refers to Him “as the absolutely Holy One, in His purity, majesty and glory”. [4]

In the New Testament, another Greek word for “holy” is “hosios”. It is used of God in Revelation 15:4 and 16:5. “Hosios” means “religiously right, holy, as opposed to what is unrighteous or polluted”. [5] Louw and Nida say both “hagios” and “hosios” refer to “being holy in the sense of superior moral qualities and possessing certain essentially divine qualities in contrast with what is human”. [6]

 

 

Bible Study Questions

 

1.            Explain what the holiness of God means.

2.            Is God’s love more important than His holiness?

3.            What does Isaiah 6:1-7 teach us?

4.            What did the set-up of the Israelite Tabernacle and Temple teach us about God and humans?


 


[1] Gordon Wenham, “Leviticus”,                   page 23.

[2] R.B. Jones, “Rent Heavens – The Revival of 1904” in H.E. Schmul, “Handbook on Revival”, Schmul Publishing, Salem, Ohio, pages 29-30.

[3] Vine, page 113.

[4] Ibid, page 308.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Louw and Nida, page 745.

 


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