Attributes of God: Lesson 6: God is Holy

“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts.” (Isa 6:3; cf. Rev 4:8)

What is Holiness?

The basic idea of the word “holy” is separation. To say that God is holy means that He is separate from everything else. He is unique, one-of-a-kind, in a class by Himself. This is true in two respects:

God is separate from everything else in a metaphysical sense. There is no other being like God. As Exodus 15:11 declares: AWho is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like you, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders?” (see also 1 Sam 2:2, Ps 77:13, and Isa 40:25, as well as 2 Sam 7:22, Ps 71:19, 86:8, 89:6-8a, and Isa 46:9). God’s transcendent holiness is the basis for what has been called the Creator/creature distinction. God’s essence or being transcends that of His creation to an infinite degree. Any comparison that is made between ourselves and God is simply a finite representation of what is in reality an infinite chasm. God is so great that He defies comparison (Isa 40:18, 46:5).

God is separate from everything else in a moral sense. All of creation is tainted by sin to varying degrees (see Rom 8:19-22). God, however, is totally set apart from sin. “[God] is, as it were, allergic to sin and evil” (Erickson, p. 285). As 1 John 1:5 declares: God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all (see also Hab 1:13a). Holiness in God involves not only the absence of evil, but also the presence of good. Negatively, God never does anything wrong; positively, He always does everything right. He is perfectly pure.

Some Implications of God’s Holiness

Because God is holy, we should glorify Him. Whatever the attribute, we should glorify God simply for who He is (not just for what He does). This is especially true when it comes to the attribute of God’s holiness. Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy (Rev 15:4; cf. Psalm 99:5, 9). We can glorify God for His holiness particularly through singing (Ex 15:1a & 11, Rev 15:3a & 4a) and prayer (1 Sam 2:1a & 2).

Because God is holy, we should acknowledge our unholiness. The reason why we don’t fully understand just how sinful we are is because we don’t fully understand just how holy God is (“You thought that I was just like you,” Ps 50:21) or we forget that God is the standard[1] (Job 4:17, Matt 5:48 and 1 Pet 1:15-16). When one begins to comprehend just how holy God is, his response should be similar to that of Isaiah and Peter:

“Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isa 6:5).

But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken (Luke 5:8-9).

Because God is holy, we should be holy ourselves. Remember, this includes not only the absence of vice, but also the presence of virtue (sin is not just a matter of commission, but also of omission). But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (1 Pet 1:15-16; cf. Matt 5:48). God is perfectly pure. We, as believers, should be characterized by “the relentless pursuit of perfection,” confident that, even though we won=t attain the goal in this life[2], we will in the next: Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:12-14; cf. 2 Cor 7:1). Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:2-3).


Holiness and Separation
(2 Cor 6:14-7:1, et. al.)

God’s holiness is the theological basis behind the doctrine known as “separation.” Because God is holy and, thus, separate from sin, we, His children, should take measures to separate ourselves from sin. Separation takes place on two levels: corporately (or ecclesiastically) and personally. Corporately, we as a church have a responsibility to separate from any individual or group which practices theological compromise (liberals) or which associates with one that does (evangelicals). Personally, we as individual believers have a responsibility to separate from evil by developing personal standards of conduct designed to prevent us and/or those around us from being tempted to sin in the first place.

[1]“When one measures one’s holiness, not against the standard of oneself or of other humans, but against God, the need for a complete change of moral and spiritual condition becomes apparent” (Erickson, p. 286).

[2]“Proper conduct can be tested by the simple question, Is it holy? This is the believer’s standard. While he does not always measure up to it, he must never compromise it” (Ryrie, p. 39).

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