Holiness. This can be a bit of a difficult concept to understand and wrap our brains around mainly because it seems so other worldly.
The words we use to describe God are limited and weak compared to who he really is. We just don't have a vocabulary rich enough to do him justice. This is especially true regarding his holiness.
And yet the Scripture is filled with verses declaring that God is Holy (Is. 6, Rev, Ps.) So what exactly is it?
One way of describing the holiness of God is by saying that it is his “otherness”. It refers to God’s separateness and the fact that he is far above us. He is set apart. Others say that the holiness of God is the combined sum of all that he is. This would include all his character and virtues as well as his purity and power. And Stephen Charnock summarize God’s holiness as it being his beauty. "Power is God's hand or arm; omniscience His eye; mercy, His heart; eternity His duration, but holiness is His beauty" (S. Charnock)
See what I mean about lacking the right words? Or perhaps it’s not having enough words. God’s holiness is so huge that it’s even hard to make one clear definition that encompasses everything that holiness is.
I think it’s helpful to look at different aspects of God’s holiness.
God is holy in his nature
Holiness is the essence of God just as “light is of the essence of the sun.” (Thomas Watson) You cannot separate God from his holiness, it is who he is. There is none like him because he is holiness. (1 Sam. 2:2)
God is holy in his word
His word and his message is exalted above everything spoken or written. It is perfectly pure. The only way the Psalmist could think of describing this purity was by comparing it to silver refined seven times (Ps 12:6). It is impossible to find even one tiny blemish in his word.
God is holy in his works
Think about all that God does and can do. He is able to say to a dead man “you are done being dead. Get up, come out of that tomb and live!” He can speak to illnesses and tell it to leave or to come. He can hold up his hand in a storm commanding it to settle down. He looked into nothingness and create millions of complex galaxies. He can use dust and turn it into a man. (Job 37) There is nothing too difficult for our God. (Jer. 32:17)
So why does this matter?
Daniel 4:35 tells us that God can do as he pleases, and no one can stop him. Now, what if he could do as he pleases but was not perfectly pure or good. How terrifying would it be to have a God who holds all power but was not holy?
His holiness guarantees that he is never spiteful or hasty, bitter or cruel.
The holiness of God gives confidence.
Have you ever prayed for something and God gave you the very opposite of what you asked for? His holiness gives us confidence that even though we don’t understand why he chooses to do the things he does, he is good and wise and right. He cannot be otherwise.
The holiness of God shows our need.
When we catch a glimpse of the holiness of God we see the heinousness of sin and the dire consequence of it. Holiness cannot look on sin (Hab 1:13) So where does that leave us? Separated from God, his enemy, deserving of his just punishment, and in need of saving.
The Holiness of God brings gratitude for Jesus.
If a true understanding of the holiness of God causes us to fall on our faces and realize that we not worthy to be in his presence, then how much more should we be thankful for the sacrifice of Jesus. We would be burned up by God’s holy justice and wrath if it wasn’t for Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. If we lack gratitude it is because we lack understanding of the holiness of God.
This topic is so large that it will take all of eternity to unpack it. Through his word God has given us a sneak peak at what holiness is like. The better we know it the more we will be changed by it.
(Photo Credit: Trey Radcliff)