The Holiness of God

John Frame hit the nail on the head when he said God’s holiness is his fundamental attribute; it defines the way He interacts with the world, Himself, and us as believers. Without God’s holiness there is no basis for sin, no need for Christ, and no reason why we should trust God at all. His purity, complete “other-ness” and perfection, all form the basis for all of His other attributes. It gives us as believers the ability to rest in His love, to trust in His faithfulness, and believe in the unchanging nature of our loving Father.

Without God’s holiness there is no basis for sin, no need for Christ, and no reason why we should trust God at all.

The Bible speaks of God’s holiness extending to a number of different facets of His character and interactions with His people. Scripture states that God’s person is holy: “for the Lord our God is holy” (Ps 99:9, see also vs. 1-8). God’s spirit is holy: “take not your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps 51:11). God’s name is holy: “thus says the one who is high and lifted up” (Is 6:1-3). God’s word’s of promise are holy: “For he remembered His holy promise” (Ps 105: 42). God’s oath is holy: “once for all I have sworn by my holiness” (Ps 85:35). Finally, God’s dwelling is holy. We see this in the holiness of His habitation in heaven (Duet 26:15), the heavenly throne from which He reigns (Ps 47:8), His temple in Jerusalem (Hab 2:20), and objects devoted to Him (Lev 27: 28 see also Zech 14:20, 21). 

God is holy in that he exists on a level of being entirely apart form all others. We see this evidenced in Psalm 99:1-3, “The Lord reigns, let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The LORD is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he!” We also see this is Isaiah 57:15, “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of a contrite.” God is 100% perfect and 100% moral. This fact alone establishes Him on a level completely out of our reach. 

Without God’s holiness we loose the weight of sin and the joy of Christ’s sacrifice. 

A proper view of God’s holiness pushes us to proper behavior. If we don’t see God as perfectly holy, perfectly just, and perfectly righteous, we won’t believe that our behavior is important, nor will we understand the weight of the cross. There is a cause and affect relationship between what we think about God, and how we live our lives. We should approach God with a degree of holy reverence that creates awe of His greatness and thanksgiving for His gift. As Alister Begg says, “Without the holiness of God, sin is mere failure.” Sin is more than just a behavioral problem; it is rebellion against a Holy God. Without God’s holiness we loose the weight of sin and the joy of Christ’s sacrifice. 

One way God’s holiness is modeled is in the person and work of Jesus Christ. His perfect holiness and righteousness reveals to us a practical picture of what it means to be holy. Philippians 3 gives us a glimpse of two ways Jesus modeled holiness: submission and humility. Jesus lived his life in full submission to the Father. He fully submitted his desires, fully obeyed His Father’s commands, and submitted himself to His Father’s will instead of His own. This submission naturally bled out into His behavior and loving interaction toward those around Him. This same submission should mark the lives of us as followers of Jesus. We should summit our desires to for the desires of the Father. We should be summited to the Father’s commands as outlined in scripture and be summited to His will in our lives instead of constantly chasing our own.

As believers we are not to take pride in our own behavioral holiness, but instead we are called to humbly recognize that our holiness can only be obtained through Christ’s death on the cross and His imputed righteous through it.

Humility is the next marker of holiness in Christ’s life. Jesus didn’t see equality with God has something to be grasped, but rather he humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross. He didn’t lord his behavioral holiness over the sinner’s as the Pharisees did, but rather, He invited others to join in His holiness by repenting and believing in Him. Of all people, Jesus was most qualified to take pride in His holiness. Instead, in His humility He had compassion on those far from God. He made a way for them to become like him in His holiness through His sacrificial death and resurrection. As believers we are not to take pride in our own behavioral holiness, but instead we are called to humbly recognize that our holiness can only be obtained through Christ’s death on the cross and His imputed righteous through it. This means that we don’t impose our own behavioral standards on other people, nor do we think our behavioral standards make us more holy than others. We need to approach those who are far off in the same way Jesus approached them, by humbly inviting them into Christ’s holiness through repentance and faith.