The leaders of our men’s ministry selected the attributes of God as our theme for this past year, drawing somewhat from A. W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy and The Attributes of God . Therefore, at our last monthly breakfast of the season it was my turn to teach, and they gave me the topic of the holiness of God.
What does is mean that God is holy?
Holiness means that God is absolutely distinct and set apart from His creation. He is the opposite of profane or common. He is absolutely pure and free from any form of moral evil. A key Scripture passage illustrating this for us is Isaiah 6:1-7.
Here the soon-to-be prophet, Isaiah, caught a glimpse of God in blinding brilliance being worshipped by some of His angels who, night and day, proclaimed that God is holy, holy, holy. Regarding the repetition of this adjective, R. C. Sproul writes: “Only once in sacred Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree. Only once is a characteristic of God mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love; or mercy, mercy, mercy; or wrath, wrath, wrath; or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy, that the whole earth is full of His glory.” [The Holiness of God, p. 26]
This set-apart-ness of God (holiness) became the basis of God’s call to His people to set themselves apart to God. In Leviticus 11:44, God says, “For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” As a result of being confronted with God’s set-apart-ness, Isaiah saw his own sinfulness, which resulted in repentance, confession, and surrender of his will to God’s service, “Here am I, send me.”
4 Expressions of God’s Holiness
There are numerous ramifications to God being holy, but just consider for a moment four expressions of the holy character of God.
- Righteousness: God’s actions are always consistent with His own holy standards (Psalm 145:17).
- Justice: God never allows His holy standard to be violated without requiring payment for sin (Romans 3:26).
- Wrath: God’s holy hatred for sin and His determination to punish it (Hebrews 10:31; Revelation 16:19).
- Jealousy: God’s holy zeal to defend what is rightfully His (Exodus 34:14). It is not a sin for God to be jealous.
Implications for Followers of Christ
In 1 Peter 1:13-16, we are called to be holy because the God who called us by His grace is holy. We are to be:
- Holy in mind- “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
- Holy in desires – “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance…”
- Holy in conduct – “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.”
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have been called to walk in a manner that is holy—distinct, set apart unto the Lord. Not only does this glorify our Lord, but walking with God in holiness, grace, truth, and love also results in our own happiness. In fact, we could say that personal happiness is a fruit of personal holiness. A.W. Tozer writes of this connection, too, “No man should desire to be happy who is not at the same time holy. He should spend his efforts in seeking to know and do the will of God, leaving to Christ the matter of how happy he should be.”