by Jimmy Barber
February 26, 1991

Holiness is an attribute of God which is so full that one wonders where to start. However, of all the attributes of God, this one is mentioned or referred to more than any other. "God is oftener styled Holy than Almighty, and set forth by this part of His dignity more than by any other. This is more fixed on as an epithet to His name than any other. You never find it ex-pressed 'His mighty name' or 'His wise name,' but His great name, and most of all, His holy name. This is the greatest title of honour; in this latter doth the majesty and venerableness of his name appear" (Stephen Charnock, taken from The Attributes of God by A. W. Pink).

To deny God of holiness is in essence to deny God. For if God be not holy, then, He would not be pure, and He could not create nor make laws nor judge righteously. In essence, He would be unholy which is a contradiction to the very nature of God.

I. What is holiness? Simply stated it means to be holy or pure; to be without sin or any defilement from the heart. To say the word is almost enough to define it--it has a sound of purity. Also, the word carries the meaning of separation; to be set apart. And truly God is set apart from all other beings in every way.

Holiness is one of those attributes of God which is communicable. By this, we simply mean that God communicates or gives it, in a limited way, to man. Let us not think that we shall every be as holy as God.

IL Wherein does God's holiness lie? God's holiness is in and of Himself originally, man's holiness can only be in and of God. There is no holiness prior nor superior to God's. He is the source and fountain of all holiness. Even the holy angels derive their holiness from God and not from within themselves.

For God to swear by His holiness is for Him to swear by Himself (Heb. 6:13; Ps. 89:3 5; Amos 4:2, 6:8). In Psalms 27:4, David said, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple." What is "the beauty of the Lord" but the beauty of His holiness (II Chron. 20:21).

Not to see the beauty of holiness is not to see the beauty of God. In Exodus 15:11, God is declared "glorious in holiness." Listen again to Charnock: "Power is God's hand or arm, omniscience His eye, mercy His bowels, eternity His duration, but holiness is His beauty." Therefore, to see the beauty and glory of God is to see His holiness. While the majority of Christendom stresses and emphasizes the love of God, the Scriptures magnify His holiness. Therefore, we can see the importance of knowing more about God's holiness because to do so is to see His beauty and glory.

III. How holy is God? When we think of something being pure, without spot, having no sin nor any such thing, we think of it as being holy. In fact, we who are the people of God look forward to the day when we will be with God in glory and not have any sin. But when this comes to pass, we will not be as holy as God is (I Sam. 2:2). Though the redeemed will be without sin and will stand before God "holy and without blame" (Eph. 1:4), yet, their holiness is not derived within themselves. And if they were to become inherently holy after the work of God in their lives, there would remain the time prior to this when they were not holy, but were living in darkness (Eph. 5:8).

In God there is "no darkness at all" (I Jn. 1:5). God is so pure that absolutely considered, He cannot "look on iniquity" (Hab. 1:13). The idea that God can look at sin and iniquity and pass it by is false. God, who is omniscient, sees and knows all things, even sin and iniquity. He is so pure and holy that He will bring "every work into judgment" (Ecc. 12:14; 11:9; Pv. 24:9).

It is a greater contrast to compare God's holiness to that of man's than to compare the sun to a cinder of coal. Those holy angels who have never sinned and have retained their purity from creation are holier than man. However, God's Word says that even they are not pure in the presence of God (Job 4:17-18). Yes, even they have to cover their faces in heaven when singing of the Lord's glorious holiness (Isa. 6:2-3). This is not to say that the angels are impure in any way, but that their holiness cannot be compared to God's. And remember that God derives His holiness from Himself, but the angels, like man, receive their holiness from God and not from within themselves. The only reason the angels remain sinless and unfallen is because of God upholding them.

IV. How is God's holiness manifested? First, the holiness of God is seen in creation. When God created the heavens and the earth and all things therein, He said that "it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). When one drives across this earth and sees the towering mountains, luscious valleys, the green trees, and beautiful flowers, along with the various and sundry cattle, beast, and all creeping things, together with the stars, moons, suns and planets, with the mighty oceans, he is made to say that God created all things good.

The creation as we know it has been under the influence of the curse of sin for about 6,000 years. There-fore, as we now view the creation it is vile, filthy, wicked and ugly compared to its original state. With all this, we can still say with the Psalmist, "The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works" (Ps. 145:17).

Second, the holiness of God is seen in His works of providence. God did not create and then withdraw Himself? No, He is continuing to keep the earth on its axis, the stars in their sockets, the sun and moon in their paths, and supplies man and beast with daily bread (Heb. 1:1-3; Mt. 6:26-32; job 26:7; 38:39-41).

To see trials and wickedness on every hand, and, yet, knowing that all these things work to the good of the people of God and His glory (Rom. 8:28; Eph. 1:11), one is made to know that only a holy God can do such things.

Third, the holiness of God is seen in His law. This is that perfect standard which reveals God's character. Here we only need to look at Rom. 7:12 and Ps. 19:8-9.

Fourth, the holiness of God is shown in its greatest strength in His hatred for sin. It was the holiness of God that drove Adam and Eve out of the garden; cursed Cain; destroyed the world in the days of Noah; took David's child and let not the sword depart from his house; and, destroyed Israel and Judah with the Assyrians and Babylonians. But the highest display of the holiness of God was when Jesus Christ died on the cross. Stephen Charnock said, "Not all the vials of judgment that have or shall be poured out upon the wicked world, nor the flaming furnace of a sinner's conscience, nor the irreversible sentence pronounced against the rebellious demons, nor the groans of the damned creatures, give such a demonstration of God's hatred of sin, as the wrath of God let loose upon His Son.

Never did Divine holiness appear more beautiful and lovely than at the time our Saviour's countenance was most marred in the midst of His dying groans. This Himself acknowledges in Psa. 22. When God had turned His smiling face from Him, and thrust His sharp knife into His heart, which forced that terrible cry from Him, 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?' He adores this perfection--'Thou art holy,' v. 3." May we like the angels in heaven "rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come" (Rev. 4:8).


Jimmy Barber February 26, 1991 Copyright, 1991, Veritas Publications 829 Angelina Place Memphis,


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