Most people enjoy hearing sermons about the love of God; but very few care to hear about the holiness of God. Some find the subject of God’s holiness daunting. One pictures God as the ultimate judge who finds the flaws and hidden sins in every person. As a result, many avoid the holiness altogether rather than hearing about the love and grace of God.
Why do we prefer not to discuss the holiness of God? We avoid the subject of God’s holiness because we do not like to draw attention to the fact that we have fallen into sin. Adam and Eve hid themselves from God in the Garden of Eden after they ate the forbidden fruit. Before they fell into sin, they did not flee from God’s presence. Just as Adam and Eve avoided God when they fell into sin; the knowledge that we are sinful creatures living in a fallen worlds makes us reluctant in discussing God’s holiness.
1. What is the Holiness of God?
The term ”holiness” in Hebrew (Old Testament) is qadash and in Greek (New Testament) it is hagios; both mean ”separation.” In the context of God’s attributes, holiness is the distinction of God from his creations. God is distinct from His creations in terms of His essence and morality. In terms of essence, God is distinct from man. God is the Creator, and man is the creation. God has no beginning, but man has a beginning. God is not man and man is not God. This is the first definition of God’s holiness. God is distinct (separate) from His creation in essence because He is the Creator. In terms of morality, God is distinct from a sinful man. God is holy and righteous; meaning that He has never committed sin and He will never commit sin. God is the standard that will never change. Man was created in holiness in the Garden of Eden; but man fell into sin and sin brought about the separation of man from God. God is morally distinct from His creations because His creations have been tainted by sin. In Isaiah 6, we read about Isaiah’s vision of the holiness of God. In the vision, Isaiah sees seraphim creatures that surround the throne of God. A seraph is a type of holy angelic creature. Each seraph has two wings that covered its eyes, two wings that covered its feet, and two wings that allowed it to fly. Although they are holy creatures, they could not look upon the holiness of God; thus they must cover their eyes with their wings. This is an illustration of the holiness of God. He is the Creator and seraphim are the creation. Although seraphim are holy creatures; there is still a distinction in essence between God the Creator and His creations.
2. The Holiness of God and Other Attributes of God
Holiness is God’s primary attribute. Without holiness, God will not be God. His holy attribute influences His other attributes; such as His love, grace, mercy, etc. The attribute of God that was repeated three times in the Bible is “holy, holy, holy (ESV, Isaiah 6:3).” When God speaks of Himself, He describes Himself as holy (Leviticus 19:2). Because God is holy in essence; He is the standard for holiness. Anything that deviates from His standard is sin. Therefore, there are no distinctions between large and small sins. Like God’s other attributes; His holiness is constant and unchanging. Because He is holy, He will always hate sin.
3. The Holiness of God and Man’s Sins
If the entire human race has fallen into sin; how then can we reach the standard of God? The truth is we will never be able to meet God’s holy standards by our own strength. God demands perfection in holiness; He cannot tolerate even the smallest amount of sin. Even if we only sinned once in a lifetime; we already miss God’s standard for holiness and God will never compromise on His standards. Because God is holy, He must judge sin. Because the holy God will always despise sin; He will always judge and punish sins. All sinners are under the judgment of God and God judges by His standard of holiness. By God’s standard of holiness, we all have sinned.
4. The Holiness of God and the Love of God
In love, God sent His Son to take the penalty of our sins. Christ lived a perfect, sinless life that met God’s standard of holiness. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born to bear the full penalty of our sins. Because His Son paid the penalty of sin in our place; God did not compromise His holiness in granting us His forgiveness. It is at the cross that both the love and holiness of God are displayed. He displayed His love for sinners in sending His Son to bear our sins. At the same time, He showed His holiness by pouring His wrath on our sins upon His Son (who was bearing all of our sins). The love and holiness of God cannot be separated as both are displayed on the cross. Without God’s holiness, Heaven will not exist as Heaven is a holy place where there are no sins. Without the love of God; we will never enter heaven because all sinners must perish in hell. In the light of the cross, all Christians should be equally joyful in hearing of God’s love and God’s holiness.
5. The Holiness of God and the Christian Life
“…and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23-24) As people who have been redeemed by Christ’s death on the cross; we have been restored unto holiness. When Adam sinned, the image of God in man is broken and man no longer reflects the holiness of God. But Christ came and redeemed the human race from sin. Little by little, the image of God is restored in those who believe and redeemed men and women begin to reject the holiness of God.
God’s calling for holiness is clear: “You shall be holy, for I am holy (ESV, 1 Peter 1: 16).”A Christian’s life is a progress of sanctification. The ultimate goal is to become more like Christ. We are to reﬂect the image of God who is holy and perfect. Christians are sanctified not by good works but by the grace of God. The Holy Spirit helps us through the joys and trials as we progress towards becoming like Christ with each new day. [RA]
“You shall be holy, for I am holy” (ESV, Peter 1:16).
By Reverend Wilson Suwanto