The Attributes of God Devotional - God is Holy
Edward Leigh described the holiness of God as the “beauty” of all his attributes, “without which his wisdom would be but subtlety, his justice cruelty, his Sovereignty tyranny, his mercy foolish pity.” God’s holiness is the only attribute of his that is affirmed in a threefold repetition in Scripture – and that is done twice (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8). He is declared to be the “Holy One” (Job 6:10, Isa 40:25).
In his Body of Divinity, Thomas Watson speaks of God being holy in four ways: God is intrinsically holy, being holy in his nature without limits. He is primarily holy, being the perfect and the only true pattern of holiness. God is efficiently holy, being the cause of all holiness in angels, saints, and in Christ’s human nature. Last but not least, God is transcendently holy, being far above the capacity of holy angels and glorified saints to behold, much less fallen man.
Since sin is totally contrary to his holiness, he must hate sin in the fullest sense of the word “hate.” God cannot turn a blind eye to sin, let alone approve of it. Either course of action would be totally contrary to his nature, and would mean that God would cease to be God. When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden he became a child of wrath (Eph 2:3), and all his posterity by natural generation were brought into that horrible condition (Psa 51:5; John 3:6). His actions were willful, blatant disobedience, since he had been clearly given the commandment by God, and the only proper punishment for such a crime against the Holy God would be eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire.
Thus Adam hid from God (Gen. 3:8). In the same way, Isaiah pronounced a woe upon himself (Isa. 6:5), and Simon Peter begged Christ to depart from him (Luke 5:8). As fallen man grasps his condition, and understands (even in a limited way) the holiness of God, he is struck by fear and terror. There must be a mediator between God and man, and that mediator is Christ Jesus (1Tim 2:5). It was none other than God who provided the mediator – God was the offended party, and man was totally incapable of putting forward anyone who would be fitting for the role. The mediator would have to be as holy as God – in fact, he would have to be God – and yet he would also have to be a human being. In this we see the miracle of the Incarnation, where the baby born of a virgin would be holy, the Son of God (Luke 1:35).
And Jesus was holy. Unclean spirits acknowledged him to be the Holy One of God (Mark 1:23-26; 5:7). No one could prove that he was guilty of sin (John 8:46). There was in himself no grounds for him to die. Yet it pleased God to put him to death for our sins (Isaiah 53), and in so doing we see vividly the holiness of God. The Father had known perfect fellowship with the Son throughout eternity, and the Son had never once sinned while on the earth, but when the Father laid the sins of lost sinners upon him he could only cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). “For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Cor 5:21). Thus, through the holiness of God we can have true righteousness.
Not only does our justification depend upon the holiness of Christ, so does our sanctification. When the word goes forth that without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14), the thought all too often is to fire up the works-holiness machinery to produce good works. Do you recognize that machinery? It’s the same machinery that we employed to produce good works when we were trying to save ourselves. Those works were contaminated by our sins and were unacceptable to God, for the only righteousness that He accepts is the righteousness of Christ. In like fashion, the good works we try in and of ourselves to produce are contaminated by sin and self. We need a sanctification that depends upon the holiness of Christ, and in fact it is Christ who is made to us our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption (1Cor 1:30).
And so we see that Christ is sufficient for all that we need. Even in eternity we will be dependent upon him as our mediator. It is only as we embrace Christ our mediator, our only hope in life and death, that we can and will be transformed into those persons we are to be – holy, fulfilling the command, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44; 1Pet 1:16).
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