The Attributes of God: The Holiness of God

holinessTHE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
A.W. Pink

THE HOLINESS OF GOD

“Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? for Thou only art holy” (Rev. 15:4). He only is independently, infinitely, immutably holy. In Scripture He is frequently styled “The Holy One”: He is so because the sum of all moral excellency is found in Him. He is absolute Purity, unsullied even by the shadow of sin. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Holiness is the very excellency of the Divine nature: the great God is “glorious in holiness” (Ex. 15:11). Therefore do we read, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Hab. 1:13). As God’s power is the opposite of the native weakness of the creature, as His wisdom is in complete contrast from the least defect of understanding or folly, so His holiness is the very antithesis of all moral blemish or defilement. Of old God appointed singers in Israel “that they should praise for the beauty of holiness” (2 Chron. 20:21). “Power is God’s hand or arm, omniscience His eye, mercy His bowels, eternity His duration, but holiness is His beauty” (S. Charnock). It is this, supremely, which renders Him lovely to those who are delivered from sin’s dominion.

A chief emphasis is placed upon this perfection of God: 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 expressed ‘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 (S. Charnock).

This perfection, as none other, is solemnly celebrated before the Throne of Heaven, the seraphim crying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:3). God Himself singles out this perfection, “Once have I sworn by Thy holiness” (Ps. 89:35). God swears by His holiness because that is a fuller expression of Himself than anything else. Therefore are we exhorted, “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness” (Ps. 30:4). “This may be said to be a transcendental attribute, that, as it were, runs through the rest, and casts luster upon them. It is an attribute of attributes” (J. Howe, 1670). Thus we read of “the beauty of the Lord” (Ps. 27:4), which is none other than “the beauty of holiness” (Ps. 110:3).

As it seems to challenge an excellency above all His other perfections, so it is the glory of all the rest; as it is the glory of the Godhead, so it is the glory of every perfection in the Godhead; as His power is the strength of them, so His holiness is the beauty of them; as all would be weak without almightiness to back them, so all would be uncomely without holiness to adorn them. Should this be sullied, all the rest would lose their honour; as at the same instant the sun should lose its light, it would lose its heat, its strength, its generative and quickening virtue. As sincerity is the luster of every grace in a Christian, so is purity the splendor of every attribute in the Godhead. His justice is a holy justice, His wisdom a holy wisdom, His arm of power a “holy arm” (Ps. 98:1), His truth or promise a “holy promise” (Ps. 105:42). His name, which signifies all His attributes in conjunction, “is holy,” Psalm 103:1 (S. Charnock).

God’s holiness is manifested in His works. “The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works” (Ps. 145:17). Nothing but that which is excellent can proceed from Him. Holiness is the rule of all His actions. At the beginning He pronounced all that He made “very good” (Gen. 1:31), which He could not have done had there been anything imperfect or unholy in them. Man was made “upright” (Eccl. 7:29), in the image and likeness of his Creator. The angels that fell were created holy, for we are told that they “kept not their first habitation” (Jude 6). Of Satan it is written, “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Ezek. 28:15).

God’s holiness is manifested in His law. That law forbids sin in all of its modifications: in its most refined as well as its grossest forms, the intent of the mind as well as the pollution of the body, the secret desire as well as the overt act. Therefore do we read, The law is holy, and “the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Rom. 7:12). Yes, “the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Ps. 19:8, 9).

God’s holiness is manifested at the Cross. Wondrously and yet most solemnly does the Atonement display God’s infinite holiness and abhorrence of sin. How hateful must sin be to God for Him to punish it to its utmost deserts when it was imputed to His Son!

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 (S. Charnock).

Because God is holy He hates all sin. He loves everything which is in conformity to His laws, and loathes everything which is contrary to it. His Word plainly declares, “The froward is an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 3:32). And again, “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 15:26). It follows, therefore, that He must necessarily punish sin. Sin can no more exist without demanding His punishment than without requiring His hatred of it. God has often forgiven sinners, but He never forgives sin; and the sinner is only forgiven on the ground of Another having borne his punishment; for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). Therefore we are told, “The Lord will, take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth Wrath for His enemies” (Nahum 1:2). For one sin God banished our first parents from Eden. For one sin all the posterity of Ham fell under a curse which remains over them to this day (Gen. 9:21). For one sin Moses was excluded from Canaan, Elisha’s servant smitten with leprosy, Ananias and Sapphira cut off out of the land of the living.

Herein we find proof for the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures. The unregenerate do not really believe in the holiness of God. Their conception of His character is altogether one-sided. They fondly hope that His mercy will override everything else. “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether as thyself” (Ps. 50:21) is God’s charge against them. They think only of a “god” patterned after their own evil hearts. Hence their continuance in a course of mad folly. Such is the holiness ascribed to the Divine nature and character in Scripture that it clearly demonstrates their superhuman origin. The character attributed to the “gods” of the ancients and of modern heathendom are the very reverse of that immaculate purity which pertains to the true God. An ineffably holy God, who has the utmost abhorrence of all sin, was never invented by any of Adam’s fallen descendants! The fact is that nothing makes more manifest the terrible depravity of man’s heart and his enmity against the living God than to have set before him One who is infinitely and immutably holy. His own idea of sin is practically limited to what the world calls “crime.” Anything short of that, man palliates as “defects,” “mistakes,” “infirmities,” etc. And even where sin is owned at all, excuses and extenuations are made for it.

The “god” which the vast majority of professing Christians “love,” is looked upon very much like an indulgent old man, who himself has no relish for folly, but leniently winks at the “indiscretions” of youth. But the Word says, “Thou hatest all workers of iniquity “(Ps. 5:5). And again, “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:11). But men refuse to believe in this God, and gnash their teeth when His hatred of sin is faithfully pressed upon their attention. No, sinful man was no more likely to devise a holy God than to create the Lake of fire in which he will be tormented for ever and ever.

Because God is holy, acceptance with Him on the ground of creature doings is utterly impossible. A fallen creature could sooner create a world than produce that which would meet the approval of infinite Purity. Can darkness dwell with Light? Can the Immaculate One take pleasure in “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6)? The best that sinful man brings forth is defiled. A corrupt tree cannot bear good fruit. God would deny Himself, vilify His perfections, were He to account as righteous and holy that which is not so in itself; and nothing is so which has the least stain upon it contrary to the nature of God. But blessed be His name, that which His holiness demanded His grace has provided in Christ Jesus our Lord. Every poor sinner who has fled to Him for refuge stands “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). Hallelujah!

Because God is holy the utmost reverence becomes our approaches unto Him. “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all about Him” (Ps. 89:7). Then “Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool; He is holy” (Ps. 99:5). Yes, “at His footstool,” in the lowest posture of humility, prostrate before Him. When Moses would approach unto the burning bush, God said, “put off thy shoes from off thy feet” (Ex. 3:5). He is to be served “with fear” (Ps. 2:11). Of Israel His demand was, “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh Me, and before all the people I will be glorified” (Lev. 10:3). The more our hearts are awed by His ineffable holiness, the more acceptable will be our approaches unto Him.

Because God is holy we should desire to be conformed to Him. His command is, “Be ye holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). We are not bidden to be omnipotent or omniscient as God is, but we are to be holy, and that “in all manner of deportment” (1 Pet. 1:15).

This is the prime way of honoring God. We do not so glorify God by elevated admiration, or eloquent expressions, or pompous services of Him, as when we aspire to a conversing with Him with unstained spirits, end live to Him in living like Him (S. Charnock).

Then as God alone is the Source and Fount of holiness, let us earnestly seek holiness from Him; let our daily prayer be that He may “sanctify us wholly; and our whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23).

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Predestination, A Manifestation of His Glory

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“Whatsoever Jehovah pleased, that hath He done.
In heaven, in earth, in the seas, and in all deeps.”  Psalm 135:6

“This doctrine of Predestination represents the purpose of God as absolute and unconditional, independent of the whole finite creation, and as originating solely in the eternal counsel of His will. God is seen as the great and mighty King who has appointed the course of nature and who directs the course of history even down to its minutest details. His decree is eternal, unchangeable, holy, wise, and sovereign. It extends not merely to the course of the physical world but to every event in human history from the creation to the judgment, and includes all the activities of saints and angels in heaven and of reprobates and demons in hell. It embraces the whole scope of creaturely existence, through time and eternity, comprehending at once all things that ever were or will be in their causes, conditions, successions, and relations. Everything outside of God Himself is included in this all-embracing decree, and that very naturally since all other beings owe their existence and continuance in existence to His creative and sustaining power. It provides a providential control under which all things are hastening to the end of God’s determining; and the goal is, “One far-off divine event – Toward which the whole creation moves.”

Since the finite creation through its whole range exists as a medium through which God manifests His glory, and since it is absolutely dependent on Him, it of itself could originate no conditions which would limit or defeat the manifestation of that glory. From all eternity God has purposed to do just exactly what He is doing. He is the sovereign Ruler of the universe and “does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest thou?”  Daniel 4:35. Since the universe had its origin in God and depends on Him for its continued existence it must be, in all its parts and at all times, subject to His control so that nothing can come to pass contrary to what He expressly decrees or permits. Thus the eternal purpose is represented as an act of sovereign predestination or foreordination, and unconditioned by any subsequent fact or change in time. Hence it is represented as being the basis of the divine foreknowledge of all future events, and not conditioned by that foreknowledge or by anything originated by the events themselves.”

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Loraine Boettner, “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination” II, 13

The Attributes of God: The Grace of God

Grace of GodTheologyGirl-ReformedWomen Series

THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
A.W. Pink

THE GRACE OF GOD

Grace is a perfection of the Divine character which is exercised only toward the elect. Neither in the Old Testament nor in the New is the grace of God ever mentioned in connection with mankind generally, still less with the lower orders of His creatures. In this it is distinguished from mercy, for the mercy of God is “over all His works” (Ps. 145-9). Grace is the alone source from which flows the goodwill, love, and salvation of God unto His chosen people. This attribute of the Divine character was defined by Abraham Booth in his helpful book, The Reign of Grace thus, “It is the eternal and absolute free favour of God, manifested in the vouchsafement of spiritual and eternal blessings to the guilty and the unworthy.”

Divine grace is the sovereign and saving favour of God exercised in the bestowment of blessings upon those who have no merit in them and for which no compensation is demanded from them. Nay, more; it is the favour of God shown to those who not only have no positive deserts of their own, but who are thoroughly ill-deserving and hell-deserving. It is completely unmerited and unsought, and is altogether unattracted by anything in or from or by the objects upon which it is bestowed. Grace can neither be bought, earned, nor won by the creature. If it could be, it would cease to be grace. When a thing is said to be of grace we mean that the recipient has no claim upon it, that it was in nowise due him. It comes to him as pure charity, and, at first, unasked and undesired.

The fullest exposition of the amazing grace of God is to be found in the Epistles of the apostle Paul. In his writings “grace” stands in direct opposition to works and worthiness, all works and worthiness, of whatever kind or degree. This is abundantly clear from Romans 11:6, “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. If it be of works, then is it no more grace, otherwise work is no more work.” Grace and works will no more unite than an acid and an alkali. “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). The absolute favour of God can no more consist with human merit than oil and water will fuse into one: see also Romans 4:4,5.

There are three principal characteristics of Divine grace. First, it is eternal. Grace was planned before it was exercised, purposed before it was imparted: “Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9). Second, it is free, for none did ever purchase it: “Being justified freely by His grace” (Rom. 3:24). Third, it is sovereign, because God exercises it toward and bestows it upon whom He pleases: “Even so might grace reign” (Rom. 5:21). If grace “reigns” then is it on the throne, and the occupant of the throne is sovereign. Hence “the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16).

Just because grace is unmerited favour, it must be exercised in a sovereign manner. Therefore does the Lord declare, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious” (Ex 33:19). Were God to show grace to all of Adam’s descendants, men would at once conclude that He was righteously compelled to take them to heaven as a meet compensation for allowing the human race to fall into sin. But the great God is under no obligation to any of His creatures, least of all to those who are rebels against Him.

Eternal life is a gift, therefore it can neither be earned by good works, nor claimed as a right. Seeing that salvation is a “gift,” who has any right to tell God on whom He ought to bestow it? It is not that the Giver ever refuses this gift to any who seek it wholeheartedly, and according to the rules which He has prescribed. No! He refuses none who come to Him empty-handed and in the way of His appointing. But if out of a world of impenitent and unbelieving, God is determined to exercise His sovereign right by choosing a limited number to be saved, who is wronged? Is God obliged to force His gift on those who value it not? Is God compelled to save those who are determined to go their own way?

But nothing more riles the natural man and brings to the surface his innate and inveterate enmity against God than to press upon him the eternality, the freeness, and the absolute sovereignty of Divine grace. That God should have formed His purpose from everlasting without in anywise consulting the creature, is too abasing for the unbroken heart. That grace cannot be earned or won by any efforts of man is too self-emptying for self-righteousness. And that grace singles out whom it pleases to be its favored objects, arouses hot protests from haughty rebels. The clay rises up against the Potter and asks, “Why hast Thou made me thus?” A lawless insurrectionist dares to call into question the justice of Divine sovereignty.

The distinguishing grace of God is seen in saving that people whom He has sovereignly singled out to be His high favorites. By “distinguishing” we mean that grace discriminates, makes differences” chooses some and passes by others. It was distinguishing grace which selected Abraham from the midst of his idolatrous neighbors and made him “the friend of God.” It was distinguishing grace which saved “publicans and sinners,” but said of the religious Pharisees, “Let them alone” (Matt. 15:14). Nowhere does the glory of God’s free and sovereign grace shine more conspicuously than in the unworthiness and unlikeness of its objects. Beautifully was this illustrated by James Hervey, (1751):

Where sin has abounded, says the proclamation from the court of heaven, grace doth much more abound. Manasseh was a monster of barbarity, for he caused his own children to pass through the fire, and filled Jerusalem with innocent blood. Manasseh was an adept in iniquity, for he not only multiplied, and to an extravagant degree, his own sacrilegious impieties, but he poisoned the principles and perverted the manners of his subjects, making them do worse than the most detestable of the heathen idolators: see 2 Chronicles 33. Yet, through this superabundant grace he is humbled, he is reformed, and becomes a child of forgiving love, an heir of immortal glory.

Behold that bitter and bloody persecutor, Saul; when, breathing out threatenings and bent upon slaughter, he worried the lambs and put to death the disciples of Jesus. The havoc he had committed, the inoffensive families he had already ruined, were not sufficient to assuage his vengeful spirit. They were only a taste, which, instead of glutting the bloodhound, made him more closely pursue the track, and more eagerly pant for destruction. He still has a thirst for violence and murder. So eager and insatiable is his thirst, that be even breathes out threatening and slaughter (Acts 9:1). His words are spears and arrows, and his tongue a sharp sword. ‘Tis as natural for him to menace the Christians as to breathe the air. Nay, they bled every hour in the purposes of his rancorous heart. It is only owing to want of power that every syllable he utters, every breath he draws, does not deal out deaths, and cause some of the innocent disciples to fall. Who, upon the principles of human judgment, would not nave pronounced him a vessel of wrath, destined to unavoidable damnation? Nay, would not have been ready to conclude that, if there were heavier chains and a deeper dungeon in the world of woe, they must surely be reserved for such an implacable enemy of true godliness? Yet, admire and adore the inexhaustible treasures of grace—this Saul is admitted into the goodly fellowship of the prophets, is numbered with the noble arm of martyrs and makes a distinguished figure among the glorious company of the apostles.

The Corinthians were flagitious even to a proverb. Some of them wallowing in such abominable vices, and habituated themselves to such outrageous acts of injustice, as were a reproach to human nature. Yet, even these sons of violence and slaves of sensuality were washed, sanctified, justified (1 Cor. 6:9-11). “Washed,” in the precious blood of a dying Redeemer; “sanctified,” by the powerful operations of the blessed Spirit; “justified,” through the infinitely tender mercies of a gracious God. Those who were once the burden of the earth, are now the joy of heaven, the delight of angels.

Now the grace of God is manifested in and by and through the Lord Jesus Christ. “The law was given by Moses, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). This does not mean that God never exercised grace toward any before His Son became incarnate—Genesis 6:8, Exodus 33:19, etc., clearly show otherwise. But grace and truth were fully revealed and perfectly exemplified when the Redeemer came to this earth, and died for His people upon the cross. It is through Christ the Mediator alone that the grace of God flows to His elect. “Much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ. . .much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. . .so might grace reign, through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:15, 17,21).

The grace of God is proclaimed in the Gospel (Acts 20:24), which is to the self-righteous Jew a “stumbling block,” and to the conceited and philosophizing Greek “foolishness.” And why so? Because there is nothing whatever in it that is adapted to gratify the pride of man. It announces that unless we are saved by grace, we cannot be saved at all. It declares that apart from Christ, the unspeakable Gift of God’s grace, the state of every man is desperate, irremediable, hopeless. The Gospel addresses men as guilty, condemned, perishing criminals. It declares that the chastest moralist is in the same terrible plight as is the most voluptuous profligate; that the zealous professor, with all his religious performances, is no better off than the most profane infidel.

The Gospel contemplates every descendant of Adam as a fallen, polluted, hell-deserving and helpless sinner. The grace which the Gospel publishes is his only hope. All stand before God convicted as transgressors of His holy law, as guilty and condemned criminals; awaiting not sentence, but the execution of sentence already passed on them (John 3:18; Rom. 3:19). To complain against the partiality of grace is suicidal. If the sinner insists upon bare justice, then the Lake of Fire must be his eternal portion. His only hope lies in bowing to the sentence which Divine justice has passed upon him, owning the absolute righteousness of it, casting himself on the mercy of God, and stretching forth empty hands to avail himself of the grace of God now made known to him in the Gospel.

The third Person in the Godhead is the Communicator of grace, therefore is He denominated “the Spirit of grace” (Zech. 12:10). God the Father is the Fountain of all grace, for He purposed in Himself the everlasting covenant of redemption. God the Son is the only Channel of grace. The Gospel is the Publisher of grace. The Spirit is the Bestower. He is the One who applies the Gospel in saving power to the soul: quickening the elect while spiritually dead, conquering their rebellious wills, melting their hard hearts, opening their blind eyes, cleansing them from the leprosy of sin. Thus we may say with the late G. S. Bishop,

Grace is a provision for men who are so fallen that they cannot lift the axe of justice, so corrupt that they cannot change their own natures, so averse to God that they cannot turn to Him, so blind that they cannot see Him, so deaf that they cannot hear Him, and so dead that He Himself must open their graves and lift them into resurrection.

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There are several very excellent treatments of this subject and ones in which we distinctly adhere to, i.e., Calvin, Hodge, BB Warfield and more but we have chosen A.W. Pink’s “Attributes of God” for its simplistic easy-to-understand writing for the novice believer who happens upon our blog. _TheologyGirl