The Attributes of God: The Holiness of God

A.W. Pink


“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).


Holiness & Idols

Book: “Idols of the Heart, Learning to Long for God Alone”
LESSON: Lesson#3, Chapter #3
Summary and Comments

So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” Romans7:12

“Sometimes a simple action can speak volumes about character.” “We should seek an obedient life because our obedience, as flawed as it always is, remains the one infallible sign that we belong to Christ (see 1 John 2:3).”1

This week’s lesson was very instructive and serves as a reminder to us of the ease of our hearts and actions to violate God’s good and lawful commandments and to set up idols both in our hearts and minds and to worship everything and anything before Him. Fitzpatrick calls on us to read the commandments again and especially to reflect on the 1st Commandment “You shall have no other gods before Me,” and that means not only the heathen gods of the false religions of the world but also, as we have seen in past studies, the idols of the heart, those things that are good in themselves but become idols because of our sinfulness and misplaced worship. God/Christ is first in our life period. We do not have any other alternative but to place Him first, in everything. He is God and deserves all praise, honor, glory, thankfulness and obedience as He has called us to in the commandments in the Old Testament and New Testament. We are not Antinomians. God forbid. We do not think because we are saved and kept by the power of God that we do not have to obey the Scriptures. To the contrary, because we are saved, we will place Christ and His word first in our lives and obey, as much as lies within us as sinful people still enclosed in flesh, obedience to them. We are not legalists. We do not “keep the law” for the
purposes of gaining anything from God but we “keep” the law insofar as obedience to it for the glory of our God and thankfulness for what He has already done in eternity past, revealed in time, in our lives for us now and eternally.

Listen to what Fitzpatrick says about the use of the moral law for the Christian:

1. “The law helps by serving as a tutor;
2. The law also humbles me and brings me to the end of my self-righteousness;
3. The law teaches me how thankful I am to be for Christ’s perfect keeping of it;
4. The law becomes the standard of righteousness that I seek to obey out of thankfulness.”2

She goes on to say, “Yes, the moral law as summarized in the Ten Commandments is a wonderful gift. We should look at it as “ten friends to guard our ways.” It humbles us and convicts us, it fills us with thankfulness for our Saviour’s meek obedience, and it prompts us to learn how to live a life that will place Him.” 3

We were reminded in the chapter of the folly of disobedience and outright disregard of God’s law. We see it in Lot’s wife and we see it daily with the unbeliever and unfortunately, we see it in our own lives. We suffer much due to our own placing other things, other folks, other well-meaning and well-intentioned things before Christ’s clear and “for our good” mandates before us. As some would say, “we want our cake and eat it too” — i.e., we want Christ but want to do our “own thing” and use our sinful non-wisdom placed above
His good and wise counsel. We still want baby food and fluffy, emotional, tear-jerker, oh me, oh my, self-satisfying dogma rather than the truth of Christ and His marvelous love and grace at work in our lives. Many times as believers we suffer for righteousness sake but we also suffer for our own idolatry and self-serving means to an end rather than placing our King of kings and Beloved Husband, Christ, first in our lives. Would be to God that He would always have first place. Pray that it might be so in your life and that this study will be the very tool that God uses to draw you back to His Word and those commandments He has given us as a guide or “tutor” for us and our children to the praise of His glorious grace.

For me personally, this week’s study has been a reminder of the need for the gospel to go out not only in the foreign mission fields abroad but in our own backyards, over the fence, down the street, and though we may suffer for it, our God is first and He will bless us, keep us, and He will receive the praise and glory for it. It is good to be His servant, blessed with His Holy Spirit and with the desire to “clear out” the idols of the world in practice, heart and mind.

1/ Elyse Fitzpatrick, “Idols of the Heart, Learning to Long for God Alone” p. 45,53
2/  [Idols, p. 51-52]
3/  [Idols, p. 53]

Books, Promises and God’s Way of Holiness

My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Eccl. 12:12

As I gather many years of materials together for the “promised” books, I am amazed at the greatest of theology that we have in abundance and how study is a true gift of God to us for our good. He has said that “too much study is a weariness of the flesh” and I believe we can attest to that especially those of us who read, write, teach, and are consumed daily by words and expression. In my thousands of pages, twenty-four journals and eighteen gorged three-ring binders (not to mention my digital library of too many DVD/CD’s to mention), I have a very large task at hand. In my gathering of materials, I opened a few pages to read and how lovely, how encouraging these studies from the past are as a reminder for today that we have a task at hand and we can accomplish it in our Christian walk. So then, as I stare at the insurmountable piles of studies past, I confess my slowness and look forward with anticipation to the task that is before me.

“Horatius Bonar gives us excellent admonitions and encouragements to press on in godliness every day as he has coined it, in this “great thing,” the Christian life. He especially reminds us that “abide in Me,” “learn of Me” and “follow Me” “are the contents and “summing-up” of the Christian statute book constituting our true directory and guide in the pursuit of holiness.” All of these things are contained in God’s Word and he reminds us again, it is the guidebook for our lives. It is our “rule of life.” Bonar then spells out in detail how we are to do these things. We already know them for God has worked in and through us beforehand in giving us knowledge and His Holy Spirit to know and apply them. But, as is the case with all of us, we do not always obey and follow them. Bonar’s book reminds us that godliness, holiness and sanctification of life is not based on what we know only but also on what we do. Our fruit of knowing will be doing. We are active participants in our walk with Christ, not Antinomian or making excuse that we are not gifted for this or that but by digging into God’s Word, praying and applying, seeking the jewels of the Christian life and its rewarding peace and contentment in our obedience to God’s commands. We are not “hearers only” but “doers” and always learning and growing in the Christian life. We never get to the point where we say I have nothing to learn by God’s Word and teachings but that as I grow, I learn and as I learn, I grow in godliness. As we grow in godliness and our knowledge deepened, we read anew those old things that we know and are refreshed, and see them even more deeply and with more zeal to follow after Christ more obediently. May it never be said of us as reformed women that we have “arrived” in knowledge but rather as the old reformers say, “reformed but always reforming” and always learning so that our knowledge will match our walk, knowledge of Christ, His Word and doctrine, and conform us more to His image and thus we are humbled by it. May it be that we “decrease” and that He is “increased” in our daily lives for our own good and His glory.” I have enjoyed very much this study and especially because it is from the writings of this wonderful Puritan, Horatius Bonar. The Puritans loved the truth and it was their great desire that believers know the depths of Christ and apply that knowledge in Christian living. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to learn from this dear saint from his perspective and knowledge. He has sent us by this study on a quest for more — more of Christ, more of godliness and holiness, more of our active obedience and more of the knowledge that we can “do all things through Christ who strengthens us” to live as “holy” people in a fallen world. He has given us a mandate and banner saying, “Let us then shine” and thus we press on so that our light shines before men and our God is glorified in us. I pray I have learned well!

__JoyPals Group/ReformedWomen, 2005, Study: “God’s Way of Holiness”

Has God given you a practical task to do from His preparation and study in your life? Go about it with speed for you know not what a blessing you will be to others. __Theology Girl