Bill Bright

God’s holiness has been largely ignored by modern Christianity. Of all God’s attributes, nothing compares to the splendor and beauty of His holiness. It is chief among His attributes. That means His character is perfect in every way. His moral excellence is the standard of absolute integrity. God’s pristine purity and perfection infinitely set Him apart from His creation. Everything God does bears the imprint of His unblemished holiness. His holiness never diminishes.


Holiness is a wonderful, awe-inspiring attribute, but it is also a fearful reality for those who fall short of perfection. Our flaws are exposed in the consuming fire of His holiness. But in the midst of the fire God also extends great hope. 


Our unwillingness to acknowledge God’s holiness reflects our failure to recognize who God really is. The Hebrew root word for “to be holy” means to cut or to separate. The Old Testament reveals that God is above and separate from all that He created. He is exalted above everything in holy majesty.


We may also define holy as completely set apart from sin. (Nelson Study Bible, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), 2120.) Holiness reflects a flawless, unblemished moral purity. God does not just match a standard of purity—He is the standard.


I feel totally inadequate to describe this attribute of God. How can I, or any sinful human being, find the right words to explain how pure and high God is in His holiness? How can I describe something that is so far removed from my experience and nature? However, if we desire to know God intimately and see our lives transformed, we must begin to grasp God’s holiness, His supreme attribute.


When I think of God’s holiness, I am convicted by the sinful nature of my own being. We are all like a man wearing a beautiful white suit who was invited to go down into the depths of a coal mine. In the darkness of the mine, he was not aware that his suit was becoming soiled. But when he resurfaced into the dazzling light of the noonday sun, he was fully aware that his suit had become sooty and dirty. The light of God’s holiness reveals the darkness of our sin.


Isaiah was a prominent citizen of Judah during the eighth century bc, a prophet who followed God’s commands and served his Lord. Today, we would consider him one of the “spiritual elite,” a man of integrity and honor. At one point, Isaiah had a vision of heaven and the holiness of the Creator:

I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of His robe filled the Temple. Hovering around Him were mighty seraphim, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with the remaining two they flew. In a great chorus they sang, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty! The whole earth is filled with His glory!” The glorious singing shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire sanctuary was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:1–4)


Prior to his vision, Isaiah was focused on the sins of others, calling them to repentance. Now that he found himself in the very presence of our holy God, he became dramatically aware of his own sin and unrighteousness. Terrified, he exclaimed, “My destruction is sealed, for I am a sinful man and a member of a sinful race. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord Almighty!” (Isaiah 6:5).


When the angels surround the glorious throne of God, they sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the LordAlmighty.” Stephen Charnock comments, “Do you hear, in any angelical song, any other perfection of the Divine Nature thrice repeated? Where do we read of them crying out, ‘eternal, eternal, eternal’ or ‘faithful, faithful, faithful’ Lord God of hosts?” (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God.)


This repetition, “holy, holy, holy,” tells us that God’s holiness is the supreme attribute of His being, the foundation of His eternal existence. All His other attributes are marked by His holiness. His sovereignty and His role as judge are rooted in and flow out of His holiness. In fact, theologians speak of God’s holiness as His “central and supreme perfection.” (Louis Berkof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1941), 73.) It sets Him apart from everything and everyone. 



Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His   glory! (Isaiah 6:3, NIV)



ACTION POINT:  Read Isaiah 6:1–5. What was it that overwhelmed Isaiah? Describe how Isaiah may have seen himself in relationship to his fellow Israelites before and after the vision. What caused the shift in Isaiah’s perspective and focus? 


God, because You are holy, I will devote myself to You in purity, worship, and service.


By Bill Bright, excerpt from GOD, Who Are You Anyway?


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