“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”
Revelation 4:8 ESV
There is only one attribute of God that is declared around the throne day and night. The angels are not declaring “Love, Love, Love” or “Truth, Truth, Truth”. In the throne room scene in Revelation 4:8, it is His absolute holiness that the four creatures are proclaiming. In Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 6:3 the angels are praising Him for His holiness. Yes God is love (1 John 4:8) and God is righteous and true (Revelation 15:8). But is is because of His holiness that He is perfectly loving, perfectly righteous, and the perfect truth.
His holiness is elevated to the superlative degree. God is not just holy but holy, holy, holy. Holy, holy means that God would be holier but holy, holy, holy means that God is holy, holier, holiest. He is the single most holy being in the entire universe. And there is no attribute with which God is more identified. His Son is the Holy One of Israel. The Spirit is the Holy Spirit. The Bible is the Holy Word of God. The temple is the Holy temple. The land is the Holy land.
What does it mean for God to be holy? In his book The Attributes of God, A.W. Pink says that God is absolute purity, the sum of all moral excellence. God’s holiness is tje veru excellency of the Divine nature; His holiness is the antithesis of all moral blemish or defilement.
Primarily it means that God is separate. He is vastly separate from us because of His moral perfection. God is absolutely holy and we are radically corrupt. The idea is God’s transcendence and His supreme greatness compared to His creation. There is a sense which all of His attributes come together to comprise His holiness. We could even say that His holiness is in His wholeness.
Here are two practical applications from this post. The first is that this understanding of God’s holiness magnifies the grace of God. God has spanned the vast chasm separating us and Him through the cross of Jesus Christ. And the higher we understand God to be and the lower we see ourselves, the more we magnify grace. But the more we elevate ourselves and if we bring down God we trivialize the cross. And it is grace that is the very backbone of everything we do as Christians. It is God’s grace that we are saved. It is God’s grace to His chosen that gives us confidence in evangelism. It is God’s grace that we may approach the throne with confidence. To say that our understanding of grace is very important is a huge understatement.
The second application is a key verse that is Leviticus 20:26: “You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”
Holiness is what we call an incommunicable attribute. This means that we are called to emulate it. As Christians we strive to be holy just as we strive to be righteous, truthful, and loving. So the second application is that we should be striving for holiness. Holiness is what we should be longing for. But at the same time this requires a discipline in our lives. So strive for holiness. Strive to be holy as your Heavenly Father is holy.