The Holiness of God

by  Rev. D. H. Kuiper

"But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."  I Peter 1:15-16

 In the past several pamphlets we have heard the Scriptures speak to us on those attributes of God which are revealed by that powerful and beautiful name of God, Jehovah.  As we understood somewhat the meaning of the independence, spirituality, sovereignty, eternity, omnipresence, immutability, omniscience, and omnipotence of God, we stood amazed, did we not?  In this knowledge of God we rejoice; we will boast in nothing else than the knowledge we have of Him through Jesus Christ! 

There is another group of divine attributes sometimes called God's ethical perfections, sometimes called His communicable attributes.  In distinction from those listed above, these are the virtues which God shares with His redeemed people and works in them through the Spirit of Christ.  We have in mind God's holiness, grace, mercy, love, righteousness, wisdom and long-suffering.  Scripture not only sets forth these wonderful virtues of God, but also clearly indicates that holiness is the chief or outstanding ethical virtue that is in God.  He is the Holy One of Israel!  He is called holy, or referred to as holy, more than any other virtue. 

That holiness is the greatest of God's virtues is revealed in the opening verse of Isaiah 6.  There, Isaiah records a vision in which he sees the Lord upon a throne in His temple, surrounded by seraphim which cry out to each other, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is filled with His glory." These angels, which cover their faces with two of their wings before the great glory of God, can only repeat themselves, when they would express His great glory;  it is almost unutterable!  And that astonishing glory of God, a glory that fills the whole earth, is His  holiness!  All kinds of gods are being preached in the church nowdays, but it is not being preached according to Scripture, and it is not being preached enough, that our God is a holy God!

That which is holy is the opposite of that which is common or profane.  We find in Scripture many things which were called holy because they were separated from common usage and dedicated to God with a special purpose.  We read of the Holy City, Jerusalem; there was the Holy Temple, with its Holy Place and Most Holy Place.  So too there were holy priests, holy Sabbaths, holy water, a holy covenant, holy angels, and the holy law.  And even the words saints, sanctify, and purify come from the root word which means holy.

The word holy has the literal meaning of "to cut, to separate,"  and thus it contains the idea of apartness or separation.  Thus, two important truths are included in the idea of holiness, and we must certainly understand this today; that which is holy is separate from all that is common, ordinary, sinful and corrupt;  and that which is holy is set apart and dedicated to that which is good, namely God.  When God says, "I am holy," both these aspects stand out very clearly, for God is absolutely separate from all sin, darkness and the lie.  His eyes are too pure to behold evil, and He cannot even tempt a man with evil.  In God there is a total abhorrence and detestation of all sin.  At the same time, He is dedicated unto Himself as the highest possible good!  The thrice holy God, in all His thoughts, speech, actions, covenant activity is perfectly self-centered.  God always seeks Himself and works towards the glorification of Himself.  And when we consider God's dealings with the children of men, then also He is spotlessly holy so that He can only resist the proud and destroy the wicked.  Over  against all that is evil our God is a consuming fire;  His jealousy burns against that which is not as holy as He! 

It hardly needs saying that the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God in our flesh, is also holy. When Gabriel announced His birth to the virgin Mary he said, "Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God," a reference to the human nature of Christ.  He shall be a holy thing, a holy man!  Later in His ministry Jesus was confronted by a man with an unclean spirit (demon) which cried out, "I know thee who thou art:  the holy one of God."  The devil knew that Jesus and he had nothing in common, that Jesus was perfectly consecrated to the cause of God and therefore must destroy all that is opposed to God and His kingdom.  Oh, the holiness that was always manifest in Jesus!  He hated sin in all its forms and He burned with zeal for His Father's house.  How that zeal consumed Him!  Hear Him cry out, "My Father worketh hereto, and I work."  And that work of Christ was not Christ-centered but always God-centered;   Jesus was perfectly holy!  

Let us see a moment that holiness for man means that precise same thing as it does for God.  As God is separate from sin and dedicated to Himself, so man must live separately from all sin and dedicate himself to God alone.  The moment man becomes in any way self-centered, he sins;  he begins to serve himself or some idol for he cannot serve God and mammon.  Man is not the highest good, God is.  Man is not the purpose of creation, God is.  Man is not even the end or goal of salvation, but the glory of God is. That needs emphasis today.  In the churches today there is a rampant religious humanism that makes
salvation center about man and his happiness.  Religion is there for whatever a man can get out of it.  I will go to church, I will offer my gifts, for what I can get out of it for myself!  What a corruption of the purpose of the holy God!  We must view our church membership, our salvation, our going to heaven, our living now as God's holy people, all in the context of the glory of God! 

Thus we must see nest that God is holy in salvation.  He maintain His holiness when He saves unto Himself a church.  The love of God does not operate at the expense of holiness, but it reached us in the way of His holiness.  The first chapter of I Peter abounds in references to our salvation.  (Confer verses 1-14.)
Peter goes on to say that we have not been redeemed with corruptible things such as silver and gold, for the most precious things of this world would not do us a bit of good!  We have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, Who is the Lamb without spot or blemish.  In order to be our head and representative before God, Christ had to be spotlessly holy that His holiness might be ours.  For the holy God cannot dwell with the sinners, and cannot live in the same covenant household with sinners.  To take His people unto Himself in the friendship of the covenant, God makes them righteous first of all, and then He makes them holy as He is holy.  In other words, God makes His people saints!! 

The purpose of Christ in taking our place in judgment is that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a people zealous of good works.  Just as with the Old Testament sin offering, the blood of which was carried into the Holy of Holies, and the body of which was burned without the camp, so Jesus died outside Jerusalem, presenting His blood to God in the heavens as the perfect blood of atonement. In this way, He "presents to God a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."  And behind that justifying and sanctifying work of Christ is the holiness of God Who can have no fellowship with darkness, but Who would surround Himself with a holy people in Jesus Christ. 

This mighty God of Salvation calls His people, "with a holy calling."  And He says to them, "Be ye holy in all manner of conversation."  the word conversation has the meaning of all of life's relationships, departments and aspects.  We are to be separate from sin and dedicated to God in all that we do!  There may be no question about it whatsoever that we are indeed saints!  Not simply that we are church-goers, but holy children of God in word and in truth!  The apostle says in verse 14 that we are to do this as obedient children; children must always be characterized by obedience.  And since we are adopted into the family of God, our obedience must be unto Him.  We are called to love Him and seek Him.  We are called to love what God loves, and hate what God hates.  And the apostle warns us that we are not to conform ourselves to former lusts, to the motions of our sinful natures, to carnal, unlawful desires.  God has called us out of that and away from that so that we are not to walk in those lusts or in that ignorance any longer. 

Sadly it is very easy to be conformed to such things again, for those lusts are in our flesh and sin is appealing to our flesh.  The things of which we read in the newspapers, the thins that are promoted in the movies and the television programs, the things that we know are corrupt and displeasing, that appeal to the old man of sin in us.  And that means we are called to fight valiantly against all sin.  The saint wants to be holy, because God is holy and because God calls us to be holy; but he who would be holy must fight!  And there is nothing in all this world to support you or sustain you in that fight.  The only thing that will support you is that which God has placed in your heart, and which God nourishes with His Word and Spirit.  We are sanctified by obeying the truth through the Spirit (Verse 22). 

Actually the Greek does not say "Be holy," but it states, "Become holy."  this makes clear that sanctification is a process that continues throughout the Christian's life.  In Christ we are holy in principle so that before God we are clothed in white robes of dazzling splendor.  But as long as we live on this earth we still continue to sin and we stain our garments with the filth of sin.  Therefore God comes to us through the Gospel trying us as by fire, chastening us with sore remedies, that the impure may be burned away and the rebellious may be driven out.  As the all-wise, holy Father, God knows how to warn, admonish, exhort, and threaten us even as He preaches the sweet Gospel of Jesus Christ to us.  

Thus we finish our earthly pilgrimage as strangers on the earth with our faces toward heavenly Jerusalem, touching not the unclean thing.  One day soon Jesus will appear.  We don't know just what we will be at that time, but we know that when Jesus appears, "we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is!"  That is our hope.  And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure!

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