Defining God’s Holiness
Did you ever sing that hymn, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty…? It’s based on a couple of passages of Scripture, one of which was written by the prophet Isaiah…
And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
- Isaiah 6:3 (ESV)
I think we often get confused about what holiness means, both in our own lives as well as in describing God with this word. But when we understand what God’s holiness is, it elevates our worship and deepens our relationship with Him.
Holiness is the characteristic of God that sets Him apart from His creation. One key word that helps us to understand God’s holiness is the word transcendence. You see, God’s holiness cannot be defined in terms of human goodness at all. He’s not just the sum of our good qualities. Instead, His holiness means that He is completely separate from mankind altogether. He is “set apart” in His own category and He is completely removed from the idea of sin.
James Montgomery Boice gives us four elements of God’s holiness to help define it…
- The element of majesty. God’s holiness is a part of His sovereignty.
- The element of will. He has spoken and continues to do what He does because He is holy.
- The element of wrath. His wrath is different from our wrath… the wrath of God is “the necessary and proper stance of God to all that opposes Him.”
- The element of righteousness. He is the ultimate ethical standard. He is absolute righteousness.
Knowing God’s holiness is knowing that in spite of His complete separateness from all that is sinful, He was willing to make a way, in love, for us to come to know Him through a relationship with His Son Jesus.