The Holiness of God

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God is not what He does. God does who He is. Scripture is clear that love, for example, is not one of the nifty things God does, but it is the essence of who I AM is.

God is always I AM, always who He is. Still the question remains, is He a moral God? In other words, if holiness means to be consistent in nature, could a holy God by consistently bad? It may seem like a silly question to many, but, in fact, the question would make a great deal of sense to some non-Christians.

Consider these two philosophical propositions:

  • Proposition I: God is holy because He does not sin.
  • Proposition II: God does not sin because He is holy.

Both contain not only the same number of words, but exactly the same eight words, only slightly rearranged. Can such a minor reordering really change the meaning all that much? Into the narrow gap between these two statements, all human hope, can plunge into the bottomless pit.

 If Proposition I is true, we envision God striving to follow the rules in THE GOD MANUAL. We optimistically reckon that He can do it. He is, after all, God. The problem is that if we define God as holy by His actions, we define in the horrifying possibility that His actions might change. As long as God does good, He is holy; therefore, if He ever does evil, He is not holy. If that should happen, the universe and our peace plummet into a black hole of terrifying possibilities. Consider an all-powerful God free to do evil at His whim. That is simply too mind-bogglingly horrible to contemplate.

On the other hand, if Proposition II is true, God’s actions are the result, not the determinant, of His character. God is not what He does. God does who He is. Scripture is clear that love, for example, is not one of the nifty things God does, but it is the essence of who I AM is. His will for me is not good because He decides in my particular case for it to be good. The will of God is Good, has to be good, must be good, because I AM is good.

In the trying seasons of life, this truth gives great hope. We are never in a tough spot because God got in a snit. Even in my darkest valley, even in chastisement, I know His will for me is good because of the holiness of God.

Fastening theology to a limited or wrong view of God’s holiness plays havoc with faith in every way. Prayer, for example, is crippled by error. Many, not only in the world but also in the church, are timid in prayer because of a misbegotten concept of God as the Cosmic Receptionist. God, the harried “answerer of all incoming calls,” labors night and day to respond. He can do it most of the time because He is God and because at any given moment, at least half the world is asleep. I even heard one pastor, a pastor mind you, say that he liked to pray at 3 am because he had God’s full attention. If he was joking, it wasn’t funny. If he was not joking, he actually put into words what many subconsciously believe. Evidently, if you pray in an hour of peak calls, you may get a recording or a busy signal, or be put on hold, waiting with a deep need while listening to some recording of angelic elevator music.

It is God’s holiness, His completeness me-ward in perfect love, that makes me know I am God’s only concern. I never have the partial attention of a distracted God, hurrying me out of His office so that He can deal with the next case. I am I AM’s only concern, all He thinks of, all He cares about. All His creative power, all His love, and all His grace are mine. The miracle of omnipresence is not that part of a gaseous god is everywhere at once. That is not holiness. The glorious truth is that all of God is everywhere, all at once. I am God’s only project. So is everyone else, all at the same time. That is the joy of the holiness of God.

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