The Revelation of God’s Holiness
|This post was first published in June, 2020. —ed.|
God is never becoming—never growing, learning, or increasing in anything. From eternity past to eternity future, He is always being who He has always been. His infinite perfections cannot be improved upon.
It’s hard for us to comprehend the difference between being and becoming. God’s moral perfection and sinlessness is fixed and immutable. In that regard, His holiness is nothing like the holiness of the saints. We who believe are being conformed to the image of Christ, but our sanctification is always in process. We’re being stripped of our former sinfulness and refined through the work of the Spirit into conformity to God’s righteousness. By contrast, God is, will be, and always has been utterly holy and perfect, totally separate from any stain of unrighteousness. As the prophet Habakkuk wrote, “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness” (Habakkuk 1:13). Job 34:10 says, “Far be it from God to do wickedness, and from the Almighty to do wrong.” God’s holiness is therefore unique—singularly and eternally perfect. In Revelation 15:4, the apostle says, “You alone are holy.”
Scripture doesn’t just talk about God’s holiness, it reveals His holiness. In fact, every revelation of God is a revelation of His moral perfection. We could study God’s holiness by studying creation. At the end of creation, Moses reports, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). This is a reflection of His essential nature. Scripture records on each day that creation was good, but in the end when God saw creation in its totality, it was not just good, but very good. In fact, Ecclesiastes 7:29 speaking directly of man says, “God made men upright.” Of course, He could do no other. Whatever came from His being had to be perfect. Made in His image, man was free from sin.
We could study the law of God and its revelation of His absolute perfection. In Psalm 19:7, the Psalmist says, “The law of the Lord is perfect.” In Romans 7:12, the Apostle Paul says, “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”
We could also study God’s holiness in His judgment. All His verdicts and adjudications from the divine bench are holy. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:25). In 2 Timothy 4:8, Paul refers to Him as, “The Lord, the righteous Judge.”
Or we could study God’s holiness by catching a glimpse of heaven. In Revelation 4, we are taken into the heaven of heavens. John, in the Spirit, sees a throne standing in heaven, “and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald” (Revelation 4:2–3). He continues:
Around the throne were twenty four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” (Revelation 4:4–8)
In heaven, when God’s holiness is mentioned in worship, the word is multiplied three times: “Holy, holy, holy” (cf. Isaiah 6:3). No doubt the threefold expression of praise is a trinitarian reference, but it also emphasizes the utter and absolute distinction of God’s moral perfection. God can only manifest that which is absolutely holy, and thus James says, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17).
There is no wavering or fluctuation in the absolute holiness of God. There are no flaws or irregularities in its perfect brilliance. It is, as He is, constant and consummately dazzling.