Bible Study Series
Contemplating the Almighty
The Holy God
How well do you know God’s holiness?
1) A complete definition of holiness is
a) never having sinnedp;a) never having sinned
b) always thinking of spiritual things
c) never having sinned and hating sin
2) Sin is determined and measured only against
a) the character of God
b) the laws of our government
c) our conscience
3) The Heavens and Earth will be destroyed at the end because
a) sin has contaminated all of it and it must be created new and pure
b) God did not get it right the first time
c) God likes to create things and everything is always being created in never-ending cycles
4) Because God is holy, entrance into Heaven is available only to those who
a) never sinned
b) are more good than bad
c) sinned but have made perfect in Christ
5) If God were not holy then
a) His justice would be unjust
b) He would be able to relate to us better
c) Nothing much would be different
6) Our sin
a) makes God mad and disappointed but that is it
b) causes an infinite separation or gap between us and God
c) can easily be atoned for by some prayers or by going to church or by doing something extra good
7) Because sin is not instantly punished this means that
a) God is long-suffering but that judgment will come
b) that God is sometimes indifferent to sin
c) that God gets preoccupied with other issues and forgets about some wrong incidences
8) Because God is perfectly holy
a) our sins are so small in comparison as to be meaningless
b) there is nothing that anyone including God can do to make us right with Him
c) it takes nothing less than the sacrifice of God’s perfectly holy Son to make us right with Him
9) Once we are born-again God’s holiness
a) demands perfection from then on or we will lose our salvation
b) promises that we will never be condemned again
c) will forgive our small sins but condemns us for our big sins
10) The holiness of God should cause us to
a) be confident and worship
b) realize that God cannot tolerate such dirty sinners such as ourselves and so c) continually think of every sin that we commit and repent
To define holiness as a mere abstinence from sin is to be only half right. It is not only a lack of sin in character, but includes a deep hatred of it also. To be without sin is to be pure. To be without sin and to also hate sin is to be holy. God is holy. His allowance of the existence of sin is not synonymous with an approval of it. In none of His plans or promises is His hatred of evil compromised. The Scriptures are emphatic in maintaining the greatness of the Lord’s holiness. “For Thou are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with Thee. The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou dost hate all who do iniquity. Thou dost destroy those who speak falsehood; the Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit. But as for me, by Thine abundant loving-kindness I will enter Thy house, at Thy holy temple I will bow in reverence for Thee.”
Sin is any nonconformity to God. As such, the great heinousness of our transgression lies not so much in the sin itself, but in that it is measured against the perfect holiness of God. Had God not established the boundaries of righteousness, then man would have been unable to define any on his own. The prophet Jeremiah said, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself; nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.” In order to understand the magnitude of our sin, it must be computed not by our nature, but against God’s. Then sin is put into a right perspective. Only in this light can it be more understood why nothing short of a sacrifice of immeasurable holiness could satisfy the righteous demands against sin. Sin will never seem so bad if it is viewed in light of ourselves. Consequently, the only source of this revelation is the Scripture which God has given to us. Our consciences, though effective, can become callous. Our actions, however evil, may be generally condoned and even respected by the world. The “hero” is oftentimes the one whose life is especially displeasing to God. The most accurate estimation of our sinfulness can come only from a proper understanding of the word of God.ding of the word of God.
Sin is an outrage to the holiness and government of God. Sin slanders all that God is, all that God says. He could not hate it any more; He could not condemn it any less. Any sin, though limited in itself, becomes infinitely evil when measured against the perfect holiness of the Most High. It is the cause and the focus of the wrath of God that is to come upon the sons of disobedience. Its purging is the reason why “the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” The human mind necessarily fails in any attempt to fully and rightly comprehend how truly evil our sin is. The Lord can never show leniency nor compromise when dealing with it. We must never interpret these attributes as indicative of anything short of an intense, infinite hatred of it. Though He originally permitted it, He never created it, but it shall be used for His ultimate glory, “For the wrath of man shall praise Thee.” No action of God’s regarding sin should ever be construed as acceptance or leniency.
No other attribute places such an impossible standard upon the sinner as that of His holiness. It demands nothing less than absolute perfection. Consequently, anything short of this, irrespective of degree, is evil and stands condemned. His justice is so demanding, His wrath so fearful because He is absolute holiness. His justice is predicated entirely on His holiness. The justice of God, without the holiness of God would be inequity. God would have no basis for His wrath were He not holy. Only righteousness can judge evil and the greater the righteousness, the greater the condemnation. Were there no standard of righteousness, then there could be no basis of judgment. But all do stand condemned because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The Lord is holy and righteous. There is no greater separation of any two things to the universe than that caused by the human sin and the holiness of God. Were it even possible for man to move closer to God on his own merit than at the completion of his life, he would be no nearer to God then he was at the beginning. No amount of finite “good works” can ever bridge a gap of infinite width. Of course, the truth is that man has neither merit nor good works. Since he cannot “inch” closer to God, he must instead be suddenly and irreversibly pulled across this gap. Only the infinite can open and conquer the immeasurable. This is the salvation of God through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, who is both God and man, bridged this immeasurably profound abyss and thus is the one mediator between God and man.
We are sinners not only in action, but also in nature. We are wholly depraved and evil. Our sin does not create our sin nature; our sin nature is what creates the sin. We are not made evil; we are evil. It is not the rebellion from without, but the rebellion from within that conceives our initial sin. We are “by nature children of wrath.” In ourselves, we have no capacity for good. There is no issue of balancing our “good” from the sinful. We all justly deserve nothing short of the eternal wrath of God. Our present state should be the darkness of hell. For any one to think that they can deserve or earn heaven by virtue of their life is pure deception and arrogance. But what qualifies us for hell is also what qualifies us for grace. In this we can be thankful, not that we are so evil, but that the Lord is so good.
Psalm 10:11 records the thoughts of the wicked, “He says to himself, ‘God has forgotten; He has hidden His face; He will never see it.’” The wicked think that God will dismiss or disregard their sin. They consider their sin to be incidental to Him and, thus, mock His holiness. They temp God through the great sin of being apathetic toward evil and its consequences. Their temporary “escape” from judgment dulls their heart to the necessary, eternal retribution. They do not realize that the sentence has already been established; what remains is its execution. They are already condemned. But because the sentence against their evil deeds is not executed quickly, their hearts are given fully to do evil. The long-suffering of God is perverted to the leniency of God. This attitude is the thrust of God’s warnings in Galatians 6:7, “Do no be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” They fail to realize that not only does God see and remember, but that His justice demands instant wrath. His hatred of sin could not be greater. His mercy is in no way indicative of an any less than infinite abhorrence of evil. To think otherwise is blasphemy. A proper understanding of His mercy could not possibly lead to this conclusion. How fortunate for us all that God is great in mercy and patience.
Even in consideration of this, as sinful and evil as we may see ourselves, we can never fully comprehend just how wicked and unrighteous we really are. Because God’s holiness is beyond our conceptualization and because of our inadequacy to fathom the perfection of His government, we cannot realize the depth and debt of our rebellion against Him. Consequently, our hearts fall short in appreciating the agony which Christ suffered on the cross to pay for our depravity. In our natural selves before God, we stand naked of any righteousness, whereas, His presence looms radiant of unapproachable perfection. The completely filthy cannot approach the totally pure. There is no difficulty in seeing why it is by grace alone that we can come into the presence of God. “If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who can stand? But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared.” Though our sin is great, His forgiveness is greater still.
Knowing that mankind will all stand before God and give an account is an awesome consideration. Mankind, full of sin, will appear before the immeasurable holiness of God, before His light which penetrates every motive and thought, before His righteousness which demands infernal punishment. They will have evil recalled that they have even long forgotten. It will be for many the most fearful and dreaded of times. It will be a time when hope will flee forever and repentance will not be found, when anyone whose name is not found in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire. To be fully clothed at that time in the righteousness of Jesus Christ is a confidence of limitless comfort. Though our lives will be searched by the holiness of God, we can be secure knowing our justification is in His Son. Our account is the merit and standing of Jesus Christ. We shall not come into judgment. The most wretched of sinners can rest in the spotless blood of the Lamb. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” No now-not ever.
To a Christian, the awesome holiness of God should not be a motivation of terror, but rather of love. Because God cannot sin, His promises are secure and thus our salvation is secure. Is stands not that God would not sin, but that He could not. Knowing that God would not break a promise should engender a heart of utmost reverence. Knowing, more so, that He could not, should plunge our worship into an ineffable state of awe and adoration. The Almighty God could not sin. His holiness, thus, not only guarantees eternal punishment for the wicked, but likewise, eternal security for the saved. “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken and will He not make it good?” For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes.”
God commands us to be holy as He Himself is holy, yet we will never be satisfied with our own personal holiness. This is because we will always be gripped with our sinfulness as God continually reveals it. We will never, during the time of our stay upon the earth, reach a point where God has exposed all of our sin, leaving only for it to be finally dealt with. God will reveal only as much of it as we are presently able to handle. His delight is not in the exposing of sin, but in the triumph over it. He reveals sin not to just show us how evil we are, but to make us as holy as we can be. Our appreciation of the depth and intensity of our sin nature is small indeed. Its power, however great, cannot dominate that of the Holy Spirit’s. Therefore, as we then learn obedience in those areas which we are now aware of, He can move us into the next. In this way we gain an ever clearer vision of our heart. Consequently, our hearts will always appear wicked and deceitful. It is a comfort, however, knowing that God will never reveal more than we can handle. If we are “hopelessly overwhelmed,” it is because we have chosen to be and note because it was too much for us. We have become in all things overwhelming conquerors. The finite cannot claim victory over the infinite. The deceitfulness of sin cannot overcome the immense power of the cross and resurrection. The ability of the Holy Spirit regarding our sin is as the power of God regarding all sin. To believe this ability for the conquest at the cross and then to doubt it in our lives is not only inconsistent but arrogant. What God wants to do, God can do. The illumination of our sin provides but another opportunity for the ever majestic glory of God to be manifest. It is because we will always see our hearts as wicked that we must confidently remember the righteousness which God has imputed to us and the illimitable power of the Holy Spirit in us.
Nothing short of an understanding of God’s holiness will lead to a righteous grief over sin. As previously stated, sin will never appear that bad when weighed against our morals. We love too much what God hates. Therefore, we must estimate the consequences from God’s perspective. This requires a profound study and meditation upon the Holy Scriptures. The divine governmental implications of our sin tremendously transcends all that we know, all that we comprehend. Its effect on God surpasses even its effect on us to the degree that God is intrinsically holy and we are not. We suffer discipline; God suffers outrage. We reap corruption; God receives scorn. The infinitude of Christ’s suffering is based not on the multitude of our sins, but on the intense sinfulness of it. When He dies, He could not have given any more or any less. He gave all; He gave Himself. How can we dare choose to sin when considering the goodness of God toward self-indulgent sinners su Our few glimpses into heaven find the Lord being much adored and worshipped for His holiness. Isaiah heard the seraphim herald the glory of the triune God saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” As they did this, the thresholds trembled and the temple filled with smoke. Likewise, in the book of the Revelation, the victors proclaim, “who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify They name? For Thou only art holy.” Being in a world feculent with sin, we are unable to fully imagine the pure and immense holiness of God. It is an attribute both fearsome and comforting, awesome and practical. While it is the basis and the guarantee of the unrepentant sinner’s just condemnation, it is likewise the believing sinner’s security of eternal life. How we too can proclaim as David and say, “Sing unto the Lord, O he saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness.” The Lord is great and Holy is His name. May our thoughts of God be worthy of Him and may our hearts bow low in veneration of His majesty and greatness. “Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool for He is holy.”
What does God’s holy mean to us?
When we are saved we can be assured that our sins are not merely overlooked but are fully paid for.
No other attribute of God places such an impossible burden upon us. God’s holiness demands nothing less than absolute purity every second of our lives and each time that we sin we now owe God and each sin puts us further into debt. God’s holiness demands payment which is why God could not merely pretend that the penalty is gone. But we can never pay off this debt. That is why on the cross Jesus had to pay for every person’s sin debt. So when a person is born-again she can be assured that all of her sin’s debts have been completely and forever forgiven.
We are safe and secure in His promises.
We do not have to fear that God will ever break His own commands. When we think about God’s holiness and eternity we generally think about people having to go to Hell, but do you realize that it is God’s holiness that guarantees that the saved will go to Heaven? God’s omnipotence guarantees that no one will ever be able to tear us out of God’s hands, but it is God’s holiness that guarantees that God Himself will never cast us out.
He expects us to be holy also.
1 Peter 1:15-16 reads, “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’” God wants us 1) to recognize sin, 2) to not sin, 3) to hate sin, and 4), when possible, to act against sin. We recognize sin primarily through the Bible. We not sin by controlling what we think, guarding what we take in, and watching our actions. We learn to hate sin we understand the consequences of any particular sin and not just focus on its pleasures. We can act against sin in numerous ways from standing with the oppressed, feeding the hungry, saving the lost, and the list goes on.
We will never need to stop becoming better to stop Our lives are full of sin that will take more than one lifetime can clean up. Therefore, as we grow as Christians we will never come to a point where we can let our guard down or feel that we have “made it.” Every day there is a challenge to clean up yet another sin. That may sound tiresome but each time that we triumph over another sin we are becoming more like the character of God.
Answers to quiz
2) a 1) c
Jill has been a Christian for quite a while but every once in while when she is confronted by temptation she readily gives in to it and sins. Her explanation is that God promises to always forgive and so once she confesses her sin and repents it is completely wiped out. Therefore, there is no problem and if anyone points out that sin then that person is being judgmental since God no longer remembers it. Keeping in mind God’s holiness, how would you explain to Jill that her reasoning is flawed and that her behavior is destructive?
1) In addition to the ones discussed above, what are some other assurances that God’s holiness means to us?s holiness means to us?
2) Why is it important to us that God is holy?
3) How can we learn how to hate sin?
4) What are some practical things that we can do to become more holy ourselves?
5) If God is infinitely beyond us and incomprehensible then how can we even study His attributes? Is not that contradictory?
6) Are there degrees of holiness or are the only two choices that a person is completely free from sin and therefore holy or still a sinner and has no holiness at all?
7) What are some obstacles to a person desiring to be holy?
8) Why, when we first get saved, does God not just make us completely free sin for the rest of our lives?
9) If we have been doing well overcoming a sin in our lives but then slip up once does that mean that we have to start all over again as though we had not made any previous progress?
10) In my quest to become holy why should I not compare myself to others?
Copyright Bob La Forge 2011 email: email@example.com