The Attributes of God
by Arthur W. Pink
The Holiness of God
"Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
for You alone are holy" (Rev 15:4). God only is independently, infinitely,
immutably holy. In Scripture He is frequently styled "The Holy ONE": He is
so because the sum of all moral excellency is found in Him. He is absolute
Purity, unsullied even by the shadow of sin. "God is light, and in Him is no
darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). Holiness is the very excellency of the divine
nature: the great God is "glorious in holiness" (Exo 15:11). Therefore do we
read, "You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and can not look on
iniquity" (Hab 1:13). As God's power is the opposite of the native
weakness of the creature; as His wisdom is in complete contrast from
the least defect of understanding or folly; so His holiness is the
very antithesis of all moral blemish or defilement. Of old God appointed
singers in Israel "that should praise the beauty of holiness" (2 Chron
20:21). "Power is God's hand or arm; omniscience His eye; mercy, His heart;
eternity His duration, but holiness is His beauty" (S. Charnock). It is
this, supremely, which renders Him lovely to those who are delivered from
sin's dominion. A chief emphasis is placed upon this perfection of God:
"God is more often styled Holy than Almighty, and set
forth by this part of His dignity more than by any other. This is more fixed
on as an epithet to His name than any other. You never find it expressed
'His mighty name' or 'His wise name' but His great name, and most of all,
His holy name. This is the greatest title of honor; in this latter does the
majesty and venerableness of His name appear" (S. Charnock).
This perfection, as none other, is solemnly celebrated
before the Throne of Heaven, the seraphim crying, "Holy, holy, holy, is the
Lord of hosts" (Isa 6:3). God Himself singles out this perfection, "Once
have I sworn by My holiness" (Psalm 89:35). God swears by His "holiness"
because that is a fuller expression of Himself than anything else. Therefore
we are exhorted, "Sing unto the Lord, O saints of His, and give thanks at
the remembrance of His holiness" (Psalm 30:4). "Holiness may be said to be a
transcendental attribute, that, as it were, runs through the rest, and casts
luster upon them. It is an attribute of attributes" (J. Howe, 1670). Thus we
read: "the beauty of the Lord" (Psalm 27:4), which is none other than "the
beauty of holiness" (Psalm 110:3).
"As holiness seems to claim an excellency above all His
other perfections, so it is the glory of all the rest: as it is the glory of
the Godhead, so it is the glory of every perfection in the Godhead; as His
power is the strength of them, so His holiness is the beauty of them; as all
would be weak without almightiness to back them, so all would be uncommonly
without holiness to adorn them. Should this be sullied, all the rest would
lose their honor; as at the same instant the sun should lose its light, it
would lose its heat, its strength, its generative and quickening virtue. As
sincerity is the luster of every grace in a Christian, so is purity the
splendor of every attribute in the Godhead. His justice is a holy justice,
His wisdom a holy wisdom, His power a 'holy arm' (Psalm 98:1). His truth or
promise a 'holy promise' (Psalm 105:42). His name, which signifies all His
attributes in conjunction is 'holy'" (Psalm 103:1) (S. Charnock).
God's holiness is manifested in His works. "The
Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works" (Psalm
145:17). Nothing but that which is excellent can proceed from Him. Holiness
is the rule of all His actions. At the beginning He pronounced all
that He made "very good" (Gen 1:31), which He could not have done had there
been anything imperfect or unholy in them. Man was made "upright" (Eccl
7:29), in the image and likeness of his Creator. The angels that fell were
created holy, for we are told that they "kept not their first habitation"
(Jude 6). Of Satan it is written, "You were perfect in your ways from the
day that the were created, until iniquity was found in you" (Eze 28:15).
God's holiness is manifested in His law. That law
forbids sin in all of its modifications: in its most refined as well as its
grossest forms, the intent of the mind as well as the pollution of the body,
the secret desire as well as the overt act. Therefore do we read, "The law
is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (Rom 7:12). Yes, "the
commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord
is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous
altogether" (Psalm 19:8,9).
God's holiness is best manifested at the cross.
Wondrously and yet most solemnly does the atonement display God's infinite
holiness and abhorrence of sin. How hateful sin must be to God for Him to
punish it to its utmost deserts when it was imputed to His Son!
"Not all the vials of judgment that have or shall be
poured out upon the wicked world, nor the flaming furnace of a sinner's
conscience, nor the irreversible sentence pronounced against the rebellious
demons, nor the groans of the damned creatures, give such a demonstration of
God's hatred of sin, as the wrath of God let loose upon His Son! Never did
divine holiness appear more beautiful and lovely than at the time our
Savior’s countenance was most marred in the midst of His dying groans. This
He Himself acknowledges in Psalm 22. When God had turned His smiling face
from Him, and thrust His sharp knife into His heart, which forced that
terrible cry from Him, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?' He adores
this perfection—'You are holy'" (v.3) (S. Charnock).
Because God is holy He hates all sin. He loves everything
which is in conformity to His laws, and loathes everything which is contrary
to it. His Word plainly declares, "wicked people are an abomination to the
Lord" (Prov 3:32). And again, "The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination
to the Lord" (Prov 15:26). It follows, therefore, that He must necessarily
punish sin. Sin can no more exist without demanding His punishment than
without requiring His hatred of it. God has often forgiven sinners, but
He never forgives sin; and the sinner is only forgiven on the ground of
Another having born his punishment: for "without shedding of blood is no
remission" (Heb 9:22). Therefore we are told "The Lord will take vengeance
on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies" (Nahum 1:2). For
one sin God banished our first parents from Eden. For one sin all the
posterity of Canaan, fell under a curse which remains over them to this day
(Gen 9:21). For one sin Moses was excluded from Canaan. For one sin Elisha's
servant smitten with leprosy. For one sin Ananias and Sapphira were cut off
out of the land of the living.
Herein we find proof for the divine inspiration of the
Scriptures. The unregenerate do not really believe in the holiness of God.
Their conception of His character is altogether one-sided. They fondly hope
that His mercy will override everything else. "You thought that I was just
like you" (Psalm 50:21) is God's charge against them. They think only of a
"God" patterned after their own evil hearts. Hence their continuance in a
course of mad folly. Such is the holiness ascribed to the divine nature and
character in the Scriptures, that it clearly demonstrates their superhuman
origin. The character attributed to the "gods" of the ancients and of modern
heathendom is the very reverse of that immaculate purity which pertains to
the true God. An ineffably holy God, who has the utmost abhorrence of all
sin, was never invented by any of Adam’s fallen descendants! The fact is,
that nothing makes more manifest the terrible depravity of man's heart and
his enmity against the living God, than to have set before him One who is
infinitely and immutably holy. His own idea of sin is practically limited to
what the world calls "crime." Anything short of that, man palliates as
"defects," "mistakes," "infirmities," etc. And even where sin is owned at
all, excuses and extenuations are made for it.
The god which the vast majority of professing
Christians "love" is looked upon very much like an indulgent old man, who
himself has no relish for folly, but leniently winks at the "indiscretions"
of youth. But the Word says, "You hate all workers of iniquity" (Psalm 5:5).
And again, "God is angry with the wicked every day" (Psalm 7:11). But men
refuse to believe in this God, and gnash their teeth when His hatred of sin
is faithfully pressed upon their attention. No, sinful man was no more
likely to devise a holy God than to create the Lake of Fire in which he will
be tormented forever and ever!
Because God is holy, acceptance with Him on the ground of
creature doings is utterly impossible. A fallen creature could sooner
create a world than produce that which would meet the approval of infinite
Purity. Can darkness dwell with Light? Can the Immaculate One take pleasure
in "filthy rags" (Isa 64:6)? The best that sinful man brings forth is
defiled. A corrupt tree cannot bear good fruit. God would deny Himself,
vilify His perfections, were He to account as righteous and holy that which
is not so in itself; and nothing is so which has the least stain upon it
contrary to the nature of God. But blessed be His name, that which His
holiness demanded, His grace has provided in Christ Jesus our Lord. Every
poor sinner who has fled to Him for refuge stands "accepted in the Beloved"
(Eph 1:6). Hallelujah!
Because God is holy the utmost reverence becomes our
approaches unto Him. "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the
saints, and to be had in reverence of all those who are about Him" (Psalm
89:7). Then "Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool; He is
holy" (Psalm 99:5). Yes, "at His footstool," in the lowest posture of
humility, prostrate before Him. When Moses would approach unto the burning
bush, God said, "Take off your shoes from off your feet" (Exo 3:5). He is to
be served "with fear" (Psalm 2:1 1). Of Israel His demand was, "I will show
Myself holy among those who are near me. I will be glorified before all the
people." (Lev 10:3). The more our hearts are awed by His ineffable holiness,
the more acceptable will be our approaches unto Him.
Because God is holy we should desire to be conformed to
Him. His commandment is, "Be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16). We are not
bidden to be omnipotent or omniscient as God is, but "as the One who called
you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct" (1 Peter 1:15).
"This is the prime way of honoring God. We do not so
glorify God by elevated admirations, or eloquent expressions, or pompous
services for Him, as when we aspire to a conversing with Him with unstained
spirits, and live to Him in living like Him" (S. Charnock).
Then as God alone is the Source and Fount of holiness,
let us earnestly seek holiness from Him; let our daily prayer be that He may
"sanctify us wholly; and our whole spirit and soul and body be preserved
blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess 5:23).