The Attributes of God

by Arthur Pink


Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy" (Revelation 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" (Exodus 15:11). Therefore do we read, "You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity" (Habakkuk 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 Chronicles 20:21).

"Power is God's arm;
omniscience is His eye;
mercy is His heart;
eternity is His duration,
but holiness is His beauty." (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 His holiness does the majesty and venerableness of His name appear" (Charnock).

This perfection, as none other, is solemnly celebrated before the Throne of Heaven, the seraphim crying, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord Almighty" (Isaiah 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 the 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 His attributes. 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 all His attributes, so His holiness is the beauty of them. As all His attributes would be weak without almightiness to back them, so all would be unlovely without holiness to adorn them. Should His holiness 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 is a holy wisdom, His power is a 'holy arm' (Psalm 98:1). His truth or promise is a 'holy promise' (Psalm 105:42). His name, which signifies all His attributes in conjunction is 'holy'" (Psalm 103:1) (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" (Genesis 1:31), which He could not have done had there been anything imperfect or unholy in them. Man was made "upright" (Ecclesiastes 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" (Ezekiel 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" (Romans 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!

"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from saving Me, so far from the words of My groaning?" Psalm 22:1

"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. When God had turned His smiling face away 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 enthroned as the holy one!" (Psalm 22:3) (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" (Proverbs 3:32). And again, "The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord" (Proverbs 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 of sin" (Hebrews 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 (Genesis 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" (Isaiah 64:6)? The best that sinful man brings forth is defiled. A corrupt tree cannot bear good fruit. God would deny Himself and 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" (Ephesians 1:6). Hallelujah!

Because God is holy the utmost reverence befits 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 your feet" (Exodus 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." (Leviticus 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" (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 Thessalonians 5:23).