God has many attributes – Love, Grace, and Mercy are to name a few. It is hard to describe all the things God is. That is what makes Him God.
‘God is Love’ is the ﬁrst attribute that most people think about God. God is love and this love shines through eternity through the greatest act of love in the history of all eternity. John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whomever would believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That is the most familiar of all Scriptures and the one that most people know by heart. It is the most quoted of all Scriptures, but it is not the greatest attribute of God.
God’s is also full of Mercy and Grace. The greatest deﬁnition of grace and mercy are these: grace is where we receive what we don’t deserve and mercy is where we don’t get what we really do deserve. Grace is undeserved favor that is fully a work of God. His mercy is the withholding of His wrath that we do deserve because He has mercifully placed His wrath on Jesus instead of us.
Even though God has many attributes, there is one single attribute of God that stands above and beyond all that He is. The absolute greatest attribute of God is that He is Holy. In fact, the only time an attribute is mentioned about God three times is that He is Holy. In the Jewish culture of literature and writing, some things were mentioned twice. This was to give an absolute priority and point out the supreme importance of something. Isaiah saw God on His throne in a vision, for no human can actually see God and be in His presence and not perish. In Isaiah 6:1-3, he says that “I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe ﬁlled the temple. Above Him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were ﬂying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.”
If repeating something twice gives an absolute priority and points out the supreme importance of something, then the holy angels repeating over and over again “holy, holy, holy” is beyond our comprehension. Perhaps repeating this three times also included the fact there are three in the God family (the Trinity) or perhaps it is because God is inﬁnity holy and the number three represents God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. The number three could also represent the past, the present, and the future. In the Bible, the number three also denotes divine perfection, which of course God is.
Revelation 4:8 tells us what is presently happening at the throne of God: “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” These angels continuously praise God and declare that He is holy, holy, holy. Holiness is hard to describe. Holiness is a complete “other-ness”, a distinct transcendence from everyone else and everything else. So set apart is His holiness that anyone that even looks at God would die and surely on Judgment Day, everyone will fall down and bend the knee. That is why John, like Isaiah, was revealed these things in the spirit, not in the flesh.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: And the knowledge of the holy is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10 KJV)
Now let’s look at God’s holiness. What does it mean that God is holy? Another way to say it is absolute perfection. God is unlike any other, and His holiness is the essence of that “otherness.” His very being is completely absent of even a trace of sin. He is high above any other, and no one can compare to Him. God’s holiness pervades His entire being and shapes all His attributes. His love is a holy love, His mercy is holy mercy, and even His anger and wrath are holy anger and holy wrath. These concepts are difficult for humans to grasp, just as God is difficult for us to understand in His entirety.
Next, what does it mean for us to be holy? When God told Israel to be holy, He was instructing them to be distinct from the other nations by giving them specific regulations to govern their lives. They were given standards that God wanted them to live by so the world would know they belonged to Him. When Peter repeats the Lord’s words in 1 Peter 1:16, he is talking specifically to believers. As believers, we need to be ‘set apart’ from the world unto the Lord. We need to be living by God’s standards, not the world’s. God isn’t calling us to be perfect, but to be distinct from the world. 1 Peter 2:9 describes believers as “a holy nation.” We are separated from the world; we need to live out that reality in our day-to-day lives, which Peter tells us how to do in 1 Peter 1:13-16:
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16 NKJV)
Need we be reminded?:
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19 NKJV)
Finally, how can we become holy? Holiness only results from a right relationship with God by believing in Jesus Christ as Savior and LORD. If we have not placed our faith in God’s Son alone to save us from our sins, then our pursuit of holiness is in vain. So, we must first make sure we are born-again believers. If we truly are believers, then we recognize that our position in Christ automatically sets us apart from the world (1 Peter 2:9). Then we must daily live a set-apart life, not trying to ‘blend in’ with the world, but instead living according to God’s Word as we study the Bible and grow in it:
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9 NKJV)
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight — if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21-23 NKJV)
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14 NKJV)
Holiness is the wonder that pervades all of God’s character… He is love but He loves with a Holy love, He is gracious but it is a Holy Grace that He bestows upon us. It has ever been the horror of religion to portray God’s character apart from the Holiness of all that HE is.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” Proverbs 9:10
True understanding is in our touching the Holy of Him.
Amen to BT’s comment!