If you were to survey a random sampling of people in your community and ask them, “What is the one character trait you most associate with God,” the top answer you would likely get is “love.” To be fair, if you were doing such a random questioning in the general population, you would probably also get “hate” as an answer. If the same question were asked in any congregation, “love” would probably be #1, and that by a wide margin.
I, too, can’t think enough of God’s love. It is matchless, amazing, and unending. It shows itself in His grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
But love is not the singular attribute of God that we need to fully understand.
Why do I say that? Because if we get the holiness of God right, everything else will fall into place.
You see, when people talk about the love of God, they are usually talking about a wishy-washy, anything-goes-and-I’ll-overlook-it kind of love. The Bible tells us, though, that God loved us enough to not only forgive, but also He loves us enough to punish. That’s not usually how we think of love, but God’s holiness will not allow sin to go unpunished.
God’s holiness saturates Scripture. Think with me for a moment.
- Why is a book like Leviticus so filled with laws about purity and cleanliness? While these laws were there to help the health of the Israelites, they were also constant visual reminders of the holiness of God. They were not to allow any impurity in their midst.
- Why is God so adamant about things like premarital and extra-marital sex being sinful? Because the marriage relationship is meant to be a picture of holiness, and to take the most intimate part of that relationship elsewhere is to ruin that picture.
- Why would God crucify Jesus? Because a perfect sacrifice had to be made, and no other person could ever have walked through this world in total perfection. Jesus was the only truly holy sacrifice.
God is a holy God. There is no way to express this adequately because we see the world through eyes that have been tinged with sin many times. But Scripture is replete with reminders of the holiness of the Father.
He is holy (Isaiah 6:3).
His dwelling is holy (Habakkuk 2:20).
Worshiping Him is holy (Psalm 96:9).
His eyes are pure (Habakkuk 1:13).
His words are right (Isaiah 45:19).
His name is holy (Luke 1:49).
He is perfect (Matthew 5:48).
So, Scripture makes this attribute clear. But how is this the one attribute of God that I need to understand? When I set my mind on comprehending the holiness of God, I will see Him for who He is, me for who I am, and sin for what it is.
Even if I do not understand why something is sinful, I will not want to commit that sin because a perfectly holy God has said it is an affront to Him. My heart will be set on being holy, so I will not commit that sin.
God’s love is amazing, but God’s holiness is the one attribute we need to understand.
“Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). If we will follow that one command, everything else will fall into place.
QUESTION: Why do you think God’s holiness is so rarely discussed today?
Photo credit: Tatsuo Yamashita on Creative Commons
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