Holiness, The Supreme Perfection of God
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We extensively use the word “perfect” in ways that are not part of its meaning. We call things perfectly normal. We look at the weather and say, “It’s a perfect day.” Sometimes we get excited by a new purchase and describe it as the perfect house, or perfect car, or perfect (you fill in this blank).
There is always something lacking in our understanding of perfect. Our response to some of these “perfect” items might be “Nothing is perfect.” The truth is there is a standard of perfection. God is that standard and His word reveals it. Jesus said that God alone is good. Yet both perfect and good do not fully describe God. God is perfect because He has no faults. God is good because His character is the definition of good. Both perfection and goodness are attributes of God. But when God described Himself, He used a different word. God used the word “holy”. Moreover, God commanded His people to “be holy [He said] because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44 and 1 Peter 1:16). Since God both said that He is holy and that His people are to be holy, we do well to understand the meaning of holy. For everything that the church is and does must be holy, that is, if we profess to be faithful to the word of God.
I have found it helpful to picture an umbrella in understanding the holiness of God. If you were to list all of God’s attributes—His faithfulness, sovereignty, goodness, love, etc. —and place them under an umbrella, the umbrella would be God’s holiness. The holiness of God more fully describes each of His attributes. For example, because God is holy, there is no one as faithful as God, nor is there anyone as good as God. God is uniquely perfect.
God’s holiness sets Him apart from all. He is wholly unique. The Westminster Shorter Catechism’s first question and answer deals with man’s purpose. “What is the chief end of Man?” The answer is, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” To glorify God is to attribute all the honor, respect, majesty, etc. to Him. In other words, man is to live knowing that God is holy, and everything is due Him.
God reveals glimpses of His holiness in the Bible, e.g., Isaiah 6:1-5. The occurrence is God’s commissioning of the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was allowed to see the throne room of God in heaven. Part of the vision that he received included great winged creatures crying out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts…” You may have heard that “holy” is the only word repeated three times in describing God. Twice would be emphasis in the Hebrew language similar to the English use of an exclamation point. But three times is supreme emphasis.
The basic meaning of “holy” is unique but there is also a range of meaning. The range is from unique to absolute perfection. Holy and variations of it are used to describe things and people whom God sets apart. For example, the Apostle Paul referred to the children of one believing partner in marriage as “holy.” Things and people that God sets apart for Him are called holy.
We understand consecration and sanctification in light of the word holy. Both words are descriptive of God’s action in setting people apart for Himself and changing those whom He sets apart to be like Christ.
So what? What does God’s holiness have to do with our lives? The simple answer is everything! As mentioned above, everything in the Christian’s life is to reflect God’s holiness. All else is sin. The Apostle Paul wrote that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Yet, God requires perfection. God requires that those who will see Him face to face must be holy as He is holy. Our lives, our worship, and all that we are and do must reflect the holiness of God. The gospel is the only means given by God for our holiness. Those whom God justified, He glorified (Romans 8:30). God glorifies His people by sanctifying them. He makes them holy. By God’s work of grace, He continues to sanctify those who belong to Him so that when we see Jesus face to face they will be holy. Jesus as He is offered in the gospel is man’s only hope!
Holiness, The Supreme Perfection of God