A PCA church in Lake Suzy, Florida

The Holiness of God

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

     A lot of people think, “I’m not perfect, but I’m a pretty good person. God will let me into heaven.” That reminds me of an old Esurance commercial: “That’s not how it works; that’s not how any of this works!”

     According to the Bible, getting into heaven by our own good deeds is “not how it works.” God is holy, which means that he is pure goodness, and he made human beings to be in a loving relationship with him. Because of the fall of man in the garden of Eden, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Learning what it means that God is holy helps us to understand why the only way we can come to the Father is through Jesus.

  1. C. Sproul notes inThe Holiness of God: “When the Bible calls God holy, it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be ‘other,’ to be different in a special way” (p. 38).

     The prophet Isaiah notes that this God is “Holy, holy, holy!”

     Because God is spirit, he is always purely all of his attributes in complete perfection and unity. It is impossible for God to allow his mercy to override his justice. His holiness never conflicts with his love. God must be true to all his attributes, because to do otherwise would be to deny his own self. As theologian Michael Horton so aptly states in his book The Christian Faith, “God would not be God if he did not possess all his attributes in the simplicity and perfection of his essence” (p. 229).

     We think God won’t mind a few sins here and there. The problem with this thinking is that we don’t get it. We don’t get how holy God is, and we don’t get how sinful we are. Isaiah understood it when he saw a vision of the Lord in his glory. He cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5)

     When we get it—when we realize that there is nothing about us that is untouched by our depraved nature and how impossible it is for us to stand in righteousness before God on our own merits—this is when we must run to the foot of the cross and cling to Christ, our only hope.

     God must judge sin and uphold justice and righteousness. He cannot look the other way. In order to uphold his attributes of holiness, righteousness, and justice, God must judge and punish sin (Num. 14:18; Nah. 1:3). Thus, Paul reminds us: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

     The good news of Scripture is that God became the solution to the problem of sin because only the God-man could save us. Since there was no way for sinful humans to keep God’s law perfectly or completely atone for their sins, Jesus was born in the flesh so he could fulfill the whole law and be the perfect sacrifice on behalf of all who put their faith in him:

     On the cross we see the God who is both “just and the justifier” (Matt. 27:33–35; Rom. 3:26). Again, Horton points out that it is at the cross where “we see how far God is willing to go in order to uphold all of his attributes in the simplicity of his being” (p. 266).

     So Paul reminds us, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

     That’s how it actually works—salvation comes through Christ alone. It is far better for Jesus to pay for your sins on your behalf so you don’t have to spend eternity doing so. Let the perfect righteousness of Jesus, the God-man, be your righteousness, because it is something you can never attain on your own. Don’t wait to trust in Christ for your salvation, for he is your one and only hope.