Brethren Archive

The Holiness of God.

by Douglas Walter Brealey

THE subject is as important as it is exalted, but who would not shrink from attempting to deal with it?  Neither the most intellectual, nor the most eloquent, nor the most spiritual could ever hope to do it justice.  The holiness of God defies definition, analysis and description, and yet it is something that is immediately discernible.  When men find themselves in the presence of God, they are immediately possessed with a sense of His holiness, and of their own sinfulness.  For example, Isaiah: "Woe is me . . . for I am a man of unclean lips."   Or Job: "Now mine eye seeth Thee, wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."   Or Peter: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."   When we consider the seraphim, thought to be God's highest created intelligences, we see them awe-struck, reverent, waiting before Him with faces and feet covered, crying one to another: "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts"  John Buchan, in his book, The King's Grace, says that it is not for a subject to bandy compliments with his sovereign.   We worms of earth, yet in God's grace, citizens of a heavenly kingdom, may well be guarded in our words when we speak of the holiness of the King of kings.
God is Light.
This is really another way of saying that God is holy.  Montague Goodman once remarked that "as the whiteness of light is the combination, the perfect blending of the seven colours of the prism, so the sevenfold perfections of holiness meet in God, to shine in the effulgence of His glory.
Essential Holiness.
There are those who say that holiness is an attribute of the Godhead, but it is rather of the essence of Godhead than an attribute of it.   In fact, it is essential to God that He be holy.   God is Light, not has it.   Similarly, God is love, is holy.  This concept is quite foreign to pagan religions, whether ancient or modern.  They think of their deities as great, inscrutable or powerful, but never as holy.  The obscenities and licentiousness of their worship testify to their awful Satanic unholiness.  But our God, the one true God, is essentially holy.  "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil and canst not look on iniquity," said the prophet Habakkuk. Because He is holy, He is love.  Holiness expresses itself in infinite and Divine love.  The tragedy is that men won't have it; they "love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil"   But the message of the gospel is that "the dayspring from on high hath visited  us, to give light to them that sit in darkness."
Sovereign Holiness.
Many of the ways of God are inscrutable.   Many people, because they do not know God, nor understand His ways, dare to criticize Him and judge Him by their own low standards.  But He says: "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
For instance, unbelievers stumble at the order for the extermination of the wicked Canaanitish nations.  This was an expression of' His sovereign holiness.  Yet God has told us why the order was given.  He had waited long for them in patience and forbearance, until their iniquity was full.  Then the wrath of God fell, that wrath which is but one expression of that infinite holiness which must ever be opposed to sin.  The order was given so that Israel should not be corrupted with the same evil.   Just as the surgeon cuts deep to remove all traces of the cancer, if thereby he may save the life of the patient, so sovereign holiness cuts deep into sin to save the body of society.   Let us not forget that the wrath of a holy God will yet again fall on the nations of the earth and that when it does, sovereign holiness will be behind it.
Separating Holiness.
The first mention of the word holy (though not, of course, the first mention of the idea of holiness, which pervades the Scripture) is in Exod. 3—the story of the burning bush.   Moses decides he will turn aside to see this great sight, but ere he steps into the eternal burnings, the voice of God calls out of the bush: "Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."  The sinner is arrested by a holy God, lest he draw nigh and be consumed.   At the time of the promulgation of the law, Moses was commanded to set bounds about the mount, lest the people break through to gaze and many perish.  Between the holy place, and the most holy place in the tabernacle, there was the veil, and none might enter where shone the Shekinah glory save the High Priest, once a year, and then not without blood.  The holiness of God is separating holiness, but it was never God's intention that His creature man should be separated from Him.  It was not so originally; man in innocence enjoyed fellowship with his Creator, but sin came in and man naturally withdrew. The brokenhearted cry of God is: "Your sins and iniquities have separated between you and your God."  But He will not be, thwarted in His purpose, and this leads us to the fourth consideration.
Saving Holiness.
There was a gulf that had to be bridged. The love of God yearned over the sinner; His righteousness demanded the judgment of the sinner, His holiness, the putting away of sin. Now the Voice says: "I am the way." God laid on His Son the iniquity of us all, and righteousness was satisfied when He "bare our sins in His own body on the tree."  The Son of God, who had known unbroken fellowship with the Father from all eternity, experienced the horror of being separated from Him because our sins were laid on Him. Holiness was satisfied because "He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."   Now the word is not: "Draw not nigh,"  but: "Let us draw near" with boldness into the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus.
Sanctifying Holiness.
God justified us by His grace when we believed in Jesus, in order that we might be sanctified.  Never think that justification is an end in itself; it is a means to an end;  the end is sanctification.  Let us make the application practical, that is, that we may be holy in practice. There is no reason why any of us, whatever our heredity or environment, should continue in sin.  God's intention is that everyone of us should have the victory, with sin under our feet. Be ye holy, He says, for I am holy.  God's biddings are His enablings; a statement trite, but true.  He provides the way by which we can be holy.  Formerly the law of sin worked in our members, but now the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus is here to make us free.  It is all a matter of faith, so let us take the promises of God for sanctification and step out in the victory of it. If we are to be His worshipping companions, we must be holy in practice.  "Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."
Seen Holiness.
It has been seen in all its wonder in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Listen to the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary before the incarnation, this wonderful thing that would come to her: "Therefore that holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." There is no exercise so wonderful and transforming as the contemplation of God's holy Son. "We all beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image."  It must be true that we are so little like Christ because we spend so little time contemplating Him. Let us think of His wonderful life, listen to His holy words of grace, consider His actions. "I do always those things that please Him," He could say, and God gave testimony to this: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."   As we follow His pathway, we see that everywhere "He went about doing good."  The arch-traitor shall give testimony: "I have betrayed the innocent blood."  Pilate's wife shall call Him "that just man."  His judge shall say, before he condemns Him: "I find no fault in Him."  The dying thief shall say: "He hath done nothing amiss."  On the day of Pentecost Peter, in the power of the Spirit, arguing that the resurrection of Christ was inevitable, quoted Ps. 16: "Thou wilt not suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption."  Again: "Ye denied the holy One."  It is lovely to contemplate the holiness of. Christ.  The apostle John is given a vision of the holy Son of God: "His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; His eyes were as a flame of fire and His feet like burnished brass."  A vision of infinite holiness.  John fell at His feet as dead, but the hand with the nail prints lifted him up.  "Fear not, I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore."
Satisfying Holiness.
If there were a vestige of sin in God, He could never satisfy our souls, but because He is so infinitely holy, we can find no true satisfaction outside of Him, outside of His Son.
“The Harvester” 1960


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