What comes to mind when we think of the word holy? Dictionaries
have great difficulty attempting to define it. Usually it is associated with divinity, but
never really defined. Of course the religious world makes great use of the word, but as
with many Biblical words they are but part of their jargon and empty ritual.
Mr. A.W. Tozer in his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, makes the
following comments in the chapter on the Holiness of God. "We know nothing like
divine holiness. It stands apart, unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible and
unattainable. The natural man is blind to it.
"Holy is the way God is. To be holy He does not conform to a
standard. He is the standard. He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible
fullness of purity that is incapable of being other than its is."
Ungers’s Bible Dictionary offers the following assistance.
"Holiness is one of the essential attributes of the divine nature. It is on one hand,
entire freedom from moral evil, and upon the other, absolute moral perfection."
Another has written, "The English word holy is from the
Anglo-Saxon word for ‘well, or whole.’ Charles Ryrie asks, ‘What does it
mean to be healthy?’ It means more than not being sick. Likewise holiness is more
than the absence of sin; it is a positive, healthy state of being right. This is what John
meant when he said, that God is light (1 John 1:5)"
Scripture informs us that in regard to absolute holiness that only God
is Holy (1 Sam. 2:2; Rev. 15:4). This is true of all the Persons of the Godhead. (Father,
John 17:11; Son, Acts 3:14; Spirit, Matt. 1:18). The Hebrew and Greek words used in
Scripture would convey the idea of being separate from impurity, sin, or moral
imperfection. The word sanctify, which means "set apart" comes from one
of the Greek words for holy.
The tabernacle is a vivid picture of this truth. When we think of the
sanctity of the Holy of Holies we get some small sense of God’s holiness. For one to
enter in a wrong fashion meant instant death (Lev. 10:1–3). On the annual day
of atonement, the high priest must not enter within the veil without first making
atonement for himself, less he die (Lev. 16:1–4).
The prophet Isaiah provides us with what the natural response to the
holiness of God should be (Isa. 6:1–5). "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I
am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine
eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts."
We see that God Himself is pure, sinless, undefiled, and as such He is
the Standard. Since God never changes, the standard will always be perfection. For God to
allow impurity in His presence would lower the standard and as such He would no longer be
Being holy, God is not only separate from sin, He abhors sin and is incapable
of sinning. He is opposed to sin as light is to darkness. Here we begin to fail in
attempting to describe one Who cannot sin. It is suggested that Adam was innocent, but not
holy as God is. Adam was without sin, but could, and did sin. God is without sin, and
cannot sin. This of course is true of God manifest in the flesh.
In summary, when we think of a Holy God, think of an absolutely perfect
standard, and as such, sin cannot be associated with Him. Sin cannot come into the
presence of God for He is Holy. It is His nature to abhor evil and delight in what is
In this regard, Darby writes, "Holiness, on the orher hand (in
contrast to righteousness), is the abhorrence, in the nature, of what is evil, and delight
in what is good and pure."
Pink adds, "Because God is holy, acceptance with Him on the ground
of creature doings is utterly impossible. A fallen creature could sooner create a world
than produce that which would meet the approval of infinite Purity. The best that sinful
man brings forth is defiled."
It is remarkable then, and a tribute to the redemptive work of Christ,
that we read concerning those who have believed on Him, "Having therefore, brethren, boldness
to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,…Let us draw near with a true
heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil
conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." (Heb. 10:19, 22)
Amazing that we can come into the very presence of a holy God with
boldness and full assurance. What a Savior we have, and what a work He has done.