What does it mean that God is HOLY?
Perhaps the most important thing that you can know about God is that He is holy!
So, what does it mean that God is Holy? God's holiness means that He is separated from sin and devoted to seeking His own honor (Leviticus 19:2; 1 Peter 1:14-16; Isaiah 6:3). Holiness is challenging to describe because it means; other, different, separate, transcendent above His creation (Isaiah 6:1-5). God is holy because He is eternal (Revelation 4:8). He was never created but is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. There is nothing on this earth—or in all of creation—that is comparable to Him.
(Definition is taken out of my book: Knowing the God We Proclaim)
The Bible declares that God is HOLY, HOLY, HOLY. The repetition means it's important! Let's discover why?
The Scriptures declare that God is Holy, Holy, Holy. The thrice-holy repetitive declaration means, PAY ATTENTION! There is no other attribute of God that is thrice repeated; God is Holy, Holy, Holy. Ask yourself the question: what is the most important thing I need to know about God? Most modern American Christianity would say that God is love, merciful, or grace.
He is all these things, but are they the most critical attributes to understand? Meaning, if the beginning of your knowledge of God started with the attribute of love, how would this impact your understanding of God? When our knowledge of God begins with the love of God then:
God's love is held higher than His other attributes.
We end up defining love using our own definitions.
We end up saying things like, "God would never send anyone to hell because He is love." "God loves the sinner but hates the sin."
We end up ultimately making a god of our imagination that we are comfortable with.
Doing this distorts the image of God. God is unity which means that God is not separated into different parts. All of His attributes work together in perfect unity.
I've said it before and will continue to say it until someone shows me I'm wrong; the most important thing to understand about God is that He is holy. The seraphim, angels, creatures, and elders around the throne of God are not declaring God's goodness, grace, mercy, or love. They are bowing down in worship, declaring that God is Holy, Holy, Holy.
Let us look to the Scriptures to see how God reveals His holiness to us. Starting in Isaiah 6,
In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said,
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.”
And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said,
“Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” He said, “Go, and tell this people.” (Isaiah 6:1-9a, bold added)
The first impression that Isaiah gives of this vision is that God is the Master. He is the Ruler of all things; there is nothing that is outside of His dominion — no power outside of His control. Even the greatest of nations, powers, principalities, or governing authorities do not cause the Lord stress. He is seated upon His throne, not standing, on the throne that is high and lifted up. This throne that the Lord is seated upon is higher than any other throne. None even comes close to reaching its authority, power, and glory.
Not only is the Lord seated upon the throne, which is high and lifted up. But Isaiah also speaks of the train of the Lord's robe filling the temple. The train of a king's robe is typically linked to the majesty and glory of a king. Not only is the Lord's throne above all else, not only is He seated upon it, but also His majesty and glory fills the temple.
God is not to be mocked; He is the Master of all of creation. He has the power and authority to do as He pleases, and His majesty and glory fill the earth. He has the power and authority to strike down the entire spiritual and physical world with a word if He so desired. If all of the creation rose in rebellion against the Lord, it would be as if we were throwing toothpicks at a bomber carrying an atomic bomb.
The LORD whom Isaiah saw is not one to trifle with. But is one to fear and bow down in worship. The description of the Lord in Isaiah 6 is even more incredible to dwell upon, knowing that this is merely a vision that Isaiah saw. He did not see the Lord in His fullness, but only what the Lord showed Him. Keep this thought in mind when we look at Isaiah's response to this vision.
Much of God's holiness was spoken of in Isaiah's recorded vision. God reveals His holiness to John in a different yet similar way to that of Isaiah's revelation. In John's revelation, we will observe more about what it means that God is thrice-holy,
Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say,
“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”
And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” (Revelation 4:5-11, bold added)
Just as in Isaiah's vision, there is much imagery when it comes to the scene surrounding the Lord. I don't desire to get lost in the description or focus our attention on it. It is not John's intention for us to focus on anything but the Lord God.
What I do want us to notice is that everything John sees is "like" something.
"and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle." (Revelation 4:6-7, bold added)
God created everything that John is describing, and therefore it all can be defined. John had something in creation to compare everything that he saw with. The sea of glass was like a crystal; the creatures with six wings and full of eyes were like a lion, calf, man, and eagle. Everything John was seeing could be explained.
Everything but God. For God is not created, He is eternal. The created creatures that are around the throne day and night never cease declaring,
“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” (Revelation 4:8)
The word used here for Lord is the Greek word, kurios, which is the Hebrew equivalent of Adonai. The Lord is the Master and He is Almighty in power and strength. His holiness is seen in His eternal nature. No one created God. Instead, He created everything else. When John looks upon Him who lives forever and ever, the eternal one, he stops describing. He records only what is declared.
Why? Because no one can describe God by anything that has been made. It was all created by the thrice-holy eternal Creator. There is nothing in all of creation that can be compared to Him. Even if we were to take all of creation in its entirety, it could not be compared to the eternal God.
(Some of the content on this page is taken out of my book: Knowing the God We Proclaim)
(To discover more about God, see our page, Discovering God)