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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: What Does It Mean: God Is Holy?

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Don Stewart

The Bible teaches that God is a holy God. The idea behind the concept of holiness is "separation." It comes from a word meaning "to separate or cut off." God is separate, or cut off, from everything that is sinful and evil-He cannot tolerate sin. John wrote this truth in figurative language.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

To say that God is holy means there is no trace of evil in his character.

Only God Is Holy

Only God is holy.

For this is what the high and lofty One says - he who lives forever, whose name is holy (Isaiah 57:15).

In the Book of Revelation we read.

Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed (Revelation 15:4).

The demonic spirits acknowledged Jesus Christ, God the Son, as holy.

What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are -the Holy One of God (Mark 1:24).

Because only God is holy, any people or objects that are said to be holy are described in this manner because God has made them holy, or set them apart. Therefore the term holy is applied to persons or objects that have some type of relationship with the Lord - they are set apart for His service.

He Is Separate From Humanity

God, being holy, is separate from humanity spatially - He is in heaven while humans live upon the earth - and separate in His nature and character - He is perfect, humans are imperfect. Holiness is an attribute of God that distinguishes Himself and His creation.

There Are Positive And Negative Aspects To His Holiness

With respect to God's character, holiness has both positive and negative aspects. On the negative side, holiness consists of what God does and does not do. He does not look upon or participate in any sin. On the positive side, He always does that which is right.

The Old Testament

During the Old Testament period, God often emphasized His holiness to Israel. When the Lord spoke to Moses through a burning bush He said.

Then he [the Lord] said, "Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." He said further, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God" (Exodus 3:5,6).

In the Book of Exodus we read.

Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you - majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? (Exodus 15:11).

The Lord reminded the people of His holiness in the entire sacrificial system.

I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy (Leviticus 11:44,45).

The Nation Israel Was To Be Holy

The nation of Israel was to be holy, or set apart, because God is holy.

You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own (Leviticus 20:26).

Joshua wrote.

Joshua said to the people, "You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins" (Joshua 24:19).

He Is Unique In His Holiness

No one is like the Holy God of Scripture.

There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God (1 Samuel 2:2).

The psalmist wrote.

You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell (Psalm 5:4).

God Is Unable To Look At Sin

Because He is holy, God is unable to look at sin.

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear (Isaiah 59:2).

The psalmist wrote.

If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear (Psalm 66:18).

Habbakuk declared.

Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds (Habbakuk 1:3).

God's holiness demands that sinners are separated from Him. He cannot tolerate evil in his presence.

The Testimony Of The New Testament

In the New Testament we find the holiness of God also being emphasized.

There Are Direct Statements About God's Holiness

The New Testament directly speaks of God's holiness. Jesus addressed His Father as "Holy."

I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name - the name you gave me - so that they may be one as we are one (John 17:11).

Peter wrote.

But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do (1 Peter 1:15).

There Are Figurative Uses Of God's Holiness

The holiness of God is used figuratively of Him being light.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

His Holiness Is Acknowledged In Praise

We find the holiness of God being acknowledged in praise.

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come (Revelation 4:8).

He Can Only Do Good

Because He is holy He can only do that which is true and good. He is absolutely pure and sinless. God, therefore, hates sin and loves the good. It is impossible for Him to sin. He always tells the truth.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17).

God Always Keeps His Word

God has promised that He will not go back on His Word:

In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began (Titus 1:2).

God's revealed Word, the Bible, tells us that He is perfect in all that He is. There is nothing morally lacking in His character. God is perfection.

Holiness Causes Believers To Be Sensitive To Sin

The holiness of God causes believers to be sensitive to their own sinful ways.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man" (Luke 5:8).

We Have A Holy Standard To Live By

Believers should act in a holy manner because God is holy.

You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy (Leviticus 19:2).

John wrote.

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

Believers Are To Worship In Holiness

The believer is to worship the Lord in holiness.

Give unto the Lord the glory due to his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness (Psalm 29:2).


Only God is holy. The main idea behind holiness is separation. God is separate from all sin. He is perfect in His nature. His character is one of flawless moral perfection. Holiness has a positive and negative side. On the positive side He always does what is right. On the negative side He is separate from all sin. Believers are commanded to be holy as God is holy.

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