5. Holy and Righteous

Holy and Righteous

There is no-one holy like the LORD; there is no-one besides you. There is no Rock like our God

I Sam.2:2

The LORD is Righteous in all His ways


You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness


Older theologians spoke of God’s holiness as the attribute of attributes – the attribute that gives substance and meaning and definition to all other attributes.   It is the foundational to the character of God, and if this were to be breached, all else that God is would lose its honour and glory.  There is nothing we can say that is more intrinsic.  And to us it is the most foreign attribute.  Everything else we say about God, there is something we can compare to it, but the holiness of God is by definition without comparison.  It is His absolute distinctiveness (I Sam.2:2).  He is unlike all else and utterly different from all else.  It is the ultimate reality of God.  Holiness can often negative connotations as if it were a cold detached set of rules, or an abstract and lifeless morality.  This is utterly alien to the reality of holiness which is better thought of as the life of God Himself.  It is His nature.  It is the raging, active purity, the light of which drives back the darkness of all that falls short of His glory.

 And the beauty of God’s holiness has long been the Church’s joy and delight.  ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty’ (Rev.4:8) is the foundation of all other worship, ‘Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your Name.  For you alone are holy’ (Rev.15:4).  The Ancient Church ‘appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise Him for the splendour of His holiness’ (II Chron.20:21).  The saints have always been glad that all God does is in keeping with His moral excellence; that He cannot ever act out of character but always and only in accordance with what is right – He Himself being the standard of what is right.

There is no external standard that is apart from God against which we measure Him.  Rather, whatever conforms to God’s character is righteous, because it conforms to Him.  And born of His holiness and righteousness is His separation from, His utter opposition to, and His implacable hatred of all that is sinful (Ps.5:4-5; Ps.11:5; Prov.3:32; Prov.15:9 etc.).   He is enthroned in a burning regal purity (Ps.97:2).  He cannot tolerate or normalise our sin.  This too has been our delight.

The uncompromising reality of God’s holiness is displayed most fully at the cross.  Even when it is His own Son that bears sin (and that by the Father’s own decree, Is.53:10), the thrice-holy God will not stay His hand of judgement and destruction.  We are familiar with Psalm 22:1, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’  Yet only two verses later, the Divine Sin-Bearer adores the very reason for His abandonment: ‘You are enthroned as the Holy One’.  Our salvation is forged on the anvil of His holiness.  Through the cross the righteousness of God has been made known … the righteousness that is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Rom.3:22).  Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is born holy (Lk.1:31-35) and sustains that holiness against all assault of the evil one (Lk.4:1-2 & 13); and in His death and resurrection makes that divine-human righteousness available to us through faith so that we can stand before the blazing holiness of God in joyous safety (Phil.3:9).  A mere (fallen) human righteousness (Phil.3:6), however flawless would still be insufficient for such an encounter, being finite and created.  But we know the holiness of Christ is sufficient, for He has already – in His humanity – ascended into heaven itself to appear for us in God’s presence (Heb.9:24).   ‘By one sacrifice, He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy’ (Heb.10:14).  Only here, in the righteousness of Christ, can we be reconciled to ‘My Holy One … [whose] eyes are too pure to look on evil’ (Hab.1:13).

Are you thrilled or disturbed that God is Holy & Righteous?  Does it inspire worship or anxiety?  Why do you think this is?

People who are not Christians will gladly believe in god, but not a god who is holy.  Do you agree or disagree with this statement?  Read Ps.50:16-21.  How does that affect your answer?

Do you think it is true to say that someone who sees sin as relatively insignificant, has never really confronted the Holiness and Righteousness of God?  How could the vision of God’s holiness be cultivated, and would you want to, knowing how it would affect your vision of yourself?

Heb.10:10 speaks of our having been made holy, whilst 10:14 speaks of our being made holy.  How can both be true?

How would you counsel a Christian who was not hungering and thirsting after righteousness (Matt.5:6), and who was not throwing off the sin that so easily entangles (Heb.12:1) in their pursuit of holiness?

How is God’s holiness different from ours? 

How will we be more like God in the New Creation than we are now?  How does that vision affect us?


Memory Passage

The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. Great is the Lord in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations. Let them praise your great and awesome name — he is holy.  The King is mighty, he loves justice—you have established equity; in Jacob you have done what is just and right.  Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy.


For further reflection

The Law is the reflection of God’s character.  We often think it would be amazing if everyone lived by the 10 Commandments.  It would be.  But we don’t.  God does.  In fact, the 10 Commandments are what they are (and so the rest of the Law is what it is) because God is who He is.  The Decalogue is rooted in our vision of God, and our exclusive allegiance to Him in worship and devotion.  We are not to murder, because God is life; we are not to commit adultery, because God is faithful; we are not to steal, because God is generous…  This is why Paul can write in Rom.7:12, ‘The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good’.  As Christians we ought to love the Law (Ps.119:97), but often we don’t. 

What is that saying about our love for the LORD?  Why do we sometimes wish God’s Law didn’t say what it did?  Does that reflect a dislike for some aspect of God’s character?  …or an unwillingness to seek conformity to it?  What Scripture might you read and meditate on to help you to be convinced more fully that God’s character and Laws are ‘holy righteous and good’, and to inspire your love for Him and them?

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