Summary: In that moment, when Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, something wonderful happened. He came down from the cross, took all His holiness and wove it into a suit of clothes and gave it to you and me. We walk around today wearing the holiness of Jesus Christ.
Pastor and author John MacArthur remembers a conversation that he once had with a well-known charismatic pastor who told MacArthur that Jesus sometimes comes into his bathroom while he’s shaving in the morning and puts his arms around him and they talk together. I love MacArthur’s incredulous reply … “And you keep shaving?”
I think we’ve become a bit flippant and shallow in our knowledge and respect for God these days. We talk about God without any fear of the awesomeness of His absolute holiness. Surprising … given the fact that every time someone in the Bibles gets a mere glimpse of God or Christ in His resurrected glory, that person falls on their face!
Holiness … it is at the heart and core of who God is. It is one of His preeminent attributes. “As I read the Bible,” evangelist Billy Graham once said, “I seem to find holiness to be His supreme attribute.”
Philadelphia pastor James Montgomery Boice once spoke to a group of Christians about the attributes of God. He began by asking the group to list God’s qualities in order of importance. The group put love first, at the top of the list … followed by wisdom … power … mercy … omniscience … and truthfulness. Holy was at the very end of the list. “That did surprise me,” Boice later wrote, “because the Bible refers to God’s holiness more than any other attribute.”
When the prophet Isaiah was in the Temple beholding the Lord high and lifted up, the angels were singing: “Holy! Holy! Holy is the Lord of hosts … the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3).
“Holy! Holy! Holy!” … The ancient Hebrew language had no way of emphasizing words like we do today. They didn’t italicize or under line or write in bold print. When they wanted to highlight something, they repeated it. For example when Jesus wanted to emphasize a point or get His followers’ attention, He would say something like: “Truly, truly I say to you.” Very seldom do we see a word repeated three times in the Bible and never when it comes to any of the attributes of God except this one … God’s holiness.
Think of it this way. God is all-loving … but the angels around God’s throne aren’t’ recorded as singing: “Loving! Loving! Loving!” He is all-knowing but there is no record of the heavenly hosts singing: “Omniscient! Omniscient! Omniscient!” His power and might have no limit, but the songs recorded in the Bible don’t sing: “Powerful! Powerful! Powerful!” But the cry of the heavenly hosts … all the angels and saints … is “Holy! Holy! Holy!”
God is called “holy” more than anything else and His holiness leads the list of His many attributes for good reason. He is repeatedly referred to as “the Holy One of Israel” … as “the holy God.” Author Stephen Charnock said that God’s arm of power tells us of His strength … His eye of omniscience tells of His knowledge … His heart of duration tells of His eternity … but it is the beauty of His holiness that captures us when we really see Him as He is. “According to scripture,” Charnock declares, “the holiness of God is His beauty.”
When you read through the Bible from the beginning to the end, you are constantly reminded … it seems like every other chapter … that we are dealing with a holy God … and that His holiness is stunningly beautiful … so stunning, so breath-taking, so awesome that it inspires those who have seen Him and experienced His holiness to burst out in song. The first song in the Bible and the very last song both sing of the holiness of God.
The first song is found in Exodus 15. After God demolished any notion that Egypt’s false gods were anything other than the projection of the people who worshipped them … after displaying His power and reality through 10 different plagues … after God parted the Red Sea and freed over one million Hebrew slaves from Egypt’s grip … Moses led the whole nation in a song celebrating God’s holiness. One verse, Exodus 15: 11, captures the gist of the entire song: “Lord, who is like You among the gods? Who is like you, glorious in holiness, revered with praises, performing wonders?” … “glorious in holiness!”
When God gave His Apostle John a glimpse into the future in the Book of Revelation, John saw the moment when the final outpouring of God’s wrath was about is about to take place. Gathered in Heaven were those whose faith and allegiance to God in defiance of the rule of the antichrist had cost them their lives and John tells us that they were singing: “Great and awe inspiring are Your works, Lord God Almighty. Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the Nations. Lord, who will not fear and glorify Your name? For You alone are … holy. All nations will come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been revealed” (Revelation 15:3-4).