God is Holy – Doctrine 101


a) Why do the angels cry “Holy, holy, holy!” rather than “Love, love, love!”? What are the implications of this?

I think the key idea of “holy” as “set apart” is that God does not exist for our purpose. That is, the reasons our ancestors called an altar or place holy is that it was “set apart” as something of transcendent value, in contrast to merely being of instrumental value (“utility“).

In this context, the highest order of praise from the angels (and us) is simply to recognize that fact, and honor God as being worthy independent of being useful.

b) In what ways did God make sure that nothing sinful contaminated the “Most Holy Place” (Ex 26:33)?

There were physical, ritual, and cultural barriers to prevent people from entering, and regulate who could enter.

What are the implications of this historical practice for our understanding of Heb 12:14?

That the pursuit of peaceful relationships is as crucial to our ability to (safely) see God as the Old Testament safeguards were to the high priest.

Are there any activities or relationships in your life that hinder your growth in holiness? Are there things that you need to become separate from? If you choose to become “separate from” these things, what are you going to put in their place in order to become “separated to” something worthwhile?

Written work:
Summarize the conclusions to the class discussion questions above.

Read RCS #16 (incl. Bible passages).

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Doctrine 101: Learning about God
Worksheet 7 – God is Holy

1. Why is God’s holiness considered one of the most important attributes?

I think because it is prior to his other attributes, both historically and (perhaps) ontologically. It emphasizes what He is apart from us, rather than merely what He is to us.

2. What is the primary meaning of holiness?

To be set apart.

3. Explain why God’s righteousness is considered to be an aspect of His holiness.

I wrestle with this. My current best understanding is that God’s “right-ness” flows out his independence; that is, He does not need or want anything other from us than for His glory to be manifest in us, which is also our highest good.

4. R. C. Sproul suggests that the word “holy” captures the truths of God’s “greatness” and “goodness” (p. 47, para. 2; p. 48, PDF). Why does he say this?

Because he’s been listening to John’s sermons? Naah, wrong precedence. 🙂

This appears to be his attempt to reconcile the primary meaning of “set apart” — which he defines as “majesty”, or “greatness” — with the secondary meaning of “purity”, i.e. “goodness.”

5. Do you think it would be accurate to turn the statement around and say that “greatness” and “goodness” add up to holiness? Explain your answer.

I actually prefer John’s definition greatness+goodness = glory, rather than overloading “holy” with that meaning.

6. What two meanings does holiness have in the Bible?

If I’m understanding the question correctly:

  1. Separate from (negative)
  2. Separate to (positive) – consecrated

7. Which one is the most immediate and fuller meaning of the word?

I’m not sure. I think it depends on how you’re looking at it.

8. Do you think the word “otherness” is a good substitute for the word “holiness”?

Not really — it is too distant, and doesn’t convey veneration. I’d prefer “transcendence.”

9. Do you think it would be accurate to substitute the word “great” for “holy”? Why or why not.

No. First of all, it completely loses the idea of God’s goodness. Second, it diminishes the idea of mystery.
10. How does righteousness relate to holiness? (See under #2 in the class lecture notes.)

I’m not sure I buy the given (Grudem’s?) definition. To me, God’s holiness reflects the fact that He doesn’t participate in the usual human give-and-take of need-based relationships. He is beyond and above all that, and thus free to love disinterestedly — or rather, focused solely on His glory, which is actually our greatest good as well.

11. In what way are we who are God’s children to be holy?

I think it means we need to recognize that we are set apart for God’s glory, and live our lives for HIs purposes rather than our own.

12. In what aspect would it be wrong for us to expect to be holy?

We shouldn’t deceive ourselves into thinking we are without sin, and that our motives are already (or ever) totally pure.

13. Write down your thoughts about the following: “God is set apart to pursue the highest imaginable goal and purpose: his own honour and glory (lecture notes, # 4).”

I actually think this is the key point, and wish we had built the whole discussion around this crucial fact. The implication is that the holy life is not the mere absence of sin, but a wholehearted pursuit of the glory of God. Further, this implies that the things we pursue instead — i.e., personal happiness — were originally intended to be fulfilled as a side effect of seeking God’s glory (“the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”).

To me, this is the essential difference between a childlike/Edenic relationship with God and a mature/Christ-like relationship: do we accept that our highest duty/joy/happiness lies in active submission to the Father’s glory?

14. Look at Rev 4.1-11. How do vv. 9-11 relate to vv. 1-8?

I see the former verses as a visual picture of the reality that is expressed verbally by the living creatures and elders.

15. Read Psalm 99. Briefly identify the aspect of holiness that is being presented in each of the verses (or clusters of verses) listed below:

  • 99.1-3: God’s greatness
  • 99.4: God’s goodness
  • 99.5: God’s worthiness to be worshipped
  • 99.6-7a: God’s faithfulness
  • 99.7b-c: God’s faithfulness
  • 99.8: God’s mercy
  • 99.9: God’s worthiness

16. Do the same with the following sections from Isa 6:

  • 6.1-4: God’s greatness
  • 6.5: God’s purity
  • 6.6-7: God’s mercy

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