I am sometimes surprised to find out that a person’s first name by which I’ve known them for years is not actually their given name. They may go by a middle name, or even a name they adopted as a preference along the way. God has a clear preference for the attribute by which He most clearly likes to be known and referenced – and that is “holy.” More often than being described as mighty or loving or anything else, God is referenced as holy and the embodiment of holiness.
Holiness – This speaks of God’s perfection – his perfect character that is flawless and beyond reproach. More than any other attribute, the Scriptures say that it is celebrated around the throne itself. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” it says in Isaiah 6:3. And this triplet of ascription is picked up again in Revelation 4:8 – “And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’”
Obviously we live in a very fallen world, and it often feels like everything is going wrong. So it is a wonderful comfort to know that there is a perfect and divine person who is ultimately in control of it all and who will make all things right in the end.
We can be thankful for the perfect standard that was not undone by sin entering the created order through the Evil One and his cohorts, extending ultimately to mankind. And though there was a curse of death for sin, a holy plan was launched from Day 1 (actually before that, if we understand theology properly!). This redemptive story that would bring a restored state of holiness to sinners who trusted in this gracious provision was marvelously illustrated and pre-figured through the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. And it was fulfilled and transacted perfectly in the work of Christ. Being offered to us and received by us, it gives the penitent believer a perfect standing of holiness and righteousness with God in ultimate sanctification upon our translation out of this world.
Since our future is to be perfectly sanctified through new life in Christ, it would make sense that we should even now find motivational interest in being progressively more and more what we truly are in Christ. By doing so, we are fulfilling the admonition of 1 Peter 1:13-16 – “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”
Goodness – An expression of God’s character of holiness is evident in His display of consistent goodness.
We may say of someone, “He’s a good guy.” This is because we have learned through experience with a person that they can be trusted to have our best interests in mind. But we’ve all had experiences where someone has turned on us and displayed the very opposite trait.
We can count on God consistently to be good. “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5) There is never a time – in our lives or anyone else’s – where God has not been good. Now that does not mean He always gives us what we want when we want it, or answer every prayer as we would like. But we can count on Him in the big picture that He is good to us. Even when He does not answer the prayer that saves our life, He is still good to have prepared an eternal and better home for us – if we have trusted in Him.
It would behoove us to seek to be like God in desiring to function with everyone around us in goodness – looking to enhance peoples’ lives toward their greatest good, even if it involves saying some hard things. And the foundation of being able to do this is to have a life that is characterized by goodness, which is essentially the outgrowth of the attribute of holiness. We can always grow more and more toward being like God, increasingly having these attributes that are perfectly possessed by the Lord.