holy

We are continuing our exploration of the attributes of God. Last week’s post on God’s greatness attributes focused on how God transcends us. This post and the next on the goodness attributes of God focus on how God relates to us: how God is immanent with us.

Again, we are following Millard Erickson’s division of attributes, goodness and greatness, from his Introducing Christian Doctrine.

God is holy. In Isaiah’s vision of God enthroned he saw God “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1). The angels were crying “Holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3). God’s holiness refers to his being “set apart” and not like ordinary or normal persons or things. God’s holiness is one of his primary attributes, and his holiness sets him apart from us in nature and character.

God is righteous. God’s righteousness reflects the perfection of his law and his self-consistent actions in accord with his law. The decrees of the Lord are righteous (Psalm 19:9). Erickson defines God’s righteousness as “God’s holiness applied to his relationships to other beings” (Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, 99).

God is just. That God is just means that God makes correct and right judgments with regard to his creation. God is just when he judges, and because he is good, he is also the justifier of those who believe in Jesus (Romans 3:26). God’s justness is good news for those in our world longing for justice. While the debates will continue over the proper interpretation of justice in social spheres, the Christian has a ready-made worldview with which to interpret issues of justice: the character and laws of God. God’s justice also means that he must punish sin. We’ll compare God’s justness with with his love, mercy, and grace in the next post.

God is true. God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18) and is identified as the “Truth” (John 14:6). God does not obfuscate or obscure. He is the epitome of what is true. His judgments, statements, promises and affirmations are true. This is one of the primary reasons why we can trust the truthfulness of biblical revelation. God is not a liar, and thus what he reveals will be true and trustworthy.

God is faithful. God’s faithfulness is affirmed over and again in Scripture. He is described as the faithful husband to unfaithful Israel (the book of Hosea), and Paul declares that God’s faithfulness assures us that he will accomplish his plans and purposes (1 Thessalonians 5:24). The faithfulness of God grounds our confidence in his promises and interventions.

God’s holiness, righteousness, honesty, justice and faithfulness reflect his glorious interactions with people. While we cannot adopt perfectly these attributes in our own lives, we can relate to them. In fact, these goodness attributes of God are specially important to followers of Jesus because they are relatable.

When we consider the greatness, glory, and wonder of God’s attributes, we should be amazed. He wants us to relate to him as he is, and he invites us to know him.

So on this day as you reflect on these attributes, praise God for these goodness attributes.

  • Imagine the glory of God’s holy splendor in Isaiah’s vision and bow before him in humility.
  • Consider the perfection of God’s righteous standards and declare his righteousness to your own sinful heart.
  • Contemplate the clarity of God’s justice and acknowledge that he alone is the true Judge of action and motive.
  • Meditate on the personality of God’s truth in Jesus Christ and praise him as the only True God.
  • Remember the persistence of God’s faithfulness and thank him that he will never fail you.

Look for next week’s post when we reflect on more of God’s goodness attributes.

On more occasions than I can count I have uttered the sentence, “Jesus died for our sins.” That Jesus died for our sins is the crux of the gospel. The glory of that sentence, “Jesus died for our sins” is even more meaningful than we often imagine. Jesus’ death atoned for our sins.

The atonement is a theological term meaning the satisfaction of divine justice in Jesus’ act of obedience on the cross.

Theological liberalism is embarrassed by the concept of divine wrath against sin and has avoided a theologically robust definition of the atonement. As Christians, we must grasp the truth of the atonement to better understand the glory of our salvation.

The Bible teaches the penal substitutionary view of the atonement. Don’t be intimidated by these terms. Penal means that we are sinful, and that our sins deserve punishment. Substitutionary means that Jesus took our place when he atoned for our sins by taking the punishment we deserve.

In his excellent book, The Cross of Christ, John Stott underscored the importance of this doctrine.

All inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and humanity. If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to his, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone for a radical atonement to secure it. When, on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge that we are, namely “hell-deserving sinners,” then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before.

Stott, Cross, 111

The biblical doctrine of the atonement reminds us of three staggering truths that are deeper than we will ever fully grasp this side of eternity.

  1. God is more holy than we imagine.
  2. We are more sinful than we think.
  3. Jesus loves us more deeply than we deserve.

The atonement emphasizes God’s wrath against sin. The Bible is full of divine judgment against sin. From Adam and Eve being kicked out of the Garden, to the flood, to the plagues on Egypt, to the 40 years of wilderness wanderings, to the judgments and exiles upon Israel, to the cross, and through to the judgments described in the book of Revelation, the Bible is a book that declares judgment. Why does God judge so often? Well, God is supremely holy. He is more holy than we can imagine, and his standard for humanity is absolute perfection and holiness.

The other reason the Bible describes God’s judgments so often is that we are sinful. We are more sinful than we’d like to admit. Our motivations, desires, and longings are sinful. Our actions and dreams and words and ways are sinful. We are sinful.

Our sin deserves judgment. Thus, the cross and the penal substitutionary atonement. Jesus took our place, received in his body the punishment for our sins, and satisfied God’s wrath against sin (penal substitutionary atonement). Jesus’ death on the cross shouts loudly the staggering love of God for sinners.

At the cross in holy love God through Christ paid the full penalty of our disobedience himself. He bore the judgment we deserve in order to bring us the forgiveness we do not deserve. On the cross divine mercy and justice were equally expressed and eternally reconciled. God’s holy love was ‘satisfied.

Stott, Cross, 91.

What do we do with this glorious theological truth?

  • Meditate on the holiness of God.
  • Thank God for sending Jesus to take your place.
  • Worship God for the depth of his love.
  • Love God because he so loved you.
  • Follow Christ with your life because this is the only appropriate response to the atonement.

Photo by Luis Vidal on Unsplash