Book in Review: "Holiness of God"

Holiness. If there is a topic that has been curiously glossed over by much of modern Christianity in the west—this is it. We know of a God of love. We know of “Amazing Grace.” We love to learn about the God who gives rest to the weary—but holiness…holiness is different. But if R. C. Sproul indeed is correct that “how we understand the person and character of God the Father affects every aspect of our lives” we would do well to recover a proper understanding of holiness with a vengeance.

It is THAT central. As Sproul goes on to say:

“Only once in sacred Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree. Only once is a characteristic of God mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that he is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy.”

But what is holiness? Sproul breaks it into two definitions: The first refers to holiness to mean purity or cleanliness; the second means to be set apart. To be other. Sproul uses this second definition primarily in how we are to understand God’s holiness. To say that God is holy is to say that He is “transcendentally other.” It is not a mere attribute of God, or just another adjective describing what He is like. Holiness is a synonym of the deity of God.

Sproul discusses what happens then when mortal man comes in contact with this caliber of a God. He describes the complete “woe is me” brokenness of the prophet Isaiah expressed when his sinful being was brought into the presence of the Holy One. He discusses the intrusiveness and hostility felt by Peter when the Holy Christ got too close causing him to exclaim: “Leave me!" (Luke 5:8) Sproul even discusses the hatred we naturally feel against the “unreasonableness” of a holy God.

But through it all, the gospel is not absent. If God is indeed a Holy God of justice there is no way man can escape the righteous fury of His wrath directed towards all sin, both yours and mine. But God made a way. Through Christ the just will now live by faith, and we who are justified await the full transformation of that declaration when we will one day glorified. The reality of the holiness of God only makes that gospel message THAT much more magnificent, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10).

I love this book. Sproul, with his vast wealth of philosophical and Biblical knowledge, does a great job of tying in stories and from the past to theological themes. He also has a teacher’s way of bringing the fruit on the top of the tree down for the rest of us to enjoy. I recommend this book wholeheartedly to anyone who wants to learn more about God as He really is.

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