The Holiness of God
The idea of holiness is so central to biblical teaching that it is said of God, “Holy is His name.” His name is holy because He is holy. He is not always treated with holy reverence. His name is tramped through the dirt of this world. It functions as a curse word, a platform for the obscene. That the world has little respect for God is vividly seen by the way the world regards His name. No honor. No reverence. No awe before Him.
If I were to ask a group of Christians what the top priority of the church is, I am sure I would get a wide variety of answers. Some would say “evangelism,” others “social action,” and still others, “spiritual nurture.” But I have yet to hear anyone talk about what Jesus’ priorities were.
What is the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer? Jesus said, “When you pray, pray like this: ‘Our Father, which art in heaven.…’ ” The first line of the prayer is not a petition. It is a form of personal address. The prayer continues: “… hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.…” We often confuse the words “hallowed be thy name” with part of the address as if the words were “hallowed is your name.” In that case the words would merely be an ascription of praise to God. But that is not how Jesus said it. He uttered it as a petition, as the first petition. We should be praying that God’s name be hallowed, that God be regarded as holy.
There is a kind of sequence within the prayer. God’s kingdom will never come where His name is not hallowed. His will is not done on earth as it is in heaven if His name is desecrated here. In heaven the name of God is holy. It is breathed by angels in a sacred hush. Heaven is a place where reverence for God is total. It is foolish to look for the kingdom anywhere God is not revered.
How we understand the person and character of God the Father affects every aspect of our lives. It affects far more than what we normally call the “religious” aspects of our lives. If God is the Creator of the entire universe, then it must follow that He is the Lord of the whole universe. There is no part of the world that is outside of His Lordship. That means that there must be no part of my life that is outside of His Lordship. His holy character has something to say about economics, politics, athletics, romance—everything that we are involved with.
God is inescapable. There is no place we can hide from Him. Not only does He penetrate every aspect of our lives, but He penetrates it in his majestic holiness. Therefore we must seek to understand what the holy is. We dare not seek to avoid it. There can be no worship, no spiritual growth, no true obedience without it. It defines our goal as Christians. God has declared, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”
To reach that goal we must understand what holiness is.
R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1993), 18–21.