The God of the Bible, the eternal, transcendent God who is the creator of all that was and is and ever will be—he is the sovereign one, the supreme authority in the universe. No creature holds authority over him and “whatever [He] pleases, he does” (Psa. 135:6; Isa. 46:10). None can direct him or give him counsel (Isa 40:13), nor can anyone say to him, “What have you done?” (Dan. 4:34-35)
This picture of God should rightly cause us to tremble in unholy fear—if that’s all we know about him. But because God has revealed his character to us, we can rejoice! Why? Consider the ways the Bible speaks of God. He is called “love” (1 John 4:8), “jealous” (Ex. 30:14), “wrathful” (Nahum 1:2), and “merciful…” (Ex. 34:6) But there is one characteristic that undergirds them all: holiness. “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts,” the Seraphim sang in Isaiah’s vision of the Lord, “the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isa. 6:3; see also Rev. 4:8)
God’s holiness again calls to mind his being distinct from the world he has made, but more than that, “the word holy calls attention to all that God is,” writes R.C. Sproul, “It reminds us that His love is holy love, His justice is holy justice, His mercy is holy mercy, His knowledge is holy knowledge, His spirit is holy spirit.”1
It’s the holiness of God that reminds us that he is not the “petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” Richard Dawkins would like him to be.2 Nor is he, as Roger Olson suggests in his critique of Calvinist theology, a “moral monster,” if he indeed rules and reigns to the degree that the Scriptures proclaim.3 His holiness is instead a reminder that all he says and does, everything about him, is perfect, right and good—even when it’s hard for us to understand.