Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Meaning Of Holiness

"The primary meaning of holy is “separate.” It comes from an ancient word that means “to cut,” or “to separate.” To translate this basic meaning into contemporary language would be to use the phrase “a cut apart.” Perhaps even more accurate would be the phrase “a cut above something.” When we find a garment or another piece of merchandise that is outstanding, that has a superior excellence, we use the expression that it is “a cut above the rest.”

God’s holiness is more than just separateness. His holiness is also transcendent. The word transcendence means literally “to climb across.” it is defined as “exceeding usual limits.” To transcend is to rise above something, to go above and beyond a certain limit. When we speak of the transcendence of God, we are talking about that sense in which God is above and beyond us. Transcendence describes His supreme and absolute greatness. The word is used to describe God’s relationship to the world. He is higher than the world. He has absolute power over the world. The world has no power over Him. Transcendence describes God in His consuming majesty, His exalted loftiness. It points to the infinite distance that separates Him from every creature. He is an infinite cut above everything else.

When the Bible calls God holy, it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be “other,” to be different is a special way.

We are so accustomed to equating holiness with purity or ethical perfection that we look for the idea when the word holy appears. When things are made holy, when they are consecrated, they are set apart unto purity. They are to be used in a pure way. They are to reflect purity as well as simple apartness. Purity is not excluded from the idea of the holy; it is contained within it. But the point we must remember is that the idea of the holy is never exhausted by the idea of purity. It includes purity but is much more than that. It is purity and transcendence. It is a transcendent purity."

R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, pg.37-39, 212

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