I'm still reading along with Tim Challies and friends through the modern classic, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. Even though I never got a post up for Chapter 3 last week, I've kept up with the reading. I'm really enjoying the book. Each chapter is so full it's hard to pick just one or two things to focus on!
Chapter 3: The Fearful Mystery
Here Dr. Sproul discusses at length exactly what the world "holy" means. It's much, much more than simply purity. He explains:
God's holiness is more than just separateness. His holiness is also transcendent. The word transcendence means literally "to climb across"....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...when the Bible calls God holy, it means primarily that God is trancendentally 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 in a special way.God's holiness is much more than just another one of His attributes:
When we use the word holy to describe God, we face another problem. We often describe God by compiling a list of qualities or characteristics that we call attributes. We say that God is a spirit, that He knows everything, that He is loving, just, merciful, gracious, and so on. The tendency is to add the idea of the holy to this long list of attributes as one attribute among many. But when the word holy is applied to God, it does not signify one single attribute. On the contrary, God is called holy in a general sense. The word is used as a synonym for his deity. That is, the word holy calls attention to all that God is. 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.Chapter 4: The Trauma of Holiness
Here Dr. Sproul focuses on what men's reaction is when confronted with true holiness. As Calvin said,
Hence that dread and amazement with which, as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever the beheld the presence of God...Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.
I enjoyed the fresh perspective in this chapter on both Jesus' calming of the sea and the successful fishing trip recounted in Luke 5. After the storm abated, the disciples were even more terrified than they had been during it:
They were terrified and asked each other, 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!' (Mark 4:41)And Peter couldn't even bear Christ's presence when he was confronted with His holiness:
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, 'Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!' (Luke 5:8)If God's holiness doesn't make us uncomfortable, then we aren't properly understanding it!
I'll close by sharing this Sermon Jam that I stumbled onto. It opens with one of my favorite quotes from the book. Definitely fitting to go with the first several chapters:
I'm looking forward to Chapter 5: The Insanity of Luther!