Preaching Holiness – Postscript

Holiness2This week I have been sharing some thoughts about holiness.  Obviously much more could be written, but just to finish the week, let me offer a quote from Michael Reeves’ 2012 book, The Good God (in the USA it is called Delighting in the Trinity).

“People even say things like ‘Yes, God is loving, but he is also holy’ – as if holiness is an unloving thing, the cold side of God that stops God from being too loving.

Balderdash! Poppycock! Or at least, it is if you are talking about the holiness of the Father, Son and Spirit.  No, said Jonathan Edwards,

Holiness is a most beautiful, lovely thing. Men are apt to drink in strange notions of holiness from their childhood, as if it were a melancholy, morose, sour, and unpleasant thing; but there is nothing in it but what is sweet and ravishingly lovely. ‘Tis the highest beauty and amiableness, vastly above all other beauties; ‘tie a divine beauty.

What is holiness, then?  The words used for holiness in teh Bible have the basic meaning of being ‘set apart’. But there our troubles gegin, because naturally I think I’m lovely. So if God is ‘set apart’ from me, I assume the problem is with him (and I can do all this in the subtlest, most subconscious way). His holiness looks like a prissy rejection of my happy, healthy loveliness.

Dare I burst my own bubble now? I must. For the reality is that am the cold, selfish, vicious one, full of darkness and dirtiness. And God is holy – ‘set apart’ from me – precisley in that he is not like that. He is not set apart from us in priggishness, but by the fact that there are no such ugly traits in him as tehre are in us. ‘God is God,’ wrote Edwards, ‘and distinguished [that is, set apart from] all other beings, and exalted above ’em, chiefly by his divine beauty‘ (for the connection between holiness and beauty, see verses like Psalm 96:9).

Now the holiness of a single-person God would be something quite different. His holiness would be about being set apart away from others. In other words, his holiness would be all about aloof distance. But the holiness of the Father, Son and Spirit is all about love.  Given who this God is, it must be. Edwards again: ‘Both the holiness and happiness of the Godhead consists in this love. As we have already proved, all creature holiness consists essentially and summarily in love to God and love to other creatures; so does the holiness of God consist in his love, especially in the perfect and intimate union and love there is between the Father and the Son.”

good-godThis extended quote has been from pages 93-94.  One more sentence to finish, “the holiness of the triune God does not moderate or cool his love; his holiness is the lucidity and spotlessness of his overflowing love.”

Okay, just one more, “The beautiful, loving holiness of this God makes true godliness a warm, attractive, delightful thing.  It is not about becoming more mean and pinched, for this God is not mean and pinched.”

If you don’t have a copy of Mike Reeves’ book The Good God (Delighting in the Trinity in the USA), be sure to get yourself a Christmas present, it is a must read.

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