Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? You stretched out Your right hand; the earth swallowed them. You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed, You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation. (Exodus 15:11–13—NKJV)

A man’s reputation is an assessment of his character. Reputations may be carefully crafted over the course of a lifetime, or a reputation may be cast in one event. When a man cares deeply about his reputation (Ecclesiastes 7:1), he thoughtfully prepares a code of ethics and then keeps to that code in every one of his dealings, without exception. That code, depending upon how insightful it is, will become the skeleton for the fleshing out of his character and, consequently, become his reputation among most men who know him.

This same pattern is observable in God. Among His Attributes, or Perfections, is the Excellence of Holiness. It acts, if you will, as His reputation, His code to which He keeps. There may be many, who in their momentary dealing with God, come away from their encounter with the Almighty impressed with some other quality, but the pervading quality—the one which seems to inform every other exercise of His Attributes—is Holiness.

As in the human realm, God’s reputation may be ill-perceived by men left to their own devices. It seems to be in vogue these days for Christians to wrestle with whether God is to be more readily viewed in His dealings among men through the reputation for grace or the reputation of being unbending. This question is akin to other people attributing a misguided reputation to you through a fundamental misunderstanding concerning the code of ethics by which you have acted. Just because someone has misunderstood you is no excuse to change your code; it is an opportunity to clarify that code to others for the sake of the relationship. With God, it is not a matter of viewing Him through my own prism of grace or law; it is appropriate for His creatures to consult His Word to learn by what code He acts, and thus to understand Him.

You do not have to spend much time in study of the Bible to discover that God’s code for His actions is holiness. R.C. Sproule wrote, “The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy, the whole earth is full of His glory.” The fact that God is holy means that He is “set apart,” He is distinct and unique; He has no equals, rivals, or competitors. This is the meaning of our passage at the head of this devotional reading. This uniqueness of God relates directly to His purity. Separateness always indicates consecration.

The Baptist theologian Augustus Strong, best known for his concordance, does an excellent job reviewing the holiness of God in his work Systematic Theology. He takes the effort to catalog the Absolutes of God under two headings, either Absolute Attributes or Relative Attributes (“Absolutes” define God’s essence; “Relatives” define God’s actions). Since holiness is the heart of His code of being and action, it falls under both headings. According to Strong, Absolute Attributes include three categories: Spirituality (life, personality), Infinity (self-existence, immutability, unity), and Perfection (truth, love, holiness). Relative Attributes include three categories as well: Time and Space (eternity, immensity), Creation (omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence), and moral beings in His creation (veracity and faithfulness, mercy and goodness, justice and righteousness—i.e., holiness). If you want a refresher on how these theological categories operate in concert with His holiness take the time to read through the book of Revelation (notice how God reveals Himself in accordance with His code of holiness—verses 3:7, 4:8, 6:10, etc.). His holiness is integral to His mercy—this is the story of the cross of Christ and His willing sacrifice in our behalf; God’s justice needed to be satisfied; the Just died for the unjust so that grace may be applied.

Because His holiness is “communicable” to true believers, it takes a starring role among the admonitions to spiritual maturity. While God will see to it that we arrive in glory conforming to His holiness (Jude 20–25, Colossians 1:22, 2 Timothy 1:9, Ephesians 5:27), we are commanded to pursue holy living, to be holy, as He is holy (1 Peter 1:14–16), for we are the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16–17, 2 Corinthians 7:1), and are to present ourselves holy to Him everyday (Romans 12:1, 1 Thessalonians 4:7), because “without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:10–14). Trust and obey.