The Holiness of God
May 9, 2021
Early in his ministry, Donald Grey Barnhouse, the famed preacher of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, was invited to preach at Princeton Theological Seminary, the school from which he’d graduated a few years earlier. One of the school’s most prominent professors, Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, was in the front row while Barnhouse nervously preached — he was somewhat intimidated by this mentor.
After the service, Wilson shook Barnhouse’s hand and declared, “If you come back again, I will not come to hear you preach.” Barnhouse was understandably crushed. So he timidly asked Wilson, “Where did I fail?”
“Fail?” Wilson replied. “Oh, you didn’t fail. I only come to hear a former student once. I only want to know if he is a big-Godder or a little-Godder, and then I know how his ministry will be. Some men have a little God, and they are always in trouble with Him…He doesn’t intervene on behalf of His people. They have a little God and I call them little-Godders. There are others who have a great God. He speaks, and it is done. He commands, and it stands fast. He knows how to show Himself strong on behalf of them that fear Him. You are a big-Godder, and He will bless your ministry.” [Lawson, Made in Our Image, 75-6.]
In contrast, by-and-large, most people have a little God and are unafraid of God. Specifically, they are not afraid of His wrath — either his temporal or eternal judgment. I‘ve had more than one conversation when someone said to me after I questioned them about his sin, “I guess God will just have to send me to Hell,” as if he was being sent to jail for a three-day weekend — a mild inconvenience on his schedule.
We are not afraid of Him and His wrath because we are content with our own standard of righteousness and we are ignorant of His possession of infinite holiness. In other words, we are big and He is small.
This was the precarious position of the nation of Israel. In the year 740 b.c., Assyria was beginning to pressure the nation, and it would result in the 10 Northern tribes being taken into captivity some 20 years later. Isaiah was writing and speaking to awaken the nation from their spiritual slumber and coldness to God. They were facing condemnation for their sinful rebellion (1:4, 9; 2:5-6; 5:7, 20-23). What they needed was a clear vision of God that Isaiah himself was graced to experience in his famous vision in chapter 6. As we have been thinking about our calling to holiness and sanctification in Romans 13, it seems to me that we also will benefit from a clear reminder of God’s holiness as a stimulant to our own holiness:
The man of God must have a God-sized understanding of and devotion to God’s holiness.
How do we grow in holiness? This passage provides four perspectives of holiness that serve to transform us.
- A Vision of God’s Holiness (vv. 1-4) — what is His holiness like?
- A Perspective of Our Unholiness (v. 5) — how unholy are we?
- A Provision of Christ’s Atonement (vv. 6-7) — what has He done for us?
- An Obedience to God’s Call (v. 8) — what shall we do?
Download the rest of this sermon on Isaiah 6:1-8.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website by tomorrow.