What is the holiness of God? How is it best defined? I’ve heard lots of different definitions, but here’s an excerpt from one of John Piper’s messages on how to define God’s holiness.
“Here is how I conceive of the holiness of God. God is so separate, so above, and distinct from all else — all that is not God — that he is self-existent and self-sustaining and self-sufficient. And thus he is infinitely complete and full and perfect in himself. Since God is separate from, transcendent above, all that is not God, he was not brought into existence by anything outside God. He is self-existent. And he depends on nothing for his ongoing existence and so is self-sustaining. And therefore he is utterly self-sufficient. Complete, full, perfect.
“And the Bible makes plain that this self-existing, self-sustaining, self-sufficient God exists as three divine persons in one divine essence. And thus the Father knows and loves the Son perfectly, completely, infinitely. And the Son knows and loves the Father perfectly, completely, infinitely. And the Holy Spirit is the perfect, complete, infinite expression of the Father’s and the Son’s knowledge and love of each other. And this perfect Trinitarian fellowship is essential to the fullness and perfection and completeness of God. There is no lack, no deficiency, no need. Only perfect fullness and completeness and self-sufficiency.
But Something’s Missing
“This is the holiness of God. His transcendent completeness and self-sufficiency. But there is a missing dimension in that description of holiness. Because God is utterly unique and self-existent, there is nothing besides God except what God wills to create. Therefore, God is absolute value. He is absolute worth. His transcendent completeness makes him infinitely valuable. Of infinite worth. It’s necessary to introduce this dimension of holiness into the definition because the Bible presents God’s holiness in terms of morality as well as terms of transcendence. Holiness is not just otherness. It is good and pure and right.
“Introducing God’s infinite worth helps us conceive of God’s holiness in moral categories. Before creation, there were no standards of goodness and righteousness outside of God that could be used to say, God is good or right according to these standards. All there was was God. So, when there is only God, how do you define good? How can there be holiness with a moral dimension, and not just a transcendent one?
God’s Beautiful Harmony
“My answer is this: The moral dimension of God’s holiness is that every affection, every thought, and every act of God is consistent with the infinite worth of his transcendent fullness. In other words, I am defining holiness not only as the infinite worth of God’s transcendent fullness, but also as the harmony that exists between the worth of that transcendent fullness and all God’s affections, thoughts, and acts. That harmony is the beauty of holiness.
“In sum, then, God is transcendent in his self-existent completeness; and is, therefore, of infinite worth; and there is perfect harmony between the worth of his transcendent completeness and all his affections, thoughts, and acts. This is God’s holiness. Or to shorten it even more: His holiness is his transcendent fullness, his worth, and the beautiful harmony of all his acts with that worth.”
Full message here.