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The Holiness of God

By R.C. Sproul

Tyndale House Publishers, 1998 | 2nd edition | ISBN 0-8423-1498-9

Reviewed by Merle Harton, Jr.


First published in 1985, Sproulís exposition on Godís holiness has become a classic of theological literature. Now in its second edition, with revisions and new material, this is a book still able to hold our attention and impart important insights into a subject our modern mind struggles still to discern.

From Sproulís own personal search for the tremendous mystery of holiness to our petition in the Lordís Prayer that God be regarded as holy ("hallowed be thy name"), from Martin Lutherís rigid understanding of holiness to Paulís declaration that Godís holiness is something visible to us, from Jacobís dream ladder to the repentant Job, from Moses and the burning bush to Peterís cry for Jesus to "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"Ē—these are but some of the subjects that figure in this exciting literary gem.

Sproul wants to help us understand "holiness," but in his deft treatment this is something incomprehensible without adequately discussing the words we are to use in addressing God, who may see him face-to-face, idolatry (holiness applied to what is not), the sacred and the profane, how an unjust people can live in the presence of a just and holy God, and how, really, we can heed Godís commandment to "be holy, because I am holy."

If we know God better through an understanding of his holiness, we risk having this knowledge undone by Godís apparent harshness: swift and sudden justice meted out to the sons of Aaron, Uzzahís death for touching the ark of the covenant, the many crimes for which God commanded capital punishment, the slaughter of women and children at his decree, the Flood. As a result, many have argued that God is completely different in the Old and New Testaments; some, finding love and wrath totally incompatible, even go so far as to deny the existence of the Old Testament God. Sproul is sensitive to this and devotes attention to a careful discussion of why Godís justice is neither whimsical nor unwarranted, and how Godís holiness must shed needed light on this hard topic.

But our amazement at Godís actions is surely outdone by our willingness to take Godís grace for granted, and for this reason Sproul continues to direct his investigation towards the purpose of Godís presence in our lives, to our access to God through Christ, to the marks of a person who is growing in holiness, and to the very reason for our existence, as beings created in the image of an awesome God.

Sproulís study will both change and enrich your way of thinking about God. It is certainly bound to give you a maturity in understanding your relationship with the Father, a deeper appreciation of the scriptural record about him, and a well-lit perception of your purpose, and your station and its duties.


Copyright © 1999 by Merle Harton, Jr.


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