Notes from Dr. Peter Gentry's Faculty Address at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Title: "No one holy like the Lord"
Focus: The meaning of the word "holy" and what it means to worship a holy God.
"Holy," when used of God, is often explained as roughly equivalent to His purity and transcendence.
"Holy" is not a single attribute, according to Bavinck, but comprehensive of all that impresses people with God's deity.
The basic meaning of the word is often connected with a Hebrew word that means "separate," but this connection may be guilty of the etymological error.
Charnock and Hodge exegete "holiness," and explain it as God's majesty or moral excellence.
Gentry's exegesis focuses on Exodus 3, Exodus 19, and Isaiah 6.
Exodus 3: "Holy ground" is the first occurrence of the word "holy" in an adjectival form.
Why is the mountain designated as a holy place?
The "holy ground" extends to the entire "mountain of God" mentioned in Ex 3:1.
The presence of God upon the mountain is what makes the mountain holy.
Deut 25 and Ruth 4 demonstrate the nature of removing one's sandals; one relinquishes his own rights and confesses the ownership of another.
The most suitable understanding of "holy" in Ex 3 is "consecrated" or "devoted."
Exodus 19: "Holy people" is an important development from Exodus 3.
Moses, in this passage, is no longer just a witness to, but an active participant in, God's work of consecration.
The people are made "holy" in the sense that they particularly belong to God.
Sexual abstinence symbolizes, in this instance, that God, and not one's spouse, is the owner of one's body.
"Holiness" should not be seen as transcendence in the sense of radical separation or an impassible gulf as a barrier to relationship with God; consecration brings one closer to God, and is thus the opposite of separation.
Isaiah 6: God as presented as one who is awesome and great.
Rather than filling only the temple, as mentioned in other passages, the glory of the Lord is said to fill the earth.
Fire and smoke are theophanic from Abraham to Sinai and in this passage as well.
The seraphim ("burning ones") declare the glory of the Lord.
The Lord appears not in the "Holy of Holies," but in the "Holy Place" outside the "Holy of Holies;" "holy" should, again, not be understood as "wholly other" in any way that prevents relationship.
The people of Isaiah's time were accusing God of not being completely devoted to His people or to His justice; as with other occurrences of "holy," the word "holy" in Isaiah 6 should be understood as "consecrated" or "devoted."
Flowing from the woes of Isaiah 5, God's holiness refers to His commitment to social justice among His people.
"Moral purity" is not the definition of "holiness," but is a result of holiness.
Isaiah and the people are said to have "unclean lips" in Isa 6 because they have been speaking words accusing God of not being devoted to His people.
The Lord is seen as "high and exalted" because He is beyond manipulation in His devotion to justice.
The basic meaning of the word "holy" is "devoted" or "committed," the Cross thus demonstrates God's holiness.