The Holy One

For I am Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I have given Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place.

Isaiah 43:3

Why does Isaiah refer to God as ‘the Holy One’? What does it mean to be ‘holy’?

The Hebrew word for ‘holy’ is ‘qadosh’ (קדשׁ – H6918), which means ‘sacred’; it comes from a root word meaning ‘clean’ or ‘pure’. It carries the connotation of being ‘separate’, or ‘separated from’ things that are not clean.

Jos 24:[19] Joshua said to the people, “You can’t serve Yahweh; for he is a holy {qadosh} God. He is a jealous God. He will not forgive your disobedience nor your sins.

Psa 99:[3] Let them praise your great and awesome name. He is Holy {qadosh}! … [5] Exalt Yahweh our God. Worship at his footstool. He is Holy! {qadosh} … [9] Exalt Yahweh, our God. Worship at his holy {qodesh – H6944; a sacred place} hill, for Yahweh, our God, is holy {qadosh}!

Pro 9:[10] The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom. The knowledge of the Holy {qadosh} One is understanding.

Isa 12:[6] Cry aloud and shout, you inhabitant of Zion; for the Holy {qadosh} One of Israel is great in your midst!”

Ezk 39:[7] My holy {qodesh} name will I make known in the midst of my people Israel; neither will I allow my holy {qodesh} name to be profaned any more: and the nations shall know that I am Yahweh, the Holy {qadosh} One in Israel.

In the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures), qadosh is translated by several words, including hagiazo [G37], hagios [G39], and katharos [G2513].

Katharos means ‘clean’ or ‘pure’, and is used in the New Testament to describe men and angels (Joh 15:3, Jam 1:27, Rev 15:6), people’s hearts and consciences (Mat 5:8, Act 20:26, 1Ti 1:5), and even inanimate objects (Mat 27:59, Joh 21:18), but never God himself.

But hagiazo and hagios get closer to the connotation of ‘separation’. Hagios means “an awful thing”, or by implication, “sacred, … physically, pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially, consecrated”. The verb form, hagiazo, means “to make holy”, or “sanctify”.

Mar 1:[24] saying, What is to us and to You, Jesus, Nazarene? Have You come to destroy us? I know You, who You are, the Holy {hagiazo} One of God.

Luk 1:[49] For he who is mighty has done great things for me. Holy {hagiazo} is his name.

1Jn 2: [20] You have an anointing from the Holy {hagiazo} One, and you all have knowledge.

Rev 6:[10] They cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, Master, the holy {hagiazo} and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

This characteristic of God, his infinite holiness, sets him apart from the many heathen Gods, and even the ‘God’ of modern churchianity. This is a proof of the divine nature and origin of the Bible: the human mind never did, and never could, invent a God who is infinitely pure and morally perfect. People want a god who winks at sin, is understanding of the extenuating circumstances for it, and simply lets bygones be bygones. But the true and living God is far different:

Isa 6:[3] One called to another, and said, “Holy, holy, holy, is Yahweh of Armies! The whole earth is full of his glory!”

Rev 4:[8] The four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within. They have no rest day and night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come!”

In the New Testament, hagios is most commonly used to describe Jesus, and the Holy Spirit:

Mat 12:[32] Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy {hagios} Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, neither in this age, nor in that which is to come.

Mar 1:[24] saying, “Ha! What do we have to do with you, Jesus, you Nazarene? Have you come to destroy us? I know you who you are: the Holy {hagios} One of God!”

Act 3:[14] But you denied the Holy {hagios} and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,

1Co 2:[13] Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy {hagios} Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things.

1Jn 2:[20] You have an anointing from the Holy {hagios} One, and you all have knowledge.

But qadosh and hagios can be used of people, and angels, as well as God:

Psa 89:[5] The heavens will praise your wonders, Yahweh; your faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy {qadosh} ones. … [7] a very awesome God in the council of the holy {qadosh} ones, to be feared above all those who are around him?

Dan 8:[13] Then I heard a holy {qadosh} one speaking; and another holy {qadosh} one said to that certain one who spoke, How long shall be the vision about the continual burnt offering, and the disobedience that makes desolate, to give both the sanctuary and the army to be trodden under foot?

Rom 12:[13] contributing to the needs of the saints [lit. ‘holy ones’]; given to hospitality.

1Pe 2:[9] But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy {hagios} nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellence of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:

Jud 1:[14] About these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy {hagios} ones,

The people of God are ‘holy’, not because they are clean or pure in their own character and conduct, but because they have had the clean, pure character and conduct of Jesus Christ imputed to them:

The perfect righteousness that Jesus Christ established is imputed to every one of God’s people in time. Because of this imputed righteousness, they are declared blameless before God and reconciled to God. Christ’s righteousness imputed demands God’s favor and fellowship toward them. [Job 29:14; Psa 32:2; Psa 85:10-11; Isa 53:11; Isa 61:10; Jer 23:5-6; Rom 3:21-22; Rom 4:6-8; Rom 5:9-11,17-19; Rom 8:1,31-39; 1Co 1:30; 2Co 5:18-21; Eph 5:25-27; Col 1:21-22; Tit 3:6-7]

Christian Confession of Faith, IV.C.3

Here are some of the verses that the Confession refers to:

Psa 32:[2] Blessed is the man to whom Yahweh doesn’t impute iniquity, in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Isa 61:[10] I will greatly rejoice in Yahweh, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Rom 3:[20] Because by the works of the law, no flesh will be justified in his sight. For through the law comes the knowledge of sin. [21] But now apart from the law, a righteousness of God has been revealed, being testified by the law and the prophets;

2Co 5:[21] For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Imputation is a doctrine that is critical to the Gospel, because it is the means by which God purifies and sanctifies his people. He makes them, in the judgement of his righteous law, to be as holy, pure, and blameless, as the angels; indeed, as holy, pure, and blameless, as God himself. This is how a perfectly holy God can have fellowship with people who are, in themselves, sinful, wicked, and unclean: he imputes the righteousness established by Jesus Christ to his people, and judges them to be holy, clean, and without blemish (Eph 5:27).

Moreover, because those who believe the Gospel are, in the eyes of God, purified and cleansed from all sin, he commands them to separate themselves from all impurity:

Lev 20:[26] You shall be holy to me; for I, Yahweh, am holy, and have set you apart from the peoples, that you should be mine.

Isa 52:[11] Depart, depart, go out from there, touch no unclean thing! Go out of the midst of her! Cleanse yourselves, you who bear the vessels of Yahweh.

2Co 6:[17] Therefore “‘Come out from among them, and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing. I will receive you.’

Rev 18:[4] I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, that you have no participation in her sins, and that you don’t receive of her plagues,

Those who believe the Gospel are called to be separate from the world, in imitation of God, who is supremely separated from the world:

Lev 11:[44] For I am Yahweh your God. Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy: neither shall you defile yourselves with any kind of creeping thing that moves on the earth. [45] For I am Yahweh who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

Mat 5:[48] Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

1Pe 1:[15] but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior; [16] because it is written, “You shall be holy; for I am holy.”

5 The Lord our God exalt on high,
and rev’rently do ye
Before his footstool worship him:
the Holy One is he.
(Psalm 99, The Psalms of David in Metre)

See Also:

Justification & Imputation

What Did the Work of Jesus Christ Accomplish?

The Work of Jesus Christ