God has many attributes. There is His love, His grace, His mercy, His longsuffering, His benevolence, and so many other attributes. It is hard to describe all of the things that God is. That is what makes Him God, but there is one, single attribute of God that stands above and beyond all that He is. What is it?
God is Love
This is the first attribute that most people think about God. God is love and this loves shines through eternity through the greatest act of love in the history of all eternity. John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whomever would believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That is the most familiar of all Scriptures and the one that most people know by heart. It is the most quoted of all Scriptures…but it is not the greatest attribute of God.
God’s Mercy and Grace
I believe that the greatest definition of grace and mercy are these: Grace is where we receive what we don’t deserve and mercy is where we don’t get that we really do deserve. Grace is unmerited pardon that is fully a work of God. His mercy is the withholding of His wrath that we do deserve but for those who are His own, He has mercifully placed His wrath on Jesus instead of us. Grace is a gift of God. It is not earned nor is it deserved. We can not do works to receive it and in fact if we did works for it, it wouldn’t actually be grace. Paul makes this clear in his letter to the Ephesians, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9). This is a spectacular doctrine. The fact that we can not save ourselves by works so God had to reach down to give us the free gift of grace. If you give someone a gift, they did nothing to earn it. You gave it freely, with no obligations. That describes the grace given to those who are born-again.
Even His mercies are said to endure forever. We receive mercy the moment we place our faith in Jesus Christ, after we have repented and believed in Him. There is a total forgiveness of our sins and the wrath of God that rightly should be placed on us was placed on Christ and He became our righteousness. Again, this is something that we did not do to deserve but was given to us on account of Christ. It is the gift of His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16-17).
God is Longsuffering
This attribute of God is why He waits patiently before sending His Son to judge those who have not yet came to saving faith in Christ. Peter says that, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). What this seems to be saying is that the only reason that Christ has not yet came back to judge those who are not believers is that He is waiting patiently for others to come to repentance. How longsuffering is God? Remember that time is nothing to God, since “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8). That is patience extraordinaire. Noah preached for 120 years before God sent the flood and His judgment. God did not have to wait. He would have been fully justified to send the flood after 1, 5, or even 10 years, but for 120 years He waited patiently for the possibility that even one might come to repentance and believe Noah (and thus God).
The Greatest Attribute of God
The absolute greatest attribute of God is that He is Holy. In fact, the only time an attribute is mentioned about God three times is that He is Holy. In the Jewish culture of literature and writing, some things were mentioned twice. This was to give an absolute priority and point out the supreme importance of something. Isaiah saw God on His throne in a vision for no human can actually see God and be in His presence and not perish. In Isaiah 6:1-3, he says that “I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him [God] were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.“
First of all, the train of a king represented his power and majesty. The longer the king’s train, the more glorious or powerful he was perceived to be. This is why the train of God’s robe filled the whole temple, indicating that He is King of kings and above all dominions and powers. Next, we see that there were six-winged seraphs that hovered over the throne of God. The interesting thing is that two wings covered their faces because even for the holy angels, God is too holy to even look at. The angels other set of wings covered their feet, and as you remember from God telling Moses to take off his shoes for he was standing on holy ground. The other wings covered the throne, like the Cherubim’s that covered the Ark of the Covenant and the great Mercy Seat. Finally, the holy angels repeated over and over again “holy, holy, holy.” Perhaps this was because there are three in the God family (the Trinity) or perhaps it is because God is infinity holy and the number three represents God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. The number three also represents the past, the present, and the future. In the Bible, the number three also denotes divine perfection, which of course God is.
No man can see God and live as God told Moses in Exodus 33:20 and even when Moses asked to see God, God hide Moses in the cleft of the rock and Moses saw only God‘s back side because Moses would have died otherwise (Exodus 33:18-23). Truly, as John said, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:18). God is He “Who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see” (1 Tim 6:16). Remember that before Saul became Paul, he was struck blind by the chicane-glory-light that Paul saw on the Damascus Road. Isaiah, after seeing the vision of God could only say, “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5).
Revelation 4:8 tells us what is presently happening at the throne of God: “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” These angels continuously praise God and declare that He is holy, holy, holy. Holiness is hard to describe. Holiness is a complete “other-ness”, a distinct transcendence from everyone else and everything else. So set apart is His holiness that anyone that even looks at God would die and surely on Judgment Day, everyone will fall down and bend the knee. It is my prayer that we bend the knee today in willing submission and believe in our Lord and our God, Jesus Christ. If not – for those who refuse to bend the knee today – they will bend the knee one way or the other (Rom 14:11, Isaiah 45:23, Phip 2:10). In fact, “Every hand will go limp, and every knee will become as weak as water” when they see God some day (Ezekiel 7:17).
God is Holy, Holy, Holy
The single, greatest attribute of God is His holiness. He is love, mercy, grace, longsuffering, and more, yes, but above all He is Holy. Holy is the Lord our God. There is no fault, no impurity, no imperfection…nothing but pure perfection and holiness. This holiness is why God will demand from every sinner an account for every deed that they have done in this life. He will require an answer for every idle word. God is so holy that He can not leave sin unpunished. His righteous indignation and wrath will be poured out on all of the unrepentant (Rev 20). For those who have placed their faith in the Living God, Jesus Christ, they have had the wrath of God for them placed upon the Perfect Lamb of God. Without this atonement, no man will ever see heaven. They will see the fires of hell. Today can be your day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2). Tomorrow may come too late. When Jesus returns, will He be your Savior or your Judge? If He returns before you have trusted Him with your eternal destiny, then your eternal destiny is to be in utter darkness – completely separated from Him forever. You will be in a place that has a great chasm that can not be bridged. You will be completely alone for all time. Decide now to make your calling sure – your Savior is waiting with open arms and nail-pierced hands. God can see you dressed in Jesus’ righteousness or in your own filthy rags. If you refuse to repent and turn to Him to save you, He is waiting to judge you and sentence you to a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth for time without end (Matt 13:42, 50). It is your decision. I pray you will choose life – eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord and our God. For He is Holy, Holy, Holy. And we are not.