In the Old Testament, God is described as being perfectly holy. Thus, we find the proclamation of “Holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3). The holy God expects to be honored as such. As a perfectly holy God, He cannot be in the presence of that which is unholy. This is the basis for much of the ceremonial law of the Old Testament.
When we move into the New Testament, God is still depicted as perfectly holy. In Revelation 4:8 we again find God being worshipped with “Holy, holy, holy.” It becomes clearer in the New Testament that God exists as Father, Son, and Spirit. The Father is God, but the Father is not the Son or the Spirit. The Son is God, but the Son is not the Father or Spirit. The Spirit is God, but the Spirit is not the Father or the Son. Each of these is referred to as holy.
The Father is holy. Jesus address the Father as Holy. “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are” (John 17:11). When Jesus teaches the disciples to pray, He uses the phrase “Hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). The word hallowed is related to the word holy. To call something hallowed is to acknowledge it as holy.
The Son is holy. In Luke 1, the angel tells Mary that the “Holy One” will be born (Luke 1:35). Even the demons acknowledge that Jesus is “the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24). The early church recognized Jesus as “holy servant” (Acts 4:27, 30). The book of Hebrews says that Jesus is our High Priest. As such, He is holy (Hebrews 7:26).
The Spirit is holy. The phrase “Holy Spirit” is found countless times in the New Testament (actually, you could count them all but it would take quite a while). The Spirit is set apart (holy) with a mission, and part of that mission is to help us be set apart. The word sanctification is another word that comes from the word holy. Consider the following phrases: “through sanctification by the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 2:13); “sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16); “the sanctifying work of the Spirit” (1 Peter 1:2).
We serve a Holy Father, a Holy Son, and a Holy Spirit. To call them holy is to acknowledge their purpose, their separateness, and their distinctness. As some writers have phrased it, God is the Wholly Other. God’s ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts. His greatness is incomprehensible. This should result in great awe and reverence by all who approach the Holy God. And yet one of the great wonders of the Christian faith is that I can have a personal, intimate relationship with the God who is holy. I am known by the Holy God, and the Holy God wants to know me.