Holiness. Holy. What do these words even mean? We don’t use them much.
The Bible Project has an outstanding video explaining holiness. Because WordPress won’t let me upload it, go to this link here https://youtu.be/l9vn5UvsHvM.
What is the holiness of God?
God’s holiness means that He is separated from sin and devoted to seeking His own honor. Honor is a hard thing to grasp in western culture. Our culture is more individualistic. The easiest way I can explain it is “reputation” or “respect of others.”
“I will praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
Holy One of Israel.”
“Indeed, our shield belongs to the Lord,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.
“to those who say, “Let God hurry;
let him hasten his work
so we may see it.
The plan of the Holy One of Israel—
let it approach, let it come into view,
so we may know it.”
Explain holiness to me.
It has a relational and moral quality to it. That’s separation from sin and evil. It includes a devotion to God.
To make something holy, you had to separate it from evil and dedicate it to God. The last judge in the Old Testament, Samuel, was dedicated to God. In the New Testament, it was John the Baptist.
An object had to be cleaned or burned in fire to make it ritually pure.
In the Old Testament, unrepentant sin and evil were purged from the community. Life also revolved around God’s festivals and the Tabernacle. Sacrifices were made daily.
God was at the center of it all.
Can we imitate God’s holiness?
Yes. It’s a command in Leviticus that is echoed in 1 Peter.
“Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Leviticus 19:2
“for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16
After God freed the Israelites from Egypt, he calls them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:4-6).
The Levitical laws were to show the separateness of Israel compared to the nations around them. It’s a physical representation of the inner separateness from sin and evil by being devoted to God by serving Him and keeping His laws.
The Levitical laws were for Israel. Christians are to be still holy and set apart.
How can Christians be holy?
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2
Just read the Sermon on the Mount if you want to see how counter-cultural following Jesus is.
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”
“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”
“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
“Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1
That doesn’t mean living in a cave away from everyone as hermits. Or isolating yourself in a community and never talking to “one of those people.”
It means not to follow their example. You’re closest friends are an amalgamation of your personality. You can learn a lot about someone just from looking at who their friends are.
Choose them wisely.
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case, you would have to leave this world.”
1 Corinthians 5:9-10
Can’t do that by barricading yourself in the church and praying for the Rapture.
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14
All of us are intended to grow into a “holy temple of the Lord.” Every believer has God the Holy Spirit living in them and making them holy.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him, you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19-22
Holiness is being set apart from evil and sin. God is set apart from everything and the source of all that is good.
The further we get from evil and sin and the closer we get to God, the more holy you’ll become. Then His light in you will shine out into the world.
Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem
Chapter 13: The Character of God; “Communicable” Attributes of God Part 2