God tells us we are to be holy. But what does that really mean?
Most Bible students are familiar with the Exodus account of Moses and the burning bush. “Then He [God] said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground’” (Exodus:3:5). What made the ground on which Moses stood holy? And why is holiness so confusing to those claiming to be Christian when God’s word clearly states that we are to be holy? “For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus:11:45). “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy’” (Leviticus:19:2).
While God commanded that His chosen nation of Israel be a holy nation, we also find that those called and chosen in New Testament times, including our day, are also to be holy: “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter:1:15-16).
We are made holy when God calls us out of this world and gives us of His Holy Spirit in order to live as He does. His Holy Spirit gives us understanding of God’s purpose for creating us, and sets us on the road of overcoming the carnal way of life and living His way in obedience to Him.
Despite biblical admonitions for holiness, the vast majority of those who claim Christianity as their faith have little or no concept of what it means. A survey conducted last year by the Barna Research Group found the idea of holiness baffling to most church-attending Americans. It concluded that most adults remain confused, if not daunted, by the concept.
Despite biblical admonitions for holiness, the vast majority of those who claim Christianity as their faith have little or no concept of what it means.
“When pressed to describe what it means to be holy, adults gave a wide range of answers. The most common reply was ‘I don’t know,’ offered by one out of every five adults (21%). Other responses fell into categories such as ‘being Christ-like’ (19%), making faith your top priority in life (18%), living a pure or sinless lifestyle (12%), and having a good attitude about people and life (10%). Other response categories included focusing completely on God (9%), being guided by the Holy Spirit (9%), being born again (8%), reflecting the character of God (7%), exhibiting a moral lifestyle (5%), and accepting and practicing biblical truth (5%)” (www.barna.org ).
These new findings caused the survey’s director, George Barna, to suggest that churches need to take this body of information seriously. “Realize that the results portray a body of Christians who attend church and read the Bible, but do not understand the concept or significance of holiness, do not personally desire to be holy, and therefore do little, if anything, to pursue it… To align their hearts with the notion of being holy, we must move them away from a ‘cheap grace’ theology and replace people’s self-absorption with focus on God and His ways. To help them pursue holiness, we must help them comprehend and accept biblical theology regarding God, Satan, the purposes of life on earth, the nature of spiritual transformation and maturity, and the necessity of bearing spiritual fruit” (www.barna.org ).
So just what does God desire when He commands that we “be holy”?
So just what does God desire when He commands that we “be holy for [He] is holy”? Let’s look closely at the original meaning of the word holy. The Hebrew is kodesh meaning “separated or set apart.” Bullinger’s Companion Bible comments that kodesh can also imply “consecrated, dedicated, hallowed, holiness, saint or sanctuary.” Some modern English dictionaries will include devout, faithful, God-fearing, righteous and virtuous.
The New Testament Greek for holy is hagios, and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance translates hagios into the English words sacred, blameless and consecrated. We find the word holy used in the Scriptures 567 times!
To be holy simply means to be set apart for a special purpose by God, because holy means that God is present. God was present with Moses at the burning bush. It is His presence, through His Holy Spirit that makes anything holy. His purpose for His creation is for us to become His sons like Jesus Christ our Lord (boss) and Master (teacher). Like Christ, we should say with meaning, “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father has taught me, I speak these things” (see John:8:28).
Reading the Bible
We also recognize it means our dedication to God’s way of life, seeking after righteousness, giving our heart and soul—our very being—to God and Jesus Christ, following the “way” that God has laid out for us. Holy means allowing God to guide and direct our paths through His Holy Spirit. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves holy, but through the power of God’s Holy Spirit in us, we can overcome the wrong pulls of sin and begin to walk in the holy way of God with Jesus’ guiding, instead of the way of the world. That is the way to remain holy.
The apostle Peter referred to those in God’s Church as a “holy priesthood” (1 Peter:2:5). Peter also tells us that the people of God, called to the knowledge and understanding He reveals, are very special to Him. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter:2:9). Just as Israel was called to be a holy nation and be examples and lights to the nations around them, God’s holy people today are also expected to be lights and examples—to be a reflection of God the Father and Jesus Christ.
It may seem a little odd to ask the question, Do you want to be a holy person? But the truth is that holiness has its reward: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation:20:6).
The ultimate goal, the reward we all desire, is to be in God’s Kingdom, and being holy is a necessity for eternal life in God’s Kingdom!
“As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter:1:15-16). We are to reflect God in us.