Holiness: A Gift of God’s Grace ~ Part 1

“I am Adonai, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. Therefore you are to be holy, because I am holy.” ~ Leviticus 11:45

“Following the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in your entire way of life; since the Tanakh says, ‘You are to be holy because I am holy.’” ~ 1 Kefa 1:15-16

Today, we are starting a new series on the topic of HOLINESS.  I chose this topic as it seemed like a natural next step from our study of God’s Grace.  As you can see by the above scripture quotes it is a topic that is covered in both the Tanakh and the Brit Hadashah.  In this first part, we will focus on the biblical definition of HOLY.

What Does It Mean To Be Holy? [1]

The Hebrew “kadosh” word usually translated ‘holy’ had a much wider meaning than the English word ‘holy’. To most English-speaking people ‘holiness’ usually indicates some ethical quality such as sinlessness or purity. To the Hebrews the word originally indicated the state or condition of a person or thing as being separated from the common affairs of life and consecrated wholly to God. (In Hebrew and Greek, the words ‘holy’ and ‘sanctify’ come from the same root.)

Ideas of Separation for God:

God was considered holy, because he was separate from man, and indeed from all created things. (See Exodus 15:11-12; Psalm 99:3; Isaiah 6:3; 8:13; Revelation 3:7; 4:8)  Israel was holy, because it belonged to God and was cut off from the religions and customs of the surrounding peoples. (See Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 7:6) The Sabbath and other appointed times were holy, because they were separated from the common days of the workaday world.  (See Exodus 31:15; Leviticus 23:4, 21, 24)

People who were removed from secular life and consecrated to the service of God were holy (Leviticus 21:6-8).  Places and land withdrawn from common use and set apart for sacred use or given to God were holy (Leviticus 6:16; 27:21).  [This is a similar idea here in the United States when we set aside land for national or state parks and monuments.  They have been set aside for the common good.]  Besides obviously holy things such as places of worship, less obvious things such as clothing, oils, food and produce were also holy if they were set apart for God.  (See Exodus 29:29-33; 30:25; 40:9; Leviticus 27:30; Matthew 7:6; 23:17; Acts 6:13)  The relation of a person or thing to God was what determined whether it was holy or common.

Scripture defines the holiness of God this way:

  1. It is the special ground of reverence, awe, and adoration (see Psalm 71:22; Psalm 111:9; Isaiah 6:3).
  2. It is the standard of all holiness (see Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:6)
  3. It implies necessarily the divine opposition to, and condemnation of, all sin (see Habakkuk 1:13; 1 Samuel 6:20; Isaiah 6:5)
  4. The contemplation of this attribute is accordingly peculiarly adapted to awaken or deepen human consciousness of sin.
  5. It is revealed to men, nevertheless, as setting before them the highest end of their aspiration, hope, and endeavor (see Exodus 19:6; Leviticus 20:7; Hebrews 12; 1 Peter 1:16).
  6. It implies necessarily the divine opposition to, and condemnation of, all sin (see Habakkuk 1:13; 1 Samuel 6:20; Isaiah 6:5)
  7. The contemplation of this attribute is accordingly peculiarly adapted to awaken or deepen human consciousness of sin.
  8. It is revealed to men, nevertheless, as setting before them the highest end of their aspiration, hope, and endeavor (see Exodus 19:6; Leviticus 20:7; Hebrews 12; 1 Peter 1:16)

Ideas of Moral Perfection:

Because holiness signified separation from all that was common and every day, the word naturally developed a wider meaning that included ideas of excellence and perfection.  When applied to God this carried with it ideas of moral perfection.  God’s holiness meant that he was separate not only from the common everyday world but, above all, from sin (Habakkuk 1:12-13).

As a result holiness developed the association with ethical qualities that we are familiar with in English.  Because God was holy, his people were to be holy.  (See Leviticus 11:44-45; Isaiah 57:15; 1 Peter 1:15-16).  God’s holiness also meant that one day He would judge sinners.

The preaching of the Prophets of old was very much concerned with this ethical aspect of holiness. The prophets emphasized that it was useless for people to be ritually holy before God if they were not ethically holy in their daily lives.  (See Isaiah 58:13-14; Amos 2:7).  Likewise in the Brit Hadashah the writers emphasize this moral aspect of holiness.  The holiness of God is to be reflected in his people in lives of purity, uprightness and moral goodness.  (See Mark 6:20; Ephesians 1:4; 5:27; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 12:10,14)

Holiness, however, is not something people can achieve by themselves.  All mankind is defiled by sin (Romans 3:10, 23), but Yeshua, the perfect man, died to take away man’s sin.  God can now accept repentant sinners as cleansed, because of what Yeshua has done (1 Peter 2:22-24).  God declares Believers in HaMashiach holy; that is, He sanctifies them (1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Peter 1:2). Having been declared holy, Believers must make it true in practice.  They must have lives of practical sanctification [2] (Rom 6:8-11, 19-22).

In many cases the holiness ascribed to mankind in the Scriptures is simply ceremonial and formal. They are persons “separated,” “set apart,” or dedicated to holy services.  They were expected or required along with this outward dedication, however, to lead holy lives and to be inwardly dedicated, a requirement frequently overlooked.  Thus the priests and the Levites are spoken of in the Tanakh as “holy.” The holiness required of mankind is that of character and conduct.  We appear in the Scriptures as a fallen being, by nature unholy and sinful.  Created in the image of God, we lost one of the most essential features of that image – holiness.  Holiness, as it appears in us, is an outcome of God’s gracious work in salvation and yet not without the proper exertion of one’s own free will and the putting forth of strenuous effort.  Sha’ul says it this way: “then, so far as your former way of life is concerned, you must strip off your old nature, because your old nature is thoroughly rotted by its deceptive desires; and you must let your spirits and minds keep being renewed, and clothe yourselves with the new nature created to be godly, which expresses itself in the righteousness and holiness that flow from the truth.” (Ephesians 4:22-24).  The whole tone of Scripture accords with the weighty exhortation “Keep pursuing shalom with everyone and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)  The Brit Hadashah teaches that the believer is sanctified positionally when we are saved by virtue of our being presented “in Messiah” (see 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30); that we are being sanctified experientially as we “in the same way, consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God, by your union with the Messiah Yeshua” (Romans 6:11); and, that we will be ultimately sanctified in the sense of full conformity to Yeshua.  “Those whom he thus determined in advance, he also called; and those whom he called, he also caused to be considered righteous; and those whom he caused to be considered righteous he also glorified!” (Romans 8:30)

In my next post, I want to explain the connection between grace and holiness.

 

Click here for PDF version.

[1] As explained in the AMG Concise Bible Dictionary

[2] Simply, sanctification is the name of the process by which someone or thing becomes holy.

4 thoughts on “Holiness: A Gift of God’s Grace ~ Part 1

  1. This is a great post, brother. I agree in so many ways. This type of study and preaching can’t be heard anymore in pulpits nowadays. Glad I found your blog. Looking forward to reading Part 2 and Part 3 later 🙂 YHWH Baruch you

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  2. Brother, sorry to be a pain. I just realized that 6, 7 and 8 were duplicates of the previous numbers on the list. Thank you for your patience 🙂 Shalom

    Like

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