What Does It Mean To Be Holy?
God is holy (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8). Somebody might respond, “Well yeah, of course!” Holiness is such a fundamental aspect of God’s nature that it almost goes without saying. While a great deal is said about God’s holiness in scripture, many people may not think about it much. They like to think about God being loving and good and merciful and kind and full of grace. But thinking too much about holiness can make a person a bit uncomfortable.
We need to learn from, and emulate as well as we can, God’s character. He is loving, and we need to be loving. He is good, and we need to be good. He is merciful, and we need to be merciful. He is kind, and we need to be kind. He is full of grace, and we need to exhibit grace in the way we deal with others. But these characteristics are open to subjective interpretation and application. A person may not exemplify these qualities in his life much at all, but he thinks that he does, based on his personal feelings. Some people give a lot of lip service to these characteristics while others just plain fake it!
But that holiness thing is a whole other matter. You can treat someone hatefully, all the time shouting that you love them, and some people will believe you. You can openly talk about being good, all the time hiding how unrighteous your live really is, and a lot of people will think you’re a good person. But it’s much harder to fake holiness.
The word “holy” conveys the idea of being set apart to God. It describes a life that is separated from sin and consecrated to God. Holiness is a designation of distinctiveness. That distinctiveness begins with the way a person thinks and becomes visible in the way he lives his life, based upon his distinctive thinking. It is a distinctiveness of goodness, of purity in thought and deed. As such, it sets a person apart from the world and identifies him as someone who is different. There is something of a sense of a life that glows, so to speak, in holiness.
Just as with love, goodness, mercy, kindness and grace, God also expects His followers to live holy lives. In fact, Paul’s instruction along this line is intriguing: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). We cannot be holy while living in sinfulness. We find forgiveness of our sins through Christ as we are baptized into Him (Acts 22:16). Then, we must dedicate ourselves to living our life guided by God’s holy will. As we do that properly, we can be confident that He will count us holy…
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Gary L. Hutchens