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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HOLY?

LEVITICUS  11: 44-45
What does it mean to be holy?
How is God Holy?
How can we be holy?

Holiness is an idea that is found very often throughout the Bible. It involves a complete separation from anything that is sinful or impure and a commitment to serve God and bring him honor. God himself is the only one who is perfectly good and separate from sin (1 John 1:5). He alone is so pure that his eyes cannot even look at evil (Habakkuk 1: 13). He, too, is the only one whose actions always bring him honor. Therefore, God is the only one who is perfectly holy (1 Samue12:2). Jesus called God the Father holy (John 17:11). Even the evil spirits acknowledged that God the Son is holy (Mark 1:24). The very name of the Holy Spirit indicates his holiness. All through the Bible, people acknowledge and praise the holiness of God.

In a vision, the prophet Isaiah even saw heavenly beings praising God on his throne as (Isaiah 6:1-3). Because God is so holy, everything that is associated with him is holy, too. His heavenly dwelling is holy (Deuteronomy 26: 15). His name is holy (Matthew 6:9) and must not be misused (Exodus 20:7). His throne (Psalm 47:8), his power (Isaiah 52: 10), his word (the Holy Scriptures), and all of his ways (Psalm 77:13) are holy. In short, everything about God is entirely free from sin and brings him honor.
God's complete separation from sin requires that those who would draw near to him must also be holy. His ministering angels, who continually praise him and do his bidding, are without sin and called holy (Mark 8:38). For human beings to be able to be friends with God they must also be holy, but they can't do this by themselves. Human beings already bear the guilt of the first sin. In addition, the corruption of our human nature that was produced when sin came into the world has made us unable to please God. God himself must take action to clease us from our sin and make us able to serve him in a way that brings him honor.


In the Old Testament, God set apart the nation of Israel to be those people who would receive his special attention and favor. In order for the Israelites to be able to have this special relationship with God, it was necessary for him to make them holy. He did this by providing for the removal of their sins and by giving them guidelines for living their lives in ways that honored him (Leviticus 20:7-8; 22:31-32). Animal sacrifices were the means that God provided for removing their sins. These sacrifices themselves were considered holy because they brought honor to God by reminding people that he was without sin and that those who would be friends with him must also be without sin. The sacrifices were offered to God on behalf of the people by priests, who had been set apart for this task by means of special procedures that ensured they were free, from all impurity and sin before they entered into God's holy presence (Exodus 29; Leytticus 8). The sacrifices that the priests offered to God for the people made them clean from the guilt of sin so that they were able to draw near to God in fellowship. To be holy, however, they still had to honor God in the way they led their lives. God commanded the Israelites to live holy lives so that they could continue to enjoy friendship with him (Leviticus 11:44-45; 20:7-8). He gave them the law so that they would know how to honor him with their lives. Because the law comes from God, it, too, is considered holy (Romans 7:12). By obeying the law, the Israelites would bring honor to God (Deuteronomy 28:9-10; Romans 2:23).


God had cleansed the Israelites from their sin by means of sacrifices and had given them guidelines for how to conduct their lives in a way that would bring him honor. In this way, God had made them holy or sanctified them, He could not have fellowship with them and be present among them. From the time God delivered the Israelites from Egypt until the time of King Solomon, the physical place where his presence was located in their midst was the Meeting Tent. After King Solomon built the Temple, God's presence with the Israelites was located there. Everything about this place was holy, and the inner and most special room in it was particularly identified with the presence of the most holy God was called the Most Holy Place. This room was so holy that the Israelite high priest could only enter it once a year, and then only with an offering of blood for is own and the people's sins (Leviticus 16:29-34; Hebrews 9:7, 25).


The New Testament talks abut holiness in the same way as the Old Testament. Just as the Israelites were commanded to be holy, so God commands believers today to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Holiness for the Israelites involved sacrifices for the forgiveness of their sins and living according to God's laws so that he would be honored. Holiness for believers in the church today involves the same things, but today sacrifice for sin and living to honor God are possible because of Jesus Christ.
Everything that God had previously required to make his people holy in the Old Testament is provided in a more complete way by Jesus Christ. The sacrifices of the Old Testament times were really inadequate to make the people holy. They had to be performed again and again and never removed the people'sin (Hebrews 10: 1-4). The animal sacrifices pointed toward a future time when God would provide the perfect sacrifice for sin, Jesus Christ, who sacrificed himself only once and for all time "so that the church could be pure and without fault, with no evil or sin or any other wrong" Ephesians 5:27). He was the perfect sacrifice for our sin because he had no sin of his own. By trusting in his self-sacrifice on our behalf, we have become right with God (2 Corinthians 5:21) Through Christ our sins are forgiven and we are made holy (1 Corinthians 1 :30}, so that we now have free access to enter the Most Holy Place of God presence al time without fear (Hebrews 10: 19-22)


Holiness, however, also involves serving God and bringing him honor. Jesus brought the Father honor by living in perfect obedience to him. Though Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, he committe sin (Hebrews 4: 15). Christ's continual right behavior in the service of God is attributed to all those who trust in him, so that God sees us as being perfectly obedient as well. God can always regard us as holy because we are united with Christ by faith. Our relationship with God is now just as secure as the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. Therefore, nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that we have through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:31-39). But because we are now identified with Christ, we should notice that our lives are beginning to become more like his in his holiness. Christ's self-sacrifice on our behalf actually enables this to happen. In the past, we were controlled by our own sinful selves and were slaves to sin so that we could not live the type of lives that brought honor to God. But "our old life died with Christ on the cross so that our sinful selves would have no power over us and we would not be slaves to sin" (Romans 6:6).Through faith in Jesus Christ we are now free to serve God instead of sin. (Hebrews 9: 14-15). In addition, God has sent his Holy Spirit to give us new life and strengthen us in our efforts to honor God with our behavior (Galatians 5:16-26). When we live by following the Spirit, we can be the kind of people that God wants us to be--those who bring honor to him (Romans 8: 1-17).


In the Old testament, the presence of the holy God with his people was associated with the holy Meeting Tent or Temple. Because God has made his people holy through the perfect sacrifice of Christ, he can dwell within and among them. In fact, Peter describes believers as living stones that are being built up into God's new temple (1 Peter 2:5}. In the old Temple, special actions were taken by the priests to ensure they were cleansed from sin and able to offer the sacrifices. In the new spiritual temple formed by the community of those who trust in Jesus Christ, believers themselves are described as holy priests (1 Peter 2:5,9) who are cleansed by his sacrifice. The sacrifices that we offer are the words and activities of our lives that bring honor to God (Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:15-16}. We try to be holy in all that we do because the one who has called us to have friendship with him is holy (1 Peter 1 :15}.


We know, however, that we do not always live holy lives, lives that please God and bring honor to him. Sometimes God even has to discipline his children when they go astray so that they might return quickly to the holy lifestyle that gives him honor and that he has commanded (Hebrews 12: 10-11 }. In our individual experiences we struggle daily against temptation and sin. When we do sin, we need to confess our sin away, relying on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that was made on our behalf, so that we can be made clean again (1 John 1 :9}. In our daily efforts to become more holy in the way we live, we can take encouragement from God's promises that one day he will remove all sin from the world so that everything will be holy (Zechariah 14:20-21}. Then we will be able to enjoy perfect fellowship with God without anything impure or unholy interfering (Revelation 21: 1-22:6}. Until then, believers are urged to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18} and to make every effort to bring honor to God by living holy lives (2 Corinthians 7:1}. We can succeed in this effort by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, by prayer (Ephesians 6: 18}, by the encouragement of other Christians ( 1 Thessalonians 5: 11; Hebrews 10:24-25}, and by an increasing understanding of God's word (John 17: 17}.

"Page copied from The Holy Bible, New Century Version, copyright 1987, 1988, 1991 by word Publishing, Dallas, Texas 75234. Used by Permission