What Is True Holiness?
Much is said about holiness in certain religious circles. But what is it? Do you know?
Holiness is important to God and should be to us, because without it we will never see God (Hebrews 12:14)!
But what is holiness?
Before we can understand the Bible teaching on the subject, we must
understand what the word means. Some who talk a lot about it don't know!
What holiness means
The word holiness is a noun that means "state or character of being
holy." Holy is an adjective that means "belonging to. derived from or
associated with a divine power " and also "set apart to the service of
In other words, that which is holy belongs to God. Conversely.
whatever belongs to God is holy. It is
sanctified, meaning "set apart for a holy use or
God can make an item or person holy when He claims it or becomes its
owner. When an individual devotes or gives an object to God, the
ownership passes to God and. since He is now the owner, the object
Why does God make an object or a person holy? He makes it holy so that
He may use that object or that person to achieve His divine purpose,
fulfill a specific function Of accomplish some task.
Whatever is holy is not only set apart by or for God, but God will not
use it if it does not meet the standards He sets. He selects the tools
that can fulfill His purpose, and it they do not, He will select
another tool instead.
The great God of all the universe expects the very best for His use.
The sacrifices commanded under the Levitical priesthood were to be
perfect and without blemish. Only the highest quality materials were to
be used in the tabernacle and in the Temple. Anything dedicated or
devoted to God was to be the best. When anyone gave an inferior gift to
God. it was not acceptable (Malachi 1:13-14). All Of these physical
items pictured the spiritual perfection that would come later.
That spiritual perfection should be evident when we realize that one of the synonyms for holiness is godliness.
These quotes from various dictionaries relate to English words. We also
need to understand a little about the Hebrew and Greek words from which
these were translated.
In the Hebrew, the word for holiness is qadesh, which is taken from a similar but different primitive root word qadash.
These two Hebrew words are translated "holiness." "holy" and "sanctify
(or sanctified)." These English and Hebrew words mean
essentially the same things,
except some are used differently in sentences and
therefore are translated differently.
In the New Testament Greek we discover a similar situation, The Greek word is haglos, with its variations.
How can people became holy?
"You shall be holy for I am holy." said God to ancient Israel
(Leviticus 11:44) Not only did God expect holiness of those people, but
He expects it of Christians too. Peter repeated God's command: "Be
holy, for I am holy" (I Peter 1:16)
That implied more than just being set apart. In the context of both
Leviticus and I Peter, it includes living in a special way that is
different from the rest of the world.
To live that special way, we need to be and can be partakers Of God's
holiness (Hebrews 12:10) Christians should be more like God from day to
day. and then in the first resurrection be literally like Him (I John
God has selected His servants .and called them to come out of this
world, to be different and separate from the rest of the world, Jesus
said, "I have given them Your word: and the world has hated them
because they are not of the world just as I am not of the world I do
not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You
should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as
I am not of the world" (John 17:14-16).
The Christian must live in this present evil world, but his life must
he different from the lives of other people in the world. He or she
must come out from any of this world's ways that are sinful or evil out
from the religious and spiritual "'Babylon" that is this whole world
Christians should be different because, as Paul said, "You were bought
at a price" (I Corinthians 6:20) That price, Christ's
sacrifice, makes it possible for us to be forgiven of our past sins and
to receive the Holy Spirit. But, if anyone does not have the
Spirit of Christ, he is not His" (Romans 8:9).
When a person receives the Holy Spirit, he or she becomes a holy
temple: "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the
Spirit of God dwells in you.'' (I Corinthians 3:16). We receive the
Holy Spirit after repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). But what
does it mean to repent? It means to be deeply and sincerely sorry for
past sins, to ask God's forgiveness and to turn around and determine to
quit sinning. When we quit sinning, we begin to obey God's spiritual
law as sin is the transgression of that law (1 John 4-4). God will only
give His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5-32).
Is love all we need?
Some believe that all they need is love to be pleasing to God. That is
true, but only if you understand what that kind of love is, what it
means and how it is expressed. Most people don't!
The love required is much more than affection or fondness for others.
Love is even more than worship of God. Christ said that many worshiped
Him in vain, teaching and following the commandments of men rather
than God's commandments (Mark 7:6-7).
John also emphasized this point. "For this is the love of God, that we
keep His commandments" (I John 5:3) The right kind of love includes
obedience to God and His commands.
When God calls us, we are 100 percent carnal, unconverted and
imperfect. But God wants perfection: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as
your father which is in heaven
is perfect" (Matthew 5:48, Authorized Version) "Walk before Me and be
blameless" (Genesis 17:1).
God wants a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle (Ephesians
5:27). He wants perfection. He wants us to change, to live holy lives.
That means a new way of living, which everyday is more the kind of life
that Jesus Christ lived. We need to walk holiness, not just talk
"Hallowed be Your name," Jesus said (Matthew 6:9). To hallow means to
make holy The word hallow is actually from the same Greek root hagios,
translated "holy" elsewhere. We should hallow God's name in all
our thoughts, words and deeds.
Living a life of holiness, coming out of this world and being
separate from the world involves every aspect of life (II Corinthians
The holy and the profane
Today there are many devout people who do not see any difference or
make any distinction between what is profane and what is holy. One
example that some have either not seen or have simply rejected is found m I Timothy 4:5. In this place we see that God
Created certain foods To be received with thanksgiving. They are
sanctified by God's Word for that purpose.
The word sanctified comes from the same root Greek word hagios, which,
as we have seen, is elsewhere translated "holy" and "sacred." What food
has God's Word sanctified or set apart for human consumption?
The answer is found in Leviticus 11, where God told Moses the
difference between the holy and the profane, the acceptable and the
abominable. It is in that context that God said. "You shall be holy:
for I am holy" (verse 44).
This distinction, made personally by God, has never been changed,
contrary to what some people try to read into the New Testament
scriptures. For a detailed account of what the Bible teaches on this
subject, please request our free article "Is All Animal Flesh Good for
Making such a distinction and living by it is one of the many ways that
God's true servants are different from the rest of the world.
Instead of being Immersed in the lawless and sinful ways of the world,
we should put our thoughts on better things: "Finally. brethren,
whatever things are true, whatever things are noble. whatever things
are just, whatever things are pure. whatever things are lovely,
whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there
is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things" (Philippians
From the way some people live, one would think this verse should read: "Whatever things are false, whatever things are ignoble.
whatever things are unjust. whatever things are impure, whatever things
are unlovely, whatever things are of bad report, if there is any evil
and if there is anything despicable — meditate on these things."
This scripture should clarify that we should avoid filling our minds
with entertainment that is sinful, lustful, sexually illicit or that is
filled with murder, hatred or evil.
Some may say. "Its only a song — it's only make believe it's only
a movie." On the contrary, Paul said we should be "Casting down
arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge
of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of
Christ" (II Corinthians 10:5).
Live a life of holiness
Christians need to be different from the rest of this world — to
say no to sin, to evil and to wrong things, "Therefore, having these
promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the
flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (II
We will continue to be holy as long as we live a life of holiness. That
is the way of obedience and conformity with God's ways and spiritual
Here are some examples of what was holy in the past but is no longer
holy today, because of failure to measure up to God's standards:
Ancient Israel was
a chosen and holy nation, but they rebelled against
God and His laws, turning to idolatry and
sin. God cut them off, and they are
not now His chosen and holy people. Instead God has called
out His Church, which is a holy nation 1 Peter 2:9).
The Levites were holy, but they failed in what God assigned them to do,
so they are no longer holy and have been replaced by the priesthood of
Melchizedek (Hebrews 7).
The Temple was holy, but Israel and Judah polluted it by their sins and
wickedness, so it was destroyed. It no longer exists It has now been
replaced by a new and holy spiritual Temple, which is the Church (I
Other biblical examples show what was holy in the past and is still holy today:
The tithe was and is still holy to God (Leviticus 27:32, Malachi
3:8-12). It belongs to Him and He has never made it unholy.
The weekly Sabbath was and is still holy to God (Leviticus 23:3, Mark
2:28. Acts 17:2). Will we remember and keep it holy, or forget what
almighty God commanded forever? It is holy time, and we should keep it
Many other scriptures relate to true holiness To live a life of
holiness, we must continue to learn from the Scriptures about the
nature and way of our great God. As we learn, we must change to those
better ways of God.
From all these scriptures it should be plain that holiness is not a
sentiment or a feeling "in your heart." It is not following the
religions traditions of men. To walk in holiness, a person must first
be called of God, or set apart from the world. He or she must then
repent. be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit. Following
this, the person must be obedient to the commandments and
ways of almighty God.
Then and only then does he or she begin to fulfill the holy use and purpose for which God called him or her.
What IS a saint?
The Bible mentions saints many times, but there are many misconceptions
about what saints are. Do you know what a saint is? The Bible nowhere
says or even implies that a saint is a good religious person who died
many years ago and who is now canonized by a church. It is not a person
who has a halo around his head, or God's word would have said so.
A saint is a person who is holy to God. it is a person who is
sanctified or set apart by God and lives a life of holiness. In the New
Testament the Greek word for "saint" is the same word that is
translated "holy." In the Old Testament it is
sometimes the same word, or a derivative of the same word.
God's servants are "called to be saints" (Romans 1:7) They are
sanctified (I Corinthians 1:2) but not yet perfect, as they still need
to be perfected (Ephesians 4:12). Saints are described by the apostle
John in Revelation 14:12, "Here is the patience of the saints; here are
those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."
Reward of the saints
The saints have been set apart for God's holy use and purpose We had
better be fulfilling that purpose. If we do, we will meet Christ
in the air at His Second Coming (I Thessalonians
4:17), then return with Him to the earth (Zechariah 14:4), at which
time the saints will possess God's Kingdom, under Christ, so that they
may rule all the nations on this earth (Daniel 7:18, 22.
That is the glorious future that awaits the saint who truly walks
in holiness — who is truly sanctified and made holy!
For more information, request a free copy of our booklet What Is the Reward of the Saved?
It should now be evident that there is a lot more to holiness than
most people realize, including those who may talk a lot about it.
Don't have a counterfeit "holiness." Have the real thing. Give your
life to God as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to Him and do not
be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your
mind! (Romans 12:1-2).
by L. Leroy Neff reprint from the Good News April 1986