| A subject which seem to have been all but forgotten in America today is Holiness. As a matter of fact, in some circles it has almost taken on a negative connotation. I'm sure you have heard the phrase "holier than thou" used before to speak of someone. Perhaps that person was really trying to have holiness in his/her life. But because of the negative thoughts and attitudes of others, it was perceived as an undesirable trait rather than an admirable one.|
What is holiness? Is it something that we as Christians should strive for, or is it something that a humble person would not want to be considered?
In the scriptures, when something was referred to as "holy" it was set apart for the service of God. These things were dedicated and used exclusively for God's glory. For example, the temple was holy because it was the place which was set apart exclusively for the worship of God. We read of the beauty of Solomon's Temple and we can see the devotion which the nation of Israel had (at that time) for the temple as a holy place.
"Then he said to them, 'This is what the LORD has said: "Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. . ."'" (Exodus 16:23) There were days or seasons which were also holy. The Sabbath was a holy day because it was set apart as a memorial of God's creation. God had created the universe in six days, and rested on the seventh. He therefore established that seventh day as the Sabbath and a day of rest for the nation of Israel as well as a day to remember that God was our Creator.
"And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation..." (Exodus 19:6) The priests which conducted the various functions in the temple and tabernacle were also set apart for the service of the Lord. They were holy.
"And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty." (Exodus 28:2) Objects were holy. Garments, anointing oil and other objects used in the temple were set apart for the service of worshiping the Lord.
The nation of Israel was also holy. It was the nation of Israel which God had determined would be the nation through which He would bring His Son into the world as our savior.
So, is it then possible for us as Christians to be holy? Can we be set apart to glorify God? Let's see what the Bible has to say about Christians and being holy.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." (Romans 12:1) We are certainly expected to be a holy people. Paul admonishes us to do those things which will make us acceptable to God as being set apart for His service. We are to live our lives as "a living sacrifice" or in other words to conduct ourselves in such a manner that we could be considered a living sacrifice. When we consider that we are to make our bodies a living sacrifice to God we understand that our physical being is to be dedicated to live a life which will bring glory and honor to god. This means rejecting all those things which do not bring glory to God: obscene, vulgar, immoral and profane behavior as examples.
"If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are." (1 Corinthians 3:17) "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?" (1 Corinthians 6:19) We see here the command from God to keep our bodies as a holy temple of God for indeed the Holy Spirit indwells each Christian. This is further evidence that we are to consider our bodies as holy or set apart for the service of and glory to God. As a matter of fact, we as individual Christians are a part of the church which is also described in the Bible as the dwelling place of God. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
We have seen in the previous paragraph that we are to keep our bodies as a holy temple to God, but what about our actions? Can and should they also be holy? "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection." (Colossians 3:12-14) We can, indeed we must, have conduct which is holy if we are to truly serve God. How can we be a Christian and not have those qualities which this Scripture talks about? Tender mercies, kindness, meekness, patience and love is what a Christian has in their lives. You simply cannot be a Christian and not have these qualities. You can claim to be a Christian, go to church, say all the right things, do all the right things, go to all the right places; but without truly having these qualities manifested in your life, you are not a Christian.
"Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 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 1:13-16) I really don't think we have a choice to be or not to be holy if we are to be a Christian. The very essence of being a Christian is to be holy. To say that we are one without being the other is a contradiction of terms. As indeed God as said, "Be holy, for I am holy."
Not that the above Scriptures are not sufficient to make our point, but consider the following: "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; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy." (1 Peter 2:9,10) It is our calling to be holy!
What does holiness cause us to do? Or, in other words, if we are indeed holy, what are some of the attitudes and actions which we and others can and will see in our daily Christian walk? There are many!
We will show respect to our parents and others whom we may call our elders. Truly, the Elders of our congregations must have our respect as the overseers of the body of Christ. We will show respect to those in authority over us: the officers of the law, agencies in government, our supervisors at work, our parents and so forth. Even when we do not necessarily agree with the decisions being made, we will respect those who are in authority.
We will show respect, reverence and a worshipful attitude toward God. We will be faithful to the worship services, faithful in our tithes and offerings, faithful in prayer and Bible study. We will literally put God first in our lives.
We will remember the needs of others, have the right attitude toward the property of others, have the right attitude toward the less fortunate, and forgive and love our neighbors.
In short, we will have the attributes of thoughtfulness, generosity, honesty, trustworthiness, compassion, justice, truthfulness, mercy, love, reverence and moral purity. The non-Christian may have some (or even all) of these qualities, but he is not holy. We are only holy if we are set apart for the service of and glory to God.
God the Father chose us for holiness (Ephesians 1:4), God the Son died that we might be holy (Titus 2:14) and God the Holy Spirit was sent to make us holy (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
Let us not be self-righteous or self-holy (for it is not we ourselves that make us so, or are even able to make us so). But let us be righteous and holy with the help of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Let us be set apart for the service of God and the kingdom.
All Scriptures quoted are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
About the Author
Stephen Kingery is an author, preacher, teacher and founder of The Home Bible Study Institute.
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