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What does it mean to be holy?

What does ‘God is holy’ mean?

‘Holy’ in the Old Testament

H6918: קָדֹשׁ    קָדוֹשׁ: qâdôsh    qâdôsh: kaw-doshe’, kaw-doshe’
From H6942; sacred (ceremonially or morally); (as noun) God (by eminence), an angel, a saint, a sanctuary: – holy (One), saint.

H6942: קָדַשׁ: qâdash: kaw-dash’
A primitive root; to be (causatively make, pronounce or observe as) clean (ceremonially or morally): – appoint, bid, consecrate, dedicate, defile, hallow, (be, keep) holy (-er, place), keep, prepare, proclaim, purify, sanctify (-ied one, self), X wholly.

‘Holy’ in the New Testament

G40: ἅγιος: hagios: hag’-ee-os
From ἅγος hagos (an awful thing) compare G53, [H2282]; sacred (physically pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially consecrated): – (most) holy (one, thing), saint.

Set apart (from everything, especially sin)

1Sa 2:2 NKJV “No one is holy like the LORD, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.

God is holy means that he is morally perfect. He is set apart from all things impure.

What does ‘Be holy as I am holy’ mean?

Lev 20:26 ESV  You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

God asks us to live in a morally pure way. We are to avoid sin and embrace a righteous lifestyle in obedience to God.

How do we achieve holiness?

1Pe 2:9 ESV  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

1Co 3:17 ESV  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

In one sense we are already holy. We are a ‘holy nation’. That is, God has chosen the Christian and adopted him as His child and so set him apart from others who He has not chosen.

Rom 6:14 ESV  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Eph 5:25-27 ESV  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  26  that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  27  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

2Pe 1:3-7 ESV  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  4  by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  5  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,  6  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,  7  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

1Jn 5:4 ESV  For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

It is possible for us to be holy (live morally pure lives) because God has ‘granted to us all things that pertain to godliness’. God enables us to overcome the world by trusting the promises that He has given us. These include the promise that we have been set free from sin and have received the Holy Spirit who leads and empowers us to obey the Lord. 

This is an active, not a passive faith which results in action. We must ‘make every effort’ to live holy lives knowing that this is possible through the promises God has given us.

Permanent holy living for a Christian is realized when we are glorified at the return of Jesus. At that moment we receive new bodies that are no longer susceptible to the temptations we currently struggle with.

How should we react to sin?

Heb 1:9 ESV  You [Jesus] have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

Heb 12:4 ESV  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Rom 6:11 ESV  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Like Jesus, we should hate sin. We should struggle against it believing the promises that we are dead to sin.

Verses List

God is holy

Isa 6:3 NKJV And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”
Exo 15:11 NKJV “Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders?
Jos 24:19 NKJV But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.
1Sa 2:2 NKJV “No one is holy like the LORD, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.
1Sa 6:20 NKJV And the men of Beth Shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God? And to whom shall it go up from us?”
Psa 22:3 NKJV But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel.
Psa 99:3 NKJV Let them praise Your great and awesome name— He is holy.
Psa 99:5 NKJV Exalt the LORD our God, And worship at His footstool— He is holy.
Rev 4:8 NKJV The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”

Be holy as God is holy

Lev 11:44 NKJV For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
Lev 11:45 NKJV For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
Lev 19:2 NKJV “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
1Pe 1:13-16 NKJV 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; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”

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