by Vijay Chandra
THERE is a simple yet most profound word which occurs hundreds of times in the Bible. In this article we will survey how the word ‘holiness’ is used. For instance, we see it in Genesis as we are informed how God created heaven and the earth. We see it last in the Bible, where we are told about God’s creation of a new heaven and a new earth.
One entire book of the Old Testament, namely, Leviticus, is devoted to the subject of this word ‘holy’. Yet this word is overlooked and misapplied today. Though it describes the uniqueness of God and the calling of His children, it is largely ignored. This very word is ‘holy’ and words like ‘saint,’ ‘sanctify,’ and ‘sanctification’ are taken from its root. So the question is asked, what does ‘holy’ and ‘holiness’ mean? What is the biblical call to holiness? How must holiness be practiced? Why do believers need holiness today in their lives and in the life of the church?
- WHAT HOLINESS IS: REMOVING MISCONCEPTION
Holy and holiness bear the brunt of much misconception. To some, the word holy seems archaic, they envision ‘outdated backwardness.’ For others, holiness smacks of moralistic legalism; that is, holiness demands a lengthy list of prohibitions—do’s and don’ts. From person to person, group to group, this list will vary, but a list there shall be whatever holiness is. For still others, holiness is associated with a repugnant ‘holier than you’ attitude. They view it as a despicable tool with which to implement haughty superiority. Finally, for some, holiness spells unattainable perfection. They view holiness as a discouraging doctrine that addresses nothing but sin and demands radical perfection.
Holiness means ‘set apart’. But what does ‘set apart’mean?Two things. The negative sense of set apart is holiness’ call to ‘separate from sin’. The positive sense of ‘set apart’ is holiness’ call to ‘consecrate to God’. These two concepts—separation ‘from sin’ and consecration [or separation] to God—comprise holiness. When combined, these two concepts make holiness very comprehensive. In fact, holiness covers all of life.
Everything, Paul tells us, is to be sanctified (1 Timothy 4:4, 5). This call to holiness is an absolute, exclusive call. God never calls us to give Him a piece of our heart or piece of our body. The call to holiness is a call for our hearts: “My son give me thine heart”(Proverbs 23:26).
The call to holiness is ‘holistic’. That means, our whole life is involved—soul and body, for time and eternity. Holiness involves every sphere of life in which we are called to move, in worship of God and in the privacy of our home and family. This call to holiness is lifelong. Holiness is the core of religious faith and practice. So we can see how wrong is the misconception of holiness as ‘backwardness, legalism, and superiority’.
Holiness is never spelled out in Scripture as a hypocritical, pharisaical concept with endless lists of do’s and don’ts combined with a self-righteous attitude. Rather, holiness is a whole life of commitment to be ‘set apart’ to the LORDSHIP of JESUS CHRIST. Holiness is not a list, but a lifestyle. Holiness means to live in godliness or God likeness. Holiness is religion par excellence. It is a relationship with the one infinite living GOD.