As we begin looking at this very important doctrine on holiness it is essential that we look at its first mention.
We will then quickly jump to the first time that we are commanded to “be holy,” and then at the conclusion we will see that this is not just an Old Testament command to those under the law, but a New Testament command given to those who breath God’s air today.
The first place that we find the word “holy” in the Bible is in Exodus 3:5 when Moses is approaching a bush that is on fire. It is here that the Lord says, “And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” The word “holy” in this verse means: “sacred place; sanctuary (def. place of refuge).” As Moses approaches this holy place the Lord quickly instructs him to remove his shoes for the place that he is standing is sacred and it is safe or a place of refuge. The Lord wanted Moses to quickly recognize that though there is a fear that pierces the heart of those who approach the wonderful things and works of God we must remember that the safest place to be is in the sacred place which is always nearest to God.
The first time that we find the command to “be holy” is in Leviticus 20:7.
The Lord is being very emphatic in giving instruction to Moses so that he can convey His specific commands to the nation of Israel. Like us, Israel was set free from the bondage of Egypt, which is a picture of the world. Though there is great rejoicing in this new-found freedom from sin, there is often a careless approach the Christian life which I am commanded to live now that I am saved. Paul warns the church of Galatia stating, “For, brethren, ye have been called untoliberty; only use notliberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”in Galatians 5:13.
Looking back to Leviticus we see in chapter twenty that God sees that there are those who are still practicing worship to this god of the underworld and death, Molech. God is very clear that for those of Israel, or those who dwelt in Israel that were not of the Israelite nation: if you offer your child as a sacrifice you will be put to death. We would all agree that this is a fitting punishment for those who would so gruesomely sacrifice a child to please a god. Yet, how often do we offer our children on the altar of television, video games, carnal music, unfaithfulness to church and other such altars because the god of our lives demand something of us that is different that what God Jehovah asks of us.
In verse three of Leviticus chapter twenty the Lord says, “And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name.” God is VERY serious! We find here the word sanctuary and holy. We are not to mess with the sacred place of God (which we will find to be the Temple later in Scripture), and we are not to mess around with His sacred name. Profane means “to treat with irreverence, disrespect, or contempt, to desecrate.” God says you are not to mistreat my name or my sanctuary!
Then, after He makes sure that He is very clear about what happens when we offer ourselves and our families to other gods of the underworld, He commands us is Leviticus 20:7 to, “Sanctify yourselves therefore and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.” The word holyfound in this verse would mean to be consecrated for(to be set apart for). This is the first time in Scripture that we find the phrase, “and be ye holy”.
We find a twofold command here: to sanctify ourselves and to be holy. What does all this mean?
The first is to “sanctify” ourselves. Here, in Leviticus we see how that the Lord is commanding the children of Israel, the people who He has delivered from centuries of bondage in Egypt, to “sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy:” Sanctify has to do with “to be removed from common use.” One cannot be holy until they first accept the fact that through salvation the Spirit wants to “remove us from common use” so that He might use us un an uncommon or unpopular way.
Holiness is not something that is impossible for the Christian to attain or it would have never been commanded for us to “be” by God.
Now we look at the word “holy.” The word holy means, “set apart for God; consecrate to God.” Once we have been sanctified (removed from common use) I am to be holy (set apart for God). I do this, and am willing to do this because of what Jesus did for me so that I could be saved. And once I accepted the free gift of salvation, and I was redeemed (bought back) by the shed blood of Jesus I was no longer my own. And the question is posed to us in I Corinthians 6:19, 20, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Here is that word Temple, that sanctuary, or sacred place of refuge as we saw in the Old Testament warning to the nation of Israel. Now that the Lord lives inside of my heart it is essential that I protect my Temple (place where His Spirit dwells).
We now approach the last two times that we are commanded to “be holy.” I Peter 1:15, 16, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” This first chapter of Peter very clearly explains that there are difficult times coming to the Christians. The word “suffer” is mentioned, in some form, seventeen times in this book. Yet, though we are warned of suffering we are also admonished to BE HOLY. The word “holy” means “pure.” We are to be pure (unmixed, to be clean).
There is no excuse for a saved believer to be unholy.
It takes work to stay clean in this wicked world. We will have to guard our minds, our eyes, our hearts, our desires, our marriages, our families, and everything in our life! Holiness is not impossible if we will renew our minds with the word of God (Romans 12:2), keep us and our families surrounded by the people of God (Hebrews 10:25), and be obedient to the preaching of God’s word (Hebrews 13:7 and 17).
In closing may I strive to make this thought more practical. We have done the study and now allow me to make the application.
The views of God the Father in the Old Testament do not differ from the views of God the Son in the New Testament. It is not the crowd They were focused on when rebuke was given as much as it was the sin of the crowd they were speaking too. The theme of Leviticus is holiness as He says, “the Lord spake” more than 35 times.
I like what my friend, Craig Burcham said, “We have failed to remember the reason God proscribed such requirements on His people was so they could fellowship with Him. That’s why we pursue holiness – it enables our fellowship with God. We can have a relationship (Father/son) without fellowship.”
To live a life without biblical standards and guidelines would be like building a house without certified blue prints and building permits.
We do not always enjoy having the county/city impose revisions and requirements on the plans that we think are perfect and ready for execution, but they have reasons that those requirements are in place that we may never know. So we, often times reluctantly and with complaint, make those revisions and adjustments to our plans so that we can start building. Ironically, after living in that structure for years we never send a thank you to the Planning Department for ensuring that we build such a strong house. However, if they allowed us to cut corners, and an earthquake or strong wind came and part of our home crumbled, we would be sure to file complaints, law suits, and make sure everyone knew that the Planning Department had not done their part. Interesting how we never praise the Lord for His standards and guidelines providing us with such great joy and freedom from heartache and regret, but many sure spend a whole lot of time complaining that they are there and spend countless hours trying to find ways to get around them.
The same with the Lord, He has given some very detailed and sometimes difficult to understand rules and regulations by which we are to live our lives. Sometimes those biblical rules and regulations require us to make changes that we do not fully understand. But if we make them they begin to position us with our Father so that our relationship grows into sweet fellowship.
The thought could continue with the idea of dating. Dating without rules and strict boundaries WILL lead to immorality and lots of regret. Imposed rules are not always convenient or fully accepted, but the result of obeying those imposed rulesthat we may not have readily agreed with result in a peace and future understanding that those rules and boundaries of the past have resulted in great joy and rejoicing in our present because we obeyed.
Every day of my life I am reminded through the Scriptures that there are boundaries and rules in place that guide the betrothal period with my Groom, the Lord Jesus Christ. When I try to have a relationship with the Lord without living within the boundaries or rules of God’s holy word I find myself becoming unfaithful with the world because I live as though I can keep myself in check. Through regret and bad choices we find that when there are no scriptural boundaries or rules in place to govern my life – my flesh wins and regret sets into my heart and life.
As people of God and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ we must continue to pursue holiness!
Holiness is achieved by living within the boundaries and rules set out by God’s word. These Biblical boundaries are discovered through, but not limited to:
- Reading the Word of God daily and meditating thereon.
- Listening to Biblical Preaching and when we hear of a boundary that we are not dwelling within, make sure that we are submitted to the authority God has placed in our lives, study its truth in Gods word, and implement it immediately because James 4:17 is still in the Bible.
- Surrounding ourselves with Christian friends who scripturally edify us.
- Listening to psalms, hymns, and spirituals songs to help cultivate a heart of submission and spiritual longing.
Oh that we would be a holy people of God as depicted in Scripture. May God help us to never choose how we will live our life by how we measure up to society or the “other family” in church, but how we measure up to the Word of God! May our focus be fixed on Christ!
Happily married to Sarah G, the father of three incredible children.