What Does it Mean to be Holy?
A Vague Term
Holiness. That word is thrown around a lot in Christian circles. People always quote Peter 1:16, "Be Holy for I am Holy". We are told to be like God and to be Holy, but I think that often we do not know what it means to BE HOLY. Often, because the term is somewhat vague to the average believer, we equate holiness with many different things--Perfection, Love, Discipleship, Evangelizing. These understanding of Holiness are not wrong, they are just incomplete and thus, I intend to look at the Greek and Hebrew usage of the word "Holy" to better understand how to live out a Holy life.
The Greek and Hebrew
I normally wouldn't use the KJV, but for the the purposes of using "Strongs Concordance", that is the translation I will be using for the Text portion of this hub.
Qodesh-- The Hebrew word for "Holy" is "Qodesh" (קֹדֶשׁ) and it appears 468 times in the Old testament. It's meaning in equivalent to "apart-ness" or "separateness." The Hebrews did not have superlatives in their language, choosing instead to repeat the word. Therefore every time you see "Most Holy" in the Old Testament its really saying "Qadowsh Qadowsh Qadowsh", or "Holy Holy Holy" (that which is MOST set apart).
Hagios-- The Greek word for "Holy" is "Hagios" (αγιος) and it appears 229 times in the New Testament. It also carries the meaning of being "set apart" or "separate" but more so in the sense of "without sin".
Holiness: To Be Set Apart
Therefore to be Holy is to be set apart. Set apart from what? The World. We are told that we are "in the world" (John 17:11) but that we are not "of the world" (John 17:16). Brothers and Sisters, we have been made for something greater than this earth, we were set apart for the joys of heaven, for complete unity with God!
How do we live set apart? We do not succumb to the temptations of this world, but to the pull of heaven and live in the example of Christ. We set ourselves apart by being wholly Christian, doing that which distinguishes us from the rest of the world. I am not saying we must distance ourselves from unbelievers. I am not saying dancing, alcohol, or playing cards is evil. If you choose to do such things in the name of holiness, in the name of setting yourself apart, that is your prerogative. Rather, I suggest we set ourselves apart by showing our joy, our peace, and our love. All three of these things come fully only from Christ, and thus those who are set apart by Christ and for Christ should be able to exemplify them to those who are not yet in Christ, but still of the World. I believe 1 Peter 3:15 says this succinctly "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (NIV).
One more note. Being Holy is nearly synonymous with being "anointed". To be "anointed" means to be consecrated, which in turn, means to be "set apart for a purpose". So what are we anointed, or set apart, to do? To have faith, hope, and love in Christ and in doing so, to be a witness to the world.
Have you set yourself apart today?
© 2010 R D Langr