Posts Tagged With: Leviticus 19:2

God’s Holiness. I: Defining Holiness

“Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy’” (Leviticus 19:2; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image created using the YouVersion Bible app.

What do you think of when you hear the word “holy”? Most people immediately associate the word with God. We immediately guess that it has something to do with God or Jesus. “Holy” is one of those religious-sounding words that we might throw around without knowing exactly what it means.

Some churches will claim to be Holiness churches, with an emphasis on holiness or entire sanctification. Many in such churches will be adamant about wearing the right clothing (women always wearing dresses, for example) or listening to the right kind of music (it must mention Jesus by name, and it cannot sound like rock!). They have other rules: no dancing, no alcohol, no cigarettes, etc. If you feel that God is leading you to live such a lifestyle, please continue to do so; even if these rules are not explicitly biblical, they can protect you from certain excesses that can lead to sin. However, rules do not make a person holy.

The Hebrew word “qadosh” is usually translated as “holy, sanctified, or consecrated” in the Old Testament. It describes God as exalted above His creation, set apart from infirmity, impurity, and sin. People (priests, Nazirites, prophets, etc.), objects (oil, priestly garments, etc.), places (tabernacle, temple), and even times (the Sabbath, Passover, Day of Atonement) can be set apart for God’s worship, service, or glory.

The New Testament uses the Greek word “hagios.” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that it comes from a word meaning “religious awe or reverence,” so “hagios” describes something as “worthy of veneration.” However, most New Testament writers use the term in the same way as the Hebrew word “qadosh.” Biblehub describes it like this:

“The fundamental (core) meaning … is ‘different’–thus a temple in the 1st century was hagios (‘holy’) because different from other buildings (Wm. Barclay). In the NT, hágios (‘holy’) has the ‘technical’ meaning ‘different from the world’ because ‘like the Lord.’”

The opposite of “holy” might be “common or ordinary.” God is holy; we approach Him with respect and awe (the Bible uses the term “fear of the Lord”). We should not think of Him as “the man upstairs” or as someone we can treat lightly and bring down to our level.

A church building is holy because we set it apart for God’s worship. Photo by Adrien Olichon on

As mentioned earlier, we may ascribe holiness to people or things that have been consecrated to God’s use and glory. Considering these objects might help us understand what it would mean for a Christian to be holy.

Think of some of the objects that might be considered “holy” by different Christians. Some churches have holy water, which church members might anoint themselves with before entering the church. Chemically speaking, it is just ordinary H2O. It is not “magic water.” However, it has been set apart as “holy.” We use it for worship; we do not use it to make coffee.

I have a small vial of “holy oil” that I might place on a person’s forehead while praying for them. There is nothing special or magical about that oil. I could probably refill the vial with extra-virgin olive oil from the grocery store, set it aside, and consider it “holy” because I use it only for prayer ministry, and have the same results. My church uses wine for communion; even though it is ordinary wine, and you might be able to buy it in any liquor store, we do not pop open the bottle to enjoy it with dinner. A church building is constructed with ordinary materials and may not look impressive or imposing; however, if it has been set apart for God’s worship and glory, it is holy and should be treated differently.

Each of these objects is holy, not because they are chemically unique, but because we set them apart to worship God, and He receives them. Thus, they can communicate God’s holiness to people.

It should be like that with us as followers of Jesus. God has received us into His family. He has set us apart to worship and glorify Him. We are declared holy by Him. We should participate in His holiness and communicate it to those around us.

Perhaps many of us pray, “Jesus, make me holy.” Instead, may our prayer and heart’s desire be, “Jesus, you have already made me holy. Reveal Your holiness in me.”

Where do you most see God’s holiness revealed? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Holiness, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Knowing God to Be Like Him

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).
“Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy’” (Leviticus 19:2).
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY’” (1 Peter 1:14–16).

Over the last few months, this blog has discussed what some theologians refer to as God’s majestic attributes, the qualities that set Him apart from everything He created. These include His omnipotence (being all-powerful), omniscience (being all-knowing), omnipresence (being present everywhere), and His eternal nature (everything besides God has a beginning; He has no beginning and no end).

black cross on top of mountain
Image courtesy of Pexels.

Theologians will refer to some of God’s other qualities as His moral attributes, including His holiness, love, justice, goodness, mercy, etc. These qualities make God truly worthy of our worship. Omnipotence without justice or love would produce the worst tyrant imaginable. Omnipresence without love and mercy would give us no hope of escape; because of God’s love, His permanent presence makes Him a refuge to which we can flee. His majestic attributes set Him above everything He created. His moral attributes allow us to worship Him and take comfort in His presence, power, and wisdom.

On the other hand, the distinction between God’s majestic and moral attributes is somewhat arbitrary. Each of God’s qualities is an essential part of who He is. He does not slip between His majestic and moral attributes as different circumstances arise. He is always all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, eternal, holy, loving, and righteous. God does not fragment Himself and exercise only one or two of His attributes at one time, then switch to a few others as the circumstances dictate.

One clear distinction exists between God’s majestic and moral attributes. God urges His children to share in His moral attributes. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus told His disciples to be perfect, even as the Father is perfect. (If you think “perfect” here means sinless, or if you are prone to perfectionism, please read this post. God will love you even if you sin.) We should love others because God is love. We should forgive as we have been forgiven. The child of God should desire to be like his heavenly Father.

Several forthcoming posts will look at some of God’s moral attributes. As we consider them, we must remember that a proper definition of His qualities is necessary. The Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). We will get some bizarre ideas if we define love the wrong way; the love of God should not be confused with the ideas of “tolerance” that are popular nowadays, or with the distorted “love” of a child molester, or with my undying love for cream-filled doughnuts. Nor, when we think of God’s holiness, should we mistake it for the self-righteousness arrogance of some religious people who claim to be holy. God is the ultimate example of love, justice, holiness, and goodness; we should not expect Him to submit to our culture’s expectations and standards.

As we reflect on who God is and what He is like, may we be drawn to become more like Him and be the people He made us to be.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Which of God’s attributes inspire your life and worship most? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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