… but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Jesus was set apart by God the Father for a special purpose. He was holy. God changes the things that he sets apart for himself. They become holy. They begin to reflect more of God’s nature. This does not mean that being holy includes being proud or lording it over others. Being holy means that you are living by a different standard than the rest of society and that standard has been dictated by God. Plenty of people want God’s love, grace and mercy, but they must choose holiness if they want those things. People must choose to live a life that is free from sin and corruption. Beyond that, the Christian’s life must show that they pursue God with everything they have.
John D. Watts writes:
Holy also applied to persons who were to meet God. The priests had to undergo special rites that sanctified and purified them for service in the Temple. God wanted all His people to share His presence. They had to be instructed in the character and actions what would accomplish that. The Holiness Code (Leviticus 17-25 ) commands the people to obey God’s laws in all parts of life in order to be “holy: for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2 ). Here holiness is seen to include a moral character as well as cultic purity. Sin and disobedience works the opposite and has to be cleansed or atoned by sacrifice (Leviticus 1-7 ; Leviticus 16:1 ).
An understanding of holiness is needed for New Testament study to appreciate the cross and the results of God’s work through the cross. The Gospels make clear that Jesus came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21 ; Luke 1:31-35 ). The crucifixion is portrayed as Christ shedding His blood and giving His body for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:26-29 ; Mark 14:22-25 ; Luke 22:19-20 ). Faith in Christ is portrayed as acceptance of His full atonement for sin (1 John 2:2 ; 1 John 3:5 ; Revelation 5:9 ).
The Holy Spirit is the agent of holiness for the church and its leaders (Acts 1:8 ; Acts 2:4 ; Acts 5:32 ; Acts 13:2-4 ). He keeps the church pure (Acts 5:1-11 ). He promotes holiness in its members (1 Corinthians 6:19 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:7 ).
Christians are called to holy living (1 Corinthians 1:2 ; 1 Corinthians 3:17 ). They are saints who lead godly, righteous lives. Being sanctified, or made holy, is a work of the Holy Spirit on the basis of Christ’s atonement that calls for obedient submission from those who have been saved. Christians are holy because of their calling in Christ, because of His atonement for their sins, and because of the continual ministrations of the Holy Spirit. They are holy inasmuch as they receive and submit to these saving and sanctifying agents.
I don’t feel naturally inclined to call myself ‘holy’. It seems presumptuous. However, you have declared us holy and you require a more moral life as a result. Help me to follow through on this desire.
- Why is a person to be holy?
- What does holy mean?
- In what ways would early Christian conduct be different from the ancient norms?
- How do ‘holy’ Christians set themselves apart by their actions today?
- How does God want to make you more holy?