Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

613 Steps to Becoming a Holier You

on July 28, 2014

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dMadPhoto via photopin cc

As I typed in the title to this blog, I had to have a momentary giggle at myself. Of course the title is ridiculous, but only because it is written that way. As Christians, we read those words and think, “yeah right! Thank God we don’t have to be bound by that extensive and harsh old covenant law.” Yet, even as those words spill out of our mouths, in many of our hearts we still live our Christian life this way. While our minds know we are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus alone, we tend to get confused about how we become holy and what that means. What do I have to do to be holy?

I heard a pastor recently say, “the only way to be holy is to live our life exactly the way God says.” While I agree that God wants us to live our lives according to His Word (absolutely!), I think that the definition of “holiness” and what it means to us today is getting confused. This confusion can lead to a works-based, legalistic type faith, and it can be dangerous. To understand being “holy”, one must look at the Old Testament and the New Testament to get a well-rounded view of the issue. By doing so, you see that there is a big change that happens following the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s actually quite fascinating. Let’s talk etymology.

Old Testament “Be Holy”

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word used most frequently in occurrences where God told his people to “be holy” is “qodesh” and it occurs some 468 times in the OT. It can be translated, “apartness, holiness, sacredness, separateness.” Sometimes that is in reference to people and other times to places, objects, etc. It is an adjective that describes someone or something that is set apart for God. It is sacred. It is untainted by sin and stain. Like a bride rightfully wearing white on her wedding day, it has been kept pure and separate for the bridegroom.

The word is used over and over in the OT. It is used many times throughout Exodus and Leviticus, where the law is being revealed and taught to the children of Israel. There are 613 commandments in the Torah. Before Jesus came to earth to die for our sins, the people of God had to work hard to live by the commandments, offering animal sacrifices when they inevitably failed. They really had to work to be holy and set apart for God. Their lifestyle in following the commandments was what set them apart (made them holy) before God and men. Along with circumcision, this was their mark that they were, in fact, God’s people.

After a long list of animals that could and could not be consumed, God said, “For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” Leviticus 11:45

The word for “holy” here is slightly different because it is made more personified to mean “holy one, saint, person set apart.” It has the same root meaning as qodesh. God tells His people that they must follow these rules to be holy, set apart for Him, because He is holy. So, in other words, in order for them to be connected to God, related to Him and set apart for Him, they had to follow the Law precisely. It was the only way they could be connected to God.

New Testament “Be Holy”

A search of NT references to “being holy” reveals that it is mentioned only a handful of times. This was interesting to me, because we view the NT gospels and epistles as something of a guidebook of how we Christians are to live today. While every verse of the OT and NT is profitable to us and important for us to study, we can relate more closely to the saints of the NT and how they built the church as models for what we should do today. The NT is filled with encouragements, commandments and teachings on how to live. We learn what we should and shouldn’t do as believers, and how to honor God in our lives. Yet, they don’t often talk about the need to “be holy”…not compared to the OT books.

“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love…” Ephesians 1:4

The Greek word for “holy” here is the word “hagios.” It is the closest related word to the Hebrew qodesh, but the difference is that this word means: “most holy thing, a saint.” It is not talking, necessarily, about being set apart for God. In fact, the word is also used in the NT to describe the Holy Spirit, Father God and Jesus Christ. In other words, this particular word is used to describe something or someone who is, not in the process of being made holy and separate (or keeping one separate until that day comes), but rather someone who has already been transformed into a holy being/saint.

It’s like that spotless bride on her wedding day. This bride has kept herself pure and set apart for her groom. She arrives, they say their vows and are wed. Her name is changed to His. She is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. They are one. In the same way, when we come to Christ, we are transformed. We become holy because we are in Him and He is holy.

The context of the following verse is regarding the people of Israel. Paul is explaining the mystery of how the gospel came to the gentiles because of the rejection of the Jews, but there is still a plan for the salvation of the Jews. The Jewish people are called the natural branches, while the gentiles are branches that have been grafted in, blessed to be able to included in the master plan. Since we are grafted in, this is applicable directly to Christians.

“For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.” Romans 11:16

Do you see it? If the root is holy, so ARE the branches. Christian, we are not holy today because of anything we have done except for one thing: we have attached ourselves to the root – Jesus Christ. We are holy because we are attached and dwelling in the Holy One of God. Because Jesus is holy, so are we holy in Him. Notice the Word says “are” and not “will be” or “working towards” or “getting there.” The branches are holy because they are connected to the holy root. If we have given our lives to Jesus and been sealed by the Holy Spirit, we are holy because He is holy. It’s finished.

Praise the Lord, saint! We don’t have to work to be holy. We don’t have to worry that we’ll never get there. God has made us holy through Jesus, and we have a new mark. Before Christ, the people of Israel had to labor at keeping the law as their mark of holiness. Our mark of holiness is the Holy Spirit in us. We are marked and sealed by the Spirit showing that we are His. Hallelujah!

But wait a minute…should we use this liberty to sin? Are we still to be kept “holy” as in separate from the world and sin? Paul had an answer for that question too.

“What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6:15-18

There’s no question about it…we are to live our lives in a way that glorifies God. We are STILL to live in an OT “holy”, setting ourselves apart way. We don’t do this to earn salvation, and we don’t do it to earn holiness. We are already holy in Christ. The works that follow a transformed life are merely the evidence that we are already in Christ. Will we sin and fall short? Yes. 1 John says we lie if we say we have no sin, but it also says if we live in unrepentant sin, but claim to know Jesus, we are deceiving ourselves. The fruit we bear tells us whether we are branches on the good and holy root, or not.

“Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.” Matthew 12:33

Are we holy? Yes. Right now, if you are in Christ Jesus, you are holy. How do you know if you are in Christ Jesus? There should be good fruit in your life. You should be walking in a way that honors God….not a slave to sin but a servant to Christ. Set apart not to “become holy” but because you ARE HOLY. Amen!

It’s like that beautiful bride. She says her vows, takes His name and becomes one with her groom. Then the groom must go away for a while to prepare a beautiful new home for his bride. While he is away, will she honor him still? Will she keep herself pure and undefiled? Will she live in a way that brings honor to the name of her groom for everyone around her to see? Yes, she will, because she is His bride. How lovely.

Be blessed, you bride of the Most Holy One. You are His. You are holy in Him. Now go and live like it bringing honor to His name!

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