Be holy, because I am holy. 1 Peter 1:16
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1:5
What exactly does it mean to be holy? According to James V. Brownsoni there are three aspects to holiness:
- Differentiation, or being set apart from the world
- Openness to God, an availability to God’s presence, or being set apart to God
Being Set Apart from the World
Brownson writes that “[i]t is important to note that this setting apart is never a withdrawal from the world, but rather a differentiation for a particular kind of service to the world.” Being set apart from the world, or chosen, is mentioned a lot in the Bible.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9
The Greek word translated “chosen” in the above verse is eklegomai, which means to be chosen and set apart from the rest of the world. It comes from two words that literally mean to call out. To speak, to call by name, to name out of, away from. You are chosen, set apart, called by name out of, away from, the world and into God’s glorious Kingdom. God called my name fifty years ago (He Knows My Name).
The Greek word translated “called” in 1 Peter 2:9 is kaleo. It also means to invite, as in “Go therefore to the main roads and invite (kaleo) to the wedding feast as many as you find (Matthew 22:9),” and to name, as in “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call (kaleo) his name Jesus (Luke 1:31).”
So, the first part of holiness is answering God’s call to “come out” of the world. We are called by name. We are invited to the eternal banquet. This is the first step to holiness.
He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:3
He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love. Song of Songs 2:4
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Psalm 23:5
Set Apart to God
If the first part is turning from the world, the second part of holiness is turning toward and focusing on God, knowing him more and more deeply. As Brownson writes, “We are not only set apart from the world; we are set apart to God. There is an openness to God, an availability to God’s presence, which is also central to holiness.” Brother Lawrence called this The Practice of the Presence of God. Being in his presence makes possible the “unrelenting, uncompromising obedience to God” that Pastor Troy spoke of (see the first blog in this series, Holiness).
“His [God’s] greater purpose in bringing them [Israel] out of Egypt was to take them into Canaan, his land of fullness. In short, he brought them out of slavery in order to bring them into his heart and into his love. He wanted a people who were totally dependent on his mercy, grace and love. The same is still true for his people today.” — David Wilkerson
A.W. Tozer wrote that “we are saved [or brought out] to know God, to enter His wonder-filled Presence through the new and living way [Jesus] and remain in that Presence forever.” So, to me, this is the first reason to pursue holiness, to submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Holiness is required to see God and He desires passionately to be seen and known, to be with us. The second reason for pursuing holiness has to do with becoming like him.
William Wilberforce wrote that “the nature of the holiness, to which the desires of the true Christian are directed, is no other than the restoration of the image of God.”ii
I love that – “the restoration of the image of God.” This happens as we behold him, as he is our focus, our one thing, as we begin to dwell in the Presence.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)
And this leads us into Brownson’s third part of holiness – purity – which we will look at in the next blog.
J.D. Walt has a wonderful series called The Second Half of the Gospel which I highly recommend. You can read it here: https://www.seedbed.com/?s=second+half+of+the+gospel
Until next time, let us not stop at being separated from the world, at “being saved,” but “Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD!” (Hosea 6:3a)
“The truest way of delighting in the Lord is to obey him in our coming and going, at home and on the road, in our lying down and rising up, by impressing it on our hearts and heads and hands and expressing it through every word and deed. The only way to love the Lord our God is with our whole hearts, minds, and strength. Holiness is full surrender to the unrivaled reign of Jesus over every part of who we are. It is all of you delighting in all of him.” — Matt LeRoy (The Only Way to Love)
i Holiness and Hermeneutics. James V. Brownson. Western Theological Seminary. 1999.
ii A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System. William Wilberforce. 1820.
Image of sheep in pasture by Sheila Bair