Two weeks ago, I discussed the jealousy of God. In my devotion, I said that God is jealous because He is holy. But what does it mean that God is holy?
God calls Himself Holy throughout the Bible. It is a claim He makes of Himself, not a man-prescribed attribute. Other than God, what we see described as holy are the Sabbath day when God rested (Genesis 2:3; Exodus 20:11), God’s name (Leviticus 22:32; Luke 1:49), certain pieces of land (Exodus 3:5; Psalms 43:3), parts of the temple and tabernacle (Exodus 26:33; 1 Kings 6:16), the law (Romans 7:12), and God’s people (Leviticus 20:26; Deuteronomy 7:6). All these things are from God. Everything that is considered holy is derived from God, because He is the source of holiness.
But… That still doesn’t tell us what holiness really is at its core. If we look at several of these verses, the meaning soon becomes clear. Deuteronomy 7:6 says, “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” In Exodus 19:5-6, God tells Moses to tell the Israelites, “…if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My commandments, then you shall be My own possessions among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In Leviticus, God commands His people to “be holy, for I am holy” (11:44).
Holy means chosen, or set apart. God chose the Israelites before time began, even though He knew they would be disobedient and rebellious. God gave them His commandments to follow so that they would be set apart and visibly different than other nations. He did this so that He would be known through them, so that all the world would see God through the nation of Israel.
God is holy in that He is above all. God is the author of life itself. He is perfect; only good can come from Him. God is set apart from us and all other created things. He has authority over everything. It His supreme power, ultimate sovereignty, and perfection that sets Him above and apart from us.
Even though God is holy and set apart from us, He still wants to have a relationship with us. That is the mystery of His love and grace. We, as a result of the sin that Adam and Eve brought upon the world, are completely unworthy to be in good standing with God. We deserve the death that Jesus died and eternal separation from God.
But God, in His loving kindness, set us apart as His holy people, even before the creation of the world. He provided a way of salvation, through faith in Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross and his resurrection. Now, He gives us His Spirit of holiness, through which we have the power to live lives that are set apart from the world.
God desires to call all people His holy children. He gives us His Holy Spirit so that through us, God will be known to the entire earth. Just like the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, we as the Church of Christ are called to live lives that are set apart and radically different from that which the world would have us follow. God wants it to be clear to everyone exactly whose we are so that more and more people will come to faith. The holiness God bestows upon us is designed to further God’s Kingdom.
To live by the Spirit, as Paul talks about in Romans 8, is to accept the holiness that God has given us. Instead of rejecting God’s calling to set us apart, we should instead embrace it. God has created within us a new heart. He has called us to be holy because He is holy, and His Spirit lives within us.