What is Holiness Anyway?

In 1 Peter 1, after the opening 12 verses pointing us to our Living Hope in the resurrection of Christ, Peter calls us to holy living. Living Hope calls us to holy living.

I read that some years ago renovations were being made to Oxford University’s library. Buried in flooring that was removed was a copy of a portion of the King James Bible that likely had not seen the light of day since shortly after the King James was produced in 1611. Ironically, the fragment of Scripture buried for centuries was Leviticus 19—the very portion of Scripture that Peter quoted to call us to holiness. Whether the Leviticus fragment was buried intentionally or coincidentally, we all seem to want to “bury” this call to holiness. However, we need an unearthing of Biblical, authentic, and personal holiness.

But, this word scares us. This word sounds boring. This word sounds like a long list of rules. Indeed, many have concluded their own list of rules of what is holy and not holy. This is exactly what the Pharisees of Jesus’ day did, but Jesus rebuked them for having the appearance of holiness, but not the heart of holiness.

For example, in one instance, Jesus quoted Isaiah, and said of the Pharisees, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines human commands.” (Matthew 15:8-9)

So, what is Biblical holiness?

The basic meaning of the word “holy” is to be separate. We could say “to be completely different.” When we say that God is holy, we are saying that He is different—one of a kind. No one is like Him. In the giving of the 10 commandments, God declared that the Sabbath day was holy. That is, He declared that this day would be different from all the rest of the days. In the Old Testament, we can talk about the holy Temple. That is, the temple is a different building from all other buildings. In contemporary culture, marriage is referred to as holy matrimony. That is, this relationship should be different from every other relationship.

So, here is the call. We are to be different; we are to be set apart. We ought to be distinguishable because of our relationship to Christ.