What does it mean to be holy? I’ve been thinking a lot about holiness over the last week or so. I’ve heard several different names used to describe this same idea. But the way I understand it, Holiness, Sanctification, and Christian Perfection are all ways to express this one doctrine. As Leviticus 11:45 puts it, God says “you must be holy, because I am holy.”
Before Christ, holiness for God’s people was met by keeping the law. But no human can keep the law to the fullest extent, therefore no human can truly achieve holiness. That’s why Jesus came into the picture! No one could meet God’s standards except God Himself, so God came to earth himself to take care of it. So where does that put us today?
In the New Testament, Holiness is usually explained in opposition to sin (2 Corinthians 7:1 and 1 Thessalonians 4:4-7 are great examples of this). Put as simply as possible, Holiness for a Christian today is living a life without sin. John Wesley, in a letter he wrote on the character of a Christian, said this: “By consequence, ‘whatsoever he doeth, it is all to the glory of God.’ In all his employments of every kind, he not only aims at this … but actually attains it; his business and his refreshments, as well as his prayers, all serve to this great end. … His one invariable rule is this: ‘Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord jesus, giving thanks to God, even the Father through Him.’” (from A Plain Account of Christian Perfection). In other words, Holiness is making sure that every single thing that we do is bringing Glory to God.
My wife and I have a book that we like to read to our daughters about the Golden Rule. In this, the storyteller sums up my thoughts on Holiness perfectly: “I said it was simple, but I never said it would be easy.”