The principal words in Scripture for the concept, “holiness”, are KADOSH in Hebrew and HAGIOS in the New Testament Greek. These words mean fundamentally “purity”, either physical or moral, and particularly “freedom” from moral defilement. However, the root meaning of the word is closely associated with “cutting, separating”, so that “holiness” refers to a separation from evil and corruption and consecration to the Lord.
Its Prominent Mention in Holy Writ.
That “holiness” occupies a prominent place in the revelation of the Scriptures can hardly be questioned. This applies particularly to the Old Testament, due undoubtedly to Israel’s unique position in the midst of the world, although the word also appears prominently in the New Testament. Israel’s position in the midst of the world was unique; the people of God during the Old Dispensation lived a life of separation from the world and unique dedication unto the Lord. Israel was not separated from the nations round about her as one nation was separated from another nation. Israel was separated from all the nations of the world. It alone did not serve idols. And, Israel alone was dedicated unto the Lord, the living God. All the other peoples of the earth served idols, such as Baal, Baalim, Moloch, Bell, Ashteroth, etc. But Israel’s God was Jehovah, the I AM, the Rock, who is what He was and shall be what He is, the only and absolute reality, of whom and through whom and unto whom are all things, who alone does all things and who does all things for His Name’s sake. This God, the only God, was the God of Israel and of Israel alone, and they were His people, they alone. Hence, Israel’s position in the midst of the world was unique. The eyes of all the peoples of the earth were upon her. One need not, therefore, be surprised because of the prominent mention of “holiness” in the Old Testament. The fundamental significance of this concept is that of separation and consecration. Whatever is holy is surely unique. Israel’s peculiar position in the midst of the world, and Jehovah’s revelation to them that He was their God, only their God, that He alone is God and that no other god (and every other “god” is vain) can be compared unto Him must unquestionably explain the oft repeated occurrence of the concept “holiness” in the Old Testament. This, as we have already remarked, does not mean that this emphasis upon the word, “holiness”, must be confined to the Old Testament. It also appears throughout the New Testament.
No attribute of the Lord is mentioned more prominently in the Scriptures than that of “holiness”. And although one cannot separate the attributes of God and ascribe more significance to one than to another, yet the Word of God surely lays emphasis upon this virtue and presents it as the peculiar divine virtue. How often do we not read in the Scriptures (as, e.g., in the prophecy of Isaiah) that the Lord is holy! It is a fact that He is repeatedly called “the Holy One of Israel, de Heilige Israels.” Thus the Lord reveals Himself to Isaiah in the sixth chapter of that prophecy, and thus the prophecy continually speaks of Him. How often the word occurs with respect to the ceremonial, civil, and religious life of the people of God in the Old Dispensation! Everything is holy in connection with the life of the covenant people of the Lord. How often does it not occur that the people of God themselves are called holy! And we are all acquainted with the fact that the third Person of the Trinity is called by this name, “The Holy Spirit.” It is clear, therefore, that the word “holy” occupies a very prominent place in the revelation of Holy Writ. God is holy; His Spirit is holy; Jesus is called “holy”, both as the Son of God and as the Lord’s holy Child; His calling is holy and, because this calling of God is holy, we are called “called saints (called holy ones).” Indeed, “holiness” is a very important aspect of the goodness of God.
“Holiness” Also Expresses a Position or Relationship.
It is unquestionably true that the concept “holiness” expresses a position or relationship. The question has been disputed at length whether holiness emphasizes a moral, ethical quality or merely a position or relationship. Is a “holy” person primarily one who is characterized by ethical perfection, or is he “holy” because he has been separated from and consecrated unto something or someone? Is a person holy in himself or because of a relationship wherein he stands to another? Is holiness, therefore, primarily a relative concept, a concept which emphasizes a position or relationship?
That the concept “holiness”, in Holy Writ expresses a position or relationship is plain. We read of an holy land (), a holy convocation (), a holy sabbath (), a holy people (), a holy place (), a holy oil (), a holy linen coat (), a holy jubilee ( , with its Holy Place and Holy of Holies; and in many passages of the Word of God the angels and the children of Israel are declared to be holy. The Bible speaks of holy prophets, priests, and kings, of holy cups and spoons and knives as they were used in the tabernacle and later in the temple. And it is evident from all these passages that the concept “holiness” here does not emphasize any inner, spiritual attribute, but a relationship—all these persons and things are “holy” because they have been separated from common use and consecrated unto the peculiar service of the living God.), a holy house ( ), a holy acre ( ), a holy tithe ( ), holy water ( ), holy vessels ( ), a holy firstling of a cow or of a sheep or of a goat ( ), a holy army ( ), holy gold ( ), holy bread ( ), holy ark ( ), holy seed ( ), holy city ( ), holy covenant ( ), holy word ( ). Besides, we read of the temple as a sanctuary (holy place), in
However, this does not necessarily prove the contention that this idea of position or relationship constitutes the essence of “holiness”. On the one hand, we must bear in mind that the Israel of the Old Dispensation was a mighty type. Its vast and intricate, complex ceremonial and religious and civil life spoke a mighty symbolical language. Why were all these vessels and cups and spoons, etc., holy? Why do we read of the holy city, land, acre, etc.? Why does the Word of God reveal to us all the intricate and complex details of the tabernacle and the temple? What may be the meaning of all the couplings and brackets and sockets and colors of the temple service? Why is it that this entire system of worship, in all its minutest details, has been prescribed by the Lord, so that, in the book of Leviticus, these words recur repeatedly: “As the Lord commanded Moses”? Why is it that nothing was left to the ingenuity of man, even such a man as Moses? Is it not because our service of the Lord is purely of the Lord? Is it not because the establishment of the covenant, the relationship of living friendship between us and Jehovah, is exclusively of Jehovah? And if, then, this temple service is recorded in the Old Testament in minutest detail, so that we read of the vessels, spoons, cups, snuff dishes, sockets, couplings, brackets, etc., is it not because it is our calling to be a consecrated people unto the Lord in all the minutest details of our lives? If in the Old Dispensation everything belonged unto the Lord and must be dedicated to the Lord, also of us it is true that we must be a people of the living God and that we must be dedicated unto Him and His service with all that we are and possess. Israel of the Old Dispensation was, therefore, a mighty type, and its vast and intricate, complex mode of living likewise spoke a mighty symbolical language.
Besides, that the concept “holiness” must not be understood as merely emphasizing a position or a relationship also appears from another observation. If a holy person be merely a person who has been consecrated unto the service of another, would sinners, then, not also be holy? They are consecrated to the devil, are they not? Would they, therefore, not also be holy, if to be holy merely emphasizes a relationship? Whether we are devoted to the Lord or to the devil, we stand in a relationship. Holy we are, then, whether we serve the Lord or Mammon, if we understand, to be holy merely implies a relationship. Yet, we do not read of a “holy sinner.” That would be a contradiction in terms. Holiness and sin exclude each other. It must be obvious, therefore, that the concept, “holiness”, also has a spiritual, ethical content in Holy Writ. Only that which is related and consecrated to the Lord is holy. Obviously, therefore, God determines a person’s “holiness”.
“Holiness” Also Implies an Ethical, Spiritual Quality.
That the concept, “holiness”, also has an ethical content is plain from Holy Writ. This appears not only from the passages which refer to the living God (to which we will call attention presently in this article) but also from passages which refer to Christ and His people. Christ, e.g., is called “holy” in. We quote: “And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with Thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art Thou come to destroy us? I know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.” It is clear from this passage that this evil spirit recognizes the Christ. It is also clear that the recognition with which he recognizes the Christ is also a spiritual recognition; i.e., he recognizes the spiritual contrast between himself and the Christ. He calls Jesus the “Holy One of God”. And the holy writer refers to this spirit as an “unclean” spirit. The “holiness”, therefore, of the Christ stands over against the uncleanness, corruption of this “evil” spirit. Christ tis the “Holy One of God” because He is supremely and perfectly devoted to God; this spirit is unclean because he is the very opposite of this holiness of the Christ, stands opposed to God and all that pertains to His Name and Kingdom. And we must also notice from this account in the gospel of Mark that this recognition of the Christ by the unclean spirit is immediate and spontaneous.
Inwe have another reference to the holiness of Jesus Christ. We again quote: “For a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, Whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together. For to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy word, by stretching forth Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the Name of Thy holy child, Jesus.” Notice the contrast in this passage between the “holy child, Jesus”, and wicked men who have threatened the Church of God. The reference here to the “holy child Jesus”, surely explains the wicked action of these men. Their hatred of Jesus is rooted in the fact that He is God’s “holy child”. And as God’s “holy child” He was supremely dedicated unto the living God. These words of Acts 4, which constitute a part of that beautiful prayer of the Church, are a quotation of where we read of the raging of the heathen against the Lord and against His Anointed. God’s “Anointed” is he who has been ordained and qualified by Jehovah to be His party and servant in the midst of the world. Also speaks of this anointing of the Christ in the words: “Whom Thou hast anointed”. To be “anointed” by the Lord and to be “His holy child” are synonymous, identical in meaning. ‘Christ is the Lord’s “holy child” exactly because He loved the Lord with all His heart and mind and soul and strength and was His Servant in the midst of the world. Therefore wicked men hated Him; and for this reason the wicked world has always hated His Church because that Church represents and reveals Him. It is evident also from this passage that this “holiness” of Christ is contrasted with the wickedness of evil men and, therefore, must have an ethical content here.
Moreover, the word “holiness” is also used with respect to the people of God and as denoting a setting apart for the purpose of honoring and reverencing that which is holy. In this sense, e.g., the word appears in, where we read: “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” We should notice in this passage that the people of God are sanctified through the truth. To be sanctified through the truth signifies that the truth renders them an apart people in the midst of the world. God is the truth; He is the absolute reality. Whatever would vainly oppose the living God is the lie, is the denial of the reality, lives without God. Christ lived and revealed the truth because He was the party of the living God in the world and revealed and testified of Him. And He sanctified His people through the truth, through His atonement and Spirit, when He causes the truth of the living God to be poured out into their hearts, to become part and parcel of their life and being. Hence, “holiness” has a spiritual, ethical connotation in .
This also applies to. We read there: “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” This passage clearly teaches us that the living God, Who called us to be holy, called us out of the former lusts of our ignorance. Our “holiness” is contrasted here with our former lusts. Formerly, we were disobedient children, children of pride and rebellion, children characterized by the former lusts which consisted of the hatred and enmity against the Lord, when we were ignorant of His fellowship and grace and love. Then we loved ourselves, were consecrated unto ourselves, and lived apart from the Lord and His service. But God called us to be holy, even as He Himself is holy. He called us unto Himself. He called us irresistibly, by the almighty power of His Spirit and Word. And the result of this calling was that we became holy. Here, too, “holiness” has a spiritual meaning.
Inwe read: “But sanctify (render holy—H.V.) the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” Notice in this text that we must sanctify the Lord God in our hearts. Another and undoubtedly proper reading of this text would be: “But sanctify Christ, as Lord, in your hearts”. The apostle, Peter, in this context, is exhorting the Church of God to suffer for righteousness’ sake and admonishing her to trust in their risen Lord in the midst of trouble and persecution. The heart, in Scripture, is the center of our spiritual life, and, in the words of this particular text, it is the center of our conscious life. To sanctify Christ, as Lord, in our hearts signifies that, in the midst of all our troubles and afflictions, we may trust in Him as the King of kings and the Lord of lords, that we may regard all our enemies in the light of His majesty and power, that we may sanctify Him, set Him apart, and that so all our woes and sufferings may concentrate, as it were, in the one all-important point of His majesty and dominion. That the concept, “holiness”, means separation from and consecration to is beautifully illustrated in this word of the apostle, Peter; with all our heart and mind and soul and strength we must be devoted and consecrated unto Him, who bled and died and is even now exalted at the right hand of divine power, in order that, in the midst of our greatest troubles and afflictions, we may have perfect peace.
Finally, in connection with this Scriptural proof for the assertion that “holiness” also has spiritual connotation in Holy Writ, we would point to the Scriptural truth that this sanctifying (this rendering holy) always occurs through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is clearly taught in Heb. 13:12, where we read: “Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate.” It is evident from this text, first of all, that our sanctification, as according to this text, could occur only through Christ’s blood. This implies that we are by nature sold under sin, objects of God’s wrath and estranged from the communion and fellowship of God’s covenant. To be sanctified through the blood of Jesus implies that we are sanctified through His blood, not only centrally upon the cross, but also by the Spirit of the risen and glorified Lord. Such a sanctification (a being rendered holy) surely signifies that we are separated from the power and the dominion of sin and consecrated unto the living God. Alsoestablishes the truth that “holiness” does not merely refer to a relationship but that it also denotes a moral, ethical quality.
God is Holy.
It is obvious that God determines a person’s holiness. This is evident from a passage which we have already quoted,, where the apostle writes: “But as He which hath called you is holy, etc.” What, then, is the significance of holiness as an attribute of God?
That the Lord is holy is repeatedly and emphatically taught in Holy Writ. This applies particularly to the prophecy of Isaiah. We read in: “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered His face, and with twain he covered His feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory. . . . Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin is purged.” In this vision the prophet beholds the glory of the Lord. And he cannot endure this radiation of the Lord’s glory because he is a sinful man. The prophet’s sin, therefore, is in contrast to the incomparable glory, perfection of Jehovah. And this perfection of the Lord is proclaimed by the seraphims when they cry unto one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” How often the expression, “The Holy One of Israel”, occurs in this prophecy! We read in chap. 10:17: “And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and His Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day.” See also . In we read: “For thus saith the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Surely, in the light of this text, there is little support for the theory of “Common Grace” which would have us believe that God also exercises friendship with and is kindly disposed to the ungodly and the sinner. And in we read: “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep through Thine own Name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as we are.”
(to be continued)