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Understanding Holiness

Prize Chukwuka

The word holiness and righteousness are not the same. Many Christians use these two words as though they mean the same thing. Most times you hear people apply these two words interchangeably. They interchange holiness for righteousness. This confusion is because most folks misunderstand the meaning of these two words. But the word of God gives us clarification. It teaches that holiness and righteousness are two different words with different meanings. They are not the same.

First of all, let me begin by pointing out that the word holiness speaks of condition, it is a place in God. When I say condition or place in God, I mean to say that it is a position of sacredness that the father Himself has placed us in Christ. It speaks of the unique position of sacredness into which every believer has been placed as a result of our relationship with the father through Jesus Christ. On the other hand, the word righteousness speaks of a nature. It speaks of God’s nature in us whereby we have right standing with God. A person receives God’s nature (righteousness, i.e. right standing) and is made holy the moment they receive Jesus Christ as Lord and savior.

Holiness as we understand in the word of God is not an attainment. Some Christians think they can attain holiness by putting up some good works or depending on their good deeds, this wrong idea has misled many into a life of frustration, wherein they try to please God by their performance.

Holiness does not mean right conduct or moral uprightness. This definition is absolutely erroneous. It is an unbiblical definition. As a matter of fact, this definition originated from Plato, a pagan Greek philosopher, who out of his pagan sense knowledge defined piety (holiness) as right conduct or moral uprightness, before the gods. This definition lacks substance. However, the New Testament never defines this word as moral uprightness. Holiness as a matter of truth is an outcome of the New Birth.

Holiness is not a product of our conduct or moral uprightness. There is no conduct we can put up that can make us Holy. The apostle Paul clarifies this when he declared that we as believers in Christ were created in righteousness and TRUE HOLINESS. (Eph 4: 24). We were created holy in Christ implies that we were born holy in Christ, in the new birth. It is not based on our moral conduct.  

In Hebrews 3:1, Paul reemphasized this truth when he called believers Holy Brethren. Peter adds his voice by telling us that we in Christ are a Holy Nation (1 Peter 2: 9).

All of these scriptures point to one fact, that our holiness is not based on moral uprightness or right conduct. Rather, it is the product of our relationship with the father. We are Holy because we belong to God. 

Everyone who is born again is holy. We know this is true because this is what the New Testament reveals. This is the message which the early church apostles proclaimed.

If holiness depended on our right conducts, good behavior, or moral uprightness then it is no different from self- righteousness. And you know what the Bible declares about self-righteousness? It says that all our self-effort, moral uprightness, etc. are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). You cannot make yourself holy no matter how much you try, nobody can. Only God can make a person holy, and that’s what the Bible reveals. We know it is God that makes a man, place or thing holy. When God sanctifies something, whether it’s a place, a person or a thing, it becomes holy. In Christ we know we have already been made Holy by our union with Jesus Christ, through the new birth. This is true because the Bible tells us that God has sanctified us through the New Birth (Heb 10: 10, 14). It is God’s presence through the Holy Spirit that makes anything or anyone Holy. This implies that wherever God dwells is Holy, and the word of God declares that God by His Spirit dwells in us (Rom 8:11, 1Cor 3:16, 2 Tim 1:14, 1 John 4:12).

What Holiness Does Not Mean

Religionists have defined holiness in their own sense knowledge way, according to Plato’s concept. They call it moral uprightness, good conduct. In other words if you behave well, and act well, then you become holy or you are holy. They have also defined holiness as moral perfection. However, a study of the scriptures reveals that holiness does not mean any of the following.

1.    Moral perfection, i.e. living a morally perfect life.

2.    Having a good conduct, behavior, character or habit

3.    Keeping the ten commandments

4.    Obeying the Law

5.    Being a good person, or having a good moral life style.

Now all of these things are good. There’s nothing wrong with having a good moral life style. I am not against moral uprightness. God wants us to live well, He wants us to treat people nicely. You see, living a good life is profitable to you and to people. The way you live determines how people respond to you. Living right as much as you will also helps you avoid a lot (not all) of troubles in life. However, as good as these things are, as good as being good is, and as nice as being nice is, this is not what it means to be holy. Holiness is not moral uprightness!!

Moral uprightness as good as it is, can never take a man to heaven. If it could then there would have been no need for Jesus dying for us. Men of Old before the cross lived more morally upright than most folks today, yet they still needed a savior just as men of today also do. If going to heaven depended on our moral uprightness, Jesus would have simply told us so without having to go through all He did on the cross.


The True Meaning of The word “Holy”

What does the word “holy” mean? The Hebrew word for ‘Holy’ is “Kodesh”

Hebrew scholars have rightfully told us that this word means: Set apart, Separated, Devoted or Dedicated to a particular purpose, Sanctified.

The Bullinger bible tells us that Kodesh can also mean: Consecrated, Dedicated, Hallowed, Holiness, Saint or Sanctuary.

For instance, under the Old Covenant, the Sabbath day was devoted (set apart) particularly as a day of rest (Isa 58: 13, 14). Also, under the Old Covenant, God dedicated (set apart) Israel as His own people. They were Holy by reason of their relationship to the Holy God through the Abrahamic covenant, irrespective of their obedience or not to the Law (Num 16: 3).

We are told that God’s intention was to use this Holy Nation as a Holy Royal Priesthood among the nations (ex 19:6).

Based on the intimate nature of the relationship God had with His people, He expected them to show that they belonged to him by denouncing the pagan life style of the world. Notice that it was not their manner of life that made them holy, rather they were holy by virtue of their relationship to God. All God expected of them was for them to be aware of the fact that they belonged to Him and thereby not conform to the pagan practices of the other (ungodly) nations. In the same manner, the priests under the Old Covenant who were chosen to officiate in the tabernacle/temple, were dedicated (set apart) specially by God to the office of Priest. They were holy unto God by reason of their calling (Lev 21:6-7).

From these few instances we understand that it was Jehovah Himself who made the people of Israel “Holy” by reason of the covenant he made with Abraham (Gen 15). They never made themselves holy, God did. Notice also that although they were holy people, they still erred greatly. This fact destroys the erroneous idea that holiness means sinless perfection or that a holy person can never err. Notice also that even though they sinned, they never ceased to be God’s people. 
Today, religionists teach that your good work, conduct or moral uprightness make you Holy. This teaching is highly misleading, as it makes you think that holiness is a product of performance, moral uprightness and self effort. This is not Gospel, it is Platolization. Well, you see, Holiness Consciousness can compell you to live right, it can produce good works in you, etc. But your moral uprightness, and good works can never make you Holy. Permit me to say here that your good conduct is not holiness. Good conduct is a product of the renewed mind. It can also be a product of self-righteousness. Holy simply means that you now belong to God. You have been set apart from the world. In the original Greek, it is the word Hagiasmos.  
In Christ you are now God's property. You are to be conscious of this fact. And because you are God's property, the Spirit of God in you compells you to continually renew your mind to the word of God, thereby empowering you to renew your conduct (making you live a life that is different from the world). This is not a product of your own effort. As a Christian, the degree to which your conduct is renewed in any area of your life is proportional to the degree to which the word of God has renewed your mind in that particular area of life. Paul declared, We are to grow up into Him (Christ) in all things, Eph 4:15. This isn't automatic. It is a continuous growth, until Jesus returns. 

To be continued...



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