What Is Holiness In The Bible
What Is Holiness? What can we learn about holiness from the Bible, Gods written word.
What is Holiness as spoken in the Bible? Attempted Holiness- That is man’s attempt at holiness:
1. Ceremonial Holiness-
– An observance of rituals and “holy-days”
– This brand of holiness relies on works, not a work of grace!
– This kind of holiness leads to a “better than you” attitude.
– This was the Pharisees brand of holiness
– Jesus said, “Unless your holiness/righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:20
2. Isolational holiness–
– This is the brand of holiness where the attempt at achieving holiness is carried out through separating oneself from the world almost completely.
– For a missional people to physically remove themselves from societies and cultures that Jesus has called us to reach seems rather ineffectual.
– This is the kind of holiness where we get some of the worlds best beers and wines from as monks produced beer and wine.
3. Redefined holiness-
– This is the holiness that is by ones own definition
– The Pharisees redefined the law to fit their own needs in the “Oral Law” which they claimed was handed down all the way from Moses, but in fact was their own interpretation.
– This is why Jesus often said,” You have heard it said… but I say to you…”
Jesus was directly refuting the Oral Law and establishing the correct interpretation.
4. Super-Spiritual holiness-
– This is where people who perform the miraculous and experiential phenomenon occur and the people doing them are regarded as “holy.”
– This is the area where those of us with Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Third Wave backgrounds need to be careful as we look for the miraculous to occur.
A Few Basic Assumptions About Holiness
1. All of these “perceived” or “attempts” at holiness have crept into the church and still exist today in one form or another.
2. These empty forms of “holiness” do not help the church in her mission, but actually hurt it.
3. It is God who makes us “Holy”.
Leviticus 19:2 “Be Holy, because I, the Lord your God am holy.”
God is Holy, God’s nature and Character is holy and he calls us to reflect his holy character in our day-to-day lives.
Holiness means being set apart. *Find biblical definition of holiness here.
I. Holiness in the Bible is Practical-
- The first thing we can say here is that holiness is incredibly practical.
- Holiness is “practicing” God’s commands. That is obeying them.
- Obeying God’s spiritual commands have a practical outcome.
- The Spiritual and the practical go hand in hand!
- Most of us would agree that the way we “be holy” is to “do holy”.
- Righteousness, Justice, Holiness is things that you do.
- Holiness is an attitude that affects what you do. Peter tells us to “be holy in all that we do.”
- Most of us would agree that obeying God in regards to sexual relations have practical outcomes! Better marriages, better families, healthier temples etc.
Let’s read Leviticus 19:1-10 and take a look at how “doing holiness” is quite practical!
As we read these verses we see God’s heart for so many practical areas such as:
1. Family – Here in Verse 3 the commandment to respect mother and father is repeated!
– Respecting one’s family, ones parents will reap a bountiful harvest, as we are able to bridge the generational gap and reach our parents and their friends.
-God knows that the pagans treat their parents well, why should believers be any different.
-The best thing we can do to respect & honor our parents is to live a holy life that is pleasing to God and sold out to his mission.
-Respecting our parents does not mean that we must give in to their every wish, especially when unsaved parents can have selfish motives in mind.
2. Idolatry – Here in Verse 4 we have a spiritual/practical command, to stay away from idolatry.
– The reason I see this as a practical command is because the effects of Idolatry on people and nations is absolutely devastating. If you need some evidence for this statement just look at the Idolatrous nations of the world. The poverty, the perversion, the pain!
– Concerning Idolatry, I think we can make the following statements:
- Knowing God in love and obedience is the source of all human well-being and good.
- Our Knowledge of the one true God generates praise of Him!
- When we worship that which is not God, we reduce the image of God in ourselves.
- When we worship that which is not even human, you reduce your humanity even further.
- In our attempts at being like God, (like in the original sin) we have not become like God at all, we have even become less human!
- Idolatry is human rejection of the “Godness” of God!
- Idolatry is the attempt to limit, reduce, and control God, by refusing his authority, constraining, or manipulating his power to act, having him available to serve our interests.
- Idolatry produces disorder in all our fundamental relationships.
Christopher Wright in his masterpiece, “the mission of God” says this concerning idolatry:
“A great reversal happens: God, who should be worshipped, becomes and object to be used; creation, which is for our use and blessing, becomes the object of worship. Once this fundamental distinction is blurred, once this reversal takes place, then devastating personal and social consequences follow.”
– Here in verses 9,10 we see God’s command to be generous. Again I believe in obeying this we enter into his practical blessing as a result of obeying his idea of what holiness in the Bible is!
Generosity has many obvious practical outcomes:
1. Generosity prevents us from financial greed and imbalance.
2. Generosity here shows the character and heart of God for the poor and the alien!
II. Holiness in the Bible is Relational–
- Let’s read Lev. 19- 11-18 and look for all of the relational connotations.
- In what we have read in vs. 1-10 the relational context has already been raised. In talking about respecting Mother and Father, in context of the relationship with God and absolute loyalty to him.
- But in verses 11-18 it brings the relational context into all of our social relationships: Family, Neighbors, Business, & even Foreigners!
- God wants us to “do” holiness in every aspect of our lives! This is how a great people are made!
- Proponents of “ceremonial holiness” or “stained-glass holiness” see holiness as something that is performed in certain times, places, & ways.
- They see holiness as and adjective describing themselves, not as an adverb describing what they do.
- Many Christians see holiness in the Bible as being very spiritual or even mystical. But Holiness in Lev. 19 is a practical, everyday holiness that is relational and community focused!
- Jesus actually quotes from Lev. 19 several times in the New Testament.
- Jesus calls 19:18 the second greatest commandment!
- To love your neighbor as yourself.
- The Pharisees tried to define neighbor as your countrymen, but Jesus defined it as everyone. Saying that you should love every person as much as you love yourself.
- Concerning the power of this statement Paul says in Romans 13:9,10 “The commandments…are summed up in this one rule; love your neighbor as yourself, Love does no harm to its neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
- So any brand of holiness that does not keep love for others as central is off focus & at risk of legalism.
- 4x’s in vs. 11-18 God reminds us of his character and his holy standard in human relationships by saying “I am the Lord.”
- From these verses we see clearly how important this subject is to God. We can only be reminded here of the teaching of Jesus to “love one another!”
Some of the practical outcomes of holiness in relationships:
1. We value relationships, so all our relationships become important and grow stronger.
2. We grow in our relational capacity as we are stretched and challenged to uphold and honor all our relationships.
3. We experience success and God’s blessing as we work together and put others above ourselves! God is pleased!
III. Holiness in the Bible is Missional-
So far in everything we have talked about we have seen the missional aspect of this holiness chapter here in Lev. 19.
We see the love for the poor, for the disabled, we see the care for the alien, the foreigner.
Read Leviticus 19:33,34
Again, in this scripture it brings up the alien and commands the children of God to Love the aliens as yourself.
It is in scriptures like these that we see God’s heart not just for Israel but for all mankind. We see God’s missional heart shine through.
All throughout the OT we see the mission of God to the nations!
Israel’s call is to be a blessing to all nations!
In Exodus 19:5,6, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant…you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
Israel’s identity itself declares a mission and the ethic of their mission is holiness.
1 Peter 2:9,10, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people but now you are the people of God.”
-The Church is now the royal priesthood!
-The Church is the people of God, the new Israel.
-The Church has inherited the mission of the people of God!
– As this holy nation, we need to “live such good lives among the pagans that…they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:12
– It seems that all of the New Testament writers tie “a holy life” in with the mission of God.
– Our holiness needs to have reaching people for the Kingdom in mind!
– Often our holiness is just a religious standard to judge other people by.
Example of the Christian Singer offering a secular reporter a beer, vs. the incredibly high salaries of some “ministers.”
- The Pharisees were masters at judging people by their false holiness standard.
- That is what Jesus righteous Anger towards the Pharisees was all about!
- The false holiness of the Pharisees kept people from God.
- It interfered with the mission of God!
- Our holiness should always include bringing people to God, not keeping them from God.
- Example- Jesus turning over the tables.
- In Mark 11:17 Jesus said, “Is it not written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers.”
- Most scholars agree that Jesus was so upset that the conducting of business there was getting in the way of the Gentiles giving worship and hearing about God in the Temple courts.
- F.F. Bruce says in New Testament History says concerning this, “the Gentiles opportunity of approaching God was restricted and God as deprived of the worship which he might have received from them.”
- It was supposed to be a house of prayer for all nations! They were robbing the Gentiles of their Opportunity to worship God and receive prayer.
- The outer court was the area they had turned into the market place; this was the place Isaiah said was the House of prayer for all nations.
- Bill Jackson in his work “Nothings Gonna stop it” says, “It was the place in the temple architecture reserved for prayerful transactions between Gentiles and Jews.”
What is holiness- Conclusion
Our Mission is to make God Known.
Jesus said unless our righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, we will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
We must realize that our holiness in the Bible is embedded in our relationship with him.
It seems rather hard at first glance, but Jesus is really saying that the Pharisees righteousness can be surpassed through his help in understanding what God’s holiness is. As we press on, and stick with this, and work it out, God will continue to work his holy character in us, which is practical, relational, and missional.
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