“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your GOD, am holy’ (Leviticus 19:1-2).”
“Sam, you are the holiest one here,” she said.
I looked perplexed as I heard those words for the umpteenth time around the food table. In my twelve years of pastoral ministry there have been several occasions when I was asked by my friends, “Sam, you are the holiest one here. Please pray for our food!”
What did my friends mean when they said, “I was the holiest?”
Did they mean that I was a pastor and pastors must be considered holier than others? Did they mean that I was holy because I went to seminary or spent time praying for others or studied the bible or preached to others? Did they mean I was holiest because I am polite and I usually put thought into what I say? In fact, does one’s position and deeds make the person holy? If so, then why does the bible say that…
…all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags before GOD? (Isaiah 64:6).
If it is not the position or deeds, then what makes a person holy? The word “holy” is one of the most frequently used words in scripture and basically means ‘different’ or ‘separate.’ In Leviticus, GOD instructs Moses to tell the people of Israel to be holy, because GOD is holy.
When GOD says I am HOLY, he means that he is neither an extension of us nor a projection of us.
In other words, He is separate. He is different. He is uniquely GOD, exalted and unmatched. He is GOD, He alone is GOD, and He will remain GOD whether anyone knows Him or not, acknowledges Him or not, loves Him or not. Holiness is GOD’s nature, the very essence of His being. So, when we say GOD is holy it calls attention to all that GOD is.
It means that everything about GOD is different.
GOD’s love is holy love,
his justice is holy justice,
his mercy is holy mercy and
his wisdom is holy wisdom.
When we understand who GOD is then we can understand that all associated with GOD must also be holy. Not just pastors. Not just missionaries. Not just leaders. Not just the elderly. Not just the singles.
And because GOD is holy, ALL of us as sinners cannot approach him apart from a holy sacrifice. Jesus is that holy sacrifice and we cannot approach GOD apart from Jesus (John 14:6).
Friends, you and I are…
…holy only in relation to a holy GOD.
In the Old Testament we see that Israel is called to be holy not because of its position and deeds, but because GOD the holy one attached Israel to himself. Today, we are called to live with the people in this world and yet be different than the people who are living in the ways of the world. Something just like how GOD, in Jesus, came to dwell with us in our sinfullness, while still maintaining his differentness.
Holiness is a life in GOD, through GOD and for GOD.
As someone rightly said, “holiness is not a list but a life.” Because of Jesus we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to GOD, that we may declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9)
Samuel Williams is co-founder & content director at Fluid. He is also the teaching pastor at Avenue Community Church in Toronto, Canada.