“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Peter 1:13-16).
What does the word holy mean? In the denomination I grew up in, holy had much to do with outward observances: sprinkling yourself with holy water as you entered the place of worship; quickly kneeling one knee to the floor before entering your pew; and silence while waiting for the service to begin. In that religion, the height of a holy life was portrayed as one of casting off all connections to the world — to join a monastery or convent, the ultimate life being separate from even your own family.
After I became a Christian, I joined a denomination that fell under the category of a “holiness” church. Their definition of holy also had to do with outward appearance. The rules varied in the different branches, but if you were to remain a member, you had to keep to their rules.
The rules were like: no makeup; no jewelry; in some, not even wedding bands; in some, the women weren’t allowed to cut their hair; in most, the use of tobacco was as big a sin as adultery; no alcohol; movies, bowling alleys, skating rinks were all forbidden. As a pastor, I was told my children weren’t allowed to chew gum, and I wasn’t allowed to belong to a labor union. (I did when I was saved, and remained so.)
Does any of this define the biblical word “Holy”? We are instructed to be holy as God is holy. So, as the children of God, if we’re serious about being like Him, we need to find out what being holy looks like from the Scriptures and, obviously, not man. And so we start by reading this: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
Where there is light, there can be no darkness; and where there is darkness, there can be no light. In relation to God, Holy means an absolute separation—but separation from what? Scripture defines it for us. God doesn’t just love, He is love; He is totally separated from hate. His words are absolute truth. When His Son Jesus spoke, His words are absolute truth; what the Holy Spirit directed the apostles to write is God’s truth.
The Scriptures thus define for us how we are to be holy: hate is darkness, God’s love is light—they don’t mix. A lie is darkness, God’s truth is light—they don’t mix. Love for the world is darkness, love for the Father is light—they don’t mix. To disobey His commandments is to walk in darkness, to obey His commandments is to walk in the light—they don’t mix.
Concerning keeping His commandments, the apostle Paul sums it up like this: “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).
In a nutshell, holy for God’s children means turning your back on the things of this world and following Jesus, trusting and obeying Him with all your heart—Be Holy!
Brother Bill is a Bible teacher and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.