Holiness: Getting The Definition Right!

We have been looking  at holiness for some time now on  Exegesis.  In our last post, we had a look at bridging the gap between  ‘’You are holy’’  and  ‘’ You must be holy’.

One thing we have not done  is to really define  what  ‘’holiness’’ is.  Or do we just presume to know what it is  ! .

I am not  referring to what we think it is or what tradition tells us it is.  My question is , how does God himself define holiness?

Does it matter what I understand as  holiness?

Now you are wondering, does it really matter if  you are unable to articulate in clear terms what holiness is?

Well, how can one be in a football game to score a goal with no defined goal post in view? You can imagine the frustration of trying to score in a different goal post other than the one recognised by the referee. This is the exact scenario when you did not share the same perspective of holiness with the lord.  With the wrong goal  post, your labour is useless and  your claim to victory is pointless? Did you get that?

To make matters worse, men and religion are ready to define it for you and keep you captive. So many words in the  scripture in our modern day  have lost their  original or  foundational meaning. This then explains why there are some personal struggles in walking with the lord and living as overcomers.

The Apostle John wrote his  first  epistle majorly to put true meanings to  words that have lost their connotations just few decades after the death of Jesus. Words such as ‘’walking in the light’’ , ‘’abiding in him’’ ,  ‘’having eternal life’’, and so on were top of the list of his mission of setting meanings right.

If you randomly  open  a German dictionary, there are some defined  words  that have the letters ‘’ns’’   in parenthesis in  front of them.  This is to signify  that the “national socialism party (nazi)” gave  new meaning to those words. Well,  Adolf Hitler established  that one way to manipulate a generation was to change the root meaning of words.

Well, let us think!

Sad to say, ‘’think’’ is the ‘’word’’ some church folks don’t have in their vocabulary.  Remember the Apostle Paul told  Festus in Acts 26:25, that the words he was speaking were the words of truth and reason.

Is holiness simply defined as avoiding sin?

What really is holiness?   Is  it to avoid sin?  I must admit there are many verses from the Old Testament (when the law was given to Moses) that indicates avoiding sin is holiness.

Well,  there are two issues with this. We are ministers of the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6)  and we must  view these scriptures in that light.  We would blog about this in the future as you stay tuned.  The second issue is how do we then define something by simply restricting  its definition to the avoidance of  what messed it up? My knowledge of what messes it up still does not guarantee that I know what is.

For example, If I pour a red paint on a white wall.  The white wall becomes a different colour and it is messed up.  Do we then  define  ‘’whiteness’’  as the absence of a ‘’red colour’’? You bet not!

God is holy,  right? You and I know there is no sin to avoid in heaven or do you have scriptures to prove otherwise?

Also, God declared the seventh day as ‘’sanctified’’  or ‘’holy’’  before man ever fell into  sin (Genesis 2:3). The seventh  day was declared holy  before there was any sin to avoid.  Please note that the root Hebrew word for ‘’sanctified’’ is also  referred to as ‘’holy’’ . A quick check up on different translations for Genesis 2:3 would confirm this.

Moreso, scripture refers to holy ground, holy place, holy land, holy cup  etc . How do all these things avoid sin so as to be called holy?  Can you see the limitation in defining holiness from a negative sense?

Then what is  holiness? Let us go!

Let us to go back to the beginning before the  law was given to Moses.  Let us see what it was from  the beginning when this word was used.

Genesis 2:1-3  NIV (New International  Version)
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it  holy, because  on it he rested from  all the work of creating that he had done.

Genesis 2: 1-3   TLB (The Living Bible)
1 Now at last the heavens and earth were successfully completed, with all that they contained. 2 So on the seventh day, having finished his task, God ceased from this work he had been doing, 3 and God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because  it was the day  when he ceased this work of creation.

Genesis 2:1-3 (Amplified Version)
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 And on the seventh day God ended His work  which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
3 And God blessed (spoke good of) the seventh day, set it apart as His own, and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all His work which He had created and done.

Genesis 2: 1-3 ( NKJV)
1 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work  which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

Even without being a Hebrew scholar, you would notice that in verse 3  in  the Amplified version  the word  ‘’set apart’’ and ‘’hallowed (holy) were used in conjuction.  So, if you are reading the KJV version, you might notice that  the word ‘’sanctified’’ is used in lieu of the word ‘’holy’’. It is the same root word.

Our mission is to know why did God declare the seventh day holy?  The answer  is right there  in verse 3.  “…God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he ceased this work of creation.’’  See that word “because” linking the word ‘’holy’’ with  Gods completion of creation. It  simply says God called  the seventh day  holy because it marked the day that God finished creation.  So, in simple terms, the word ‘’holy’’  signified completion. There is no need for any addition. It is perfect and finished. There is nothing missing and everything is whole.

A simple online   check up  on a  dictionary  with etymology  would tell you that the word ‘’holy’’ and ‘’whole’’  actually mean the same thing even though the former has been used more in a religious sense. Check this dictionary online here  to confirm this.

  • holy  (Etymonline)
  • O.E. halig “holy,” from P.Gmc. *khailagas (cf. O.N. heilagr, Ger. heilig, Goth. hailags “holy”), adopted at conversion for L. sanctus. Primary (pre-Christian) meaning is not impossible to determine, but it was probably “that must be preserved whole or  intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated,”

Whichever way you look at it, either from Genesis 2:3 or from English etymology (origin of words), to be holy means undivided, unbroken or indivisible.

This explains the reason why people use the word ”holistic”  in our every day language when they are talking about looking at a complete, unbroken or overall  picture of something.

Let us leave the dictionary and look at another witness from another scripture from the new  testament.

1 Corinthians 7:34
There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that  she may be holy both in body and in spirit But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband.

It would be absurd to think that the scripture really meant that only unmarried woman are able to ‘’avoid sin’’  by saying they can be holy in spirit and body. If indeed  ‘’holiness’’  means  ‘’avoiding sin’’ . Does it then mean that if I am married, I am not supposed to  avoid sin? . That would run contrary to all the other scriptures that says all saints are called to holiness

This scripture  simply  states  the unmarried woman   cares  only for the lord and  is able to be ‘’holy’’ because of this. The married woman has to cope with caring for the   lord and her husband. She would need to master the art of maintaining an undivided attention on the lord even though she is caring for her husband.  The word here is the ease of her maintaining  ‘’undivided and unbroken attention’’  which  would be  consistent with the use of the word  ‘’holiness’’ in that context .

This is simply  holiness!  It is wholeness, completion, perfection, unbroken , entire, full and undivided. That is one thing that sin stole from mankind. This is why sin is related to unholiness. But holiness is more than the issue of sin!

When man fell, he suddenly developed a sense of inadequacy and lack.

Did you notice Adam hid himself because he felt he was naked?  That was the first time a sense of lack came upon humanity. Initially God said everything was good that he made including man.  He was given to eat freely from the garden. He had all he needed. He was complete. That is wholeness or ‘’holiness’’.

Now we hear for the first time that what God claimed was good was not yet completed based on Adam’s commentary of nakedness. Adam was saying  something was  missing or lacking–”a cover”.  This situation  was what sin brought to the world and man became unholy, incomplete, fragmented or inadequate. Do you sense lack? Do you feel  spiritual, psychological or physical  inadequacy?  That is unholiness or unwholeness  right there!

That was exactly what Christ restored to us.

He now says to us that  “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” 2 Peter 1:3 NLT

Did you see that  he says  ‘’he gave us everything that we need’’. If you are in Christ, this is supposed to attack your unholiness.  When God says he gave us  everything,  he meant it.  He says we should be conscious of having everything we need. We must have a deep sense of wholeness in our spirit, soul and body. We need to know that receiving Christ is receiving all we need for life.  All that concerns you is involved in this.  Your personal life, family, work and all that your life is about should know that you are equipped in Christ with everything you need. That is holiness or wholeness!

What  about  Colossians 2:10? 

“…So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority” (NLT)

It states you are complete or holy. Nothing is missing  and nothing is broken.  Every supply to your life would come from  the supply of Christ within. You are already fully equipped with all you need for life and godliness.  We need to be undividedly focused on   the supply of Christ within and live by faith in that reality. This is holiness. We are complete but we need to think and  live as someone who is complete in him.  This is why we are called to live holy.

Does your sense of completeness or adequacy always come from Christ? If not, you would easily fall into traps of spiritual harrasment and moral blackmail by your sense of unworthiness and inadequacy. By this, you would not be different from a dog chasing its tail.

Spiritual, psychological and physical needs are constant reminders  of the Adamic fallen state. They are meant to rub it in that we can never measure up or have what it takes. Our supply to all needs must come from our  revelation of  all the Christ died and resurrected to make available.

This is our wholeness or holiness!

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