Curious Christian
What is Holiness?

What is Holiness?

Dr. Miles Van Pelt, BiblicalTraining.org


What is holiness? That's an important thing to think about. We normally think of holiness as moral purity. Wouldn’t you say that that's the general concept? Be holy as I am holy — moral purity.

But I want you to understand this. Moral purity is the fruit of holiness. It's not holiness itself. Holiness is consecration, that is, being 100% devoted to something. So if I'm going to be holy in my marriage, I'm going to be 100%, not 99%, not 98%, but 100% devoted to my wife. What that does is it promotes moral purity in the marriage. This is why the Lord can call the ground holy. It's not that it's morally pure. It's 100% set apart for him to stand on it. Does that make sense?

This comes from a guy named Peter Gentry, the author of Kingdom through Covenant, who's done a lot of work on this, I think is very good. He talks about holiness is not being a set apart from but is being set apart to. Which means you're subsequently set apart from other things. 

I'll use the illustration of marriage again since holiness is a major thing we can talk about. In my holiness in marriage, I'm not set apart from my wife. I'm set apart to her. And for that reason, I'm cut off from other women. Does that make sense? So the first thing is the consecration. 

The second thing is the result of that consecration.

Somehow we got it switched. It was kind of like a word study fallacy that went on and got perpetuated. Somehow it just became an issue of moral purity. So in Isaiah 6, when the Seraphim are declaring, “Holy, holy, holy is LORD Almighty,” they're saying he's devoted, devoted, devoted to his people 100%. And they [the Jews] are idolaters, which is the opposite of holiness, because they're not completely devoted to the Lord. Right. So remember that. 

So he's saying, because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people, that is 100% committed to them. Meaning that Moses just had to go out and speak to the rock and God would say, “I'm committed to you; here's some water.” Right. But Moses went out and then appears in anger and struck the rock twice or a second time, saying that there needed to be judgment again. Right. But now that's not the case. And so then it says, at the very end, though, he showed himself holy to the people. God didn't show himself morally pure to the people. He showed himself completely committed to their needs. 

So that's a huge kind of paradigm shift. I was slapped in the face when I got that because the tradition that I grew up in taught me that to be holy is to be morally pure. But God is not asking you to be that because you can't, it's a crushing weight, but you can be totally devoted to him. And in that way, holiness comes through sanctification. The moral transformation comes in the process of sanctification. 

Written by Miles VanPelt and published with permission.

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