|Vol. 14 No. 9 September 2012||
Years ago, a young boy was riding on a train through the desert of Arizona on a very hot, dry day. The air was dry and all around him passengers were uncomfortable. As the train continued on, there was little to see besides the same old sagebrush. A kind lady sitting beside the boy asked him if he was tired from the long ride. “A little I guess,” he said, “but I don’t mind at all, because when I get to Los Angeles, my father is going to meet me.”
Often we get discouraged on our earthly journey to heaven. We struggle with things such as temptation, sickness, grief and even death. While the road is hard and the journey is difficult, we must remember that when we all get to heaven, the reward will be more than the price paid, because our Father will be there to meet us.
“These [the patriarchs] all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)
God is transcendent (above all). God is absolutely pure. God is holy. The simple answer to “What is holiness?” is: Holiness is separation and purity. Holiness is not something common or unclean. The following introductory material may seem a bit detailed, but it will be of great benefit for the serious Bible student. If one desires to understand the biblical doctrine of holiness, it is necessary to know how the words translated “holy”and “holiness” are use in sacred Scripture.
In the Old Testament, the word “holy” is translated from the Hebrew qadosh. This word generally referred to a thing, place or day that was sacred, devoted or dedicated to a particular religious purpose (Exodus 19:6; Leviticus 6:16). It is from a word that literally meant to be clean. The Hebrew word qodesh is translated “holiness” in the Old Testament. It is defined as that which is consecrated, dedicated or hallowed. This word is also translated as “sanctuary” and “holy” (e.g. Exodus 36:1; 3:5). Qodesh comes from a word that means to be, pronounce or observe something as clean and pure whether ceremonially or morally.
In the New Testament, there are several related Greek words that are translated variously as “holy,” “holiness,” “sanctification,” “sanctity,” “sanctify,” “sacredness,” etc. Hagiasmos properly means purification and the conduct becoming one who is purified and separated to God. Hagiosune means sacred. It is used in reference to the holiness of Christ in its fullest sense (Romans 1:4). It is also used in reference to believers bringing holiness to full maturity in their lives (2 Corinthians 7:1). Hagiotes means sanctity. It is used regarding God who chastens believers for their benefit that they may share in God’s holiness (Hebrews 12:10). Another Greek word, hosiotes, means piety. We should serve God in holiness (Luke 1:75). This is an aspect of the new man that believers are to put on “in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
W.E. Vine’s Concise Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words and James Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance were primary sources for the definitions of the aforementioned Hebrew and Greek words translated “holy” and “holiness” in our English Bibles. “Holiness” is used in Scripture in the sense of separateness and purity or cleanliness. Holiness is dedication, piety (to demonstrate reverence for God), consecration (to make or declare sacred), devoutness (devoted to divine service), dutifulness, purity, hallowed (opposite of common; ordinary), sacred (dedicated to deity), sanctity, righteousness, and godliness.
When we consider the use of “holy” and “holiness” in Scripture, we can determine that these words mean the quality of things, people or places suited to use in divine service and which have been so separated, placed or identified to be used exclusively in divine service.
Of course, “holiness” is used in Scripture to describe God, but it is also used to describe people, places and things that are associated with God. For instance, the ground is described as holy in Exodus 3, evidently due to the presence of God. Generally, holiness is that which is separated from common use and dedicated to sacred use in service to God. People, places and things are holy because of their relation to the holy God. In the New Testament, the idea of holiness is more a spiritual aspect than an external, temporal one. The Christian is identified as holy, not just in his relationship to God, but in regard to the quality and conduct of his life as well (Colossians 3:12; 2 Peter 3:11).