Understanding Holiness

Unique Ideas

There are several terms used in the Bible which have truly unique meanings. One such term is “holiness” which can also be understood as being “sanctified.” The words “holy” and “saint” both have the same original word and only translated differently according to the context.

This adds some confusion, as tradition has created a notion of a “saint” as someone “more special” than the usual Christian (although this is incorrect), while “being holy” merely describes acting Christian-like. Both terms literally describe “being set apart” and at that for a specific purpose.

General Concept

The general concept of holiness is best described by the standard of all that is holy, God Himself. This emphasizes the perfect good that is in God, perfect truth, perfect love, and the total absence of sin. However, in reference to God the word means even more, as the “set apart” idea can describe His true uniqueness apart from anything else. Being the self-existent Creator places Him above anything that is created.

Such “theoretical” definitions are worthwhile to study, especially in regard to emulating the attitude and perfect goodness of God. However, many Christians fail to fully grasp the importance of Christian holiness by limiting it to a checklist of behaviors in the moment. Perhaps a better way to understand this idea is instead of measuring holiness in terms of practicing “good,” Christians rather practice “good” because of our holiness.

A Key Distinction

The distinction might seem vague, but describes not considering one to be “holy” because of deeds, but sees the deeds as the natural result of one who is already “holy.” In truth, no Christian is perfectly holy because of the imperfection of sin. But through Christ we are made holy, set apart for a distinct special purpose. It defines who we are, not because of what we do.

To understand holiness one does not strive for “good” behavior to prove one to God, instead because of who God made them they strive for “good” behavior. The difference is key, because the former describes righteousness based upon merit, the latter describes the true righteousness found in grace, and what such a righteousness demands.

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