According to Strong’s Concordance the word holy means “set apart by (or for) God, holy, sacred”. The transliteration of the original word is hágios, which describes something as different, or “other”. When it is used to describe the believer, hágios means “likeness of nature with the Lord” because we are “different from the world.”
Often we use this word as a matter of habit without really grasping its real meaning. When we call God Holy, more often than not it is used without thought, like a prefix as we would use Mr., or like a title such as Madam Chair. In Isaiah 6:3 Isaiah describes a vision where he was taken before the throne of God, “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” As Isaiah stood before this heavenly scene his reaction speaks volumes to us about what holy actually means. “And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’”
Again in the book of Revelation, John, in the spirit, is brought into the throne room. We read how the four living creatures surrounding the throne never ceased to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” And whenever the living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to Him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who is seated on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.” (4:4-11)
I do not know about you, but when I read these things I realize the absolute inadequacy of the word “holiness” when we are referring to our God. The Lord God, Creator of all things visible and invisible, is so set apart– so “other”, that there are creatures ceaselessly shouting out how set apart He is. When human beings catch a glimpse of His Holiness they instantly realize their lack, and fall down before Him and worship Him as a matter of necessity.
Our God is HOLY.
Just as we are coming to grips with the weight of this definition, we must realize the definition includes us too. Although in the truest sense of the term, God is so set apart, so holy, no man can look upon Him and live (Ex. 33:20); we are called to be holy. 1 Peter reminds us, “as obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:13-16) Being human is no excuse for not being holy.
Thus the age-old conundrum: how can we, a people with unclean lips…and minds, and hearts etc. etc. be holy? How can we be set apart by God and unlike the world we are immersed in? We must realize when trying to grapple with these questions, that because of our fallen state we will always try to view things from our own vantage point; how things relate to us. We must stop and realize that holiness has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the sanctifying blood of Christ on the cross. Our holiness, or separateness, is due entirely to His work on our behalf. We are cleaned and set apart for God, by God.
The truth is that we are made holy in spite of ourselves when Christ dwells in us. That is why as we walk with Him, as we bow our lives to His authority, as we immerse ourselves in His Word, as we die to ourselves daily, and as we pick up our cross and follow Him, we are being transformed more and more into His likeness. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 describes it well. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
We live in a state of holiness because of Christ blood, and at the same we are constantly being transformed by His Spirit into this holiness as we walk with Him. It is both finished and finishing at the same time.
God is Holy. We are to be holy. Today as our hearts wrestle with these things, we will find ourselves first echoing the words of Isaiah, “Woe is me!” but as we contemplate what He did on the cross to set us apart we will bow, and with the twenty-four elders shout, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Today is a gift from a Holy God. Today, looking at Him, let us also be holy.