Scriptures and Thoughts on “Holiness”

What does holiness mean?
The common answer to “what is holiness” is: to be set apart. This is accurate. Holiness also carries the specific connotation of being different or distinctive, and of being consecrated for a particular use.

(Leviticus 20:26) You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

Hebrew:
Qodesh – sacred, consecrated, set apart, distinct
The furnishings of the tabernacle were holy because they were set aside for only that purpose. They were consecrated to the Lord’s service.

Greek:
Hagios – holiness, distinctiveness, full dedication to the Lord. Also translated as “saint” and as “sanctification.”

Can a person be holy, or only God?
People are repeatedly called holy in the Bible. Holiness does not necessarily mean perfection, but distinctiveness and consecration to a particular use.

“To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints.” (Romans 1:7)

“And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27)

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

“as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” (Ephesians 5:3)

“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.” (Philippians 1:1)

(1 Corinthians 3:16-17) Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

(1 Peter 2:9) “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

We are called to this holiness:

(1 Peter 1:15-16) 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.”

We must have it:

(Hebrews 12:14) Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Of course, God is more holy than us because He is perfectly good and we are not, and because even when we are perfected into the image of His Son, He will still possess qualities and identities, such as being the creator or having omnipotence, that we will not.  He is holy on a whole other level.

(Revelation 15:4) “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” 

Why is God’s word called the Holy Bible?
(Romans 1:2) which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,

It is certainly unique and distinctive:

(2 Timothy 3:16) All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

(Isaian 40:8)“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”

 What is a saint and how is this concept related to holiness?
A saint literally is a “holy one.” The same definitions and connotations associated with holiness should describe a saint.  (And all Christians are referred to as saints, see question about people being holy.)

Are Christians “holier” than their neighbors?
Yes, Christians should be different, peculiar, in a way that their non-Christian neighbors are not.

(2 Corinthians 5:17) Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

(1 Peter 2:9) “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

But remember, holiness in an indication of being consecrated, but not necessarily of being perfect.

(Romans 3:23) All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

(Ephesians 2:8-9) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

(Romans 3:27) Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.

A typical “holier than thou” attitude us boasting in better behavior. Instead, we ought to humbly acknowledge the special status that God gives those who respond to His invitation.

(Luke 18:11-14) “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.” “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 How can I fight for and grow in holiness?
(Leviticus 17-26) These chapters are called the holiness code. And while they do contain a lot of “don’ts” they also contain a lot of positive admonitions to be productive and godly.

(Luke 11:24-26) “When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ “And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. “Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”

(Romans 12:2) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

(Philippians 4:8) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

(1 Thessalonians 4:3-5) For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God.

(John 17) “Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth”

 Can a person be holy and still relate and connect to the world?
God was holy, yet He pitched His tent with the wayward Israelites.
Jesus was holy, yet he walked among the spiritually sick.

(John 17:15-19) “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” 

What does holiness look like in the real world?
One who abstains from what is impure, even when it is not popular.

(2 Timothy 2:21) Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

(James 1:27) Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

(1 Thessalonians 5:23) Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(2 Corinthians 7:1) Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

We must have an attitude that makes the Spirit welcome. Since the Holy Spirit is He who makes us Holy.

(1 Corinthians 3:16-17) “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.

(Ephesians 4:30) Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

(Psalm 51:10-12) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
 

 

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Righteousness”

What is righteousness?
Just like the word sounds, it indicates behavior that is morally justifiable or right. Comes from the English word “rightwise,” meaning in the right way.

Hebrew
tsedeq/tsedaqah – honesty, justice, merits, right, righteousness, righteous acts/deeds, vindication.  It is a diving attribute and one that humans should strive to develop.

Greek
dikaiosune – used to describe conduct in relation to others, especially in business or legal matters. Frequently used as an indication that one is innocent of a crime of which they have been accused. Contrasted with wickedness.

The same word is also translated as “justification,” showing that the two English words, righteousness and justification, refer to two sides of the same idea and are very closely related.

How does righteousness differ from holiness?
The meaning of holiness is associated with being separated or called out. We are called out to be a righteous people, so the words overlap in meaning, but differ in emphasis.

What are “faith-based” and “works-based” righteousness, and what is up with the big discussion surrounding them?
It is important to understand that we could never be righteous on our own:

(Ecclesiastes 7:20) “There is not a righteous man on earth.”
(Psalm 14:2-3) “No one does good, not even one.”
(Romans 3:10) “No one is righteous.”
(James 2:10) if you stumble in one point, you are guilty of breaking the whole law.

Our righteousness is a gift from God:

(Romans 3:21-23) “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

(Romans 3:24) we are “justified by His grace, as a gift.”

(Romans 5:1) “We have been justified by faith.”
(Romans 5:17) “the gift of righteousness…”

(Ephesians 2:8-9) of salvation… “It is the gift of God, not a result of works, that no one may boast.”

(2 Corinthians 5:21) “He made Him who knew no sin… that we might become…”

(Titus 3:5-7) “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

(Genesis 15:6) “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

Trying to earn our salvation by works is pointless, or worse:

(Galatians 5:4) “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”

So how do we reconcile this with verses on the importance of righteous actions on our part?
(Romans 8:13) “If you live according to the flesh, you will die.”

(Sermon on the mount) “know them by their fruits… he who does the will of My Father in heaven will enter… he who hears my words and acts on them/does not act on them”

(James 2:17) “Faith without works is dead.”
(1 John 3:9) “No one who is born of God practices sin/will keep on sinning.”
(Hebrews 10:26) “If we keep on sinning deliberately/willfully, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…”

(1 Peter 3:12) “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” The righteous and “those who do evil” are separate groups of people. It appears that you cannot be both.

Why are these verses in the Bible? What do they tell us?
(2 Timothy 2:22) “pursue righteousness…”

(1 Corinthians 9:27) “I discipline my body… so that I myself will not be disqualified.”

An important verse to consider:
(1 John 2:29) “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”

(Philippians 1:11) “Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

What does this verse mean?
(Matthew 5:20) “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Can I be kept out of heaven for being unrighteous, even if I am a baptized believer?
(Revelation 2:5) “repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”

(Revelation 2:16) “repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.”
(Revelation 2:22) “Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.”

In other words, they need to make things right with God by changing their actions, or else.

What is it that they need to repent of, and how will they know when they have repented? What punishment follows if they do not?

(1 Corinthians 6:9) a whole list of people who do certain actions will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 What are the main components of day-to-day righteous living?
It is a practice:
(1 John 3:7) “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.”

We live by principles set up ahead of time:
(Genesis 39:6-10) Joseph did the right thing despite consequences.

(1 Peter 3:14) “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled”

“Do right by” those in your life:
(Isaiah 33:15-16) “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil.”

(Psalm 106:3) “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!”

 (Ezekiel 18:5-9) “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— if he does not… lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel… does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.”

What are some common but meaningful examples of doing the right thing?
Giving back too much change… etc.

What is “righteous indignation” and should I have it?
(Psalm 7:11) “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.” An anger which is right to have.

It may sometimes be appropriate. See thoughts and scriptures on “wrath”

Are Christians Better than Other People?

One common complaint raised against Christians is that “you think you are better than everyone else.” The typical response, often offered preemptively before this objection is even raised, is that “I do not think I am better than anyone else just because I am a Christian. I am just as bad as you are. The only difference is that God looks on Christ’s righteousness instead of my sins.”

So is it true? Do Christians really think they are better than other people? And should they? Are they actually better than other people?

That depends on what you mean by “better.”

Does a Christian have more intrinsic worth in God’s eyes than a non-Christian does? The Biblical answer is “no.” We derive an objective value from being a soul created in God’s image, whether Christian or not (Genesis 1:26, Genesis 9:6, Acts 17:28).

Does God love a Christian more than a non-Christian? If love means wanting what is best for a person, and acting in their best interest, then once again, the Biblical answer is a resounding “no.” Contrary to the conclusions of some Calvinist theologians, God is “patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).”  He illustrates this love by the story of a father who runs out to welcome home his rebellious son (Luke 15:11-31). After all, Jesus died for sinners (Romans 5:8), not people who were already holier-than-thou. (Mark 2:17)

Does a Christian deserve God’s grace more than a non-Christian does? If the key word is deserve, then the answer is “no,” yet again. A Christian is not someone who has earned their salvation. It is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 6:23). This fact led Paul to conclude, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all” (Romans 3:9). When it comes to deserving our salvation, we are not better than anyone else.

But there is a real sense in which Christians are better than other people. Or at least, we sure ought to be.

A chief aspect of God’s work in the life of a Christian is to conform him to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). There is no reasonable way to understand the concept of “being conformed to the image of Christ,” through a process of “transformation by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:1) that does not include becoming a better person.

Ephesians 4:22-24 states it plainly: “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

If you have not become a better person since becoming a Christian, something is seriously wrong.

In conclusion: Do Christians have more intrinsic worth than others? No. Does God love Christians more than others? When love is understood as an unconditional, active desire for the wellbeing of another, clearly not.   Do Christian’s deserve to be saved more than others? No.

But do Christians behave better than others? The answer had better be “yes.” We ought to be a people unusually full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. We ought to be a people unusually forgiving, unusually meek, unusually pure and upright and gracious and harmonious. Shame on us when we are not.

May we be growing in holiness in a way unlike anything that we experienced before our conversion. May we look more like our God every day. In that sense, may we be better than we were prior to our conversion.