What does it mean to be holy?

In this article, I’d like to give a brief outline of what it means to be holy.  Let me say from the start that a person cannot be considered holy in God’s sight without being saved.  Salvation today is by grace through faith plus nothing.  Ephesians 2:8-9 shows this clearly where it says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (NKJV).  All that is required today is believing the gospel of grace and the clearest presentation of that is found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.  “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel [good news] which I preached to you, which also you received, and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you –unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…” (NKJV)  For this article, when I refer to someone as being holy, the assumption being made is that they are saved and in a right relationship with God.

First, let’s clear up a misconception that some may have about this topic of being holy.

It doesn’t mean that those who are holy are perfect.  There was only one sinless and perfect Man who ever lived, and that was Christ.  In Philippians 3:12, Paul tells us plainly that he wasn’t perfect when he says, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected: I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” (NKJV)  The same is true of Romans 7:15-20 (which I will let you look up on your own) where he describes the constant struggle that goes on inside each of us.  I like the phrase on a bumper sticker that I saw once which said, “There’s no such thing as a perfect Christian, just those who are forgiven.”  While we are not perfect, God’s desire for us is to be moving that way every day.

Next, let’s look at what being holy does mean from Scripture.

All believers have positional holiness.  In other words, once we are in Christ, God sees us as being holy.  Since Christ is holy and we are in Him, that’s how God sees us.  Colossians 3:12 calls us holy as well as other passages that I would invite you to discover during your personal Bible study.

However, our practical experience tells us that we are far from being totally holy.  Romans 8:29 shows us a predetermined goal that God has for all believers – to be conformed to the image of Christ.  While God will do that completely in the future, His desire is for us to be moving in that direction now.

I’d like to give some practical suggestions to help all of us move a bit closer to this goal.

1. Romans 12:2 tells us not to be conformed to this world but to allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds daily – even moment by moment – to God’s way of thinking.  As we do this, we will see a change in our lives.  Right thinking leads to right living.

2. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 admonishes us to abstain from every form of evil.  The King James Version puts it this way, ”Abstain from all appearance of evil.”  The bottom line is this – if it looks like it is evil, don’t go there!

3. Let grace through the Holy Spirit instruct you in the way God wants you to go.  Titus 2:11-14 has some wonderful keys for us, if we’re willing to follow them.  In verse 11, we see that the grace that bring salvation has appeared to all men.  This means that all who believe will be saved.  But grace not only saves us but it teaches us.  In verse 12, grace teaches us how to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.  The simplest definition of ungodliness is “not taking God into account.”  Grace teaches us how to take God into account in all we do.  It also helps teach us how to deny worldly lusts which comes, as we saw earlier, by the renewing of our minds.  On the positive side, grace teaches us how to live soberly (in our right minds as we put on the mind of Christ) righteously and godly.  The Holy Spirit through God’s grace can help do all of this, so that we can move toward being conformed to the image of Christ and live the holy lives He wants us to live.

My prayer is that this short article has been a blessing to you.  There is so much more that could be said here, but my goal was to give you some practical ways to put this to work in your life.

In His Amazing Grace,

Pastor Wes