Admittedly, this is going to be focused on my Pentecostal background and how Holiness in Hebrews 12:14 was twisted to equal a dress standard. Holiness is a word and concept found many times in Scripture, which signifies how important it is to God. Yet, so many have taken a word, plopped it into their own mold, and created a doctrine out of it.
So what is Holiness? We know God is Holy, and he wants us to be Holy – what does Holiness mean? Let’s explore the topic and see if we can find just a few of the answers together.
Tracing the origins of what we know today as Pentecost or Pentecostalism is a rough road, it’s proponents denounce the reality that it is a religion less than 80 years old. Reading histories of the movement reveals the truth to it, but they [proponents] will say that it is [The Holiness, and Pentecostal Movement] a continuance of the original church from Acts 2, that it was hidden from man except in remote parts of the world after 300ish AD, and then re-revealed in the early 1900’s, to a guy, alone, in a back room… Starting to sound familiar, right?
What we do know, is that the Holiness movement began in the early 1900’s and was following the John Wesleyan Second Works of Grace model, in which faith was the first step to salvation, and that continued works were required to finalize your salvation and to stay saved, called, Holiness.
These second works were focused on dress standards, and obstinance from modern vices such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, gambling, etc.
Applying Eisegesis to Holiness
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Hebrews 12:14, KJV
Continually pursue peace with everyone, and the sanctification without which no one will [ever] see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14, AMP
This is a hallmark Scripture in the Pentecostal movement because their definition of Holiness is set up on a platform and worshipped as if it was a god. This verse is shouted over and over again, sending people into frenzied worship and praise, and when a Pentecostal utters the word Holiness, it does not mean what you might think it means.
In the King James Bible (still my preferred translation but I compare to many others) the word Holiness is found 43 times, 30 in the Old Testament and 13 in the New Testament. Surprisingly, to a Pentecostal anyways, is that only one time does it actually reference or denote physical beauty and even here, it doesn’t apply to a dress standard as they wished it would.
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. – Psalms 29:2
Understanding the meaning of the words beauty, holiness and the context of this verse is important.
First, the word beauty is the Hebrew had-aw-raw’ (Concordance Reference Hebrew 1927) which means decoration, or honor and is from the root word haw-dawr’ which means magnificence, ornaments, splendor.
Secondly, the word holiness is the Hebrew ko’-desh (Concordance Reference Hebrew 6944) which means a sacred place or thing, sanctity, consecrated, hallow, saint, or sanctuary.
Adam Clarke’s commentary helps to fill in our understanding of this Scripture;
In the beauty of holiness – בהדרת קדש behadrath kodesh, “the beautiful garments of holiness.” Let the priests and Levites put on their best and cleanest apparel; and let the whole service be conducted in such a way as to be no dishonor to the Divine Majesty.
According to F.B. Meyer’s commentary, this is addressed to the angelic host;
The prelude, Psa_29:1-2, is addressed to the angelic hosts, who stand above the tumult of earth and sky. Heaven is viewed as a temple in which the angels are the priests.
Some time ago, a man was telling me that he was teaching a new convert Bible study on Holiness, which is the Pentecostal dress standard, and he said something that just struck me dumb;
“I could only find one place in the Bible where it defined any kind of dress standard, such as sleeve length, or skirt length, and that was only for men, for priests when they entered the temple…”
Eisegesis is a hermeneutical study/interpretation term which means that the reader attempts to impose his/her idea into the Scripture, rather than exegetically drawing the meaning out from the Scripture. This is what the Pentecostals are doing with Holiness, forcing what they want it to mean on top of the word itself.
So what does the Bible say about Holiness?
In all 30 occurrences in the Old Testament, under the King James Bible, the same word ko’-desh is used, which is the Strongs Hebrew Concordance reference #6944.
From H6942; a sacred place or thing; rarely abstractly sanctity: – consecrated (thing), dedicated (thing), hallowed (thing), holiness, (X most) holy (X day, portion, thing), saint, sanctuary.
The reference #6942 means;
A primitive root; to be (causatively make, pronounce or observe as) clean (ceremonially or morally): – appoint, bid, consecrate, dedicate, defile, hallow, (be, keep) holy (-er, place), keep, prepare, proclaim, purify, sanctify (-ied one, self), X wholly.
In the New Testament, there are 13 occurrences of Holiness but uses five different words to express a different aspect of the meaning of holiness.
hag-ee-as-mos’ (Greek Reference #38)
From G37; properly purification, that is, (the state) purity; concretely (by Hebraism) a purifier: – holiness, sanctification.
hag-ee-ot’-ace (Greek Reference #41)
From G40; sanctity (that is, properly the state): – holiness.
hag-ee-o-soo’-nay (Greek Reference #42)
From G40; sacredness (that is, properly the quality): – holiness.
yoo-seb’-i-ah (Greek Reference # 2150)
From G2152; piety; specifically the gospel scheme: – godliness, holiness.
hos-ee-ot’-ace (Greek Reference #3742)
From G3741; piety: – holiness.
A good example of how the similar term is used in other places in from Jesus, in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.‘
The word Hallowed is from the Greek reference 37, which is the root to Holiness, and it means;
From G40; to make holy, that is, (ceremonially) purify or consecrate; (mentally) to venerate: – hallow, be holy, sanctify.
Jesus said that God’s name was Hallowed, or sanctified, or Holy. God is holiness.
Ephesians 4:24 says, “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” This Holiness is from the word reference #3742 and means piety.
Thus, Holiness is an attitude towards God, a reverence for His nature. Piety means reverence. It is an attempt to be like Him, to maintain purity before a pure God, to love other men in the way that He loved us, to be sanctified (free from sin) before a sinless God.
No long sleeve shirt can make you holy, nor can a longer skirt. No dress standard used to create conformity and teaching fear to those who don’t comply can create holiness in a person. I would argue that the standards of dress in the Pentecostal realm cause less holiness, as they look at others with a judgmental eye, and that is not how God operates.
But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. I Samuel 16:7
Holiness comes from getting the Holy God into the unholy Man.
And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: John 20:22, KJV
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? Luke 11:13, KJV
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Romans 8:9-10, KJV
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? I Corinthians 3:16, KJV
Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. II Corinthians 1:22, KJV
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Galatians 3:2, KJV
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16, KJV
It is abundantly clear, that our Holiness comes from the Spirit. That walking in His Spirit, and having His Spirit dwell in us is what gives us any measure of Holiness. If we could attain Holiness by a dress code, there would be no need for the Crucifixion.
If our dress standards and traditions were the power to make us righteous, and holy before a Holy God, then we need not Christ.
Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. Mark 7:13, KJV
Thus, my Christian brethren of faith, know that you are holy when you have the Holy God within you!
Godspeed to you as you worship the one God in the Beauty of Holiness!
*For reference to Pentecostal Holiness, look at these articles and resources.