What is Holiness? This is a question, that if you Google, has been asked and answered a thousand times over. So why am I writing about it? So that I too can understand the real meaning of Holiness, and talk about it with you.
So is Holiness something you can achieve? Is there some habit or clothing I can wear to be holy? Can I perform a ritual to be holy? Is ‘holiness’ something you can see on the outside, or is it just something that takes place on the inside? Or both?
The dictionary defines holiness as the state of being holy, and interestingly also refers to the John Wesleyan doctrine of sanctification, known as the Second Works of Grace, which is the bedrock of where the United Pentecostal Church adapted the standards they call Holiness.
Holiness is also the title given to The Pope, and to the Dalai Lama, yet we know only God can truly be Holy. He wants us to strive for perfection, for purity, but He also knows in this life we cannot, as humans, attain purity, or holiness. (1 John 2:1)
The standard definition goes on to define what holiness is, as it relates to the state of being holy: ‘a life of holiness and total devotion to God’
If we spend time reviewing Scripture, we see the most common word used across translations for holiness and holy, the Hebrew ko’-desh.
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.
This is from the primitive root kaw-dash’ which means to be clean.
We also find the word hag’-ee-on in the Old Testament, such as in Exodus 3:5 when Moses encounters the burning bush on Mt. Horeb and God calls the place Moses is standing on a holy place. It’s meaning is slightly different but carries a similar connotation.
Neuter of G40; a sacred thing (that is, spot): – holiest (of all), holy place, sanctuary.
The referenced G40 word is hag’-ee-os which means;
From ἅγος hagos (an awful thing) compare G53, [H2282]; sacred (physically pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially consecrated): – (most) holy (one, thing), the saint.
So what IS Holiness?
One thing is abundantly clear in the Holy Scripture, God is Holy, and our purpose is to be like Him. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.”
The first step to Holiness is to have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. How can we, as the corrupt man, be holy (like Him) without His Holy Spirit within us?
For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit a few days from now. – Acts 1:5
who has placed his seal on us and has given us the Spirit in our hearts as a down payment. – 2 Corinthians 1:22
To be holy is to be sanctified, which is a lesson all unto itself, but the big question is whether or not sanctification is something WE do, or HE does. For instance, Jesus said sanctification would be something God did, through his Word.
They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them by the truth. Your word is truth. – John 17:16-17 KJV
To be holy
is to be set apart from the unholy. To have a distinguishing characteristic that is different from the unclean, or profane. I read a good article from Billy Graham on this topic
but even that left me asking, “Well ok, great, we are to be holy. But…what does that look like?
Pentecostal girls showing off their ‘Holiness’
Here is my mental break down and why I must study this. In the United Pentecostal Church, International, and other break-away Oneness (Modalism) Pentecostal churches, Holiness is not the attributes of God, and his character of forgiveness, love, abiding faith, bearing other peoples burdens, but rather, it is defined as certain dress and appearance standards.
Holiness is superficial trappings taught as the outward demonstration of inward Holiness. In other words, holiness has a look. You can tell instantly, by looking at someone, if they are holy, or not. And, sadly, it creates a pride all of its own.
For instance, as you see in this picture above, women are taught that cutting one’s hair (even a millimeter) is sinful, and against God, it is, unholy. Thus, you create a great pride in how long their hair gets. Also, women cannot wear pants or anything that splits the leg other than nylons/pantyhose. No makeup, no jewelry, etc. There are boutiques out there just to create holiness clothes.
But is dressing like culture demanded we do back in the 40’s really Holiness? Why not go back to the 1800’s then… or the 1700’s…
These ladies, while beautiful in their own way, don’t look anything like culture would have demanded when Scripture was written. So is that True Holiness?
I have asked groups containing thousands of Christian people from around the world the simple question, ‘What is Holiness?‘ and the answers are perplexing to me, having been taught like you see above, that Holiness is something you can see and observe superficially.
Women in pants, after all, could never be holy. A “Christian” wearing a cross necklace or eyeshadow in my former church would have instantly been deemed a ‘Sincere, but sincerely wrong [lost]’ Christian…
Here are some of the answers to the question, What is Holiness?
“In our Hearts”
“Inward, not outward…Attained only through close proximity to and intimacy with the Holy One“
“Otherness” Not like any other… special, unique. The opposite of it is “commonness”
“separate. set apart”
“Being conformed to the image of Christ” ❤
I’m still not sure what Holiness Is…
Reading Scripture, we can see that Holy is something that is extr
a special. A holy place is something that is revered and carefully tended to. The Holy God is something spectacular that we could never fully imitate or become.
A holy person was someone who gave themselves, wholly (no pun intended) to God. A dedicated heart endeavoring to be like Christ, to strive towards the mark of Godliness, someone who worked towards fulfilling the Law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
I put the ❤ on the above quote because that is what we can see, in Scripture, as the most definitive and yet perplexing reflection of what being Holy, or Holiness really means!
Holiness isn’t something you can’t quantify, not with super long hair or super long dresses, or judge instantly based on superficial outward appearances of your fellow man!
If being ‘conformed to the image of Christ’ was truly a dress standard or appearance based, we should all wear sandals and robes, have holes in our hands, scars on our head and with a wound in our side. Holiness isn’t a mirror, an iPhone, a lot of hairspray, and a special pride in showing our Apostolic Beauty. In fact, I thought Apostolic Holiness was about not calling attention to yourself…
So it must be something else! To be in the image of Christ must mean to behave in the manner in which Christ did. For comparison, the man was created in the Image of God (Genesis 1:26), but we know God has no temporal form, he is not a man of flesh and blood, bones, and hair. God is a Spirit (John 4:24).
Holiness cannot then, be confined to the simple understanding that, if you dress just right, you are holy. I was told, about Apostolic Holiness standards, paraphrased;
If you truly had God’s spirit (the Holy Ghost) then these dress standards (UPC dress codes) would make sense to you. Didn’t Jesus tell Nicodemus that unless you had the spirit you couldn’t even understand the Kingdom of God?
Well… that would mean not even the Apostles and early Christians were holy or, as Holiness really means, intimate with the Nature of Christ and striving to be like him. I really doubt Mary, Christ’ own mother, had hair like @ApostolicBeauty98. And I’m willing to stake a lot on the realization that to them, holiness was more about turning from sin, our fallen nature, and doing everthing possible to treat people as Jesus did, with endless love, no condemnation, and a willingness to give all, just for one soul.
Joh 8:11 “No one, sir,” she replied. Then Jesus said, “I don’t condemn you, either. Go home, and from now on do not sin any more.“
I can’t wait to hear some of your thoughts on what Holiness means to you! I believe it’s a journey, a destination that we can only arrive at, after the Holy God takes us from unholy flesh and sanctifies us in the way only He can!